Ghostface Killah follows up last year’s impressive “12 Reasons to Die” with a similarly conceived project detailing the dark exploits of his alter ego, Tony Starks, over organic R&B and funk produced by his backing band, the Revelations. Part crime drama, part love story, part superhero fable, this has more emotional resonance than “12 Reasons,” but it lacks the kaleidoscopic musical vision of composer-producer Adrian Younge. Eleven solo records in, Ghost remains one of the great narrative MCs; even without his patented hallucinatory allusions, the lean, dexterous verses are undeniably potent. The tale of betrayal, revenge, and transformation has the momentum of a Donald Goines novel, with keenly observed details and twists. Kool G Rap and Pharoahe Monch play crucial roles; AZ’s taut turns, especially on “Double Cross” and “Blood in the Streets,” are volatile counterpoints to Ghost’s skill and urgency. Despite some padding (an instrumental, unnecessary vocal cover) and ragged musical edges, the most prolific member of the Wu-Tang Clan continues to set the standard. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Blood in the Streets”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.