These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
1994 brought this series six certified awesome albums. However, now we’re live with 1995. First order of business is GZA’s Liquid Swords.
The album picks up where 36 Chambers left off. The album is a grimy elixir of street narratives, Samurai skits and gritty braggadocio. This peculiar mix gives Liquid Swords the same hardcore, cinematic feel that permeated the Wu’s debut.
GZA packs a lyrical punch on every song he’s on, and each member of the Wu shows up at least once. All nine clansmen ensure that the album is lyrically strong from start to finish. Unfortunately, the colorful cast of characters is not present throughout. As a result, GZA’s methodical flow is exposed sometimes boring on the solo. The opener/title track is a prime example of this.
When the clansmen are present, they often overshadow GZA on his own album. In fact, the best song on the album isn’t by GZA; Killah Priest’s documentation of his journey of faith and religion is showcased on the awesome track, “B.I.B.L.E.” The fact that The Genius is often upstaged on his own album steals from some of the album’s identity.
RZA produces 12 of the album’s 13 tracks, and brings the Wu-sound on each one. The music is tailor-made for GZA’s systematic delivery. Sometimes it enhances the album’s dark lyrics, such as on “4th Chamber.” The eerie production is the perfect backdrop for the wicked rhymes of GZA, RZA, Ghostface Killah and Killah Priest. However, on others, it highlights GZA’s aforementioned at times boring flow. This holds true on “Duel of the Iron Mic.”
Liquid Swords is a lyrical marathon. The production is more on than off, and the album is pretty strong overall. It’s not all that original, but I imagine it was a favorite of Wu-heads. It’s not on par with the six albums I reviewed in ’94, and it’s no 36 Chambers. Still, it’s a solid effort from a lyrical wizard.
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