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Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab

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Artist: Ghostface Killah

Album: The Big Doe Rehab

Label: Def Jam

Review date: Dec. 3, 2007


Ghostface Killah - "3. Yolanda's House (feat. Raekwon & Method Man)" (The Big Doe Rehab)


Ghostface Killah took his name from the inexorable villain in The Mystery of Chess Boxing. Known for his relentlessness, the film character would hunt down enemies for years, only sleeping when they were dead. The lone mark of his identity was a miniature medal plate with a ghost insignia left at the scene. Fourteen years after he was the first swordsman heard on Wu-Tang's seismic debut Welcome to the 36 Chambers, the moniker only partly suits. On one side, having risen to the top of the Wu ranks, Face's microphone tenacity is unmatched. He's also released material at a tenacious clip of late (four full-lengths in the past two years, making him far from a "killer with no face") and collected almost as many aliases along the way.

Despite multiplying personalities, on his sixth proper LP, the recipe hasn't changed. He's still playing with baking soda. Still got a Louis Vuitton duffel full of cake, weed and metaphor. Crew members still have crack vials stuck to they colon. He'll still "Larry Davis" a cop. Still can't feel his face. And during The Big Doe Rehab's prelude threatens to blow out brains and take wives hostage.

"Toney Sigel a.k.a. The Barrel Brothers" makes good on the threat with a backdrop of serrated psych guitar riding beside a thick drum skip, conjuring a Dr. Delay blend. In terms of semantics, Face barks about selling Similac and voting for Eric B. Guest Beanie Sigel's on about his Muslim faith, shooting people in front their mothers and intending pun on the word "understand." Get it.

The strong foundation continues with "Celebrate." Built around a stuttering feedback loop, congas and a Rare Earth sample, Ghost lists reasons to rejoice ("We just beat trial," "my baby's first steps") between Kid Capri's signature reverse catcalls. The scuffed-Nike feel of "Yolanda's House" is as icy as anything on last year's Fishscale. Ghost runs up in Method Man's crib to discuss a drug sting while he's fucking an asthmatic. Raekwon calls in with moving-weight issues of his own. The verbal intercourse comprises Doe Rehab's most captivating three minutes.

The opening run crests with Ghost's verses on "Walk Around": "It was him, the corner store in the buttered rolls / the shit dropped when I gave him two stomach holes / … I'm in a state of shock / about now they should be taping the block / and raiding my spots." And "Flashbacks of me blowing his brains out / all I remember my shirt I couldn't get them goddamn stains out / oxygen's weak round the chest area right hand side / I'm plucking off little pieces of me / and my goons want me to bounce to Tennessee / but I said no I got these two snow bunnies in Venice Beach." The Ant-Live production ends with the Wally Champ saying he don't need mental help as the drowsy soul fades to vinyl drizzle.

The ensemble crew can't maintain the promising start. Aside from a few lyrical bullets, "Paisley Darts" doesn't quite live up to the potential of its title. Atop an LV/Sean C beat sounding suspiciously like Krink-by-numbers RZA, Trife spits: "I grind daily / I'm patriotic like Tom Brady." Meth, who's seriously recharged on every track he blesses, has crack in his sock talking about NFL players predilection for white women. On "White Linen Affair," Ghost unsuccessfully attempts to approximate GZA's untouchable celeb-crossword "Fame," shouting out everyone from Keith Murray to Nia Long but failing to mention recent collaborator Jackson Browne. "I'll Die For You" is a long way from ghetto-ballad pinnacle "All That I Got is You." Broad clichés sound shoddy next to the earnest details (sharing siblings' pants for school, a hanger used as a TV antenna) of the Ironman dedication. "Supa GFK," liberally sampling Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Superman Lover," should have been relegated to More Doe Rehab material. A cappella interlude "The Prayer" is unexplainable.

Most disappointing is the sequel to Fishscale heavyweight "Shakey Dog." The redux plays like a limping retreat after taking a bullet in the thigh. Ghost and Rae trade pallid observances while languid brass snuffs the momentum of the haywire first act. An anti-climactic meringue outro is tacked on, sounding like a C-movie gunfight in front of an Inwood bodega. "Yapp City" actually works better as a continuation of Fishscale's drug-spot construct "R.A.G.U.," as Sun God – who lit up More Fish standout "Street Opera" – auctions off body parts while eddying strings escalate.

Two bonus beats ride things out. Anchored by Fazo-O's "Riding High" last heard on EPMD's "Please Listen To My Demo," "Killa Lipstick" – a love-in featuring Pretty Toney differentiating perfume, Meth being Meth on the hook and Masta Killa turning Ike Turner into a verb – could have added levity to a bafflingly mediocre midsection Throwaway capper "Slow Down" is for those who couldn't wait for that Toney Starks/Feist collabo.

With only a handful of Don-like performances, the proper follow to last year's magnum opus is a somewhat expected letdown. In the catalog, the album most resembles Bulletproof Wallets, the hasty follow-up to early-career zenith Supreme Clientele. A recording of Ghost talking between songs at a show closes out "Paisley Darts": "(I'm) your favorite MC. Except for Rakim. That's the older God. He put me on, on how to rock this. But them niggas that's in my era, they got problems, only a few of them that can hangout." He's right. When he's on, he's impenetrable. But with three long-players released within a year, and a Wu-Tang record coming out next week, it might be time to take his mentor's emphasis on going "back to the lab" to heart. In the days of Wu-Tang's incarnation, Ghostface rocked a white ski mask. Rumors circulated he wore it because he was wanted by Jake. RZA used to joke, "Ghostface Killah, he on some now you see me, now you don't shit." Might be time for an extended now you don't.

By Jake O'Connell

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