Album Review – Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons

Back Like Cooked Crack

The album version, of the graphic novel of a Blaxploitation, superhero movie(that doesn’t exist) sums up what Ghostface Killah has served up on 36 Seasons. The Great Ghost Dini had his idiosyncratic style pointed in the right direction, as his lyrics and persona take center stage.

It may not be fair, but you can either blame this album for Ghost being a bit of a non-presence on the last Wu-Tang album, or you can get angry at the fact that he couldn’t bring this same level of energy and imagination to the verses. Either way, 36 Seasons is a much better outing for Ghost than his work with the Wu proper. Maybe both are right. What’s obvious is that at this point in his career, Ghost may work better as a hired gun of sorts. Taking cues from session artists of the past, when a producer or producers get a hold of him and apply his particular set of skills to their vision, he shines. On 36 Seasons, Ghostface Killah stars as Tony Starks, returning home after nine years away (36 Seasons) and finding things a little bit harder than he planned. The concept works, and the music isn’t exactly uncharted territory. What we’re presented with is a collaborative effort to make one man look and sound exceptional.

As a narrative, 36 Seasons is coherent. Some concept albums set a lofty goal and can sometimes fall short, mostly because the framework doesn’t allow the art to speak for itself and things are forced. Not the case here. Much has been said about production team bringing Ghost in specifically for this album, and using his expertise with Mafioso rap and world building to execute their vision. The ’70s aesthetic, and soul samples are in full force. There aren’t any wasted bars, and each lyric, line and song fits the story perfectly.

What adds to the complete picture being painted is the supporting cast of characters. There is a feature on every track except for one (“Call My Name”), where Tony Starks finally accepts the mantle of Ghostface. AZ, Kool G Rap, Pharoe Monch, and Nems play everyone from drug dealers, doctors and policemen. Every major player involved with the evolution of the Tony Starks character. It’s that touch of world building that reigns Ghostface in a bit, and doesn’t allow him to go on non-nonsensical, lyrical tangents. While we may love them, they wouldn’t have fit here.

The only real knock against 36 Seasons is that it does come off more as a group album than a solo effort, with Ghostface being the best plug & play artist for the job. It is his unique style that brings it to life, but there is something left to be desired. So where does that leave the album in the annals of Wu-Tang solo projects? Somewhere near the top. 36 Seasons may not have the power of a hit single or a true standout track, but as a full bodied, concept album, it shouldn’t be missed.

Originally published on – (01/26/2015)


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