Ghostface Killah – Set The Tone

Wu-Tang legend returns with first LP in five years...

There are few figures in hip-hop that command more respect than Ghostface Killah. His soulful style helped to reshape rap music, his role in Wu-Tang Clan – and the myriad of splinter projects – arguably assisting in the creation of an entire audio universe. That said, it’s been a while since we heard from him – that all ends, however, with ‘Set The Tone’.

Featuring 19 tracks and a plethora of guests, ‘Set The Tone’ is an immense re-statement of his ongoing creative worth, featuring a who’s-who of cross-generational rap talent. Some will cause bigger headlines than others, but curiously it’s often the more left-field picks who make the greatest impact.

Some of the legend link-ups here, however, are for the history books. Method Man and Ghostface Killah go bar for bar on ‘Pair Of Hammers’, Raekwon is searing on ‘Skate Odyssey’, while the Nas link-up ‘Scar Tissue’ is deeply rewarding, a sign of the power East Coast hip-hop still holds.

Dancehall flavoured ‘Champion Sound’ is a bass-heavy rocker, with Beniton on hand to amplify the energy. The slinky ‘Bad Bitch’ turns the lights down low, with Ghostface Killah vowing to “lick you like a spoon” before Ja Rule’s appearance twists the song in a new direction.

Busta Rhymes can be hit and miss, but the Caribbean flavours on ‘Shots’ light a fire under the legendary MC. Unafraid to move past his golden era sound, ‘Trap Phone’ allows Ghostface Killah to grapple with a 2024 production palette – but it’s fun, but lacks the panache of fan service.

One coup on the record is the appearance of Ye. A hugely controversial figure right now, and often difficult to predict, he remains a top tier name in terms of commercial pull. He doesn’t phone it in, either – his appearance on ‘No Face’ is thorough and thought through, if veering from excellent to awful in the same few bars. 

Although a full album project has been a while coming, it’s not as though Ghostface Killah has been absent from American hip-hop, kept busy by features alongside Kendrick Lamar and Westside Gunn. Granted space once more to create his own world, ‘Set The Tone’ is an enjoyable addition to one of rap’s core catalogues.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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