PUTTING IN HIS ALL Ghost/Ryan Augustus/Ryan Doughty.
If there's one thing rapper Ghost/Ryan Augustus/Ryan Doughty can now safely say, it's this: He's prolific. Since the middle of February, he's had vocals on 21 Educated Advocates tracks on Back to Class, 18 tracks on last month's Manic Mondays album, and now 23 tracks on his own brand-new solo album, Beats & Rhymes.
Yes, that's 62 songs, and a lot of rapping. There are plenty of good bands that never released 62 songs in their entire careers. It's a firehose of material, really, that can be hard to digest and parse.
Listening to the new record, taking any two-minute portion, you'd have a hard time knowing the difference between this and the previous two recent records. It continues what the Advocates and this movement of local rappers in general refer to as "new vintage," basically extending with some contemporary flavor the soul-heavy, boom-bap production of the hip hop that exploded in the early '90s with the likes of Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory (1991), Arrested Development's 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of (1992), Wu Tang's Enter the Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers) (1993), and, notably because of the death last week of MCA, the Beastie Boys' Ill Communication (1994).
The latter was the first disc I spun when I heard the news, as it's the Beasties record I listened to by far the most, a combination of its greatness and me being a college sophomore when it dropped. Though it was a smash multi-platinum success, it's hard not to see it as an underground template for the future: 20 tracks long, with instrumental interludes and choice samples, guest turns from the likes of Biz Markie and Q-Tip ("Keep it Together" stands up amazingly well nearly 20 years later), and a playful attitude toward hip hop that meant just about anything was fair game, musically.
Augustus was clearly a fan. He even makes a "Sabotage" reference in "Rhyming in Paradise."
Taken as a whole, though, this record is a clear artistic departure from the other two recent works. Primarily because, as the first words spoken on the record make clear, "this is my life." While on those other two discs Augustus is always sharing creativity and the mic with at least two other MCs, here he can focus on his influences and life experiences, organized like a film, with an "Opening Scene" to kick things off and "Closing Credits" to finish things up (though it actually ends up spiraling into a 12-minute tune that features some of the best guest turns on the album and a cool Triumvrat sample — don't hit stop too early).
This isn't a singles album, either, with only maybe a third of the songs featuring proper choruses and most of the production leaning toward the chill-jam vibe. Plus, it's basically family-friendly. Despite hinting at life experiences that "would make a Cape Elizabeth housewife scream," Augustus keeps everything PG, other than a few naughty words introduced by a guest or two (Dray Senior and Shane Reis are notably good).