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DAR Classics: 20th Anniversary of GZA's Liquid Swords

By @Cool_Calm_Chris 



Tracklist
1. Liquid Swords
2. Duel of The Iron Mic 
3. Living In The World Today 
4. Gold
5. Cold World 
6. Labels 
7. 4th Chamber 
8. Shadowboxin
9. Hell's Wind Staff/Killah Hills 
10. Investigative Reports 
11. Swordsman 
12. I Gotcha Back 
13. B.I.B.L.E. (Bonus Track)

November 7, 1995. Wu-Tang member and “spiritual leader” GZA aka Gary Price released his second studio album Liquid Swords(Words from The Genius was his first). What is considered by most to be one of the greatest solo albums from a Wu-Tang Clan member, Liquid Swords finally got certified platinum in September of this year and landed at number nine on the Billboard charts as well as number two on the Hip Hop and R&B charts. More than just another Wu-Tang Clan album, Liquid Swords gave us a level of lyrical genius (no pun intended) that even today can be matched by very few.




“We were on a roll, and it was the perfect time to get in the studio and just do it” said GZA when asked about his choice of when to start working on the album in an XXL interview for “The Making of Liquid Swords”. In 1993, Wu-Tang Clan struck gold with their album Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, after that the group would release two more solo albums from Method Man (Tical) in 1994 and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version) in early 1995. With the success of Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx that same year, RZA and GZA felt the time was perfect to work on Liquid Swords.




Like most early Wu-Tang albums, the production and recording was done in RZA’s basement in Staten Island and was released on Interscope’s Geffen Records label. GZA had a specific idea in mind with his album, he always took pride in lyrical skill and it definitely was the focal point of this album. Throughout his entire career, GZA has made a name for himself through his lyrical ability, so much in fact that a study done by data scientist Matt Daniels showed GZA and Aesop Rock as having the largest vocabulary in hip hop. It even played a role in the title GZA chose for this album, as in an interview with Select magazine he states in regards to the album title, “Liquid Swords is a concept of being lyrically sharp, flowing like metal – mercury y’know?”

One of the most poignant themes of this album was the relationship between the obvious kung-fu imagery seen in most Wu-Tang projects and the grimy, raw element of crime that GZA so cleverly depicts. The movie centered around this album, Shogun Assassin, played perfectly into the violent nature, seeing as it was almost banned in 1983 for being too violent. GZA felt obligated to give listeners an observation of what criminal acts he committed, especially on the song “Gold” where he starts off his first verse with the line “I’m in the back streets, in the heart of Medina, bout to set off something more deep than a misdemeanor”.




Liquid Swords was filled with the obligatory Wu-Tang features, however this did not make it feel like a typical Wu-Tang album, GZA was still the focal point of this album. While each person that appeared on this album gave impressive verses, GZA made sure he was not overshadowed on his own album. Although, the one track where he seemed to be outdone on was “Shadowboxin”, Method Man completely owned the track and delivered two mind blowing verses while GZA came through rather quietly in the middle.

The album ends surprisingly with the song “B.I.B.L.E” (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth), a song devoid of a GZA verse and features Killah Priest flowing effortlessly on this appropriately culminating beat. He conveys a vivid and real depiction of the Christian faith and what he believes is right and wrong. In this song he tells of how the white image of Jesus Christ came to be as well as other topics of discussion like the wickedness of abortion that stray away completely from the narrative of the rest of the album. While it was a shock for this to appear at the end, it was still a very pleasing song to end off with and it even appeared on Killah Priest’s debut album Heavy Mental.




It is hard to measure the impact that Liquid Swords has had on the world of hip hop in the same manner that 36 Chambers did, but it is without question one of the best, if not the best solo Wu-Tang album ever. Personally, I find that this album still holds up well 20 years later and shows how different hip hop was in the 90’s compared to today. For someone as lyrically sharp as GZA to have had an album reach number two on the Billboard charts sounds crazy in this era, but that just further proves how there is a good chance there will never be another rapper quite like “The Genius”. If you have not heard this album yet I truly implore you to go and listen to this, you will not be disappointed.

-Chris 

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