GZA Once Sliced Apart A Dre Beat Using His Verbal Liquid Swords (Video)
In 2002, GZA was fast at work on his fourth solo album (the third since the ’93 sonic-boom of the Wu-Tang Clan). At the time, 1995’s Liquid Swords was well on its way to eventual platinum status, while 1999’s Beneath The Surface was his second consecutive Top 10 release, grabbing gold. The Genius’ label, MCA/Geffen Records was restructuring, and the lyrical shogun within the Clan followed Nas, as he did with Stillmatic, as one of the artists willing to re-visit his classic catalog in moving forward. The Legend Of The Liquid Sword is not a definitive sequel album per se. But in the minds of faithful Clan fans, it made a big wager, simply by using the hallowed name.
RZA, who put down some of his finest drum programming and filthiest sampling back in ’95, would contribute just “Rough Cut.” In his place, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs (who eventually collaborated with GZA at an album level), Roc-A-Fella’s Bink!, and Jay Z mentor Jaz-O stepped in. The Genius even slid behind the boards for a cut too.
Rap City was possibly the largest TV platform available to GZA in ’02. Big Tigger’s basement showcased great rhymes and pure Hip-Hop culture between the videos. So when The Genius hit the booth, the BET show dropped the beat on 50 Cent’s Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo’s-produced smash hit “In Da Club.” On the spot, GZA changes his vocal rhythm and makes album cut “Sparring Minds” sound absolutely incredible.
This is one of many VCR/DVR moments within the Rap City catalog. However at a time when Hip-Hop was changing, great “Labels” were losing their edge, and the Wu was in transition, GZA used the opportunity to kill it. He attempted (and arguably succeeded) in reaching an audience he knew could respect his technique. The verse deals with engine parts, ranging from turntables to cars to planes, as GZA’s connective bars seamlessly maneuver.
While GZA never appeared on a Dre beat of his own, Raekwon the Chef did. Notably, in 2008, GZA briefly found himself at odds with Fif’. On “Paper Plate,” GZA swung at G-Unit in what was one of the final chapters related to a Ghostface Killah and 50 Cent conflict that built in the early 2000s.
That LP would be GZA’s last within the major label system. In addition to lots of Wu-Tang activity, two more followed. Dark Matter hopefully sees the light this year.
As a final note of random, DJ Quik is credited with production on the 50 Cent smash that The Genius made his own for a brief moment.
#BonusBeat: The album version of “Sparring Minds”:
This features Inspectah Deck.