Ghostface Killah (nee Dennis Coles) has called his just-released Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City his "mature" album, an R&B motif that invites only one other rapper, Fabolous, onto the tracklist. To be clear, though, this is not a wild stylistic departure for Ghostface. He's still rapping, not singing. And though he enlists a slew of able crooners (including Raheem DeVaughn, John Legend, and Estelle) to add counterpoint and deliver swollen hooks, the soulful samples he's employing aren't a new phenomenon on Ghostface records.
Like his excellent 2006 LP, Fishscale, Ghostdini demonstrates Ghostface's uncanny ability to take a single thematic unifier and present it from different angles over the course of an album. What Fishscale was to drug narratives, Ghostdini is to sex jams. It's not about developing a story over the course of 12 songs, but treating each track as an opportunity to explore a different moment, perspective, and attitude.
There's the crime-of-passion narrative "Guest House," the staunchly raunchy "Stapleton Sex," the tender but explicit "Forever" and the father-to-be's emotional reaction that frames "Baby." Ghost, then, can inhabit the psyches of a dismayed and enraged husband, a lecherous player, a thoughtful lover or a delighted new dad.
What's remarkable is the manner in which he captures the essence of each of these characters without losing his own charismatic persona.
In his higher-range rasp, Ghostface delivers the same high-level wordplay and personality that has made his previous efforts so effective. And like Fishscale captured menace, fear, guilt, and brashness in its portrayals of the drug trade, Ghostdini captures a range of contradictory emotions and attitudes — from lust and love, to cheesy come-ons, and sincerity when appropriate. He's realizing and acknowledging the complexity of relationships, and reminding us that sex can't easily be reduced to any one of humor, eroticism, or love, selfishness, tenderness and respect, when all of the above apply.
Maybe that's what he means when he calls this his "mature" record.