Dr. Cassells – Audio Rx

Twelve Reasons to Die, A fusion of opera and hip hop by Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and the composer of Black Dynamite,  Adrian Younge. The duo work to tell the story of Ghostface’s alter ego, Tony Stark, operating as a hit man for the De Lucas crime family and ultimately his transformation into the infamous Ghostface Killer. Ghost’s gritty rhymes are complimented by Adrian’s composition making the bloody drama that is Twelve Reasons to Die.

Ghosts heavy handed exposition works in his favor. It allows the listener to follow the story without having Rap Genius up through the album. Ghost wastes no time in introducing what Stark is capable of on the first tracks Beware of the Stare and Rise of the Black Suits.

I want bodies, DeLucas, spread into the waters
I want mothers and sons, I wanna murder they daughters
Revenge, all I see is blood in my eyes
Like the rise of your worst nightmare come alive
Ghostface Killah, let’s see who’s gonna survive

A lack of specifics allows your imagination to envision the atrocities Stark commits, the paranoia he feels as war erupts between the families, and the pressure that takes hold as he separates from the DeLucas family to lead his own operation. That paranoia is not unfounded as refuses to acknowledge threats he hears from his closest lieutenants.

How you prepare for war? Grab your guns and your hardware
Never close your eyes in the barber chair
The heart of a lion, that’s what got him here
Bulletproof the car, yo, we outta here

The tension escalates into the second act whereupon the seemingly invincible Stark falls from a betrayal close to home leading to his death. Lesser men remain dead, but the rage that lies in the villainous Stark resurrects him as the Ghostface Killer in search of redemption.

Colombian neckties I’m a black Gambino
Bodies get dumped in the black El Camino
It’s Reno, gangster wars, money, power, respect
Revenge is felt like the heat from a Tec
Tommy guns are irrelevant, I’m bulletproof now
I could fly through the air and duck your chick-a-pow
Black superhero, crime boss arch nemesis
Good vs. Evil since the first book of Genesis
Battle to the end that’s the way of the thriller
And Starks is reborn as the Ghostface Killah… no one could get iller

Ghostface’s internal monologue changes with his new persona. The macabre descriptions of his revenge are one of the highlights of the album. Drawing from his past works, he doesn’t fail to deliver a diverse catalog of violent obscenities.

First things first, I chop your head to your fingertips
Butcher knife your torso, chop up your ligaments
Make sure it’s legitimate, conceal all my fingerprints
Chop, chop your body up quick then get rid of it
A hole in the desert, body bag, just polluted it
Your miss was a snitch too? Shotgun killed the bitch
Leave her in the wilderness, suffocated and scarred up
Your brother want more too, blow his fucking car up

Stark fully becomes Ghostface Killer after murdering crime families responsible for his death. Pacing in his room he momentarily contemplates the punishment for his past love, and source of his downfall, before relishing his current state as the unstoppable force he has become.  

Unable to become immortalized in life
Ghostface became immortalized in death
Creating a mayhem so vast
That the tale of his rampage would be passed down for generations
Gangsters told their children to never double-cross a man
Who’s will is so strong that he can cross the planes of existence
To get his revenge
And there you have it
The story of the Ghostface Killah

The story is simple, but succeeds in delivering a narrative with just enough pulp fiction cheese to balance out the outlandish claims Ghost makes. Adrian’s production was essential in supporting the story’s gravitas. Young’s touch stands out on Rise of the Black Suits and Center of Attraction. The backing track on Rise of the Black Suits creates an air that I can only describe as sounding like a mature Scooby-Doo. The track’s use of piano and strings creates a sound that is both eerie and incredibly catchy. It is one of the biggest reasons I continue to return to the album. Center of Attraction’s mournful sound acts as a counterbalance to the relatively light hearted descriptions of Ghost’s love. The dissonance between the lyrics and the production act as an additional sign of the coming troubles to be found for Ghost at the hands of his love.

 

This album is special for it’s unique premise and execution. Listening to the album on a rainy day is like escaping into your favorite book. While not suited for casual listening, it comes with the tradeoff that given the time, immersion comes naturally. A venn diagram of  projects appealing to fans of hip hop, horror films, and classical music would proudly display this project at the dead center.

 

Label 12 reasons die

Author’s Notes: The album was later re envisioned by Apollo Brown on the “Brown Tape” and while not bad, I found that the change in production only deepened my appreciation for Adrian’s composition while also creating a need to listen to the original.

 

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