One of raps greatest storytellers, Ghostface Killah follows up his 2013 concept album Twelve Reasons to Die with a Part II. Part I of the saga depicts the life of protagonist Tony Starks, an ex-crony of an NYC crime family (referred to as the Deluca Clan) who was murdered by the mob after falling in love with the Boss’s daughter. The story takes an unforeseen turn when it is revealed that Tony Starks’ remains were melted into 12 vinyl records meant to resurrect Starks in the form of Ghostface Killah when the records are played. A continuation of an exceptionally intricate and complicated story, 12RTD Part II is confusing and difficult to follow without having previous exposure to the concept. For those that are familiar with the first 12RTD and the nature of Ghostface Killah’s fictitious personas, this album promotes a work of art. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge’s 12RTD II is a riveting, action filled fable told through iambic and melodious elocution, likening Ghostface to hip hop’s modern day Homer.
Although it may take some time to grasp the details of this concept album, the supervillain vibes in Adrian Younge’s production are very distinct. The opening track “Powerful One” is 50 seconds of evil machine sound effects and shadowy female vocals singing “The face of a killer in a ghostly design”. The violence driven and rage-filled lyrics that span the album also have a hand in painting the villainous picture. With the support of fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Raekwon and RZA, Ghostface Killah dives right into the story with the second track “Return Of The Savage”, introducing a new character narrated by Raekwon and known as Lester Kane. Serving as the first chapter in this comic book of an album, Lester Kane reflects on the reasons behind his bloodthirsty vengeance against the Deluca Clan. Kane’s vengeance is so profound that he has summoned the return of the savage (Ghostface Killah) to help settle his score and so the story begins.
From there, the remainder of the album recounts various incidents between Ghostface Killah, Lester Kane and the Deluca Clan. The cinematic quality of Ghostface Killah’s storytelling makes 12RTD II a fascinating listen. Adrian Younge’s production is ghastly in the best possible way. Younge’s strange and mysterious sounds create an uncanny atmosphere with the pressing feeling that something awesomely horrible is going to happen in the music. The nightmarish anthems are complimentary to Ghostface’s murderous tones. A feature from newer rapper Vince Staples in “Get The Money” adds much needed variability to the uniform sound that 12RTD II succumbs to. The idea behind the album is to tell a story but as a result, some of the tracks come off as monotonous at first glance. Staples’ chill voice and fluid flow are refreshing amidst the intense and haunting lines that comprise the album.
Ghostface Killah’s delivery is calculated and peculiar. Rapping and storytelling, as two separate entities, are difficult to master on their own, yet Ghostface successfully combines these fields to form an auditory masterpiece. If you like your rap to tell a story, Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge will grant your wishes in the narrative that is 12 Reasons To Die II.