Given that the original 12 Reasons To Die was a homage to the giallo and gangster genres, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge have reunited to deliver 12 Reasons To Die II upon the world. After all, sequels are as much a hallmark of those genres as copious buckets of corn starch blood are, so, for once, another instalment of the story doesn’t feel as much like a commercially driven idea as it does an artistically minded one.
Just as impressively, 12 Reasons To Die II raises the stakes of the original in all the right ways. It’s bolder, brasher, louder, more sinister, and all the better for it. It’s a sequel that more than delivers upon its original promise, and the second triumph of 2015 for Ghostface, following on from the brilliant Sour Soul. Once again, his vocal deliveries are top notch; one need look only as far as Return Of the Savage, the album’s first full length track, and the way he spits the tune’s swaggering chorus. Indeed, his performance throughout has all the requisite amounts of braggadocio and self-aggrandizing weight, with his turn on the layered Rise Up providing another stand out.
Perhaps best of all, both Younge and Ghostface prove themselves to be more than just casual fans of the genres they are referencing, and repeatedly demonstrate a thorough knowledge of Italian and American exploitation cinema. King Of New York borrows its title and sense of oncoming sadism from Abel Ferrara’s masterful film of the same name, and though Ennio Morricone is an obvious touchstone throughout 12 Reasons To Die II, tracks like Let The Record Spin and Resurrection Morning pay tribute to lesser known maestros, including Lucio Fulci’s long time collaborator Fabio Frizzi, and Riz Ortolani, the man responsible for Cannibal Holocaust’s insidious score.
Longtime Ghostface collaborator RZA resumes his role from the original as the piece’s narrator, and his calmly rapped verses on album closer Life’s A Rebirth deliver a fascinating contrast from Ghostface’s own throaty, emotive delivery. Indeed, the guest spots throughout work, with Vince Staples in particular impressing on the deliriously dark Get The Money.
Musical sequels are a rare beast indeed, and musical sequels this good are even rarer. 12 Reasons To Die II is an entirely worthy successor to a ground-breaking original. It’s a record with enough style, swagger and weight to truly impress, and ends up feeling like a real contemporary classic. Ghostface Killah is an artist who seems to be moving from strength to strength, and 2015 may well go down in the annals as his year.