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Album Review | HIP-HOP

Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge, ‘Twelve Reasons to Die’

Ghostface Killah wisely shakes up his aesthetic in this collaboration with composer Adrian Younge. It's a savvy pairing, as the Wu-Tang Clan MC flaunts his masterful narrative skills over powerfully evocative music. The set traces a black gangster's journey in Italy and his dark dealings with the mob. Power plays, seduction, retribution, and a hallucinatory resurrection all ensue. Younge’s music, played with verve by his ensemble, Venice Dawn, owes as much to Ennio Morricone’s expansiveness as it does to RZA’s urban mysticism. Celestial harmonies, melancholy piano, effects, and dexterous percussion underline the unsparing scenario. Ghost’s Wu cohorts, including Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa, help propel the story or provide counterpoint verses. The songs are short, so precision and concision are paramount, and the rhymes are sharp enough to slit veins. There's invention throughout, including “Center of Attraction’’ which reveals a metaphorical id/superego dialogue. While outstanding songs (“The Catastrophe’’) stand on their own, this is a song cycle that demands to be absorbed whole. (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL “Blood on the Cobblestones’’