Review: “Sour Soul” by Ghostface Killah and Badbadnotgood

Michael Williams

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Sour Soul by Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah might be hip-hop’s Stephen King. That is, if cross-medium comparisons are appropriate or descriptive. Nah’mean? I’m not sure they are. I often flinch when I hear them. “X is the new Y!” No it’s not— each stands alone. But I will defend my statement. The dudes are storytellers—prolific ones. Not without flaw, but shit, you try producing something every year for multiple decades. Not just something, often many somethings. Ghostface has two more releases poised for 2015, after releasing “Sour Soul” on Tuesday. What have you done since New Year?

“Sour Soul” is Ghost’s collab with jazz trio Badbadnotgood. It is goodgoodnotbad. Maybe greatgreat, but definitely notbad. I expected so. Ghost never produces bad—it’s just not in his repertoire. Go listen to Wu-Tang Clan, at any point in Wu history, if you disagree. Report back. Always solid hip-hop. And Ghostface Killah is perhaps the most literary of rappers. I rarely hear him drop some inflated-ego shit. He has story arcs. He is Iron Man, after all. Life’s a comic book for Ghost.

Unlike most Ghost albums, “Sour Soul” is skimpy on guest appearances. But like all Ghost albums, those appearances are significant. He gives the other rapper their time. You can’t come from history’s greatest hip-hop collective and not be okay with sidelining frequently. This is why Kanye does well alone. He’d totally Beck Ghost. Nobody can Beck Ghost. Ghost is Beck, in hip-hop terms. Each album sounds different from the last release, but the songs are always congruent. I’ll guarantee that every drop this year will explore different themes and sounds—all will appeal to different demographics. All will be a different Ghost—like Tony Stark, he has several faces.

I like to imagine critique time with Ghost, because I feel that every time a guest raps on his songs, that rapper is at their best. Example: Danny Brown, out of Detroit, has some lines on “Six Degrees.” I was scared to hear this. Danny’s hit or miss, but he hit here. And hard. Their styles are surprisingly complimentary. They both kind of yell at you. One senses topical authority from both. Ghost reminds you that he might be omnipotent. He might be God. His vocabulary is seemingly limitless. Yours will expand while he yells at you.

And the single, “Ray Gun,” speaks for itself, but I’d still like to speak. The superheroes: Ghostface and MF DOOM. Iron Man and Mr. Doom. The video invokes retro-noir-scifi. Like pimps from space. The fetishized pimps from cartoons where they don’t make the sex trafficking explicit, only implied, and that’s somehow okay. That’s what’s happening here, but even the social-justice-warrior in me didn’t care. The video’s still dope. And the song is permanent in my head. The whole album is a definite greatgreat.