Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons To Die”
Label: Soul Temple Records
This feels like one of those cases that laying down an introduction to Ghostface Killah is pointless – if the name doesn’t ring a bell at all with you, then you’ve probably been walking around with your eyes (and ears) closed. One of the more prominent Wu-Tang Clan members, one of the more successful solo successes of Wu-Tang and perhaps one of the best storytellers in hip-hop period. If you’ve never heard “Supreme Clientele” or “Ironman”, please give those a listen before reading on.
So on this project, Ghostface Killah has Adrian Younge working on production, with the infamous RZA in the executive producer seat… and it’s been three years since his last album. So there are a LOT of reasons to be excited about this release, and that excitement is well deserved. One thing that becomes clear on this release is that Adrian Younge stated both RZA and the legendary Ennio Morricone as two main influences for this album. Just like most Morricone soundtracks, the production easily expresses the section and mood of certain parts of the story, even without lyrics, and the transitions are so smooth.
Anyway, “Twelve Reasons To Die” is a concept album. Set up in the 60’s in Italy, Ghostface Killah’s character ‘Tony Starks’ (referenced many-a-time in previous Ghostface releases) works for the DeLuca family. However, you find out that Starks is sick of being the DeLuca’s enforcer and turns, creating his own mob. The album (unveiled in the opening track Beware Of The Stare that if played, the record unleashes the Ghostface Killah – creating a sort of time paradox/narrative) tells of the rise, fall and the revenge of Tony Starks. Other members of Wu-Tang Clan and its close affiliates appear throughout the album as Tony Starks’ close friends, and so there’s some great dialogue because of it.
Third track I Declare War offers the listener an insight into Tony Starks’ growing frustration with the Mafia, especially over racial issues. There’s also a nice operatic female vocal in the breaks, which really helps the drama of his decision to turn on the DeLuca family, giving it a grandiose feel. The track also features Masta Killa, who tells Starks about a proposition from another Mafia don, and narration from the RZA at the end which really gets the story moving.
The following Blood On The Cobblestones ups the ante a little bit, seeing Ghostface pulling off more impressive lines, like “Police pull war on crime, they’re gonna lose / Judges get kidnapped, casualties get decapitated / Starks rise above all to be emancipated”. U-God warns with “Never close your eyes in the barber chair” and the lines that Inspektah Deck lays down on the track are just brutal: ” So the DeLucas want Tone? Nah, not today / Cock and spray, side with ’em and you’ve got to pay / Don’t even kill ’em, just make ’em feel a lot of pain / Stake out his wife and his seed at the soccer game”. Wow!
The Center Of Attraction takes a turn in the album’s progression: Tony Stark falls in love with a girl, and it’s Cappadonna who comes in with some great lines while warning Stark that she’s bait for revenge by the DeLuca family. The instrumental is a nice smooth ride and slightly changes between Ghostface’s love-ridden lines and Cappadonna’s warnings, changing from a romantic dynamic to an anxious one. Cappadonna’s lines, like “You all googly-eyed, DeLucas watching your place / They pulling trains on her, beat and rape, cum in her face / They got the drop on you son, you a fucking disgrace” and “She a snake, Logan, gonna get you sprayed, brother / It’s a set-up, seen it before, Doofy got wet up”… There’s just no messing around, and the way Cappadonna’s voice breaks in the outro feels pretty real.
Perhaps the highlight of the album is Revenge Is Sweet, which unveils the brutal wrath of the resurrected Ghostface Killah. Opening with an incredible intro verse sung by mixed-sex vocals, generally quite high-pitched, reciting “Roads of glory, praising me the same / Winds of fury, cycle in the rain / Cycle in the rain with the span of time / Through the frame of mind the winds remind”. Ghostface soon comes in with his promise of revenge on those who wronged him over the slickest beat on the album; but it’s the guests who describe their imaginative forms of tortures and murders: Masta Killa with the likes of “Hung him by his tongue ring / ‘Til he gave the info on how we find his kinfolk / Made him sound the ransom then gave the dope to his grandson” and Killa Sin with “I keep having flashbacks of blasting natural gats, cutting out benches / Got convicted of the gun charge and laughed at my sentence”.
In the simplest form I can say it: it’s a really good album. Ghostface’s storytelling shines through once again in an age where lyrics seem to matter less and less, and Adrian Younge’s production is absolutely perfect for theme of the story. After hearing what the two can create together, it’s probably safe to say that fans would be happy to see the both of them work again. Plus, all the guests were on-point and flawless, especially Masta Killa.
Another thing that’s great about this album is the lyrical references to Wu-Tang and past Ghostface lyrics, yet making them work within the context of the album, like in Enemies All Around Me (“Too many enemies is out there son, tryin’ to bring the ruckus” referencing Wu-Tang’s Bring Da Ruckus) and The Rise Of The Ghostface Killah (with “killa bees”, reference to the Wu-Tang related project). It just works so well.
If you’re a Ghostface fan, there is no justifiable reason for you to dislike “Twelve Reasons To Die”.
Favourite tracks: Revenge Is Sweet, Murder Spree, The Center Of Attraction.