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When it comes to Hip Hop, it seems as though classic are rarely disputed. Once a release gets a stamp of approval as an album that simply can't be messed with, pretty much all others agree. Back in times when classics were achievable (with modern times rarely lending itself to the creation of such incredible music) many seemed to be produced. The mid-nineties was filled with them. You had Nas' "Illmatic", Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die" and there's no way you can forget about this; GZA's "Liquid Swords". Raekwon had just already laid-down a certified must-have with "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..." but the Wu-Tang Clan still wanted to make '95 their most memorable year to date by dropping this killer record.
As Rae's release showed a different side to the Wu-Tang Clan that had been heard on their "36 Chambers" collective album and the solo albums of Method Man and ODB, GZA was sure to remind listeners of how kung-fu culture had shaped them and created the music they made. Evidence of this is clear through the entire album, down to the titles, production and artwork. In fact, the cover is almost perfect in indicating the contents of this release. With it, listeners are treated to almost comic book-like imagery through the fascinating mind of GZA (known formerly as The Genius - before becoming a Wu-Tang member).
As the most experienced member of the camp (with an album behind him before he even got together with the rest of the crew) the Brooklynite lets it be known that he's had far longer to shape well-rounded lyrics. To those who don't really have that much time to delve into the concept album in its entirety, they're likely to be taken aback by "Labels". In that track alone, he does all that's needed to display how his song writing talents stand far beyond the norm as he uses the names of well-known record labels and forms a tale out of them. This is just a snippet of his capabilities. He can also come correct with lasting hooks and hard punch lines to keep listeners engaged.
Just as all great Wu-Tang albums should be, this is produced solely by RZA. It's only on the bonus track, "B.I.B.L.E" where Killah Priest takes over and is actually the only performer on the track. Back to RZA - he straight rips it here. Through each track he comes up with nice and refreshing ways to take his deep and dark sounds to new places. He creates variety by making atmospheric production to cuts which motivated GZA to write in certain ways. We get some chilling storytelling on "Cold War" and good old fashion bragging on the old school-styled "Gold". There's a lot going on and while the general direction of the music may be nothing new, the way he does it with such vivid imagery makes it a release you really can't afford to miss out on. RZA's production appears to be a major talking point to this release. Here he innovates the sped-up Soul sample that influenced Kanye West and Just Blaze to push chipmunked sounds as the new millennium came in. The best example of it here comes through "Shadowboxin'" and it's just the start of what was to come.
This album includes countless features from a number of Wu members and affiliates, just as most other album from the individual members. In spite of being cluttered in places, it seems as though on each track he triumphs with the most memorable rhymes. Even on a cut like "Investigative Reports" (where three other MCs get up on the track) GZA's able to stand above them all with his razor-sharp delivery of rhymes shaped from a come-up in the Golden Age and are topped-off by bringing these into contemporary times. With each track on the album being a big one, it's difficult to pick out the best, but you need to ensure that its titular track is a priority of yours to check out.
All in all, this is an album impossible to fault. Each track presents something fresh from him and is impressive standing alone individually. Putting all of these together to make a full-length release is really a Hip Hop treat. It was instrumental in showing that the Wu-Tang Clan was a true force in the music world and had the ability to really revolutionise the industry themselves. If you haven't heard this one yet, you're really missing out. It's flawless.
1. "Liquid Swords" (feat. RZA) **Five Stars**
2. "Duel of the Iron Mic" (feat. Ol' Dirty B****d, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck) **Five Stars**
3. "Living in the World Today" **Five Stars**
4. "Gold" **Five Stars**
5. "Cold War" (feat. Life and Inspectah Deck) **Five Stars**
6. "Labels" **Five Stars**
7. "4th Chamber" (feat. Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest and RZA) **Five Stars**
8. "Shadowboxin'" (feat. Method Man) **Five Stars**
9. "Hell's Wind Staff / Killah Hills 10304" **Five Stars**
10. "Investigative Reports" (feat. U-God, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah) **Five Stars**
11. "Swordsmen" **Five Stars**
12. "I Gotcha Back" (feat. RZA) **Five Stars**
13. "B.I.B.L.E" (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) (feat. Killah Priest) **Five Stars**
GZA/Genius - Liquid Swords....
This has got to be the best Hip Hop album of all time and even though it was released back in November of 1995 sounds fresh with mind blowing originality. It was probably the first real album that I heard of the Hip Hop genre and since then I have never looked back. Even listening to it as I write this I could hardly believe it is over 10 years old as it could pass for something that would be released onto today's market and still do well.
GZA/Genius, for those who don't know is one of the key members of the Wu Tang Clan and this is his second solo album which was made platinum and was critically acclaimed. The one big influence that appears throughout the album is the Samurai cinema feel which gives way to a lot of introductions and clippings from these Asian films.
1.Liquid Swords - 4.31 - The start of this track has got to be the most memorable maybe because it is the first on the album or perhaps because the intro is so deep, eerie and very hypnotic. There is a young boy talking about his father being the greatest Samurai in the empire. The music that accompanies this intro is soft and unsettling. It is perhaps not the best thing to listen to before bed! After the boy stops talking the best beat kicks in, bouncy and heavy which accompanies the deep lyrical sound of the GZA. "When the MC's came to live out their name". There are a lot of catchy memorable lyrics spat out by GZA which makes for a truly classic and timeless track.
2.Duel of The Iron Mic - 4.07 - Again an unsettling start to the track with Samurai sampling which does work well and makes the tune sound pretty intellectual and deep. The music for this track is a lot lighter with a tranquil feel that has smooth lyrics dropped by GZA and the chorus by ODB. Both Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck make an appearance in the following verses which makes for a better track to listen to as it gives the whole thing different elements. "If he's asleep then I will wake him up". The sampling from Shogun Assassin continues throughout each track too running seamlessly from raps. Great tunes
3.Living In The World Today - 4.23 - The beginning of this one starts with many members of the clan and it feels very layered with lots going on although fits well and soon fades out to give way to RZA giving the first raps. "Well if you living in the world today you be hearing the slang that the Wu Tang say". Lyrically sublime track that is laid down to perfection from each member that appears. Method Man for me again brings the best element to the song but probably because for me his gravelly tones are what Hip Hop is all about. The music is hypnotic and you can't help but stop and listen to the track.
4.Swordsmen - 5.37 - A more angry track here with heavier and darker beats which teamed with GZA's classically smooth raps. There is a slight religious feel to the track as there is somesort of choir siging lightly in the background and an organ being played giving a rather digital sound to it. Not perhaps one of the best for me but still none the less a great track.
5.Cold World - 5.31 - "I had a bad dream" "Don't be afraid bad dreams are only dreams - what a time you chose to be born". The beats are slow and rhythmical in this track with a mellow feel which makes for a really good tune. There is a sample of Stevie Wonders "Rocket Love" in this track along with a few other samples that all blend easily into the song as a whole. I feel the hypnotic vibe from it really appealing and find it is a great tune to have on whilst generally relaxing and I am still able to take in the whole track and appreciate it for the sheer Genius that it is.
6.Labels - 2.54 - The RZA and the GZA work together on this one and the catchy and simple beats work to make the lyrics stand out to the utmost. The track really seems to make you listen to the words more than anything else and this makes you think on a different level. Deep and flowing. Great tune even though it is one of the smaller ones on the album.
7.4th Chamber - 4.27 - The intro which is again a sample from Shogun Assassins works so well on this one.... "Choose life or death".....It brings the track in perfectly with the deep and bouncy baselines this is a must that the volume has to be turned up to the max. "Why is the sky blue, why is water wet...." This track has got to feel the most intellectually challenging on the whole album. Having got Ghostface Killa, Killah Priest, RZA and GZA appearing on it makes the track even better giving their individual sounds and depths they all lay their raps down with perfection and easy. "I judge wisely as if nothing ever surprise me". There are many classic lyrics that are again truly memorable and timeless.
8.Shadowboxin' - 3.30 - This track has a slight sexy feel to it. Again this may be because Method man does a fair bit of the rapping giving his smooth lyrics overlaying a female vocal sample and a good bit of top class scratching which makes this track feel different from all the others on the album yet still finding its place well. The hypnotic feel which has featured well in the other tracks on the CD again is heavy here and perhaps this is what makes it so catchy and a true classic.
9.Hells Wind Staff/Killa Hills 10304 - 5.09 - A rather different introduction to this one as there is a sample of some of the members of the clan out on the street conducting some business. The feel of it again is different from other tracks on the album and this change in theme keeps you listening constantly to the album. The beat on this one is hard and heavy with synthesisers giving it another great layer to unpeel and unwind to.
10.Investigative Reports - 3.50 - Smooth beats and a good sample from a new broadcast gives way to let this track have a good position on the album. It perhaps doesn't kick in a smuch as I would personally like and the build up in the beat doesn't really seem to lead anywhere and I feel is maybe one of the weaker tracks from the album but still one that is worthwhile in listening to as the lyrics are certainly a cut above any other artists.
11.Gold - 3.21 - A messy and multi layer beat brings us into this track with a rap that at first doesn't really seem to fit or work well for my ears. Surpringly Method Man doesn't give it up as well as he could in this track and I find that perhaps his raps could have been done better by someone else. The messiness continues throughout the track and makes it pretty difficult to listen to. Definitely the weakest one from the entire album.
12.I Gotcha Back - 5.01 - A well known track in many circles with lyrics that are pretty memorable. "I got ya back but ya best to watch ya front". A winding up beat that builds it up throughout the track giving way to a great finish. The lyrics and dropped well and RZA and GZA really do work well together to make classic hits. The sampling again features in this track and put in well making the raps stand out well and in general a brilliant track.
13.B.I.B.L.E (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) - 4.31 - The final track on the album is just as memorable as the others and does leave you wanting more! The beat is chilled and the tempo is slow again it has a hypnotic feel with a slightly uplifting and tranquil vibe. There is as al the tracks a deeper meaning and the lyrics if listened to properly can really make you think and can touch you in a good way. This has got to be such a good end to such a great album.
The album is a total classic in my mind and well worth anyone listening to. There are many layers and deeper meanings to most of the tracks. There are plenty of samples and mixes that are great and shows how good the RZA is at producing this type of music. For Hip Hop fans this is a must to own.
There are a few weaker tracks in comparison to the best from the album but when comparing it to other albums and artists that were releasing CDs at this time this is out of their league in a major way. The lyrics are profound with great depth and brought across in such an easy to listen to manner that it is a wonder that it hasn't been released again as I could see it doing extremely well.
I have got to award a overall score of 5 out of 5 stars. I know I have marked some of the tracks down but looking as it as a whole CD it is well worth any price paid. I can't think how much I would have bought this for but I know back in 1997 when I purchased it from HMV you would have been looking at paying top prices as this sort of genre wasn't so popular back then and CDs like this harder to come by. However luckily enough for you this CD is selling for a bargain price of just over £5 on different websites so I would highly recommend that you snap yourself a bargain and get this CD!
A timeless classic for any Hip Hop fan.
Produced by - RZA
I do hope that this has been of some help/interest to you.
Many thanks for taking the time to read.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Liquid Swords - Genius/GZA
2 Duel Of The Iron Mic - Masta Killa, Dreddy Kruger, Inspectah Deck, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Genius/GZA
3 Living In The World Today - Genius/GZA
4 Gold - Genius/GZA
5 Cold World - Inspectah Deck, Genius/GZA
6 Labels - Genius/GZA
7 4th Chamber - RZA, Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest, Genius/GZA
8 Shadowboxin' - Genius/GZA, Method Man
9 Killah hills 10304
10 Investigate reports
12 I gotcha back