Album Review: Ghostface Killah, Twelve Reasons to Die II

twelve reasons to die 2

Ghostface Killah featuring Adrian Younge

Twelve Reasons to Die II (to be released July 10, 2015)

I bet a fresh pair of new Wallabees that when you first saw this post, you said to yourself, “Ghostface has ANOTHER new album?”

Praise the Older Golds, it’s true.

Ghostface has been on an unbelievable roll lately, giving us the incredible 36 Seasons in December, then dropping the standout Sour Soul with hip hop band BadBadNotGood in February. Less than six months later, GFK blesses us with the sequel to 2013’s Twelve Reasons to Die.

Again, Ghost teams with producer Adrian Younge, who provides another haunting score for Pretty Toney’s gangster narrative. If you missed the first album, allow me to bring you up the speed: Ghost plays the role of a big-time street hustler who runs afoul of another gang. He’s betrayed, brutally murdered and resurrected as a zombie killer who seeks revenge. It’s half Scarface/half Leatherface and it’s Ghost’s impeccable storytelling — one of the best hip-hop has ever heard — and Younge’s fitting production that makes it all work.

Like any good cheesy B-movie, we deserved a sequel that was even more over-the-top than the last. That’s what is delivered here — shootouts, sorcery, sex and savagery from the Steven Spielberg of the streets.

For this story, Ghost is joined by familiar faces: his longtime partner in rhyme Raekwon and the RZA, who aptly serves as narrator.

Rae plays the role of Lester Kain, another kingpin who is in conflict with the DeLuca crime clan — Ghost’s old enemies from the first story. On “Return of the Savage,” Rae, like his ally GFK, is also out for revenge:

Walk through the valley of death
I see the reaper waiting with two snakes kissing
I can’t believe they took my wife and my kids, it’s straight Lester
Word to God, once I get ’em, I got ’em, the moments priceless
Decapitating heads like a journalist snatched with Isis

On tracks like “Return of the Savage” and “King of New York” Chef is really in rare form, spitting with even more precision that he did on his own recently released album. The album’s other guests sound equally motivated when next to the Wu vets — Scarub’s rambling flow compliments Ghost on “Rise Up” and Vince Staples holds his own on “Get the Money.”

Things really kick into high gear on the second half of the album, where our undead hero Ghostface comes to the forefront to help Raekwon in his war. Ghost spits bone-chilling threats on “Death’s Invitiation” before the beat even drops — the lack of music makes them even more ominous. When Younge’s percussions finally hit and Scarub, Lyrics Born and Chino XL go all in, war is on. I won’t spoil the plot, but the pendulum swings from kidnapping kids to demon possession and the narrative really becomes engrossing.

So does the music.

Rae and Ghost solidify their grip on the rap tag team championship belts on “Blackout” and “Let the Record Spin,” both equally soulful and sinister. Bilal is welcomed in the fold for “Resurrection Morning” and his haunting vocals are perfect for Younge’s eerie soundscapes.

Like any guilty-pleasure horror flick, Twelve Reasons to Die II is a fun time, but it does suffer from sequel-itis: Unless we’re talking Terminator 2, sequels struggle to measure up to their predecessor. That’s certainly the case here. Now, I get that the first half of the album is setting the stage for bigger events, but it feels like an unnecessary rehash of the themes of the first album. Also, due to the structure of the plot, Ghostface’s presence isn’t really felt until the second act. Before that, the set feels more like a Raekwon mixtape than a GFK album. And, like its predecessor, the songs don’t really work as stand-alone tracks. They lose a lot of impact when they’re not played in sequence.

Still, Twelve Reasons to Die II is yet another creative triumph from a man who is bringing back Da Art of Storytellin’ to hip-hop heads.  The final track, “Life’s A Rebirth” has the most diabolical twist imaginable, and opens the door for another sequel.

Knowing Ghost, he’ll drop Twelve Reasons to Die III by October. And I won’t complain.

Best tracks: “King of New York,” “Blackout,” “Let the Record Spin”

3.5 stars out of 5


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