"Twelve Reasons to Die; Photo:N/A"On paper Twelve Reasons to Die looks promising, like some sort of indulgent B-Movie waiting to unfold. Yet at every turn, every epic soundscape laid out by composer Adrian Younge, Ghostface holds back – each chapter playing out like a humorless musical. Younge’s compositions are tailor made for noir-style narratives, the type that made Ghost who he is today. So it’s strange hearing him so emotionally detached. Ghost way overplays the tough-guy angel, leaving no room for subtle detail – the essential type that’ll turn a seemingly obscure film into a cult classic. Here are five uninspired lyrics that siphon the potential right out of this album.

Rise of the Black Suits

Rise of the Black Suits; Photo:N/AIn an attempt to wrestle power away from his enemies, Tony Starks breaks off to start his own faction of cold-blooded mafioso types. You think there would be a roll call where you get vivid descriptions of some of these ruthless cohorts, something along the lines of Reservoir Dogs or Seven Samurai. But instead all he offers is a laundry list of rap’s most yawn-worthy cliches, everything from boat loads of coke and gun poppin’ to loose women draped in jewels: [LISTEN]

I had hoes, bank rolls, and minks by the dozen
My rise to power was quick they just wasn’t
Tried to make me a made man, they fucked up the game plan
I blacked out on em, and started my own clan

I Declare War feat. Masta Killa

I Declare War; Photo:N/AGhost goes back in time to reveal details about his relationship with the infamous DeLucas family, the group hunting him down. He mentions that a part of the conflict can be attributed to his skin tone, which is an awkward time to bring up racial politics. Not that it should be taboo, but it doesn’t seem to align itself with the creative direction of the album. It’s an unexplored concept that sinks the song into an abyss. RZA tries to enhance the story with a brief cameo at the end, but his narrative voice is uninspiring and sparks about as much intrigue as a stale fortune cookie: [LISTEN]

I’m a boss, them DeLucas try to front on my skin tone
I left the fam to start a fam of my own
A Black Italiano, big pinkie rings from Sicily
I move like the Don of the family it’s officially

Enemies All Around Me feat. William Hart

Enemies All Around Me; Photo:N/AGhost is presented with all the elements for a hilariously epic rant, something he does incredibly well. He’s just been informed by long time collaborator Cappadonna that his lover is in cahoots with the DeLucas, which has Ghost reeling – questioning everything. William Hart‘s vocals add a cool, nostalgic tone, and Ghost has the stage completely to himself to unleash his diatribe. So what does he do? He puts his head in his hands and whimpers about how it’s not possible. It’s uncharacteristically soft. Will the real Ghostface please stand up: [LISTEN]

It’s mind-boggling, the heart wants it, the mind rejects it
Fuck the past, let’s put the present in  perspective
That’s my lady, she would never back-stab or cross me
Stand butt-naked in the storm, sippin’ the frosty

The Rise of the Ghostface Killah feat. Killa Sin

The Rise of the Ghostface; Photo:N/AAfter being betrayed by his lover, ignoring the warning cries of both Cappadonna and William Hart, Tony Starks is captured, put into a life sized cauldron, and melted down into 12 pieces of vinyl. Apparently the DeLucas have an affinity for dusty grooves. In an interesting twist, Starks is resurrected as Ghostface Killah once the pieces of vinyl are played. The concept is compelling and has enough wings to fly but for some odd reason Ghost drops out of the narrative to let Killa Sin finish the story, which is absurd – like Bruce Lee steeping down to let Jackie Chan finish the fight: [LISTEN]

Black superhero, crime boss archnemesis
Good verse eatin’, since the first book of genesis
Battle to the end that’s the way of the thriller
And Starks is reborn the Ghostface Killah

Blood on the Cobblestones feat. U-God & Inspectah Deck

Blood on the Cobblestones; Photo:N/A

This was it – the perfect opportunity for Ghost to settle into the beat and get ridiculous. We’re talking about an all out melee that could bring Ghost back to form, when he was a ruthless assassin out of Staten Island rising through the ranks of the Wu. As a fan it’s disappointing because it’s easy to imagine him going through walls to cut a throat or to appear in a green mist with a Tommy gun in tow. But we don’t get that. He just pokes around talking about the battle as if he were viewing it through a TV screen: [LISTEN]

Yo, ayo there’s a war on the street
Blood on the cobblestone
I leave them buried alive like a fossil bone