Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ghostface: Hip Hop Hero


The close of 2006, hip hop's annus horribilis, has been dominated by some pompous outpourings most of which have originated from the New York offices of Def Jam Recordings, most of which have left a bad taste in the mouth.

Jay-Z stalled as the album that was supposed to save hip hop proved a patchy affair, blighted by multi-tracked divas and ill-advised collaborations with celebrity friends. And no one made more noise about so little than Nas.

He arrogantly announced the genre’s demise with “Hip Hop Is Dead” and sat back to watch the ensuing debate clock up priceless publicity. Then, when it came to delivering his case for the defence, his self-satisfied detachment from the art for which he once set the bar let us all down again. Like hip hop’s answer to Sting, Bono or McCartney, we may have to finally accept that he’s never truly coming back.

But the very late arrival of Dennis Coles aka Ghostface Killah's second great LP of 2006 – "More Fish" the title of which misleadingly implied it would be little more than outtakes from the first – proves that great hip hop remains an art requiring total immersion. And total immersion was our reward when we slipped on the headphones. Neither Ghost’s first bonafide classic of 2006, "Fishscale", nor "More Fish" could have been made by MCs sitting behind the top desk at a record label or coldly surveying hip hop from atop a building as Nas claims in “Black Republicans”.

Ghost's hunger this year has been insatiable, exploiting his simultaneous reputation as the holder of the true Wu mantle and the enviable backing of the aforementioned Def Jam Recordings to stake, if not his claim to the commercial recognition he deserves, then at least a legacy cast in stone.

2006, then, was Ghostface’s year, the true saviour of hip hop and proof of its continued vitality and relevance. Let’s hope he stays hungry in 2007.

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