Thursday, December 4, 2014

Album Review: Ghostface Killah- 36 Seasons

Ghostface Killah
36 Season
*** out of *****
While there is another hip-hop release that will get more attention which Ghostface Killah has been a part of recently, it is 36 Seasons which will be the more satisfying work of art. This isn't your typical hip-hop offering as it comes tied in with a comic book and plays like superhero/film noir; lyrics act as practically see the film pitch happening as the songs unfold.

Quick overview: this is the story of a resurrected superhero Tony Stark who through the help of Dr. X (Pharoahe Monch) breathes through a mask and seeks revenge on those (various characters played by Kool G Rap, AZ and Kandance Springs etc.) who doubled crossed him as he returns home to Staten Island after nine years (hence the album title). 

The album could be weighty/out-right-silly but flows quick and clean with a lot of help from The Revelations a Brooklyn soul band who does the playing throughout the album backing Ghost and setting the dramatic tone. They take the forefront on their cover of "A Thin Line Between Love And Hate" admirably and expertly close things with the instrumental "I Love You For All Seasons" but primarily keep to the backing route letting their crisp snares, bright pianos, guitar leads and bass bottom support the characters in the foreground; their contribution to the overall tone and success of the concept can't be overstated.
Ghostface may not be in his full prime (see Fishscale) but even when trying out a concept album in full bloom he finds his home (literally and figuratively) in the hard rhymes that slam so much storytelling into the lyrical bars that they overflow. Ghost is always the leading man and with reason, but his co-stars get lots of air time and are crucial to the story and the album.

A cast of hip-hop veterans are on hand like Kool G who brings his gravelly verses to the brutal "The Dogs of War" and along with longtime MC AZ set the whole thing in motion on "The Battlefield". Nems and Shawn Wigs inject some young energy into "Homicide" but all guests blend well with the players and GFK. "Blood In The Streets" is the final battle (with a killer guitar lead) before Ghost reigns supreme allowing for anyone to "Call My Name".  

The album is planned to roll out all out once, no singles or really stand out tracks but as a whole 36 Season works if it is a bit sparse and vague at times. Surprising for a project that seems like it could overwhelm with too much production, grandiose themes and visions of future marketing tie-ins; the 14 tracks are sleek and quick, if anything a touch minimalistic. The soulful playing from The Revelations and short track timing allows the audio theatrics to sail by successfully for Ghostface and crew, never bogging things down with exceeding repetition. Enjoy the album before the inevitable mini-series, play, or big screen release comes from 36 Seasons.
A different sort of release from Ghostface Killah. Worth checking out if not earth shattering or genre defying it is artistic and nuanced. The Revelations were just that and will need to dig into them more....

Buy the album here, support the artist here, peep some video here:

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