Ghostface Killah's '36 Seasons' quickly follows up Wu-Tang Clan's 'A Better Tomorrow,' an album he was relatively quiet on.
Ghostface Killahâs new LP 36 Seasons comes to us just one week after the release of Wu-Tang Clanâs A Better Tomorrow. While the latter LP received lukewarm reviews due to questionably experimental tracks, 36 Seasons is the exact opposite. It is concise and precise, using that classic Wu sound to march along an incredible story line while The Revelations provide the production.
The Revelations, a Brooklyn- based soul band, is a perfect choice for a collaboration. The trio provides smooth, 70s-inspired licks that mimic RZAâs best finest moments in production. You may remember them from the compilation album Chamber Music, where The Revelations and Fizzy Womack, better known as Lil Fame of M.O.P, produced the entire album.
It was a winning combo, and the same recipe was chosen to cook up the beats for 36 Seasons. Only a few other names were brought in on select tracks. The result is a cohesive aesthetic that appeals to fans of hip-hop, classic Wu, soul, and vintage funk -- a little something everyone in the family can enjoy.
If the RZA was âreplacedâ by The Revelations,AZ âreplacedâ Raekwon, adding his swagger to five of the albums fourteen tracks. He plays Ghostâs friend, a drug-dealer turned cop in a corrupt Staten Island where police are boss to the peddlers. âItâs that Denzel in âTraining Dayâ shit,â as he puts it. Ghost will later oppose AZ.
The concept was developed and curated by Bob Perry, a gentlemen who started Soul Temple Records along with the RZA. Perry and his team came to Ghost with the script and concept, making the project a breeze for everybody. The album was recorded in just 11 days.
The first track sets the stage for an epic story via classic Wu hip-hop. This is the vintage goods the fans wanted on A Better Tomorrow.
âAyo, Iâm back after nine years, thatâs 36 seasons/ Shit is changed up for all types of reasons/ Staten Island ainât the same, shit is lame/ No familiar faces son, Iâm dodging the game/ I want a clean slate, but these cops stay screwinâ/ Snatching me up off the block, what am I doinâ?"
The plot thickens on the second track, when Ghost goes to his lady, Bambooâs, crib to get some of that good lovinâ. Heâs super stoked to meet up with her, but finds out she has a new man! Sonically, itâs one of the catchier songs on the albums, and Kandace Springs soulful croon takes us back to the Ghostdini days.
âOh word, so you over it? That's absurd/ I never did a damn thing to deserved it/ This is a man's world, I go away come home lookin' for you/ Now you fuckin' up the plans, girl/ You another man's girl, that ain't kosher/ Once you see the kid's face you're supposed to/ Drop what you're doin', show your loyalty and love/ Step out on the porch with a kiss and a hugâ
The album is all about assembling the perfect cast, much like a movie. AZ is in the co-star, a role he played for years with Nas. Heâs always played the supporting cast member extremely well, like hip-hopâs Scottie Pippen. Kool G Rap, Pharoahe Monch and Shawn Wigs play smaller roles, delivering a fly verse when called on. Of course, The Revelations score the whole thing flawlessly as directed by Bob Perry and presumably the RZA.
As the plot goes on, Rog (pronounced RAHJ, like short for Roger; played by AZ) tries to recruit Ghostface to do some dirty work for him, but Ghost is over it. He even finds out AZ is the new man in Bambooâs life. Rog gets sick of Ghost, tries to have his assassins take him out.
But Tone Starks canât be stopped. He prevails, saves the neighborhood and gets the girl back. Itâs a classic story delivered in an attractive new way.
But Tone Starks, while playing the main role and having the album released as a Ghostface Killah album, isnât even on a quarter of the tracks. The tasteful omissions of Ghostface Killah helped to paint the bigger picture of the story.
The third track is left to Kool G Rap and Nems to rap the roles of henchman assassins (they are two of AZâs assassins, the ones who tried to kill Ghost):
âA little place in Coney Island called the clam kitchen/Â I walk right up on the table where I can't miss em/Â And his bodyguard coming out of the can dissin'â
Kandace Springs has the spotlight all to herself during âBambooâs Lament,â where Starksâ woman realizes she made a terrible mistake and leaving him during his bid.
It goes deeper when The Revelations cover The Persuaders on âThin Line Between Love And Hate,â marking the most deliberate ode to 70s soul from any member of the Wu. The refined selection acts as the most exquisite âinterludeâ or âskitâ a music-lover could ask for. We get an instrumental cut from The Revelations as the final track. It is a joyousÂ victory lap that results from the album's epic finish.Â
The Wu-Tang has always been a progressive bunch. Releases like Think Differently Music have always pushed the boundaries of their fan base and others, but this project is really the most soulful Iâve heard the Wu get. This concept brings an entirely new dynamic to that rugged and raw Wu-Tang aesthetic. Never ones to pigeon-hole themselves or make the same thing twice, this album sounds like Ghostface & co. are narrating a comic book.
And 36 Seasons IS a comic book. Written by Matthew Rosenberg and Part Kindlon, the illustrators of Twelve Reasons to Die, which you may remember better as the last Ghostface Killah album. Everything is coming full circle here. The LP has a comic booklet inside of it and everything. This is truly a well thought-out multimedia project.
The album picks up a lot of steam, the story gets crazy, and itâs one of the most thrilling rides youâll take all year, definitely. In a year Pitchfork is reportingÂ that the full-length rap album is dead, this is a half-court, three-point shot at the buzzer of 2014 delivered to us by a team of incredibly talented individuals. Each piece of the puzzle is eminent to its potency: from Ghostâs Oscar-worthy lead role to Matthew Rosenbergâs writing skills to that fat bassline heard on âDouble Cross.â
Itâs clear where Ghostâs heart lies, and it isnât with the RZAâs version of A Better Tomorrow. This album was clearly where Starks put his heart, alongside upcoming projects with BADBADNOTGOODÂ and DOOM. While we have to swallow the pill of never getting another 36 Chambers, 36 Seasons displays a Staten Island MC who can still put out hit 21 years after he yelled âGhostface catch the blast of a hype verse!â on âBring Da Ruckus.âÂ
It isnât easy to stay relevant for 20 years, and certainly not easy to release critically acclaimed records for that long. Ghost is a GOAT, no doubt.