In 2013, MC Ghostface Killah and producer Adrian Younge brought us a brutal, criminally inspired Hip-Hop album that fused elements of gritty East Coast Rap and 70’s groove-driven Soul. Now, in 2015, the duo return with the sequel, ’12 Reasons To Die II’, a project as equally bold and ambitious as the first.
Essentially, the album is intended to act like a movie for your ears; each song, another chapter in the tale of the infamous Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah). Harsh, bombastic vocals and analog instrumentals make for an authentic vintage sound, placing the setting of this soundtrack somewhere in the midst of 1940’s gangster film. The record is even broken up with brief interludes of narration which also push the story forward, introducing the listener to new scenes and characters. Most notable of these cameos are fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Raekwon and RZA. It showcases, once again, the originality of Ghostface not only as a rapper but as a story teller.
The rhyme style and lyrics of Ghostface and his co-star Raekwon are as potent and hard-hitting as ever. They come as ear-pounding bursts of words that pierce through Younge’s seemingly air tight production. The record also features a few other lesser known rap names in supporting roles. Scarub offers a more off kilter edge to the sound with an approach more similar to the obscure stylings of Kool Keith with a rapid-fire staccato, bouncing from one point to the next.
Where as the vocal performances bring the audacity, it’s Younge’s musicality that legitimizes the work. He implements a lot of aspects of his signature sound but has also used the opportunity to grow as an artist. Backing tracks of haunting oo’s and aa’s sound as though they’re sung by a choir of ghosts. And while there are subtle hints of electronic flairs, Younge differs from most contemporary producers in his abandon for the use of sampling, and his devotion to original musical composition. He is a traditionalist with his influences heavily routed in psychedelic soul and spaghetti westerns; a combination that apparently goes with Hip-Hop like chicken and waffles.
The album, like its predecessor, is coupled with its instrumental counterpart. A great idea for any hip hop album, in my opinion, but especially good when the instrumentation is so well composed.
Overall, a great output from both Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge. One that will be enjoyed by fans of both East-Coast Rap and Italian composer Ennio Morricone. Does the album expand on the last and bring any new and adventurous ideas to the equation? Not in a huge way, but it doesn’t have to. The formula as it stands is a good one. A well produced, atmospheric, crime film made for the speakers instead of the screen. Gritty, grimy, smooth and polished. Such is the life of a gangster after all.
Article by Edward Acheson