Twelve Reasons to Die II may be a Ghostface Killah album, but fellow Wu-Tang Clan affiliate Raekwon gives reliably solid turns on five of the 13 songs. The Chef’s gruesome lyrics on early track “Return Of The Savage,” are complemented by that tune’s sudden organ note jabs, along with Ghost’s spirited but simplistic chorus chanting and his competent, yet brief, closing verse.
It’s a summation of why fans have had so many gripes with Ghost lately. While he may be more prolific than ever (dropping more than an album a year since 2013 if you include his collaborative Sour Soul LP with BADBADNOTGOOD in February), most of those releases have been saturated with enough guests to sideline the once tenacious Tony Starks. Twelve Reasons to Die II doesn’t reverse that trend; only one of its tracks, “Daily News,” is feature-free, while RZA, Scarub, Lyrics Born and others hop on the remaining tracks. The guest turns are, for the most part, too captivating not to be included, outshining Ghostface throughout.
Take white hot up and comer Vince Staples’ contribution to “Get the Money,” for example, which finds him delivering punchy lyrics about the “blood stains” on his knuckles over a bobbing and weaving bass line. An equally astounding contribution comes courtesy of Grammy-winning crooner Bilal on penultimate track “Resurrection Morning,” on which his trademark brassy vocals are rendered otherworldly with studio effects. Here, for once, Ghost matches his guest, rapping equally spooky lines like, “Time to surrender your physical being, so I can hear touch, smell and start seeing / Life as a precious gift given from God…”
In the future, Ghost should do more of that heavy lifting, taking a cue from producer Adrian Younge, who provides his signature analogue flavour to sumptuous effect throughout. Here’s hoping Twelve Reasons to Die III features the only collaboration that counts: one between Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge. It’s now apparent that they’re talented and well matched enough to cut a killer album on which Ghost finds himself again, without the help of a gaggle of other rappers.