Will Dee – Ghosts – Album Review
Hey right on. Sometimes you can tell right from the drop you’re gonna be in for a solid experience – and if it’s my ears you’re asking, I’d tell ya that you can immediately hear Will’s onto something unique from the very moment “Outside” starts up his new record Ghosts – his follow-up to last year’s debut release of New Beats And Pinties. Set within a real Hip-Hop vibe…you can hear the additional time being taken to bring out the poetic, artistic, and even the bizarre…Will Dee seems fully willing & ready to take on whatever comes his way; and with a whole host of different producers throughout this record, he’ll be servin’ up the verbals to ya in all kinds of creative ways to catch your attention – so be ready & turn UP for this. I mean…the very beginning of “Outside” and the delicate way this first tale unfolds should be more than enough to convince you through this initial cut’s gentle strength that you’re in for something different that’ll make a lasting impact on ya. Whether or not Will ends up retaining his eyebrows in the pursuit of his happiness might be another story altogether…but the calm & steady way he keeps the words flowing, the emotion & tone of his voice, the commitment you wanna hear…it’s all right there where it should be. Will Dee makes a helluva first impression…and he won’t let it slip for a second from there – so strap yourselves in for the ride you’re about to be on. And peep this video y’all!
You hearin’ that? Yeah you are. Those insatiably smooth bass-line grooves? That highly artistic approach that’s well-outside the norm? “Change your mind, change your brain, change your style,” as the man himself will tell ya…and that’s good advice right there. Need proof? Listen to this record. Will Dee wields his versatility & diversity in sound like the asset it truly IS; the creative muscle that generates the strength of this record is immediately right there on display throughout this lineup in ways no one could miss. Just that hint of static rockin’ the background of “Flyin Changin” gets me amped-up…even in using this effect, Will’s showing you directly how much better he’s able to do something we’re already familiar with than most artists ever could…that record-static is a perfect fit to complement this old-school vibe & flow. To my ears, there’s no question about just how much Will Dee gets the fundamentals of RAP…as in, rhythm & poetry y’all, the way it originated…a song like “Flyin Changin” is a fantastic example of how its true definition has always guided us to the very best in what Hip-Hop can become. Within real rhythm & poetry in action like this, you can hear that Will has the freedom to roam right out to the fringe in search of something more with his music; and you can hear in the results of songs like these first two cuts that’ll prove that, when he goes exploring, he comes back with the goods.
But like, listen to “Cuntsville” will ya? This ain’t your typical everyday Hip-Hop record y’all, that’s for sure. You don’t usually find such pronounced words, or hear them nearly this clearly, presented in such a dramatic-meets-artistic performance…basically, this is damn near all-new in brilliant ways. You could argue about a thousand different things when it comes to “Cuntsville” – and I mean well beyond the obvious polarization the title would come along with. In truth, there’s more in common with Indie, Folk, Pop, Spoken Word, R&B, and Experimental tunes when it comes to “Cuntsville” – in my opinion, just about as much in common as another genius named Beck once had with his acoustic guitar in an alternative world…and then just a couple records in, revealed a whole next-level ingenuity to his art & music that no one on earth would have ever seen coming from what was once such a grubby punk ass. I wouldn’t expect everyone out there to come to the same conclusion that “Cuntsville” drives me to in that sense, but feel free to quote me all the same – Will Dee is doing something decidedly different that is bound to earn him the following that uniqueness sincerely deserves. And no – it’s far from my favorite cut on the record, don’t get it twisted – it’s a good tune by many measures, but what it indicates for the possibilities in Will’s future…well now…now we’re talking about limitless potential and the artistic integrity & courage it takes to use it right. Chances are, you’re gonna hear “Cuntsville” and be every bit as fascinated as I was by this song…it’s just about the most oddly addictive track you’ll hear this year. It pushes the boundaries of what you think you know about music, and makes it something more; lyrically, it’s off-the-chain rad…listen to the structure, the tone, the delivery…combined with the atmosphere of this song, it all stacks up to a genuinely compelling listen that’s almost even in the space-like realm of something that would resemble a David Bowie-meets-Lemon Jelly like-tune. Awesome.
All that good stuff said about “Cuntsville,” listening to the man fire-up a more traditional Hip-Hop flow on the mic during “Never Over” was instantly enticing. Taking it back to the roots of the old-school, keepin’ that bass-line drivin’ the groove alongside a steady & reliable beat – the verses alone are worth the price of admission, never-mind the additional drama & tension that Dee brings expertly to the chorus! Solid all the way through, the rubbery bounce & energy of this track hits the mark like the old cuts from your Rap Traxx tapes back in the day, or the surge of Cypress Hill & House Of Pain from the early 90’s with the P-H-A-T bass-lines creating the magic in the rhythm & hooks. Personally, I’m all about it…but you’ll find that’s my opinion of literally everything on this record when it comes right down to it…sorry, I should have said spoiler alert by now I suppose. The verdict is already in though by the time you get this far into the record, I can promise ya that folks…if there’s some way that you’ve managed to resist jumping onto Will’s bandwagon after these first four cuts, you’re built of some strangely resistant and maniacal steel that isn’t helping your ears none, believe that. Charisma, personality, character, commitment…these things MATTER in music – and Will shows ya through the versatility and flawless transition between the slick verse & dramatic chorus, that he’s more than capable of thriving inside of any environment. Dee’s got incredible focus that never seems to let up.
At fourteen tracks long, you’ll be surprised at how quickly this album seems to fly right by. The majority of that is simply due to an excellent listening experience that never quits being innovative & inventive, and a supreme layout to the record that keeps the flow entertaining from beginning to end on Ghosts. But it’s also due to some pretty damn short tunes. When we get to spend a bit more time with a track like we do on “Cuntsville,” “The Alligator,” or “Tower” later on, you get to hear the ideas expanded and thrive with a bit more versatility. The shorter cuts make the most of a moment and maximize that for ya every time – the longer ones (keeping in mind, we’re still talking about a half-minute more in reality) get to offer a few more twists & turns, or allow us to stick with a mesmerizing melody & groove like the one you find on “The Alligator.” Love the music on this cut…it’s one of a couple tracks on this record where the sound reminds me a lot of what I love in Four Tet’s catalog – and I think the guest appearance by Charlie Dales was highly impressive as well. “The Alligator,” like almost all of the songs on this album, is another hybrid cut built on several layers & different ideas fused together into one spectacular experience; it’s all wildly adventurous and ambitious, no matter how short or long the track may be. Will Dee knows how to use every inch of the wax to make a memorable impact on ya, and he’s sparing no quarter when it comes to putting his innately unique creativity on display throughout Ghosts.
Sometimes you’re gonna write a verse that can’t help but outshine the chorus, no matter how big the hooks seem to be – and there ain’t nothing wrong with that, hell, sometimes like on a cut like “Soho Rickshaw” it’s more than fine. Listening to the slick way that Will raps his way through the bars with such stylistic swagger your ears couldn’t possibly miss…I mean…the dude’s giving your ears everything they could want from the m-i-c y’all, you feel me? Nothing wack about the chorus at all, it still works, like I said, sometimes you just can’t help it, you step into the studio, close the door, and put on an award-worthy performance that can’t be mistaken for anything else…the verses steal the show here. Credit to the producers on this record as well…they all deserve a shout-out just as much as Will Dee does for knowing exactly what kind of music & vibe he’s seeking out and hitting the mark so bang-on; the music has been ridiculously spectacular and will remain that way, this much I can promise ya. As a vocalist of any kind, that music’s gotta provide the spark for true inspiration to come through – and that’s what you can authentically hear on every track Will’s created on Ghosts…literally everything has an enthusiastic, inspired, and radiant energy to it that reveals just how into this material he really is. And he should be…this record’s bloody brilliant, full-stop, end of sentence. “Soho Rickshaw” has a real Black Sunday-like vibe to it, highlights Will’s immaculate ability to flex finesse in the bars, and consistently pumps out highly textured sonic elements throughout its length to keep ya fully entertained. I mean…if you’re NOT entertained, it says more about YOU than it does about Will…just sayin.’ Everything about this record will make you wanna hook these songs straight into your veins – this is the level of creativity & uniqueness you want to hear and the professional execution along with it.
So…somewhat to “Cuntsville” earlier on, “Tower” is more audible proof that there is something much bigger brewing in Will Dee’s world of sound than could ever be described in the breadth of one genre. And honestly? I’m fuckin’ lovin it. For several reasons really. The main one being, as a person that’s so often finding those fringe acts that refuse to conform, hearing a man that seems to be consider by most to be a Hip-Hop dude throw such a curveball into his albums like he is on “Tower” just makes me smile. Because songs like this make it crystal clear that Will Dee has a lot more on his mind and in his agenda when it comes to the music he wants to make in this lifetime – and good on him! When you’re actually like this in life…when it’s not just pretense and it’s entirely apparent – you wear that uniqueness proudly like a second-skin…and hearing Will go after this song with such commitment, conviction, and solid tones should bring a smile to your face from the accomplishment alone. It takes guts to go this far outside of the norm. And if you ask me, I think it’s an indication of a serious music-lover on the other side of that microphone…if you ask me, I think that Will Dee knows EXACTLY what he’s doing; songs like “Tower” damn near force us all to culture-up and get exposed to something NEW – and we should ALL want that. Him as an artist, us as listeners, we should all be extremely excited about what’s coming out of our speakers when it comes to the music & songs that create this lineup on Ghosts. If you read into his past, you’ll find that Will’s bringing more than bars to his skillset and has a ton of other experience from years prior with his own solo acoustic records, and a collaborative project with artist FORM, called Newton Colours…so make no mistake, there’s a reason you hear such versatility & range on this album. Dude’s damn near reaching Nick Cave territory on “Tower” – you telling me that’s not straight outta left field after reading everything I’ve written so far, or hearing it for yourself? Amazing how well it all works out – I’d easily put “Tower” up there with the best of the best you’ll find in the stellar lineup on Ghosts.
“M.I.N.T.” wins the award for most aptly-titled cut on this record – that’s immediately single-worthy sound & energy springin’ out your speakers right here is what this is. Will Dee has proven already to be more than a man of music when it comes right down to it…I have the feeling if you give this guy a solid beat & some bars he’s ALWAYS going to come up with something killer to vibe on. “M.I.N.T.” is like a continuous flow of top-shelf verbal excellence…I probably feel similar about this cut as I did towards “The Alligator” earlier on if we’re talking about the balance of strengths between the verse & chorus, but again y’all…you’re not gonna hear anything you don’t completely feel, 100%. I’d probably side with the chorus of “M.I.N.T.” coming out a bit more effective overall if I had to compare – I like the way that this cut uses space to its advantage and Will lets the separation of sound assist in the impact on his words. As a result, the chorus comes out with extra drama in the mix for ya, and the energy of the flow in the verses really springs to life…but ultimately no matter how you slice it, “M.I.N.T.” is designed to catch your attention through bold moves, orchestral sound, and that essential inspiration in the spark from the man on the mic that seems all-out hell-bent on ensuring he’s got one of the best of the year with Ghosts. I’m just jumping on Will’s bandwagon now myself – I haven’t heard that first Hip-Hop record he put out – but if this one here doesn’t put him on the map on charts & playlists around the globe…then we’ve got much bigger problems in the entertainment industry than I had once thought.
Dude just seems to never run out of endlessly fresh and enticing ideas. LISTEN to the freakin’ genius way he weaves through the sonic tapestry you’ll find on “Ghosts In The Song” – I’m tellin’ ya…the X-factor exists BIG-TIME in what Will Dee has as a performer, entertainer, writer, and artist – and it’s shining through every single one of these tracks on Ghosts. Getting an assist from Elizabeth Sophie for the oddly-beautiful hooks on “Ghosts In The Song” – literally everything about this song has uniqueness you can hear & tap into. From the way Sophie sings this song, to the innovative bars of the main star of the show, to the incredibly engaging music and artistic design in a structure like “Ghosts In The Song” has – there’s a smorgasbord of awesomeness to keep your mind & ears plenty satisfied & occupied. I would have been onboard with this being perhaps the most obvious choice for a single on the entire album if we were just talking about the verses alone – it’s the chorus & the rest that likely give it more of a niche artistic structure that’ll throw the mainstream a bit – but for the rest of us out there craving creativity through our speakers…man are you all gonna LOVE this! Personally I very much like the fact that Will doesn’t seem like the type to sit still for long…you get multiple personalities, dimensions, and real depth in these songs…and where they start might just end up taking you on a much different journey than you’d likely assume. There are a lot of surprising elements in the structure & composition of Dee’s cuts on Ghosts that make all the difference in the world in retaining our attention 100% in-full.
“Bar Worker” is a seriously rad cut that I’m stoked Will decided to include, given how different it is in comparison to the rest of the record. The man is cuttin’ it up and gettin’ his sample-on throughout this song, choppin’ & mixin’ this into an audible masterpiece that’s full of colorfully entertaining character. Smart move to include both this cut and “I Never Liked You” later on…these two tracks take you beyond the man on the mic and show you that, even though he’s enlisted several other talents for the production of the music on this record, when he’s the one in full control behind the decks, he’s got the chops, connection, and ear for sound to compete with the best of the best out there in the scene today. And that’s independent OR mainstream y’all…I’m relentlessly impressed by the set of songs on Ghosts. “Bar Worker” has Will Dee producing his way to complete victory with endlessly enticing sound on display – the man clearly gets how to use sonic texture & depth more than most artists ever will.
As with all adventurous records and artists that seek to break new ground, some songs might take a spin or two to work their full magic on ya…which is bound to happen in the pursuit of true art & the unknown. I think “2nd Thoughts” was probably the closest I got to questioning any tune on this record, and we’re talking barely at best. It’s still a really damn good cut that would be an A-side on most other albums…if anything, questioning anything remotely about a track with the caliber of quality that “2nd Thoughts” has even for a second simply speaks to the jaw-dropping material that lines the set-list of Ghosts…so take it with a grain of salt or two. Because believe me, I sure ain’t complainin’ at the end of the day…the moment the guitar-based vibes of “2nd Thoughts” starts up and Will starts to let his mind & thoughts wander into the mic, I’m right there in his corner and loving this track every bit as much as the rest. This one really just boils down to knowing what the typical reaction from the masses is when it comes to songs that try for more than what they can usually handle…and I’d venture a guess that may likely be the case when it comes to how far “2nd Thoughts” pushes away from what the ears out there would be comfortable with, even inside of the framework of sound that’s undeniably inviting. Maybe a little less balanced in terms of its strengths in comparison to the rest, but like I said, still a solid track despite its ambitious nature…you can hear Will stretching his creativity here & there’s value in that too.
But HEY! What’s THIS? This might be cheating Will. We ALL know how addictive that sample guiding “The Start” is – no one escapes that – you KNOW we’re helpless when it comes to that musical hook. When White Town used it in their song “Your Woman” back in my day, it became an instant classic and a vibe we’ll never forget…so quite honestly, it was awesome to hear it used this time around in such a decidedly different direction. Rather than relying on it like White Town more or less did to make the song, Dee’s using it as an extra feature added into something that was already workin’ – know what I mean? It would be extremely hard to take the spotlight off the man on the mic when he’s at his most engaging – and listening to Will in the flow of “The Start” once again reveals the X-factor in full-effect. Structurally, “The Start” is probably a bit looser in some sense…but it’s got a solid balance to it that allows the music to shine just as much as what you’ll hear coming from the microphone – and call me crazy, but ain’t that an important dimension of this record? The music has been the essential core and reliable backbone all the way through Ghosts, always providing something wildly new, exciting, and different from track-to-track that keeps our attention locked-on to every moment of this record completely. So I’m cool if Will wants to share the spotlight with the music like he is here on “The Start” every once in a while; what’s happening on the decks deserves serious accolades & attention of its own.
Between tunes like “Bar Worker” and “I Never Liked You” – you can hear the man has the ability to flex his musical muscles in several directions and find success, even in more instrumentally-based environments, he’s still crushin’ it with sound you can’t take your ears off of. Comparable to like…you know…those extremely versatile acts from the electro-circuits like Four Tet, Flying Lotus, Prefuse 73, or RJD2 – “I Never Liked You” is freakin’ brilliant when it comes right down to it, proving that Will doesn’t even need a single word to keep you fully entertained. It’s hard to even argue liking any of these tunes more than the next when the quality is as consistent as it has been – but for a track without words on a record stocked full of’em, I bet you’ll find “I Never Liked You” can rival nearly any cut with verses & bars. Rhythmically addictive – it’s got a bit of an interlude feel to it, but it certainly stands on its own as well.
“Two Poems” makes a final statement/argument on behalf of this record being about real Hip-Hop & so much more. Face facts – if you’ve been listening to this album, there hasn’t been a solitary moment where Will hasn’t kept the standards up supremely high and the quality consistently kickin’ out the jams for us all – “Two Poems” is merely the last cherry on top of what’s been an incredible experience the entire time…and unforgettable one really. I know my brain allows creativity & music like this to live in my head rent-free for years & years & years down the road…there’s a good chance I’ll always remember right where I was when I heard Will Dee for the first time, because I’m tellin’ ya folks…this dude’s got what it takes to go on to make a savage splash in the mainstream in essentially any genre he chooses. “Two Poems” flexes the sparkling finesse, slick charisma, and professional moves that have made this whole record an enormous success from the drop, one last time for ya – and gives you one last sweet dose of this hybrid minstrel’s versatile, imaginative, and masterfully colorful approach to music. Will Dee better be makin’ some plans to pack up his bags and move to the major leagues if he keeps the quality on his music up like this; he verifiably crushed this whole set with the confidence & skill it takes to connect & genuinely killer material that’s bound to set him apart from the rest in the scene today, for all the right reasons.
Find out more about Will Dee at his official page at: https://www.willdee.com