A scant eight months after releasing Fishscale to near-unanimous acclaim and widespread internet fervor, Ghostface Killah made another addition to an already impressive discography with the aptly titled follow-up, More Fish. Ghostface has carved out a compelling niche for himself, exuding charismatic eccentricity over histrionic soul loops, and this latest release holds up alongside his best work by catering to his known strengths.
One facet of the album that’s not dissimilar from previous Ghostface efforts is the long list of varied producers and production styles. After a marginally humorous intro skit featuring a pseudonymous Tracy Morgan and some banter about peanut butter, the Eric B. & Rakim homage, “Ghost Is Back,” kicks off the album with a burst of nostalgic dynamism. From MF DOOM’s lo-fi rending of ominous, decades-old samples to the two live band recordings (overseen by Hi-Tek and Mark Ronson, respectively), the beats on this album rarely falter. Interestingly enough, the most lackluster tracks are generally the same ones that Ghostface opted not to lend his voice to. (See the yawn-inducing “Miguel Sanchez” and the cloying, pseudo-gospel fare of “Gotta Hold On.” “Grew Up Hard” could have been stronger, but the listless chorus drags it down.) It would be remiss to talk about More Fish without mentioning its bubbly, club-friendly lead single, “Good.” In contrast to the full-sounding midrange clarity present on most of the album, this one was arranged and engineered specifically to cut through airwaves and car radio speakers. The vocals are thin, the horns are strident, and for a song that unabashedly aspires to ubiquitous radio play, its sentiment still manages to feel completely genuine.
The preponderance of guest appearances on More Fish is typical amongst current rap releases, and it’s just as hit-or-miss a proposition as most tend to be. Only 4 of the 17 tracks are sans collaborators, while the most prominent supporting cast members include Trife Da God, Ghostface’s son Sun God, and Shawn Wigs. The latter’s apparent proficiency in No Limit Hold ‘Em is demonstrated adeptly on “Pokerface,” but although all three go-to guys show hints of promise, they fail to stand out in most cases. On the remix of “Back Like That,” a slightly hoarse Kanye West is at the top of his game, oozing just as much self-conscious hubris as one would expect. It’s nigh impossible to deny the Anchorman reference, “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal,” dated and tiresome though it may be coming from anyone else. The second verse might be a bit on the forgettable side, but this song is really all about the chorus anyway. “Greedy Bitches” provides the ideal outlet for Redman’s commanding flow. He even has the audacity to broach the subject of his short-lived, Method Man-costarring (and awful, awful, awful) FOX sitcom. I don’t care who you are. You’ve got to respect that.
While the sound of More Fish is owed in no small part to its many contributors, it all comes down to Dennis Coles in the end. What is it that is so intriguing about the Staten Island emcee? It probably has something to do with the fact that the Ghostface Killah of late 2006 sounds right at home no matter which era the music is evoking, and he covers a fair amount of nostalgic ground in the course of an album. Much of the lyrical content centers around Ghost’s unorthodox take on standard boasts-and-threats fare (“Guns come out like my mother’s teeth/Watch how I’m throwing heat/The leg gravy be steaming over smothered beef”), including odd claims that he’ll “knock the neighborhood bully out, take his gun, and pee on him.” Conceptual highlights include the vivid depiction of a dice game gone awry in Minnesota on “Outta Town Shit” and the three verses offering a conflicting perspective to Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” where Ghostface’s performance is rich with nuanced conviction. When it comes to versatility, he’s almost like a more abstract Jay-Z. Without his ability to morph into whatever each track requires, the whole thing would end up sounding unfocused. Instead, More Fish is the Amnesiac to Fishscale’s Kid A–the less aggressively lauded sequel that fleshes out a similar set of ideas with the same basic vocabulary.