Ghostface Killah, also known as Tony Starks, has dropped his surname and moved over to the Def Jam label, joining Wu-Tang cohort Method Man. This being his fourth album, and while he still claims his ties to the Wu, it’s clear that he has left the former style behind for an approach all his own. The Pretty Toney Album is a celebratory, hedonistic album that has Ghostface weaving his confidence and brash values throughout. At times the samples even overshadow the rap, but for the most part his flow fits nicely to the Motown style sounds. The producer credits go to the RZA and Ghostface with a variety of guests contributing to the mixing process. The album is also littered with guest appearances of the likes of Missy Elliott, Jadakiss, Jackie-O, K. Fox, Sheek Louch, Styles P, and Trifle.
The album begins with Ghostface answering a barrage of questions, preaching on the state of hip-hop that now, “the game got real.” Never one to hold back his opinion, Ghostface possesses a very rowdy style though defiantly still aggressive, as he raps of a harsh, gangster lifestyle balanced with love for his friends and life. While many of the tracks are lighthearted and give a summer feel to the album, he still touches on dark issues. “It’s Over” has Ghostface talking of his demons when he first hit the scene, speaking of his problems with drugs and gang life. “Be This Way” is a statement on the plight of the hood as he proclaims that, “if we don’t change a lot of shit, shit’s gonna always be this way, I’m tired of you all.”
It’s clear that Ghostface enjoys what he does, asserting himself while still smart enough not to hate on others. The most dominate theme on Pretty Toney, beside the one of change, is Starks’ blatant sexuality. Decorum is not in Ghostface’s vocabulary as he never holds anything back when it comes to talking about sex and women. The dance track of ‘Tush’ with Missy Elliott wants everyone to get down and dirty as they rap off of each other revealing in what ways they want it. While his rhymes can be quite explicate at times, it’s all in good fun and Ghostface is quite aware of his carefree nature, in fact he flaunts it around at times with the handful of skits in between tracks.
While soul is sampled throughout the album, Ghostface even lends his rendition with “Holla,” though he sounds much like Old Dirty Bastard’s crooning on “Cold Blooded.” It’s clear that Ghostface’s roots come from Marvin Gaye rather then Rick James. The other single that is getting play right now on BET is “Run” with Jadakiss — a quick tempo and stark portrait of how crime manifests itself out of control as he says, “if you’re selling drugs in the school zone…Run!”
The Pretty Toney Album is Ghostface’s declaration that he has been one of the most innovative rappers around for more than ten years and his style is as tight as ever. Whether he will receive the recognition he deserves is another story, but with Def Jam behind him, everyone should be able to notice his genius.
Ross Whitsett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.