Sunday, 9 March 2003

Album Review: Bulletproof Wallets

The first listen to Bulletproof Wallets ends in disappointment. Recent favourite The Sun, which is included on the track listing, hasn't made it to the final disc. This is a shame because it had the potential to be a big hit for Ghostface. However, what is left is more often than not more than worthy of replacing it.

Maxine gets the album off to a flying start and has Ghostface back at his best. When Ghost ups the pace and rattles through this grimy story of crack addict squalor he truly is amazing; there are few MCs working today who can match Ghostface when he is in this form. Rza should also gain praise for his production on this track. Many Wu fans have criticised Rza for becoming predictable with his production. When the electric guitar is cranked up at the violent climax to Maxine all is forgiven. The track comes to a close with the line, "On the count of three / he landed right in front of the first floor balcony / black brains was splattered / he was dead / and the cops never came."

Elsewhere, Walking Through The Darkness, originally released on the Ghost Dog soundtrack gets a thorough lyric reworking. Theodore with its odd low-key xylophone is an inspired sing-along 1988-style hip hop track. Strawberry is a pornographic tale where the listener gets to know Ghostface more intimately than they probably had wished to - a buzzing sample helps the track from becoming too enveloped in smut though. Also, the story of hotel battlegrounds that is The Hilton is one of the best lyrical works the Wu have released in recent years.

While there are many highlights to the album, there are an equal number of half-hearted tracks. The first single Never Be The Same Again is weak. The story of Ghost dumping his girl and taking the moral high ground is unusual subject matter for the Wu and Ghost's angry rap does not mesh at all with Carl Thomas' soulful crooning. Flowers sadly is equally weak. Ghostface, Raekwon, Superb and Method Man each fail to take this track above average. There are a couple of unfunny jokes like Jealousy and Teddy Skit, which also detract from the album as a whole.

It's an odd LP in many ways; much of it wouldn't sound out of place if it had been released in 1988. And you can't help but feel if anyone else had released it, you wouldn't mind, but Ghostface is one of the finest rappers around, and Bulletproof Wallets never matches the heights that Ironman or Supreme Clientele scaled.

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