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Ghostface 

Fishscale (Island/Def Jam)

With Method Man and the RZA lost in film, the GZA and Raekwon lost in action, and Ol' Dirty Bastard lost in drugs, madness, and eventually death, Ghostface Killah became the Wu-Tang Clan's most visible member just by continuing to show up. In fact, he's done more than that; despite carping from fans about his commercial leanings, the high-voiced MC has remained a fascinating rhymer, as likely to offer an intoxicating string of non sequiturs as an appeal to the charts.

His fifth solo album contains few of the latter; beyond "Back Like That," a sweet R&B collaboration with labelmate Ne-Yo, Fishscale packs all the grit, grime, and flat-out weirdness that Ghost (and a team of producers that includes Pete Rock and MF Doom) can materialize. The first three proper tracks are a left-right-left TKO of coke-trade paranoia, shrill boasts, and thundering, horn-spiked old-school beats. "Whip You With a Strap" displays Ghost's unpredictable genius at its best, via a slow-soul ode to corporal punishment that makes valid points about today's undisciplined kids. The much-hyped Wu-Tang reunion on "9 Milli Bros" is just OK, but the group's Iron Man sounds as indestructible as ever.

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