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Ghostface Killah, ‘Apollo Kids’ (Def Jam)

After last year’s R&B-friendly Ghostdini: Wizard Of Poetry, Ghostface Killah’s ninth album consoles his hardcore constituency: Forty-plus minutes of gritty, soul-sampling beats soundtracking bizarro street tales (“Starkology,” “Ghetto”), with lyrical tough-guys Busta Rhymes, Redman, and more than half the Wu Tang Clan tagging along. On previous albums, Ghost found ways to casually reinvent himself (Supreme Clientele‘s avant-garde wordplay, Fishscale‘s twisted take on coke rap), but other than some of the beats’ psychedelic tinge (“Black Tequila,” “Handcuffin’ Them Hoes”), this one feels strangely on-the-nose. Then again, traditionalist rap hard-heads need their comfort food too.