Ghostface Killah has been a busy boy recently. Not only has Wu-Tang Clan just released a new record, he’s got a collaborative record with BADBADNOTGOOD coming out in February and rumours of his collaborative album with MF DOOM to drop next year.The man’s going to run out of steam if he keeps going like this. With this in mind it shouldn’t be a surprise, that his new solo record, is going for a very similar narrative to his last. His last record ‘Twelve Reasons To Die’ was a concept album based from a comic book about a man who needs to kill 12 mob bosses; this project is about an ex mob boss who returns after nine years (36 Seasons) to find his city in ruins, and he sets out to destroy the ones who made it that way. Twelve reasons had instrumentation that was unbelievably retro (Inspired by Ennio Morricone) and produced by Adrian Younge; this record is done entirely by the band ‘The Revelations’ and is filled with soulful and retro sounding songs. So both very similar in a lot of ways, just executed slightly different. The biggest difference being that there is a big comic book that comes alongside this record.
Yup, it’s a nerd’s paradise, which becomes a slight issue with this record is that you would have to be completely dedicated and interested in GFK’s love of comic book stories to really love listening to an album so similar to his last one. That’s obviously not to say it’s not worth a spin though. GFK’s storytelling ability has always been incredible and here he does paint a very vivid picture of a man not happy with the life he has returned to, the city is filled with corruption and greed. He has other rappers play the parts of other characters in the story which is always great especially when there are rappers like AZ and Kool G.Rap on your album. Some of them play vital parts to the storytelling like Pharoahe Monch who plays ‘Professor X’ and gives GFK a gas mask that will keep him alive after he’s fatally injured in an explosion. But a lot of the time unfortunately, some of the guest features do feel a bit wasted even when they have vital parts, often failing to portray their characters with any viscera. This is a giant fault in the album especially when it makes the climax feel slightly rushed instead of suspenseful. This is a shame when GFK’s storytelling is always so top-notch. He manages to tie in this story with some of the tragedies that have happened just this year with Ghostface talking about ‘Illegal chokeholds’ on the track ‘Double Cross’ as well as telling his friend not to bother calling 9/11 when he is fatally injured. This is one of the moments where it will appeal to more than just some of the hardcore fans.
Instrumentally it has to be said that these tracks are pretty stellar, and they do capture an essence of the style of soul music. Because of the fact that most of the tracks are just two minutes long they do provide suitable instrumentation. They never quite outshine the incredible job that was done on his last album though, some of the instrumentals on here lack the excitement or the ability to compliment the GFK’s flow. This is made worse by the fact that the track that dropped off of his collaborative LP with BADBADNOTGOOD had some absolutely lush instrumentation.
This record has some great storytelling but it never quite reaches the heights it should. This is either down to the occasional guest feature that doesn’t quite capture the essence of their character or due to the fact that it could be hard to get into something so similar to his last record and that in some parts feels like a watered down version of it. For the hardcore fans this will no doubt please, and even if this is your first listen to GFK it will no doubt have you interested, albeit one that will never have you on the edge of your seat, emotionally torn or encapsulated, but interested none-the-less.