RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Wednesday, March 1

[HH3os] Dedicated to King Fishscale trio

 (1st round match-up 4 of 27)

Did I write intros each time, or not? I think I have varied. Instead of an intro, picture this: you are sitting on a porch, first warm spring Thursday afternoon (traditionally known as “little Friday” around here), and you are awaiting the next write-up to arrive. Lavender candy-flake ’79 Pontiac Catalina rolls up, slow as blackstrap molasses drip, and you assume while noting how the paint scheme is as if plucked direct from redbud blossoms, “Ahh yes, here comes Dirtgod Raven Mack with the latest Hip Hop Trios thing, of which I don’t really need but will enjoy, maybe.” Except the Catalina rolls right by, headed to a corner store existing on corner of world which is invisible to you, anticipating a three-piece lake trout box dinner (actually Styrofoam, and the grease melts the Styrofoam ever so slightly, which is seal of lounge). And you are wondering about that car, who was driving it, how raggedy and normcore your car is, and I walk up, because I have been walking all along, as it is the truest way to ponder. And this is less an exercise (project, content, whatever) in criticism than it is an act of pondering.

Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
(released March 28, 2006; #4 on 2006 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)

I consider Dennis Coles to be one of America’s great poets, and in fact, after realizing I’ve yet to read a single good Juan Felipe Herrera poem, have been actively lobbying Donald Trump through Twitter to appoint Ghostface as the next U.S. Poet Laureate. (This has involved me employing an army of 500 bot accounts – relatively cheap to acquire on the dark web – and have them all programmed to engage, agree, and suggest not only with Trump, but other accounts within 3 follows of separation. It’s a simple yet complicated blueprint, often used by marketers, but politics is marketing now, so hey.) And though the inevitable Wu-mark conversation about “best solo album” often tries to point itself to Liquid Swords, or Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, I will forever refuse to back down from my assertion (through endless hours of personal testing of both tapes) that Ironman was the top solo album by Wu members.
A lot of Wu has fallen off IRL, but is still revered online. Fuck man, I was at a Genius show a number of years back, and that motherfucker put me to sleep, bitching about how he don’t freestyle, for like 20 minutes, how people shouldn’t question that, all this that or the other, sounding like the old uncle at the cookout trying to explain how stupid kids’ dances were. Wu-markdom went from the realm of old heads (meaning the ‘90s) copping every Wu solo tape, to that Martin Shkreli penis buying the sole copy of whatever the fuck their artistic abomination of a Wu album was called. But I posit the opinion Ghost has never fallen off.
Sure, he’s stumbled, perhaps due to lack of passion, or maybe because record deals demand some new shit be released. But Ghost’s cryptic style, which has often been copied by those who drop a lot of references to various shits, feels so deeply-laced with personal meaning, it’s like rap equivalent of Bezels of Wisdom when on. Ghost’s style of delivery, where he’s the only rapper I’ve ever heard that sounds like he’s getting louder and more frantic as the verse goes on, only adds to the piledriver.
Fishscale is one of his better solo offerings. Sure, there’s filler and fodder on here, but when he’s hitting on all 8-cylinders, he remains unfuckwithable. And there are a number of tracks on this album that are either hype as fuck (a Ghost specialty), introspective as fuck (another Ghost specialty), or balanced enough hybrid of the two. What makes hitting those unfuckwithable moments so good is they build credit where you’re less likely to skip the filler/fodder parts; you can ride it out, because you know it’ll be okay, as opposed to it descending into dreaded “second half” of album where filler/fodder attempts to patch together the shit that should’ve not been let out the studio.
I guess what I’m saying is fvkk I love Ghostface Killah. FOUR STARS (and I might’ve gone five but didn’t want to establish that high point just yet in this dumb shit, and also Ghost is urbane enough there’s gonna be pink light pollution blurring out the full stardom overhead).

T.I. – King
(released March 28, 2006; #19 on 2006 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)

I don’t know, there’s always been a weird disconnect in my brain between Dungeon Family ATL music and all other trap-pish ATL music (which is ignoring current pharmaceutical fog trends entirely). I never really felt T.I.’s larger discography all that much. I mean I remember bumping the fuck out of “Rubberband Man” when the local indy radio station’s hip hop show would play it, and I might’ve napstered that fucker back in the day. But once T.I. got established enough to have his T.I. formula (which he became wildly successful with – far more successful than I’ll ever be likely, so understand this is not strict haterism I’m dropping), I don’t know, it was just kinda repetitive and boring to me.
This album is boring to me, like driving the I-70 from partway Ohio to halfway Missouri. Occasionally, there’s a hook or chunk of a verse that catches you enough to distract from the boredom, but mostly it’s just kinda the same shit, and ultimately you’re not really enjoying the journey so much as finishing it. This album is definite post-blow-up rapper’s pure “you gotta buy this because it’s a material product I created and you liked my old shit” later-in-career offering, not so much jinxed as it is passionless. Is that too harsh? Maybe. I bet he put out far shittier albums later. TWO STARS (because don’t want to give it just one).

DJ Drama & Lil Wayne – Dedication 2
(released May 2006; #37 on 2006 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)

Prolific mixtape “Greatest Rapper Alive” era Lil Wayne is exactly like spending a four-day weekend getting fucked up with some peoples of your’s from back in the day or now in the day, just you don’t get to stay fucked up like that around the clock, which is the whole point of the trip. The shit is fun as hell, everybody enjoys it, but at the end of it all, none of it matters and you pretty much wasted that whole time. Wayne is pure vice and avarice during this period, and even though he ain’t saying shit, he ain’t saying it in about the most entertaining way and cadence possible. it’s fucking corn syrup for your ears.
I could do without DJ Drama because I never fully philosophically (again, my primitive boom baptism upbringing is involved here) approved of that post-DJ Clue period where DJs went from being people who could actually mix and ya know, do DJ shit, to being basically a used car salesman hype track over curated (paid?) music. It’s fucking weak. But it also became the norm, and is now why if you ask somebody who their favorite DJ is, they’ll say something like Khaled.
This is considered by hip hop nostalgia keepers to be part of Weezy’s upper-end of mixtape creations. I don’t mind it, but I don’t keep anything from it either. It moves right through your system, but you are hungover by it, to where your own brain starts to think in Weezy-isms of repetitive wordplay patterns referencing pop culture ephemera around you in a drug-addled Muppet voice. It’s fun as fuck, tbh; but also entirely unnecessary.
This gets at the question about all the arts (aka The Arts) – does it have to be important work to be The Arts? Or can you just do whatever dumb shit that pops into your brain (or heart) in the moment and that process is as valid to The Arts as the great masters of carefully built traditional masterpieces? I don’t know. I’m not going there. I do know it’s fun, but it also doesn’t feel special because you feel like Lil Wayne could do this seven more times in the next five months (which he did during this period), and that didn’t mean he was The Best Rapper Alive so much as he had constant studio time, was constantly scribbling shit out, and releasing it immediately; and though others might copy that work ethic, he was better at it than them, thus the illusion of Best Rapper Alive appeared solid as fuck.
Still though, THREE STARS because who doesn’t want to go drink codeine cough syrup on the Outer Banks for a four-day weekend? I mean, fuck it, right? (Also, this means it’s probably less stars than that, but you’re at the fucking ocean, and fucked up. Stars easy as fuck to see in the right environs.)


THE WINNER: Ghostface’s Fishscale, which advances into the next round of my own personal prolific dorkery.

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