Artist: Ghostface Killah
Label: Soul Temple Records / RED
Released: April 16, 2013
A concept album album based on a revenge-themed horror comic book, Twelve Reasons to Die from Ghostface Killah is vintage Wuinventive rhymes paired with classic production.
The story behind Twelve Reasons is an amalgamation of Italian giallo and blaxploitation: Tony Starks (GFKs alter ego) is an enforcer for a Mafia crime family. After striking out on his own and falling for his ex-employers daughter, Starks is murdered and his remains are melted into vinyl LPs that resurrect his vengeful soul when played. Think J.D.s Revenge meets The Don is Dead.
Thus the stage is set for a tale of bloody retribution, played out over the course of the albums twelve tracks.
Thankfully, Ghostface eschews his usual impenetrable lyrical style for the sake of storytelling. Album opener Beware the Stare features a Greek chorus of soul divas who warn of our protagonists blood-soaked return. Rise of the Black Suits details the origins of the Wu-Gambinos.
Like any other Wu project, Twelve Reasons features appearances from Clan fam and affiliates. The RZA appears throughout as the albums narrator. Masta Killa proves hes got Starks back against the rival Luca crime family on I Declare War. U-God and Inspectah Deck impress on the high-powered Blood on the Cobblestones, a track that moves with the urgency of a Bomb Squad production. And the aforementioned MCs all return on first single Murder Spree, a vicious posse cut in which the Gambinos mete out violent retribution against their enemies with impunity. The production is equal parts lush and brutalwho knew that revenge could sound so beautiful?
But the album highlight is Rise of the Ghostface Killah Here, over rapid-fire snares, ominous bells, powerful horns, and a dope Ol Dirty Bastard vocal sample, Starks regales listeners with the tale of his unholy rebirth, or what he calls the worst-case scenario. Its so chilling youll get goosebumps, but thats a good thing.
A while back, Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson of the Roots postulated that hip-hop would be better served if artists stepped away from the production buffet mentality and simply worked with one producer. If there were any recent hip-hop album to be used as Exhibit A for his argument, Twelve Reasons could surely be it. The disc was produced entirely by Adrian Younge (his first full venture into hip-hop, influenced by Morricone) and executive produced by RZA, whose direction clearly helped give it that authentic, soulful Wu-Tang sound and feel. Because the overall album sticks to a concise storyline, the songs themselves are brief, quick jabs that strike with considerable power. Its this laser-sharp focus that helps Twelve Reasons achieve a sense of cohesion thats virtually unheard of on contemporary hip-hop albums.
While it doesnt reach the lofty heights of classics Ironman and Supreme Clientele, Twelve Reasons is better than Ghostfaces most recent efforts. Its a testament to his willingness to experiment with new ideas while remaining to true to the sound and ethos the Clan debuted with nearly two decades ago.
“The Rise of the Ghostface Killah”
“Blood on the Cobblestones”