With the Wu-Tang Clan in an odd re-emergence of albums being released seemingly every month, since December’s group record, A Better Tomorrow, Ghostface’s Sour Soul with BadBadNotGood, Raekwon’s overly-ambitious and panned Fly Industrial Luxurious Art, and Inspectah Deck’s Every Hero Needs A Villain as Czarface with 7L & Esoteric. Ghostface & the gang are back with another one in 2015, Twelve Reasons to Die II.
Inspired by the musical styling of Ennio Morricone, Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge & RZA produced the original Twelve Reasons to Die back in 2013. The record was a concept-album described as a “vintage Italian horror film,” taking place in 1968, where Ghostface Killah plays “Tony Starks,” a gangster for the DeLuca crime family. The story goes, that Tony is “murdered by his former employers after striking out on his own and falling in love with the kingpin’s daughter.” It gets a little less realistic, where the lore around Twelve Reasons to Die reads that, “his remains are melted in vinyl and pressed into a dozen LPs that, when played, resurrect him as the Ghostface Killah, a force for revenge incarnate.”
This time around, Ghostface Killah’s “Tony Starks” isn’t the main character, but instead it’s “Lester Kane,” played by Raekwon. It’s the mid-1970’s now, and Lester Kane is the leader of a rising rival crime syndicate. After his family is murdered by the DeLuca’s, Lester plays the LP’s that hold Ghostface Killah, resurrecting his vengeful spirit. Ghostface agrees to help Kane get his revenge, but only in return for Kane’s soul to replace his so that Ghostface Killah can once again, “roam the streets as a mortal man.”
Putting the story aside for just a second, the beats on this record are just sick, with RZA & Adrian Younge offering up their well known styling to add perfectly to the Twelve Reasons to Die franchise. Disc 2, the instrumental album, is honestly enjoyable enough to listen to by itself as a hip-hop mixtape. One might even be able to hear the story in it without the words, like the musical scoring to a film.
Regarding the words however, while it’s a little less subtle this time around, the story-telling, rap-opera setting is definitely where Ghostface Killah & Raekwon are at their best. While the choruses aren’t the most creative or lyrics too prolific, which are the same issues we’ve seen from Ghost & Raekwon’s return projects this year, it all still works here on Twelve Reasons to Die II because the music is the medium to tell the story, the true heart of the record.
With the help of RZA, who produced the music and story to his own film, The Man With the Iron Fists, the continuation of Twelve Reasons to Die is definitely not one of those sequels that gets panned as “wasn’t as good as the original.” If anything, Twelve Reasons to Die II is an awesome continuation to the story, and one that I believe Ghostface & Raekwon loved to tell.