Review: Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons to Die II

Ghostface Killah is probably long due for a vacation at this point, but it would seem unwise to stop an artist on such a creative hot streak.  Twelve Reasons to Die II is the third album Ghostface has released in less than a year, and the compelling and gripping record is not only a worthy sequel to the 2013 original, but probably the best of the recent trio.  Adrian Younge once again proves to be the ideal collaborator, backing up the imaginative and gritty storytelling of Ghostface with a musical accompaniment that is engrossing yet subtle.  Younge’s production never overshadows the emcees, but it is still packed with enough fascinating nuance and clever ideas that it begs for closer listening.

For the sequel, Ghostface tightens the narrative and simplifies the action, focusing purely on the revenge aspect from the original.  RZA helpfully provides narration of key plot points, but the bulk of the guest work is handled by Ghostface’s frequent partner Raekwon, who is enlisted for the role of fellow gangster “Lester Kane” and serves as the primary co-star in this saga.  This time around, there is a similar amount of violence and a bit more melodrama (plus a surprise twist at the end), and while there is not the same creative spark that characterized the original, it does set up nicely for a sequel.

Younge incorporates similar musical elements that he used on Twelve Reasons to Die (organ flourishes, vibrato guitar), but does so more sparingly this time.  The result is a production that is evocative of the original in spirit, but still stands out as its own work.  Younge tamps down on some of the campier elements, relying less on Italian horror-type themes from the first album and utilizing more 70’s-era soul and R&B grooves, as heard on tracks like “Get the Money”.

The great news is that compact disc versions of the album come with a free disc of all the instrumental parts, which really helps highlight the brilliance of many of Younge’s compositions.  But the album truly works as a collaboration, and it will likely leave you hoping for another installment to the saga to be released as soon as possible.

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