So Ghostface is back with a collection of outtakes from the Pretty Toney album, some tracks that have only appeared on street-level mixtapes, and a crew of rappers that'll fill up the rest of the album. This is going to be a scattershot bunch of leftovers surrounded by lesser rappers, right? Nope; 718 hangs together beautifully and the quality control ain't been this high in years. From the get-go, Ghostface is on fire and he's got that wicked and wild croon all over the opening "Guerilla Hood." He mentions that magic year — 1986 — on the track, and it's going to be brought up again, more than once. 718 (a NYC area code, Brooklyn mostly) does have that 1986 fire, that over-the-top excitement, but lumping it with other throwbacks and nostalgia trips ignores the so fresh, so now, so underground sound of the album. Tracks like "Smith Brothers," "It's the Unit," and "Daily Routine" are too full-bodied to be from '86, and while they're hot, the album kills when it goes raw. "The Drummer" is a scratchy and soulful stunner, "Punch In Punch Out" is a skeletal creeper that sticks with you, and Ghostface knocks it out of the park with his Queen-copping "we will, we will, pop you" chant on "Smith Brothers." Those last two tracks feature Theodore Unit's other master, Trife. He's all over the album, almost as much as Ghostface, and worth listening to every time he grabs the mic. There's no problem with the rest of the crew, they just don't contribute as much and aren't as easy to separate. Method Man guests on the excellent "The Drummer" for the album's only Wu-Tang moment, and suddenly you realize this new unit is so good, life without the Wu is possible after all. The G-Unit-mocking name of the crew never pays off, the album bounces between the raw and polished, and half of it is leftovers, but too many highlights to mention make it flow just fine. All you backpackers horrified by Pretty Toney's glittery and lightweight "Tush," this one's for you.
Years Active: '00s