2013’s Twelve Reasons To Die saw Ghostface Killah cast as the lead character in a concept album, created and produced by weirdo soul/hip-hop musician Adrian Younge. Number two is a more focused and interesting record than its predecessor, and while Younge’s music still takes centre stage, this time Ghostface feels as though he has earned equal billing.
Raekwon is a very welcome addition to the album, his well-honed drug dealing persona slotting perfectly into the plot, perhaps even more so than Ghost’s. It’s good to hear the legendary hip hop duo trade verses again, particularly on tracks such as Blackout, which brings to mind 1995’s Only Built For Cuban Linx. It’s one of the more minimal productions where the music doesn’t threaten to outshine the vocals.
Younge’s signature tremolo guitars, operatic backing vocals and organ flourishes sound every bit the ‘60s noir soundtrack, and provide dark, cinematic drama suitable for the tale. The deluxe version of the album features instrumental versions of all the tracks, which actually hold up on their own.
The story, a supernatural tale of revenge amongst gangsters, is slightly more complex than that of the first album, and it’s stronger for it. It’s to Ghostface and the other lyricists’ credit that they can take an abstract narrative and write verses from their characters’ point of view. However, what’s missing is Stark’s own personality, which has been a major part of Ghost’s music since the beginning of Wu-Tang. The humour and loudmouth style that has typified much of his best work is sorely lacking here.
The plot’s ridiculous supernatural horror themes and RZA’s over the top between-song narration acknowledge that this is all slightly silly in a cool way, rather than simply pretentious. In classic B-movie style, the album ends with RZA promising, “This is not the last you will hear from Tony Starks.”
Ready the projector for Part III.