Ghostface: The Pretty Toney Album

The Pretty Toney Album
Def Jam

It takes new lexicons to phrase Ghostface's grace; his ballistic imagination inspires inventions like illtacular, stuntastic, splendescent. While other peers play it so cool they're frozen, Ghost embraces flamboyance like rap's Liberace, eschewing sequined robes for a mouth that spits confetti. Check these random shards from "Beat the Clock": "I be potent like ibuprofen/I be coasting/With two shotties on me/In your grimiest lobby smoking." That kind of heady wordplay isn't always consistent or accessible, yet it generates excitement with every vivid line. On "Run," he spills a torrent of cinematic imagery, warning, "Hop fences/Jump over benches/When you see me coming/Get the fuck out the entrance." Your body instinctually braces for impact.

Ghost can get topical when shedding sentiment on "Save Me Dear" or sparring with Jackie-O on "Tooken Back," but he's best when painting outside the lines. For "Holla," his rhymes steamroll over the Philly soul classic "La La La"--not a sample from that track, but the actual song, the Delfonics' vocals be damned. Ghost enjoys playing the superhero with his x-ray rhymes, but throughout his career he's also revealed vulnerabilities that border on proto-emo. He ends the album with "Love," a heartfelt dedication to Martin, Malcolm, his mom, his babies, and so forth. It's a stark contrast from the brutish misogyny of "Last Night" or slobbering lust of "Keisha's House." Ghost's line from "Love," "Funny how love could end so subtle/Was it just sex and not really love for the couple?" is so poetically sensitive, you'd think you wandered into an Erykah Badu video.

Pretty Toney isn't Ghost's best album; he's yet to surpass the uniform excellence of his first two, Ironman and Supreme Clientele. Yet, in a year where urrrbody in the club's getting tipsy, Ghostface responds with a hypo of adrenaline straight through the chest plate, right when you didn't even realize you needed it.

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