Saturday, March 30, 2013

RZA and Ghostface Suggest a Few Reasons to Die

The RZA is a musical visionary and his knowledge of kung fu flicks is damn near unparalleled in both the world of hip-hop and among the general public.[1] When the RZA speaks on any topic—but especially when he talks about kung fu or music—he speaks with a wisdom that parallels the abbots in the Shaw Brothers movies he holds in such high regard. Unfortunately, his directorial debut The Man with the Iron Fists was a boring mess of a kung fu movie, too Technicolor bright and half-baked to even be worthy of the temple of Shaolin greats.[2] RZA’s artistic vision proved to be an unfortunately poor fit for cinema, even as his best music has a palpable cinematic feel to it.

Now that he’s gotten his movie out of his system, the RZA has stepped back behind the scenes of the most exciting new Wu-Tang record since Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II came out four years ago: Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge’s Twelve Reasons to Die. The three songs from the album that have leaked (“The Rise of the Ghostface Killah,” “The Sure Shot (Parts 1 and 2),” and “Enemies All Around Me,” the last of which features William Hart of the Delfonics) have all been astounding slices of Morricone-indebted cinematic goon rap. This is due primarily to Younge’s live band instrumentals that reach the potential that was hinted at in Wu-Tang Chamber Music (which featured the Revelations as the backing band). RZA is listed as executive producer on the album—the first Ghostface record overseen by RZA since the genius Supreme Clientele in 2000—and his and Younge’s vision have reenergized Ghost. The featured artists are all from the lesser-known end of the Wu-Tang camp—Masta Killa, U-God, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, and a recently released from prison Killa Sin, all of whom benefit greatly from some artistic guidance or executive production.

The trailer for the Twelve Reasons to Die album and 49-date tour (presumably directed by Younge, who has handled the majority of the videos from his previous projects) is more effective in one minute than RZA was with a full hour and a half.

Soul Temple Records will release Twelve Reasons to Die on April 16. A review of the album and of the April 26 show at Chicago’s Abbey Pub will be coming in the next month.

Also as a bonus, here’s the trailer for the six issue comic book miniseries that is accompanying the album’s release. The always great Jim Mahfood and Ben Templesmith are among the exciting roster of artists involved with this project.


[1] For evidence of this, check out the DVD commentary for The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, where RZA wipes the floor with the other commentator, noted film critic Andy Klein. There is absolutely no reason RZA or anyone else should know who choreographed seemingly every fight in every kung fu movie ever released, but RZA gives the impression that he does.
[2] Full disclosure: when I saw The Man with the Iron Fists in theaters, I was so bored that I fell asleep for a bit, and I’m not sure how much of the movie I missed. Even with this sleep break, the movie still felt much longer than its 96 minute runtime.

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