Adrian Younge presents – Twelve Reasons To Die II (starring Ghostface Killah)
"Ayo I’m back blowin’ dust off the vinyl, I got twelve more reasons to die, snap your spinal," Ghostface Killah raps, announcing the second installment to 2013’s Mafia/comic book/revenge fantasy Twelve Reasons To Die. II is sonically satisfying, with Nocentellite guitars, unfussy in-the-pocket drums somewhere between ?uestlove, Stanton Moore, and Zigaboo Modaliste, and what might as well be Dracula at the organ, all product of producer and composer Younge’s excellent ear, pulpy sensibility, and stable of influences from Ennio Morricone to Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. Instrumentation (all live and on analog tape) is at once cinematic and funky all the way through, though some tracks sleepwalk – Rise Up’s Metersesque sound stands out, as do the killer horns on Blackout.
Like Quentin Tarantino, Killah and company spit (blood) at accusations of the genre’s gratuitous violence, rapping things like "clean cut butcher knives, ‘X’ the eyes out, nail him to a billboard, let him dry out." But as a more strained follow-up to an already convoluted concept album, II repeats itself – RZA’s narration and Younge’s instrumentation help to check boredom, but the revenge fantasy does wear thin. Killah’s guests are welcome: Vince Staples’ delivery is slick and twangy, though we expect something a bit bloodier from the violent-minded youngster. Scarub impresses, but he’s only stretching on Rise Up and really delivers with Lyrics Born and Chino XL on Death’s Invitation, a speed-rap tale-telling frenzy, rhymes coming down in an avalanche, all plot and no braggadocio.
If the crew delivered every track with this kind of momentum and inventiveness, the album would sail past five stars, but trotting out this (literally tortured) concept for a second outing tends to weigh down Wu-Tang veteran Ghostface’s famous storytelling. "Im’a enjoy this the second time around, as a charm, I want to brutalize and torture, cause nothing but harm, ring the alarm," he raps, ready for his reincarnation. We enjoy it, too – Starks is an entertaining murder spree tour guide, especially set to Younge’s soundtrack. But, though equal parts soulful and silly, Part Two still gets weighed down in stage blood. [Aidan Ryan]