I can't think of anything better than Ghostface and Big Baby Jesus on the same stage. I would have liked to have been there. As soon as I can afford it, I'll be listening to "The Pretty Toney Album." I heard one song off it the other night, and Ghostface's style remains brilliantly weird. Still waiting for ODB's next...



A Rapping Acrobat With Lyrics That Do Back Flips and Cartwheels

The New York Times
Published: April 29, 2004

There were four big names on the flier advertising the hip-hop show at Roseland Ballroom on Tuesday: the underground star Talib Kweli, the mixtape hero DJ Kayslay, the veteran rapper Rakim and the Wu-Tang Clan's greatest rapper, Ghostface Killah.

But not all four had an equally successful night. One was good, one was brilliant, one was booed offstage and one was arrested. What more could you want from a hip-hop concert?

First the good: Mr. Kweli showed off his knack for corralling unruly syllables, and his short, straightforward set included "Lonely People," an appealing new song that samples "Eleanor Rigby."

Then the bad: after Mr. Kweli, DJ Kayslay tried and failed to tame a restless crowd, which turned on him for good when he played J-Kwon's "Tipsy." (This was an audience of New York-centric hip-hop purists, whereas J-Kwon is a telegenic St. Louis teenager with a mainstream hit.) Kayslay tried everything: he cursed, he threatened, he pleaded, he laughed. But nothing would stop the booing. Eventually he gave up and walked off.

And then things got ugly: Rakim's D.J. emerged and announced, "They just arrested the God Rakim!" Alan Otto, chief of staff to the Suffolk County sheriff's office, said yesterday that Rakim had been arrested outside the club, in Manhattan, on charges of not paying child support.

If you're going to take the stage after that kind of chaos, you had better be a boxer-cape-wearing, gold-chain-flaunting, idiom-coining, tall-tale-telling genius. Luckily, Ghostface Killah (now known as just plain Ghostface) fits the bill perfectly, and his performance alternately mesmerized and incited an audience that just a half-hour earlier was decorating the stage with plastic cups.

Ghostface's reckless, passionate rhymes make an impact because they don't always make sense. He gives himself over to the seduction of slang, often content to let his pungent phrases create their own dreamlike logic.

When he rapped, "People be talking, I feed dolphins/My defense'll fly the coop off your mean office," he sounded somehow helpless, held prisoner by the pleasures of language.

His sobbing, breathless voice underscores this helplessness, and his rhymes are often buffeted by violent gusts of melancholy and anxiety. Even his stage banter was transfixing and unpredictable.

After talking about his childhood of poverty, he cried, "I ate oatmeal!"

And then, as if he were expecting a fight, "I love oatmeal!"

He was joined by members of his inactive (although not, they insist, disbanded) group Wu-Tang Clan: the Rza, Raekwon, Masta Killa and Dirt McGirt (formerly Ol' Dirty Bastard), who lurched onstage for a brief rendition of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya."

For "Run," from the dizzying new Ghostface CD, "The Pretty Toney Album" (Island/Def Jam), Jadakiss emerged, and together they told thrilling stories about evading arrest. Maybe they could have given Rakim some advice.

For another new track, "Holla," Ghostface simply added lyrics to "La La (Means I Love You)," by the Delfonics. The audience howled the chorus while he delivered the rhymes, summing up his mindset with a typically unhinged simile: "Like the angry cripple, man, don't push me!"

{ nytimes.com }

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