It would be a bit strange if Ghostface Killah was in direct competition with himself, his solo career perhaps drawing attention and potential cash away from his “day gig” as a member of the Wu Tang Clan collective. But Ghostface’s new “36 Seasons” is so superior to the Wu Tang’s concurrently released “A Better Tomorrow” that any comparison between the two albums is wholly arbitrary.
While the Wu Tang release reveals a collective that seems to have run dry of ideas, “36 Seasons” sounds inspired, is purposeful and smartly edited, and leans heavily against the comfortable corpus and supportive framework of classic late 60s and 70s soul.
It’s a concept album that carries forward the narrative commenced with Ghostface’s last release, “12 Reasons to Die,” but even though the rapper is wholly convincing and believable as a narrator, it’s not the stories that make “36 Seasons” so compelling. It’s the music that does the trick, and the way in which Ghostface and guests AZ, Kool G Rap, Pharaoh Monch, Trey Williams, Shawn Wigs, Rell, and Nem find their place within it that provides the majority of the magic.
That music comes courtesy of co-producers the Revelations, who craft immaculate slabs of hot buttered soul for Ghostface to play with. As a result, “36 Seasons” boasts a natural, organic flow and a focus on pleasing, warm and ambient tones – not exactly par for the course in contemporary Hip-Hop, and more the norm for the ever-burgeoning neo-soul movement. Peers would be well-advised to watch how Ghostface does it, and take plenty of notes.
Wu Tang shows every indication of having run out of steam, at least for the time being. But Ghostface Killah? He sounds like he’s just getting started.
- Jeff Miers