Having been in one of the greatest super-groups hip-hop has ever seen, Ghostface Killah has every right to just rest on his laurels and coast on his legacy for the rest of his career, but the prolific rapper never shies away from a new project. Back in September, he announced that he would be embarking on his tenth studio album, donned Twelve Reasons To Die. The album, produced by composer Adrian Younge (Black Dynamite soundtrack) and based off of a comic book with the same title, finds Ghostface and Younge combining their skills to craft songs that play with and test the boundaries of the familiar RZA-indebted sounds of ’90s rap. With the help of fellow Wu-Tang members—U-God, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, and Cappadonna all make appearances—how could this album go wrong?
The story goes like this: There’s a mafia boss named Tony Starks who is brutally murdered at the hands of his own family. Younge really wanted to make an album that resembled a movie with a strong plot and all that implies: beginning, middle, climax, and resolution. So Ghostface grabbed the lyrical reins and does what he does best. The album starts off with the kingpin’s rise to fame, as a choir gracefully sings, “He spares no one/He was forgotten/But he was someone/So beware of the stare of Ghostface Killah!” Cue Ghostface, and he goes on to announce his resurrection and inevitable revenge on his takers.
Throughout the rest of the album, he spits with typical flair about war, love, betrayal, and being the one and only Ghostface Killah. “I Declare War” and “Revenge Is Sweet” are two of the strongest songs on the record. The former features the help of fellow Wu member Masta Killa, as they join forces to declare war on the Delucas in impeccable fashion. Ghostface really paints a picture of what Starks looks like in the song. “Rock the purple robe/Crush them with 24 karat gold,” he raps. “Revenge Is Sweet,” also features Masta Killa, and this time Killa Sin is added in. The song opens up in a very theatrical setting, as a steady drum and soft violin play in the background and a choir chants things like, “Sons of glory” and “Cycle in the rain,” for a good minute before Ghostface is introduced. “Set me up, coming back, like a thief in the night/I’ll have a suicide bomber pop up on your flight/You couldn’t take my life,” he raps. Very much the climax of the album, Ghostface Killah finally gets his revenge on the Delucas.
My personal favorite song off the album, is the penultimate song, “The Sure Shot.” It showcases Younge’s cinematic compositions, while also displaying Ghostface’s lyrical ability. As he spits bar after bar at a breakneck pace, the track becomes a startling redemption song. Stark has been through so much, throughout this short period of time, and it’s in this song that we get the moral of the story, which is basically don’t fuck with Ghostface. “Heart of a lion/King of the jungle,” he raps. “I’m a humble killer bee/You as soft as a bumble/I don’t crumble.” No signs of Ghostface crumbling anytime soon.
Ghostface Killah is a lyrical legend; there’s no denying that. What separates Ghostface from some of his peers in the Wu-Tang Clan is his commitment to reinvention. It would have been easy to conform and make an album with one-liners and catchy hooks, but Ghostface chose to go beyond that. By teaming up with the visionary mastermind Adrian Younge he’s created an inventive and thrilling album that will go down as one of his best.