The Making of Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge’s “Twelve Reasons to Die”
The Narrative Concept:
Perry: I made tons of records over the years. I always had a vision of doing a concept album in rap. I can never find a rapper that was willing to commit to it. So this was sort of a way for me to get out my ambition of doing a record that typically you would have in rock or something. Back in the day—The Who—or whatever that’ll make an album. It was about one concept. Tommy or something like that. Hawaiian pinball player. The whole fucking album. I wanted to bring that into rap because it’s like the perfect art form for it because lyrics are talking.
Younge: And who better than Ghost?
Perry: This is much more of a different thing where it is actually almost like an opera. You have this story that continues through the whole thing. It is not something where you are like … you can kind of sit down and listen to any of the songs. ‘Yeah, that’s a cool song, but when you listen to the whole thing—Ok, I get it.’
Younge: To add on what he is saying, it is an opera. When we perform, it is like theater. I am wearing like a monk suit and taking it off and wearing a fucking tailored priest outfit on. It’s on some straight theatrical shit.
RZA: I put my acting hat on for [narrating the skits]. The cool thing about it is that the idea of this record is a pure concept album and is being kept within the boundaries of the concept. [There are] a lot of records that I’ve made like this actually. I think I can think of Prince Paul with his Handsome Boy Modeling School. You can think of some of the records that I put out. But I don’t think you could pull 20 hip-hop albums out of 1000 that’s really a concept album. So to even start with a record like this, it’s not a soundtrack to a movie. It’s a soundtrack within itself that a movie could potentially be made after it. So that creative ability alone attracted me to the project. Knowing that there’s a guy out there, a young brotha comin’ up in the music industry, who’s thinking like how a young RZA used to think actually. I wanna make a movie but you can only listen to it. That’s what this is.
Younge: [Bob Perry and Andrew Kelley] would sit down. They understand these lyrics more than I even fucking understand these lyrics. It’s on some science shit for them. They said, ‘Dude, we need this here.’ They are really the guards of the narrative. What’s he saying right here is if there is a little gap right here from song six to song seven from Ghost. ‘Ok—Masta Killa, you gotta connect that shit.’ That was really a big part of their job as far as piecing and streamlining everything together.