Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown – 12 Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape album review

12 Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape is advertised as an “alternate version” of the original album produced by Adrian Younge. At this point, Apollo Brown already deserves a ton of credit for even thinking of remixing 12 Reasons to Die, one of the most impressive underground releases in recent memory. It’s a daunting project if you think about it. First of all, the source material is a concept album, so any good remix will have to retain the story and tone. This is a dark one about an immortal crime boss by the name of Ghostface Killah.

The original is an absolute juggernaut sonically, and the instrumental version is a classic in its own right. Inspired by 70’s R&B and Italian soundtracks from the same era, 12 Reasons to Die was meticulously recorded in Younge’s all-analog, vintage studio. The entire production features live instmentation by Adrian Younge and his Venice Dawn band. The bar is very high here for Detroit Producer Apollo Brown, who was tapped to remix this behemoth. 12 Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape was packaged as an actual cassette tape to go with the initial release of 12 Reasons to Die on vinyl back in April. Copies of this tape were scarce, but Wu-Tang affiliated Soul Temple, the imprint that released 12 Reasons to Die, has given the Apollo Brown remix its own full release, complete with a set of instrumentals.

Apollo Brown has earned this opportunity recognition. He’s built a reputation as an exceptionally consistent producer, and an absolute beast on a remix. When Apollo Brown first signed with his label Mello Music Group, the first thing they did was give him the keys to their extensive library of rap acapellas. For his label debut, Apollo Brown dropped “The Reset,” a whole album of remixes that make you forget you ever heard the original.

On The Brown Tape, Apollo Brown’s alternate takes are brilliant, and completely depart from Adrian Younge’s vision. Check out how Apollo Brown swaps Younge’s spitfire organ for a brooding sample of hazy keyboards and guitar stabs on “Rise Of The Black Suits.” There’s a very different vibe that still works perfectly for the track. Apollo Brown channels a little Alchemist with a searing guitar sample on “Enemies All Around Me.” Go to track 6 right now. “Crying.” For you! Crying for you love this album. Apollo’s samples are melodic, sweet and forlorn; they plead where Adrian Younge is ethereal. Cut tape, and Apollo Brown has actually managed to add layers to the story. The comic-book vibe of 12 Reasons to Die is swapped out for a gutsy, but by no means lo-fi treatment by Apollo Brown, the newest producer to your radar. Check out 12 Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape.

Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown - 12 Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape


Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons To Die album review

Arguably Wu Tang Clan’s best lyricist, Ghostface Killah, has released another high concept album, Twelve Reasons To Die, which serves also as the soundtrack for an Italian action movie by the same name. Twelve Reasons tells the story of Ghostface’s alter ego, Tony Starks, an Italian mobster, who is a henchman for the DeLuca crime family, who falls in love with the kingpin’s daughter. The story covers a lot in just 12 tracks, from Starks rise in the DeLuca family to a racy love affair with the Kingpin’s daughter, ending with Starks death and the melting of his ashes into vinyl. Twelve Reasons is produced by Adrian Younge and executive produced by RZA. Younge, who arranged and produced the soundtrack for Black Dynamite, blends that same combination of blaxploitation and therapeutic rhythm, but Ghostface’s established lyrical story-telling is what cements Twelve Reasons To Die.

Twelve Reasons registers in at around 40 minutes long, as the majority of the songs range from 2 to 3 minutes in length. RZA, also narrates the album, which gives Twelve Reasons its blaxploitation feel and sound. Although Ghostface’s last two albums, Apollo Kids and Ghostdini, have been well-received by critics, Twelve Reasons distinguished itself as a great album and one of Ghostface’s best. The album supplements a larger conversation, Ghostface’s Bill Murray- like late career resurgence as an indie favorite, which is ironic being that Ghostface has been signed to various large record companies including, Universal and Def Jam. Its hard to imagine that Ghostface Killah will ever have a number one hit as a solo artist, but much like Bill Murray, he has a very loyal art-driven fanbase. Twelve Reasons, which comes with a comic book if you purchase the deluxe edition, is a high concept album that can’t be describe any other way than indie. Much like any indie album out of New York, Twelve Reasons does not have a breakout hit. In fact, the album is best when listened to from front to back in its entirety, complementing the short durations of each song. Special praise to Adrian Younge, who delivers a throwback to Wu Tang’s iconic heavy beats but effortlessly remains original in each track’s individual sound. If one were to listen to the Twelve Reasons To Die instrumentals albums, the sound could easily be mistaken for 36 chambers or Wu Tang Forever.

Some reviews of Twelve Reasons To Die have called the album experimental, but I do not believe that to be the case. I would argue Twelve Reasons is a classic Ghostface album, delivered at the top of his game. Twelve Reasons To Die is a must buy for any legitimate hip hop head. A valid criticism of Twelve Reasons is its lack of commercial or universal appeal, but Ghostface has gotten to a point in his career where his albums represent projects and concepts, rather than influential radio anthems or ghetto sing-a-longs, if you will.