On the heels of Twelve Reasons to Die, Ghostface Killah's 11th solo studio album is another cinematic piece. The saga for 36 Seasons is contemporary and far less supernatural in comparison to TRtD (besides the whole super mask that keeps Tony alive after a chemical explosion, a la Marvel's Iron Man). GFK was given a script that combines the lure of the super hero Iron Man with some street elements, which is the basic equation for the persona of Ghostface the emcee. The score for the entire album is composed by the neo-soul productions of The Revelations (with 3 other co-producers on 6 tracks). The outcome is a linear narrative told through the eyes of Tony Starks, and reappearing characters Penelope/Bamboo (Tony's girl, voiced by Kandace Springs), Rog (Tony's cop friend, voiced by AZ), Bamboos new man and drug dealer (voiced by Kool G Rap) and Migs (Tony's friend, voiced by Shawn Wigs). Emcee Nems voices a member of Kool G Rap's crew. While Pharoahe Monch voices the brilliant Dr. X who operates on Tony and creates a gas mask to keep him alive even though poisonous chemicals run through his body.
The album parallels the comic that accompanies the CD booklet. I actually purchased the bundle which also includes a vinyl LP, and the comic the same size as the record. Tony Starks returns home after 9 years to find that his block is more corrupt and dangerous than ever. His first move is to see his girl Bamboo, only to learn that she has moved on and is dating a drug dealer who is responsible for the new unstable environment. Tony's childhood friend Rog, AZ, is a cop and has been looking after Bamboo while he was away. Rog tells Tony that Bamboo's new man is turning the streets into a dangerous battleground and only he can take him out. Tony agrees and kills the drug dealer along with some of his crew. But in the shootout Tony is injured from a chemical explosion. His boy Mig takes him to the mad Dr. X. The good doctor creates a gas mask that keeps his vitals level even though Tony has poison coursing through his veins. Now that Tony has taken care of the threat he heads over the find Bamboo. But Rog and other police officers pull him over and accuse him of murder and lock him up. Tony realizes Rog is corrupt and that it was all a set up. Rog was another catalyst that created the current state of the hood. Bamboo bails Tony out and begs him to leave. Tony agrees and heads to Mig's home to pick up his things. He finds Mig dead by the hands of the remaining members of the drug dealers crew. Tony goes to war to take out the rest of the crew, Rog and the rest of the corrupt cops. Tony cleans up the block and accepts Bamboo's apology and they get back together again. He is is finally at peace now that his block is clean but looks toward the rest of the city as his next mission.
Lyrically GFK is as sharp as ever. The overall concept for album is not the most original story ever told, but the medium used is what makes this project stand out. The process of taking an original script and complimenting it with lyrics and music are signs of a true poet. In the center of every consummate emcee is the soul of a narrative writer. The art of storytelling should be in ever true emcees repertoire. Each track is singular and can stand alone. But when you string them together you get a detailed sequential epic. The first track The Battlefield is an introduction to the characters of GFK, Kool G Rap and AZ. The instrumental is strong and chaotic, with drums and guitars seemingly going to battle with each other in track. While tracks like Love Don't Live Here No More are set to a more soulful (J Dilla-esque) backdrop. Overall the hip hop fan that enjoys emotive production and mature subject matter and lyrics, this is for you. There are no radio singles here, just boom bap and soulful sounds tied together with intellectual intelligent lyrics from a living legend.