Coming from anyone other than Ghostface Killah, a concept album of R&B-heavy songs about girls, love, and sex by a revered rapper who specializes in gritty crime narratives might be derided as naked commercial calculation. But the Wu-Tang Clansman has always flaunted his vulnerability and love of soul. In a genre where men bury their tender sides to avoid looking weak, Ghostface has always been in touch with his feelings. Besides, it’s not as if women have been angrily demanding an album of him hollering sweet nothings and/or dirty talk.
On Ghostdini: Wizard Of Poetry, Ghostface takes an ostensibly commercial concept in defiantly non-commercial directions, from the X-rated raunchiness of “Stapleton Sex” to lusting after a pregnant beauty played by Estelle (“Paragraphs Of Love”). Though the emphasis is on love rather than aggression, much of Poetry finds Ghostface in his comfort zone, spinning elaborate stories rich with novelistic detail and visceral emotion over lush soul samples, like the riveting “Guest House,” a cinematic opus of betrayal and seduction stolen by Fabolous (the album’s only guest rapper), who strikes just the right note of sleepy belligerence as a cable guy caught delivering more than bootleg HBO to Ghostface’s cheating girlfriend. “She’s A Killah” shamelessly borrows the template of guest vocalist Ron Browz’s “Pop Champagne” with rubber-band percussion and a heavily Auto-Tuned chorus for bubblegum R&B as catchy as it is cheesy. The fact that “Back Like That” pops up on yet another Ghostface album betrays a certain commercial desperation, but otherwise Poetry functions as a curious but welcome detour from a hardcore icon admirably unafraid to look like a sucker for love.