Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids
by Jerry Slutsky (Psychology), published January 21st 2011
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
It’s been more than seventeen years since Wu-Tang Clan first emerged out the dungeons of rap with their 36 chambers. In that time, the Staten Island based group has developed into an empire, boasting a posse of nine members, releasing several collaboration albums, as well as each of their own individual albums. With Apollo Kids, the ninth album from original member, Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles), and a US tour that stopped through Boston on December 22nd and just finished in Minneapolis, Wu Tang is looking to get back on the radar, the same way they took rap by storm in 1993.
Ghostface’s album is vintage Wu Tang with a twist. He plays on the group’s common themes: crime, the streets, and self-promotion, but mixes them this time with a set of soulful beats. From the beginning of the record, it is apparent that Killah’s vision for the album was to have a retro sound. Exclusively late 60′s and early 70′s soul samples were cut and pasted over the hard charging, dirty sounding Wu style drum beats. For example, Apollo Kids opening track, ‘Purified Thoughts,’ which summarizes Killah’s roots lyrically, is lacquered with a beat that is as rugged and raw as the Stapleton Projects where Killah grew up. The opening line to the song goes, ‘take my hands out my pockets you can see my thumbs, both of them turned green from countin’ the ones.’ Another track, ‘Superstar’ samples the soulful sounds of Roy Ayers’s ‘He’s a Superstar.’ ‘The beat is what I call, ‘freeway music.’ It is high energy, made to get the adrenaline flowing, a la Wu-Tang’s ‘Gravel Pit’.
The rest of the record alternates between ferocious Wu-like beats and silky 70′s groove. Ghostface definitely wanted to continue the Wu-Tang legacy in this album. Throughout the album, guest appearances were made by mostly Wu members: Cappadonna, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, and Redman. On ‘Troublemakers Redman’, delivers, ‘My short morning in the hood like a drive by. My eyes lookin’ like I learned how to skydive’. It is still good to hear that Wu-Tang goes hard. The natural chemistry that develops between multiple Wu members enhances the music. Furthermore, ‘Troublemakers’ is one of the best tracks on the album. Wu-Tang fanatics like myself were hoping for at least one RZA produced song but that didn’t happen. They could have further developed the raunchy 36 Chambers sound that perfectly places the listener in the New York City slum.
Although the album is typical Ghostface thuggery, it lacks a sense of innovation. Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers was classic because it brought a new sound to the hip-hop scene, a raw, urban vibe. Hip-Hop fans were hoping for the post new school 90′s sound a la Busta Rhymes and De La Soul. Even though there are some good tracks that people could get down to at parties, the album did not have any stand out tracks. The lack of breakout tracks could be derived from the mostly up and coming producers used throughout the album. There were no tracks that would catch on like Wu Tang did with ‘Bring da Ruckus’, ‘Ain’t Nothin to Fuck With’, and ‘Method Man’.
Overall I appreciate Ghostface moving Wu-Tang in the direction that he did. Mixing 70′s culture with hip-hop has a lot of potential with these rappers specifically. However, Ghostface and his producers didn’t quite execute fully. On a scale of C to C.R.E.A.M. I would give Apollo Kids a C.R.E.
Recommended Tracks: Troublemakers (Feat. Raekwon, Method Man, and Redman), Ghetto (Feat. Raekwon, Cappadonna, and U-God), and Superstar (Feat. Busta Rhymes)