Ghostface Killah & Trife Da God
Put it on the Line
Starks Enterprises
2005
B



i officially checked myself into the Ghostface rehabilitation clinic about a year ago. Friends were lost. Bulletproof Wallets was defended ad infinitum. A telltale sign that I hadn’t been cured: I immediately hyped Theodore Unit as a first order mix-tape, easy in its strengths and totally clear in an overlooked posse criteria point: a good second chair.

Trife Da God owes a lot to his appearances on Face’s Pretty Toney, and on Put It On The Line, he looks ready to pay back Tony in spades. This collection of recent Theodore Unit joints, Ghostface rarities (finally Slick Rick joins Ghost and ‘Kwon!), and Trife solo pieces builds just as much hype for Fishscale as it does for Trife’s eventual solo moment.

Needless to say, unless you have a strong interest in T-O-Dore (my term) Unit policies and protocols, it’s a frustrating time to be my roommate.

I’ll admit this isn’t a capital letter album. The live concert DVD bundled with the CD, while a nice-ass surprise (especially considering this is the first release on Ghostface’s new imprint) gets the message across: this stuff got put together faster and finalized than a middle school science project. Beats are, at heart, Ghostface standbys: saltbox soul cries cut back over with dusty needles, Motown side-trimmings with hammer head rage. Obviously Ghostface is rapping about ramen noodles and deep winter bodega shootings. His school of imagery, wacky and deep, keeps especially close to the streets here. Surreal, free association gigs (already thinning out on Pretty Toney) are hard to find.

Before I start rambling, let me make one thing clear: Trife is not a worthy right-hand-clique-man because Starks can be so captivating alone. He’s worthy because he switches on and off his syllabic emphasis like Method Man and has a nasty streak of gutter-monotone nicely cribbed from Guru. Not to belabor the point, but Trife has a quiet coming out party here with seething, vice-grip songs like “Fire” and the shockingly (frighteningly?) system-ready “Drugz.”

Fishscale enters the world in weeks (again, apologies for the apocalyptic language) but the angle that Put it on the Line (god, that title really is similar to the Lance Bass film…) uses could be a window into the shape the forthcoming album and ‘Face himself are leaning towards.

It’s no secret that Ghostface, for all his almost transcendent level of respect and praise, has yet to break a plane of garish sales numbers like other equally seminal MC’s (Jigga, Ice Cube, et al). If we’re to take this major label mix-tape as a peep show of what’s to come, then Fishscale may be more genteel, approachable, and just plain universal in sound and presentation than anything since Bulletproof Wallets. All the cuts on this disc have leaner production values (chiseled simplification of instrument loops) and show Ghostface attempting to make his verses and occasionally stilted flow categorically easier to understand. There’s no dancing around with metaphors and similes like “Nutmeg” because here he spells everything out: “Cocaine Trafficking,” “Milk ‘Em.” Ghost says “this is hip-hop the way we want it.” Really? Then why the unveiled pun about speaking to “deaf” / def ears about twenty seconds later?

If Toney was the triumphant kiss-off, is Fishscale going to be the bid for reconciliation? And what the hell is Trife going to do next? Inquiring minds want to know…or maybe just me.


Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2006-02-06
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