If Twelve Reasons to Die is a comic, then its sequel is the cinematic adaptation or a reboot of the franchise; the source material is the same, but the execution is tightened in places. It has a bigger-budget feel—stronger guests, better pacing, and a more careful consideration for its audience. RZA narrates the passages too tricky to rap. Adrian Younge warps thick ’70s soul sounds into a concrete jungle. But mostly, TRTD II is simply able to succeed where its predecessor failed with the benefit of hindsight. With a proper framing device, more capable bit players (Scarub and Chino XL), and closer attention to detail, Ghostface and Younge do a better job sketching out an alternate universe.
The key to TRTD II is Raekwon, who stars as Lester Kane, an upstart New York City kingpin at war with the DeLucas in the mid-’70s and a foil for Ghostface’s Starks. Here, unlike on his recently released gaudy solo album, Fly International Luxurious Art, he is noticeably comfortable, penning engaging underworld scenes. He remains an asset to modern Ghostface, whose yarns don’t string quite as far these days. Recommended.