The one thing any potential detractors are going to have to understand is that Wu projects will always cater explicitly to Wu fans and if you aren’t into the Wu, then you don’t need to be a rogue scholar to figure out ahead of time whether or not the project was for you to begin with. This is a direct result of the Wu-Tang’s dedication to building a sustainable brand and an extremely loyal fan base who can still appreciate the sound after all these years that have passed since we learned that cash rules everything around us. Even Raekwon, probably the most prolific current member, who is basically the only one working the mixtape circuit heavily, tends to limit his dabbling in other sounds and collaborations with less Wu-friendly artists (i.e. Justin Beiber) to mixtapes and unrelated projects, while his LPs are generally a Wu-Tang affair. This is evidence of an ethic not known in today’s rap market: building a brand based on what you want to give the world and allowing them to come to you as opposed to starting off trying to pander to the most marketable style du jour.
That being said, 12 Reasons To Die is very deep Wu-Tang material in that it isn’t the more marketable, inclusive fare found during Ghost’s “Cherchez La Ghost” phase, nor is it the NYC gutter tales of Fishscale, although it does lean more in that direction. What you will find here is exactly what was intended by early talk of the project. It’s a dark concept album that’s deeper than most new Wu fans will be able to or willing to attempt to penetrate.
The haunting chorus on “The Catastrophe” and vocal introductions to “Beware Of The Stare” and “The Center Of Attraction” might scare away listeners not too keen on the Wu’s signature forays into that kind of sound, but these quirks always serve a purpose on Wu projects and it’s no different here. In fact, “Center Of Attraction” featuring Cappadonna reminded me of a paranoid, subdued version of Ghost and Raekwon’s back-and-forth track “The Watch”, with Cap both warning and ridiculing Ghost about his adoration of a treacherous white woman he’s sprung on but is probably out to get him set up.
“The Sure Shot (Parts 1 & 2)” was an early single and is still a high point for the album, but bears an uncanny similarity to Action Bronson’s “Eggs On The Third Floor” that oddly has nothing to do with the well-known similarity in their voices. The beat changes in the middle in almost the exact same way. “I Declare War” is another high point, with its plodding tempo and strangely complimentary opera vocalization. Masta Killa’s monotone flow is the perfect companion to Ghost’s on this one and appearances by Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa again on other tracks really make a fan fiend for another true Wu-Tang album.
Twelve Reasons To Die is certainly not Ironman and it isn’t Fishscale or Supreme Clientele, either. This is not the album you’re going to pass along to the uninitiated as their first introduction to Ghost or Wu-Tang. While a perfect addition to any Wu or Ghost playlist, there were no top-ten Ghostface tracks here and the most epic disappointment is the complete absence of partner in rhyme Raekwon. As a long-time Wu fan, I’m just glad to see music being made that’s true to the essence of Wu-Tang Clan and that there’s something being made by a major artist that’s truly unique.
Rise of the Black Suits x Ghostface Killah