Anyone who's familiar with GHOSTFACE KILLAH's discography, be it solo, collaborations or as part of WU-TANG CLAN, will know that he's not a man to compromise his artistic vision. Unfortunately, though, in recent years his output's been a little hit and miss. At his best, he's just as powerful as he was when WU-TANG CLAN first took the hip-hop world by storm with "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" but sometimes he falls victim to the unoriginal cliches passed of by lesser rappers. However, last year's WU BLOCK collaboration saw him reinvigorated with his acidic flow back to its best. It's with the momentum from that release that he's delivered his most adventurous album yet.
The musical accompaniment to an eponymous graphic novel, "Twelve Reasons To Die" is a concept album which sees GHOSTFACE KILLAH facing off against 12 rival drug lords in a stylish mixture of neo-noir and the classic Marvel and DC comics that Ghostface so obviously loves. To fit in with the narrative weaved through "Twelve Reasons To Die", the entire album is produced by ADRIAN YOUNGE creating a more coherent listening experience for the album as an entire product rather than just a collection of tracks. In a nutshell, the storyline finds GHOSTFACE KILLAH (under his TONY STARKS alter ego) as an infamous drugs baron in 1960s Italy. After his assassination by a rival, he is melted down into a record which, when played, unleashes GHOSTFACE KILLAH to reap revenge on the country's twelve most dangerous drug lords. Despite the rather involved story, "Twelve Reasons To Die" is surprisingly good fun which does well to wrap things up quickly, never overstaying its welcome.
While the narrative is set in the 60s, the music is very much influenced by the 70s. From the warning to "Beware of the stare of the Ghostface Killah" ("Beware The Stare") onwards, we're deeply routed in symphonic soul and bombastic production accompanying Ghostface's distinctive flow which, while the storyline's constraints don't allow his usual train of thought style, is on top form. As always, there are plenty of guest appearances from friends and fellow Wu-Tang alumni with KILLA SIN and MASTA KILLA lending a hand on "Revenge Is Sweet" and "Murder Spree", CAPPADONNA on "The Center Of Attraction" and U-GOD on "Blood On The Cobblestones" and "Murder Spree". MASTA KILLA appears again on "I Declare War" and INSPECTAH DECK helps out on "Blood On The Cobblestones", "An Unexpected Call (The Set Up)" and "Murder Spree" but it's THE DELFONICS' William Hart who steals the show with his sung vocals providing the perfect contrast to GHOSTFACE KILLAH's rapping on album highlight, "Enemies All Around Me". Overall, "Twelve Reasons To Die" is an innovative take on the hip-hop genre which sounds almost as vital as the first time you heard "Protect Ya Neck". GHOSTFACE KILLAH is back to his best. (8/10)
"Twelve Reasons To Die" is out now through Soul Temple Music