GZA & Inspectah Deck’s Cold World Lyricism Still Causes Chills (Video)
Summer may be Hip-Hop’s most treasured season. Cookouts, drop-tops, park jams, and “just hangin’ out” have spawned plenty of beloved playlist hits. However, the winter section of the year has inspired some incredible Rap music in its own right. Bundled up bars about construction Timbs, 4×4 Landcruisers and Jeeps, skull caps, and ski goggles have become iconography through lyrics and videos. Since the release of debut LP, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in November of 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan gets hot when the temperatures drop.
Method Man’s solo debut Tical, Ghostface Killah’s Ironman (containing “Winter Warz”) as well as Supreme Clientele, plus GZA’s Liquid Swords all released between mid-October and early February. That tends to be a cold season, especially on and around the island of Shaolin.
GZA’s platinum sophomore is one of the most definitive releases of the Wu-Tang brand. Released November of 1995, its metaphoric title points to GZA and the Clan’s focus on lyrical sharpness and fluidity. The concept is further enhanced by the samurai imagery on its cover, sound-bites from 1980s cult-classic Shogun Assassin, and the vivid macabre of GZA’s Brooklyn street origins.
The title track single, “Liquid Swords,” showcased GZA as a true Genius (his original Cold Chillin’ Records-era moniker) for his battle prowess and creativity. He crocheted lyrics like a knitted sweater to warm up his listeners for the frigidity of the chilly season. The aptly-titled third single from the album, “Cold World” featuring Inspectah Deck, displays both MCs’ storytelling abilities and a cohesive blend of East Coast Gangsta Rap and Underground Hip-Hop aesthetics. In step with the song’s vivid lyrics, the music video captures this grit.
RZA’s mosaic sampling on “Cold World” consists of soft organ keys from Frank Zappa group Mothers Of Invention’s “Plastic People” and atonal, syncopated guitar licks from crooners The Dramatics’ “In The Rain.” The song’s chorus is derived from Stevie Wonder’s 1981 song “Rocket Love.” Meanwhile, the bridge has a brief interpolation of DeBarge’s “Love Me In A Special Way,” bringing a darkened feel for the oeuvre of the track. In a cold world, it takes layers to survive and maintain. That’s exactly how The Abbott approached making one of his best beats, ever.
From the start of GZA’s verse, it shows how some holiday seasons in Brooklyn are nothing festive, but rather tragic and chaotic. Also, it can be dangerous for anyone unknowingly caught in a crossfire between police and hoods on the block. That’s exactly the vibe that was captured in the video that complemented the dark lyrics.
“It was the night before New Year’s, and all through the f*cking projects / Not a handgun was silent, not even a Tec / Outsiders were stuck, by enemies who put fear / And blasted on the spot before the pigs were there / You know hoods, robbers, snipers new in sight, f*ck blue-and-white / They escape before them flash the f*cking lights / Gunshots, shatter first-floor window panes / Shells hit the ground and blood stained the dice game.”
GZA’s trademark deadpan delivery parallels being as emotionless as the subjects of his story destroying their victim’s lives. The second verse, courtesy of Inspectah Deck, is a reprisal of his role in Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.,” giving his personal experience and hot take on the story’s plot.
“Yo, no time to freeze, under-covers ease up in Grand Prixs / And seize packages and pocket the currency / Cliques control strips full clips are sprayed / Yellow tape barricades sidewalks where bodies lay / Madness strikes at 12 o’clock midnight /Stick-up kids on the ground broke the staircase light / And I stays harassed, scrambling for petty cash / Jakes on my ass, young bucks is learning fast / .357’s and .44’s / Bought inside corner stores, their fire sparks the wars / Hospital floors surrounded by the law / Homicide questioning while the Jakes guard the door / My hood stay tense, loyalty puts strength in my team / ‘Cause ni**as’ main concern is cream.”
The noir style, carried out in the visual, mirrors the underbelly of B.K. and Staten Island. The moment also shows how winter can bring the best out in Rap, in capturing life’s struggles.
#BonusBeat: RZA’s “Cold War (Remix),” featuring D’Angelo:
This cut is included in last month’s Liquid Swords: The Singles Collection released by Urban Legend (with participation by GZA). The set includes a box set housing four 7″ vinyl singles, pairing each one with a custom 15.75” X 10.25” high end art print, illustrated by Andrew Hem. Every record is housed in an art box with a unique easel back and display window. Two model swords are also included.