|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2003-10-15
(Geffen Records - November 7, 1995)
Any hip-hop head presently in his/her mid-twenties will tell you that the majority of the 90's belonged to the nine-man hip-hop collective out of Staten Island by the name of The Wu-Tang Clan. When it came to the glitzy, radio-friendly, radio hip-hop of that era, Puffy and the Bad Boy camp definitely held it down, but when the thugs and project bodega hustlers needed that gully hip-hop for their dome pieces, Wu-Tang was definitely the medicine of choice.
In retrospect, with the brash manner by which the Wu entered game, there was really no other option but domination. They came with the raw beats rife with kung-fu imagery and samples, a gang-load of mysterious characters with fascinating personalities (O.D.B., Method Man), and even more amusing aliases (Ghostface Killah, Inspektah Deck). It was almost like Marvel and DC Comics had joined forces, studied the game and created the ultimate super-rap group.
Naturally, some members of the group attracted the limelight more, so it was no surprise that Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard were the first members out the clan to unleash solo albums. But after those two solo releases, it was time for the GZA / Genius -- described on the 36th Chambers album as the head of the Voltron vehicle that signified Wu-Tang -- to hit the masses off something serious.
Simply put, GZA has got to be described as one of the most efficient and potent wordsmiths to ever lace the mic. Actually, if one closes their eyes and listens to the Liquid Swords album, you could almost envision a mysterious wise man wearing a protective face visor, pulling words out of a furnace with tungsten tongs, and molding them with a sledge hammer to suit each diverse RZA composition.
The first song that leaked from the Liquid Swords album was "Labels" - a raw track over which Gza spit lyrics that incorporated the names of all the influential music rap labels in the game at that time. When you heard the first lines of the song, you knew that the Genius didn't play around on the mic. Peep game:
[quote]"Tommy ain't my muthafuckin' Boy / when you fake moves on a nigga you employ / who will emerge off the set / now you know, god damn / I show livin' large niggas how to flip a Def Jam"[/quote]
The album on a whole offered so many treats. The official first single "Liquid Swords" was certified heat; "Shadowboxin" featuring Method Man was hip-hop in its purest form with both mc's upping their lyrical game to match the top-notch, base-heavy, RZA beat; "4th Chamber" featuring Killah Priest, RZA and Ghostface Killah sounded like a hip-hop apocalypse on wax with Ghost dropping the ill quotable line: "Why is the sky blue? / Why is water wet?" The pre-requisite posse cut "Investigative Reports" featuring Raekwon, U-God, and Ghost served as further proof of the album being a certified hip-hop classic.
In music, regardless of the genre, when an artist has mastered his/her craft past a certain threshold, it ceases to be simply fodder for head phones, or a mood altering or enhancing aid; it becomes true art. GZA transcended that threshold and that's why it's so common to hear people who only listen to rock or alternative music say that one of the only hip-hop albums they own and regularly listen to is the Liquid Swords album.
GZA's lyrics were switched effortlessly from pure science, to street knowledge, to straight hip-hop battle-isms. RZA's beats were on point as well - mysterious, underground, and gutter all at the same time. What else could you ask for? For those of you who haven't heard this album, do yourself a favor, pick it up and do the knowledge.
Written by George Hagan (firstname.lastname@example.org) for SOHH