Artist: Theodore UnitTitle: 718Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez

Ghostface is his own man, there’s no question about it. The Staten Island emcee is as much an enigma as say Ricky Williams, the recently retired RB who chose pot over the pigskin. The two Miami residents, however, share more in common than just their area code or their mysterious ways. At their best they can carry a team. On 718, Ghost’s side project with Theodore Unit, the Shaolin rhyme slayer does just that by appearing on 10 of the album’s 16 tracks.

The opening salvo, “Guerilla Hood,” finds Ghostface spitting amusing non sequiturs like: “Don Mattingly, Don Baylor, Don King of Don anything.” “Who Are We?,” with its big-band grandiose courtesy of producer Dirty Dean flipping the tip of the Scooby Doo theme, is an adrenaline-charged anthem. Fittingly, oversized rapper Bonecrusher appears on the cut. Method Man momentarily spells Tony Starks as he shines on “The Drummer” with slick boasts such as, “Ya n*ggas shoot ya guns like Shaq shoots a free throw.” And true to the album’s title, (an NYC area code), TU represents for their hometown. Ghostface is the one to “Set It Off” on “‘88 Freestyle,” which features a classic Big Daddy Kane track as the backdrop.

Although the seven-man set displays promise during the first half of the album, Theodore Unit tires during second half. For starters, the Ironman sits out several tracks on the back end of 718. Trife Da God provides punch, but the rest of the crew sounds lost without their star. Shawn Wigs, a melanin-depraved version of Ghost, flourishes earlier on the album but is overwhelmed on his solo, “Daily Routine.” And Solomon Childs all but fumbles on all three of his solo attempts.

While Ghostface may charismatically clash with his collaborators on 718, that’s part of the appeal. For the most part he and the TU members—most noticeably Trife—work well with each other. It’s only when Starks heads to the bench that the team struggles. Let’s just hope for our sake, as well as Theodore Unit’s, that Ghost doesn’t decide he’d rather “get on with his life,” ala Ricky Williams, and retire early.