|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2002-11-26
"We reign all year round from June to June
While niggaz bite immediately if not soon
Set the lynchin' and form the execution date
As this two thousand beyond slang suffocate"
—"Shadowboxin'" from Liquid Sword (1995)
"Like a child I have infinite patience when I write
The victims dental records show they love to bite"
—"What You Know About" from Legend Of A Liquid Sword (2002)
Sitting at Sound on Sound studio in midtown Manhattan with GZA is not like being around most rappers. Even other members of the Wu-Tang Clan. There's no crew. No weed. No liquor. Just the Genius and his manager. An old episode of The Chris Rock Show throws shadows from the TV. The lanky, award-winning comedian jokes about Ol' Dirty Bastard while his zooted-out picture shines on the screen. GZA laughs, making no comment about the zaniest Wu warrior. His attention is elsewhere: his third album, Legend of A Liquid Sword. "It's plain and simple," assures GZA. "My first album was Liquid Swords. A lot of people missed that. I'm going back to that chamber. Beneath The Surface was good. But Liquid Swords is more dark and more tightly put together." He also revisits the intro style of his debut. "On Liquid Swords there was a little boy from the Shogun movie speaking. Now I have my son narrating and he's telling you my story, my history." Legend Of The Liquid Sword is an actual title of a Kung Fu movie. And the Wu's similarities with Shaolin are well-known. "There's a lot of swordplay on this album," GZA says without hesitation. "We always say Wu-Tang is a sword-style of MCing. We base our rhyming skills on that, being lyrically sharp with the tongue. The tongue is a sword."
"Picture bloodbaths and elevator shafts
Like these murderous rhymes tight from genuine craft
Check the print, it's where veterans spark the letterings
Slow moving MCs is waitin for the editin'"
—"Duel of the Iron Mic" from Liquid Swords
"I'm the obscene slang kicker with no parental sticker
Advising ya'll that wise words is much slicker"
—"Knock, Knock" from Legend Of A Liquid Sword
"I always keep it lyrical," emphasizes GZA. "I put a lot of time and thought into my rhymes. I edit them, try to make them stronger and say it in a better way. Mostly I like to write about MCing. Like when I say firing guns, it's a metaphor for firing the mic or firing words out my mouth. A lot of my rhymes are about how dope I am." Lyrics never leave GZA's mind. His flow "cuts across the semi-gloss rhymes you floss." In a posse of lyrical perfectionists, he is one of the most often quoted Wu members. Being a humble man, he doesn't put his contemporaries down, but he does see his profession's shortcomings. "I never really run out of things to talk about. Some artists seem like they do. They rap about clothes, cars… which isn't bad because hip-hop is about having fun and talking sh*t, but when you get so much of that you have to come with new, clever ways of saying the same stuff. I get stuck too, but I know I write powerful material so I appreciate the fact that I do take my time."
GZA plans to save hip-hop. Representing "the clan [that] had a bond that made the world respond," his CD offers funk flavors, neck-springers, dance ditties and verbal gems. Armed with an arsenal of aural atomic bombs and beats by producers like RZA, Wu producer Mathematics, Bink (Jay-Z), Jay Wax Garfield (Cormega), Jaz-O, DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill and himself, GZA has crafted his most versatile and best album yet. "I let the beat tell me where it's going to take me. I got this up-tempo track from Muggs and it sounds like a murder-mystery. So I came up with a serial killer rhyme. I got another song called 'Animal Planet,' about how sometimes people conduct themselves like animals. I never go directly political with my concepts. I don't pick a topic or subject and go after it, like cop killing. That's so gimmicky. Like 9/11. It touched a lot of people. It was tragic. But sometimes people wait for things to happen to write about them. No one wrote on terrorism before it happened. I did. I don't search for tracks. I can't chase something like that. I'm not into that."
There is one exception, but not for crafted concepts, but labyrinthine lyricism. Like his clever raps "Labels" and "Publicity," GZA returns to wittily weaving words on "Fame." Lines like "Jesse Owen the money for the weed Bubba Sparxxx," or "Use Bernie's Mac to search Veronica's Webb" and "Jason Kidd took his first step with Jimmy's Walker" highlight his knack for precise wordplay and hidden sense of humor. "This a GZA album with a Wu-Tang sound," he asserts. "There's not too much of Wu-Tang on there [RZA and affiliates Masta Killa, Sunz Of Man] but it has a Wu-Tang vibe. It's lyrically strong, sharp and colorful as far as beat-wise." Finally GZA reveals his secret link to rap longevity. "I make music from my heart that I like, that I feel. I do this for myself because you never know what people like. People change. But if you stick to the formula, they will continue to roll with you."
Written by: HipHopDX