Warbled Spider-Man theme music. Japanese Jidaigeki flick tidbits. Distortion, static and boom-bap living together in perfect harmony. A diverse (if not offsetting) musical palette is necessary to complete a sharp witted, lyrical bonanza and in the Wu-Tang Clan’s strongest year as a collective, that’s exactly was summoned for Genius b.k.a. GZA’s career highlight, Liquid Swords.
To say RZA outdid himself in 1995 with Liquid Swords would be a slight of an overstatement, seeing that the dark and ominous production was no match for the catchier and more recognizable inflections boasted on Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... But, for The Abbott to show that he could go completely left of center while simultaneously holding down the moderate sector was another feat in its entirety. Like the GZA said himself: “RZA shaved the track and n*ggas caught razor bumps.”
Stripped and barren and arguably even repetitive at times, it was easy to underestimate the clout the beats gave the lyrics but it was pivotal in giving the songs identity. The piercing sting of electric guitar helped give “Labels” its biting edge while “Gold” and “Investigate Reports” were only built for Staten crime mysteries. And how infectious was “Shadowboxin'” with a bassline that was equally as menacing as it was soothing? (Hmmm.) Hard to believe going on two decades, the instrumentation present would still be considered groundbreaking to this day.
Chose the sword and you will join me…
Download — GZA – Liquid Swords (Instrumentals)