Released unceremoniously four days before Christmas (about a month late for inclusion in year-end lists), this is where Ghostface Killah apologizes for the maligned Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City and anti-climatic Wu-Massacre by creating a 40-minute, no-skits, no-R&B joints album filled with high-profile features (mostly from the Clan) and 90s-East-Coast-revival beats.
Taken individually, there’s nothing wrong with either the rapping or the beats here (though “In tha Park” starts off a bit cluelessly and the electric guitar loop fails to catch fire): check out the hand-off between each instrument on “Purified Thoughts”; the triumphant wind hook in the left channel in the back-end of each verse on the more contemporary “Superstar” (replete with a rapid-fire verse from Busta Rhymes); the descending guitar hook of “2getha Baby”, bolstered by horns (which makes up for some more rote rhymes from Ghostface); the sheer oddity of the laser-zips of “Starkology”; how the screams in “How You Like Me Baby” sounds like it’ll inspire the coda of Kanye West’s “Otis” one year later (which, for the record, was a lot more soulful than anything here); the exotic beauty of “Handcuffin’ Them Hoes”; the oddly catchy scream powering “Street Bullies”; the horn loop of “Troublemakers.” Oh, and good bass lines throughout, notably on “Superstar,” “How You Like Me Baby,” “Handcufifn’ Them Hoes,” and “Ghetto” (nice drum rolls there too).
That being said, methinks you should skip right past Apollo Kids and 2012’s Wu-Block to 2013’s Twelve Reasons to Die which had better production than either and a unifying concept and come back afterwards. Here’s Pitchfork‘s Ian Cohen, italics mine: “While the music and the personnel are all comfort food for Ghostface, Apollo Kids still leaves something of a strange aftertaste. The basically arbitrary sequencing never allows too much momentum to build, and the lack of any sort of organizational principle makes it come off seeming more slapped-together by Def Jam interns than an Event release befitting Ghost’s rep. But the larger issue is that Apollo Kids feels like a record that’s good because it never dares to be great.”