GZA Pens An Editorial, Claiming Lyricism Is Absent Today. Do You Agree?
They don’t just call him The Genius ’cause it sounds good. Wu-Tang Clan co-founder GZA has used his mental to open many doors. The Brooklyn, New York veteran MC lectures frequently at prestigious academic institutions, including Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The gold-certified MCA Records soloist has incorporated many of the STEM Fields (science technology, engineering, and mathematics) into more than 25 years of vicious verses. This past week, however, the Grandmaster called out his Hip-Hop peers, and says that lyricism is “lost.”
“At the end of the day, to me it’s all about the lyrics,” penned the MC born Gary Grice, in a Medium Cuepoint editorial titled “The Lost Art Of Lyricism.”
In the editorial, GZA personally cities 1986-1989 as the pinnacle of Rap lyricism, and the true “Golden-Era.” To illustrate his point, The Genius spotlights his former Cold Chillin’ Records label-mate, Big Daddy Kane, and his breakthrough single “Raw.”
“[In ‘Raw’], he’s talking about his craft! Yeah, [Big Daddy] Kane was a player dude. He was a sex symbol in Hip-Hop, he was flossy and drove the fancy cars. But he never really rhymed about it. He still lived that life but he was talking about MCing in his songs. Same thing with Rakim: He rolled with a bunch of hardcore street dudes but he never talked about running up in the club and blasting dudes. He was beyond that. He spoke about his lyrical skills.” GZA also cited Nas, a protege of Rakim, for the same reasons.
GZA goes on to evaluate the “balance” in Hip-Hop, justifying “corny MCs” too, and pointing out Sugarhill Gang’s late ’70s success, and Kurtis Blow’s major label trail-blazing. He adds that one line from his own catalog (Wu-Tang Clan’s 2007 song “Rushing Elephants”) summarizes his view on MC’ing:
“It was not a hobby but a childhood passion / That started in the lobby and was quickly fashioned”
He continues that today’s Rap climate is void of what he expects from a master of ceremony. “I’m sure there are great lyricists out there today, but when you look at mainstream Hip-Hop, lyricism is gone. There are some artists out there that think they’re great storytellers, but they’re not. Nowadays there are certain things I don’t hear anymore from rappers: I haven’t heard the word ‘MC’ in so long; I haven’t heard the word ‘lyrical.’” In 2008, GZA notably engaged in a (one of his few) public rifts, with Interscope hit-maker Soulja Boy. The beef, which included public disses, soon became about GZA’s age versus Soulja’s abilities.
“I can write about anything and it will be interesting,” boasts the MC who is at work on seventh solo set, Dark Matter. “If someone gave me a beat to a song and said the title of the song was called ‘Drinks On Me’ and then gave it to another artist, lyrically theirs would probably be all about the same types of things and mine would be completely different. I wouldn’t talk about buying bottles up in the club; I’d talk about someone that’s putting date rape drugs in drinks.”
On the fly, the lyricist suggested, “If I’m writing about a pencil I might say something like, ‘So I bang him in the head, just lead / No eraser / One shot, no chaser / Who’s your replacer?‘ It’s all a metaphor, in a sense,” he analyzes, comparing the writing utensil to a weapon.
Read GZA’s “The Lost Art Of Lyricism” and see if you agree with The Genius? Is GZA perhaps over-looking voices like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, or Chance The Rapper (among others)?