Around here things change with the seasons. And 36 Seasons is a long time.
Really…? Try 84 Seasons. That’s a VERY long time. Confused? You should be…. 21 years after the first Wu-Tang Album, hip hop’s most influential crew releases their ‘anniversary’ album, A Better Tomorrow. The project was met with mixed opinions from fans, half were saying it is a grown, progressive album. The other half, hoping for that 90s, basement like traditional Wu-Tang sound and didn’t get it, declaring it as disappointing. Chef Raekwon was the most concerned during the albums development, but he finally agreed to be a part of it, and even pushed his own album back to make sure he saw A Better Tomorrow.
Ghostface Killah cared not for that, he did the opposite, just like a Ghost, no one saw him coming. Ghost drops a new album one week after the Clan, and fans quickly compared it to A Better Tomorrow. That’s a mistake. You CANNOT compare 36 Seasons to A Better Tomorrow. That’s like comparing a single chicken wing to a full KFC family bucket.
This is the Wallabee Champ’s 11th Studio Album, released on Tommy Boy. Ghostface’s storytelling techniques have grown and progressed to a level where he is near untouchable, from Tearz on 36 Chambers, to the Source Award winning Hip Hop quotable on Wu-Tang Forever’s ‘Impossible’, to the conceptual R&B inspired ‘Ghostdini’, to the Adrian Younge/Apollo Brown endorsed ’12 Reasons To Die’. This new conceptual album, produced entirely by The Revelations who were responsible for the clan’s side projects – Wu-Tang Chamber Music & Legendary Weapons, has raised the bar in so many ways it is unreal.
As soon as the album start, those classic soulful sonics hit the listener right in the heart. After 9 long years, Tony Starks has returned from The Battlefield. Did he really think that things would stay the same after all that time? Yes he was THE MAN, but during his absence, Kool G Rap who plays the kingpin is now running the streets, and AZ who plays Rog, a friend of Tony’s, has become a man upholding the law. Starks just wants to see his bamboo. He better hope and pray that she’s in, because she could have relocated in that time.
Luckily for Starks, Penelope (Kandace Springs) was still around, unluckily for Starks, she had moved on too. Sorry Ghost, a woman has needs too! Penelope has a new man, and ‘Love Don’t Live Here No More’, the first single from the album. If this soulful track doesn’t have the listener zoning out and feeling the emotion both artists put in this… they might as well hand in their RZA Chambers headphones.
In ‘Here I Go Again’, Starks reunites with his long time friend Rog (AZ). AZ wants Starks to help him be rid of the corrupt behaviour in the streets. Normal circumstances Ghost wouldn’t do that, but Rog & Starks go way back.
What’s fascinating about ‘Loyalty’ is that something happens here that hasn’t happened in a clan album since Ironman… a track that does not feature Ghostface himself. Here the Kingpin (G Rap) is seen politicking with his right hand man (Nems) plotting to rid Stapelton of the man who has returned after 9 years… funny how biting wasn’t allowed in hip hop 20 years ago and here we are with Nems actually flipping the Chef’s lines from C.R.E.A.M.
The Revelations cover of ‘Thin Line of Love and Hate’ is a wonderful rendition of The Persuaders 1971 original. If this track was on a different Ghost album such as ‘The Pretty Toney Album’ or ‘Fishscale’, we may have seen Ghost rhyme over this, but it was clearly not needed here. Such a strong message to men not to mess their good women around, eventually she will switch on you when you least expect.
Interlude over, back into ‘The Dogs of War’…featuring a returning Shawn Wigs from Theodore Unit playing as Ghost’s right hand man Money Miggs, they go to battle with the Kingpin…but it’s the award-winning verse from G Rap that is sure to be Source Hip Hop Quotable worthy describing his confrontation: “The n!**@ hit his mark right on top of my heart (aw, damn)/
My whole chest went numb and the pain got sharp (down)/Fell face down on the ground, saw the Timberland mark/He bopped, swingin’ the gun like a pendulum arm/The silencer on the sh!t was like a Michelin part/Then everything faded out, became of victim of Starks…”
Ghost, victorious from the battle, finds himself scarred from the explosion, is on the brink of death. Trust in Money Miggs to find the one they call Dr X (Pharoahe Monch) to carry out the ‘Emergency Procedure’. Ghost makes a superb comparison to his favourite comic book superhero. The Marvel comic book counterpart was given components to keep his injured heart beating, staying true to Ironman. Dr X hooks him up with a special gas mask to keep him alive, even keeping him immune to Ebola. Starks doesn’t die so easy…he’s not sweating a lawsuit that he lost recently.
Now everything seems to be back to normal for Starks…. or so it seems. After all Rog (AZ) is law enforcement…. crooked to go with it too, hits the ‘Double Cross’, and gets him thrown in jail. Little does Rog know…
Does love still live??? What made Penelope bail him out? Kandace Springs’ character has doubts creeping through as she wonders if she made a mistake in ‘Bamboo’s Lament’. Her beautiful vocals shows Ghost still has that good ear from 20 years ago.
Sometimes you gotta figure out the ‘Pieces to the Puzzle’. Once great friends, now sworn enemies, and they know their confrontation cannot be avoided. AZ’s character realises this when he learns that Penelope bailed Starks out. Worse still, Ghost figures out the man Penelope dissed him for turns out to be Rog… you know the Jamaican saying: “Never trust yuh fren, your fren dem turn dem back pon yuh!” That’s what my Grandma always used to tell me…
Nems is looking for revenge after what Starks did to the Kingpin… problem is, Starks is out for revenge too, and Nems doesn’t know about the gas mask….it’s not looking good in this ‘Homicide’, and now the confrontation is at hand as finally Starks goes mano o mano with Rog… there will be ‘Blood on the Streets’, AZ’s character compares the rivalry with Starks to Pac & Biggie.
Seems like love still lives after all… In ‘Call My Name’, the community congratulates the masked avenger for cleaning up the streets, it seems that everyone gets a second chance, including Penelope. After all, 36 Seasons was a long time, and the instrumental for ‘I Love You For All Seasons’ serves as the outro, and has the listener picturing a happy ending and the credits rolling on their screens….
…because that’s exactly what this album was; a short film by Ghostface Killah, pictured so vividly and has the listener so immersed in the story. This is storytelling taken to a whole new level, with the album’s guests serving as a character role, which is genius. It doesn’t stop there, the album also comes with a set of instrumentals… so that heads can get their pen & pad on. Ghost & The Revelations didn’t have to do that, but they did. The album also came with its comic book inlay, so the listener can follow the story as they absorb the album.
I’m not sure if it’s me, or there’s a pattern emerging with Ghostface Killah, he is the most consistent of the 10-man juggernaut, when the clan release an album, give or take a year, the reigning, defending Supreme Clientele champion pulls out an exceptional project. Going back to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Ghost had always said that this is a stepping stone to where he gotta go… could he mean film directing? Is that in his future? Is he gonna follow the Abbott himself?