Ghostface Killah - Twelve Reasons To Die

Posted April 17, 2013

Respected veteran and Wu-Tang Clan alumnus Ghostface Killah has unleashed Twelve Reasons To Die, a joint album with producer Adrian Younge. The LP, released by Soul Temple Records in conjunction with RED Music, is Executive Produced by fellow Clan member RZA, who specifically tapped Younge to take on the "musical mission." Previously-released song selections include "The Rise of the Ghostface Killah," "The Sure Shot (Parts One & Two)," "Enemies" and "Murder Spree."

Twelve Reasons To Die is available in various configurations including a standard CD, a deluxe double CD with instrumentals and a mini comic book, plus a digital deluxe version with instrumentals and digital comic book, multiple vinyl formats and a cassette.

Twelve Reasons To Die Album Review

Years from now, when we talk about 12 Reasons to Die, we’ll talk about it as a Ghostface Killah album, and understandably so. Ghostface is the one with the Wu-Tang pedigree, the one with the multiple classic albums, the one whose voice takes center stage throughout the project. Believe me, we’ll get to Ghost in a minute, but first I want to make sure I give producer Adrian Younge his just due; in many ways 12 Reasons is more his album than Tony Starks’.

Producer, composer and the owner of a vinyl store in L.A., Younge is thoroughly schooled in ‘60s and ‘70s soul. Obsessively detailed, and it seems he’d be fine with me using the word obsessed, Younge’s studio is entirely analog. When shooting the art work for 12 Reasons he spent months learning the same equipment that would have been used in the late ‘60s, and even more than Ghost’s rhymes, it’s that commitment to authenticity that truly gives 12 Reasons its unique sound. What’s more, it was Younge who scripted 12 Reasons’ storyline, a 12 track movie that follows the story of an Italian gangster in 1968 who falls in love with a boss’ daughter, is murdered and then returns from the dead to seek revenge. Kendrick’s GKMC may have been cinematic in the sense that it was often like a movie, but 12 Reasons is a movie, and Younge is the director, screen writer, cinematographer and producer. Ghost is merely the actor…

…but goddamn what an actor. I’m perfectly willing to argue that Ghostface is the best storyteller in hip-hop history, and 12 Reasons offers up yet more proof of his brilliance. For the sake of narrative flow, we’ll start with The Rise of the Black Suits, the track that establishes the conflict between Ghost and the Deluca mob family that eventually kills. Simply put, he doesn’t give a f**k: “they just wasn't trying to make me a made man / I blacked out on them and started my own clan.” With that stage set, Ghost continues to tell what has to be described as a Quentin Tarantino-esque tale of revenge and bloodshed, a feeling that climax’ on posse cut Murder Spree, which Ghost kicks off with the kind of casually violent delivery that’s been his trademark for decades now. In fact, for those who are long time Starks fans, 12 Reasons will be a must listen. Freed from the pressure to make a hit single, Ghost is free to boil his rhymes down to the essence, which gives us the intense power of a track like The Rise of Ghostface Killah. While Younge’s echoing, guitar driven beat floats in the background, Ghost delivers a manifesto of revenge that opens with, “Medusa stare, my guns bust in silence / I'm a black vigilante killer, pro violence.” This is literally murder on wax, and throughout the album Ghost absolutely kills his lines.

To say that 12 Reasons To Die isn’t for everyone would be an understatement along the lines of “Snoop Dogg sure likes to smoke marijuana”. Ghostface Killah is the most profoundly strange rapper to ever see mainstream success. It’s hard to think of another artist who’s sold as many albums as Ghost, who’s got as much untarnished street cred as Ghost, who would jump at the chance to do a deeply vintage concept album that comes paired with a comic book. But perhaps the truly remarkable thing about 12 Reasons is that it's not much of a stretch for Ironman. His comic book roots obviously run deep, he’s always loved telling a good story, and the beats RZA (who also executive produced 12 Reasons) supplied him were often in the same sonic ballpark as Younge’s. It’s not hard to imagine a track like The Unexpected Call appearing on Fishscale, or a darkly pacing cut like The Sure Shot finding a home on Supreme Clientele. Still, at a time when many of his rap peers are even more desperately changing their sound to stay relevant, Ghostface Killah is cementing his relevancy by diving even deeper into what always made him such a unique artist. While not completely unprecedented, it’s hard to imagine another album like 12 Reasons to Die emerging any time soon, at least not with this high of a profile. So let’s take this opportunity to truly appreciate what hip-hop is capable of, and appreciate the living rap legend that is Ghostface Killah. And if you find yourself reaching the end of this review having forgotten about Adrian Younge, I suggest you start from the beginning immediately.

DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins

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Posted April 17, 2013
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