November 07, 2017

GZA "Liquid Swords" (Hip-Hop Connection, 1995)

"After the diversion of the Wu-Gambinos, 'Liquid Swords' finds the biggest band in hip-hop returning to their roots as rap's premier verbal swordfighters. The GZA may be the titular head of this particular empire, but once again the Wu represent nine deep with yet more classic material. 'Liquid Swords' isn't as musically experimental as Raekwon's LP, but the quality and depth of Rakeem's talent leaves you floored. This is the most straightforward record he's produced to date, but it's probably the most powerful. '4th Chamber' uses a synth line so dirty and amateurish it could be a Rolf Harris parody of G-Funk ("Can you tell what it is yet?"); 'Liquid Swords' is the first time rap has fucked with ska since BDP dropped "Edutainment'; the filthy beats of 'Swordsman' would be ditched as demos by bands who lacked this lot's courage and suss. But what matters most are the lyrics, and, as befits the solo work of the group's best writer, 'Liquid Swords' doesn't disappoint."

"Yet while The GZA drops jewels, his supporting cast threatens to upstage him - like the group were saving their darkest, deepest shit to see if they could test their own grand master. Method Man arguably shines brightest on the amazing 'Shadowboxin", while Raekwon, Master Killa and Killah Priest all drop some devastating rhymes. Even RZA, often unfairly dismissed as a rapper, kills it with his contribution to '4th Chamber', weaving the ebola virus, skin-bleaching and the eye in the pyramid into a single free-form verse that could be the album's best. Two years ago this would have been unreleasable, unthinkable. That 'Liquid Swords' will be devoured as enthusiastically by true heads as by the rest of the world is testament to just how strong a grip the Wu have over hip-hop. If they carry on like this, world domination is a formality." - Hip-Hop Connection, 1995. Revisit the LP above.