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Ghostface Killah's 'Fishscale'


Dennis Coles is a rapper from Staten Island, New York, who goes by the name Ghostface Killah. He's a member of the hip-hop super group the Wu Tang Clan and in the past 13 years he's gone from performing exclusively in a white ski mask to being one of the most recognized and respected rappers. His new album is called FISHSCALE.

Critic Will Hermes says it shows there isn't a more thrilling, more emotionally charged storyteller in hip-hop.

(Soundbite of music from FISHSCALE)

WILL HERMES reporting:

As you might guess from that selection, much of the subject matter on Ghostface Killah's new CD is hard-boiled crime fiction. Stories about characters caught up in the cocaine trade and deeds done that can't be undone. His delivery is breathless and the grain in his voice often makes his rhymes sound like he's on the verge of sobbing, even if he's simply free-associating something fantastical, another of his lyrical strengths.

(Soundbite of music from FISHSCALE)

HERMES: In case you were wondering, yes. He also curses a lot. But like all good storytellers, Ghostface knows the truth is in the details. One of his most moving rhymes, about a schoolyard crush, is called Child's Play from his excellent 2000 CD SUPREME CLIENTELE. That song gets updated on FISHSCALE, on a track that has Ghost falling in love at a bus stop and he gets so worked-up describing the woman's countenance, you fear he might pass out.

(Soundbite of music from FISHSCALE)

HERMES: Though he's among the most modern of rappers, at heart Ghostface Killah, who's about to turn 36, is an old-fashioned soul man with more than a bit of that old movie hero Shaft in him. So it makes sense that his songs sample soul greats like Isaac Hayes, Luther Ingram and Solomon Burke. In Austin, Texas, last month, Ghostface wowed an adoring crowd with a set that included his song Holla, whose chorus mimics the Delfonics classic La La Means I Love You. And he told a story about how his mom would send him to bed early when her friends came over to listen to old soul records and how he'd glue his ear to his bedroom door well into the night. You can hear that hunger in Ghostface Killah's raps, a kid punch drunk on music and wordplay, perpetually leaning forward to grab something delicious that always seems just slightly out of reach.

(Soundbite of music from FISHSCALE)

BLOCK: FISHSCALE is the latest CD by Ghostface Killah. Our reviewer is Will Hermes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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