36 Seasons

by: Ghostface Killah

With a title that refers to nine years away from home, 36 Seasons finds Wu-Tang rapper Ghostface Killah returning to his Tony Starks character, who is himself returning home to a different and more dangerous Staten Island. Starks is just looking to spend his later years chilling in familiar territory, but as the action movie lyrics and the accompanying comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg, explain, betrayal and Berettas are everywhere, so Starks dons his gas mask and schools the hood on what's good. The concept and presentation are wonderfully reminiscent of the rapper's 2013 collaboration with Adrian Younge, Twelve Reasons to Die, but if that excellent album was influenced by the Italian murder mystery/slasher film genre known as giallo, this one is bringing '70s Blaxploitation films back with all their funk and flare. Brooklyn band and production team the Revelations provide the funk, with wah-wah guitars, punchy drums, and popping bass creating an atmosphere where karate chops, pimps, and players are all in their element. This is also the atmosphere where comic book choruses like "Exquisite doctor, his work of art/Created a gas mask to save Tony Starks" ("Emergency Procedure" with Pharoahe Monch) become great singalong moments with an accompanying fist-in-the-air. Cooler, cinematic numbers thrive as well, and with that unique Ghostface style, like when "Homicide" goes from macabre ("I smell a massacre/I stick a bomb in your limo, blow up your passengers") to chuckle-worthy ("I'm stuck back on the couch like a potato"). Inspiration flows out of the man throughout the album, and this end-to-end concept is executed with little note-spinning or boring lyrics that just serve the story, and while Twelve Reasons took a big giallo risk and nailed it, this more expected, '70s-favored success still surprises with its vigorous sense of purpose. Besides Monch's appearance, Kool G Rap, Tre Williams, and AZ offer some great moments, while producer the 45 King joins the Revelations on "Blood on the Streets" for that old-school breakbeat rumble. ~ David Jeffries

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