Album Review: Liquid Swords [The Chess Box] by Genius / GZA
Absolutly essential, Based on 3 Critics
Pitchfork - 100 Based on rating 10/10
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will have many great minds gracing its lecture halls in 2012, but 45-year old rapper Gary Grice, aka GZA, will almost certainly be the only one who actually claims "Genius" as his job title. Yeah, the accomplishments of MIT alumni in the fields of genetics, engineering, and computer technology are certainly impressive, but are any of those fuckin' with Liquid Swords? When I read literature on the aforementioned topics, I seem to recognize only the proper nouns and maybe the prepositions, so in the interest of confirming the greatness of Liquid Swords, I'll defer to someone who had a lot more experience with genius than I do: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. " And really, there's hardly a hip-hop record, Wu-Tang or otherwise, that demonstrates how knowledge is power in more easily understandable terms than Liquid Swords: You're certainly not on GZA's level, but he rarely goes over your head.
Expanded edition of what is perhaps the most celebrated Wu-Tang album to date. Adam Kennedy 2012 Among the dizzying dozens of albums spewed forth by the Wu-Tang Clan, its members and legions of affiliated artists over the past two decades, Liquid Swords is, to this day, championed in unequalled reverential terms. Approaching adulthood, celebrating its 17th anniversary later this year, GZA's 1995 watermark is ripe for re-evaluation.
Often acclaimed as the best Wu-Tang solo project of all, Liquid Swords cemented the Genius/GZA's reputation as the best pure lyricist in the group -- and one of the best of the '90s. Rich in allusions and images, his cerebral, easy-flowing rhymes are perhaps the subtlest and most nuanced of any Wu MC, as underscored by his smooth, low-key delivery. The Genius' eerie calm is a great match for RZA's atmospheric production, which is tremendously effective in this context; the kung fu dialogue here is among the creepiest he's put on record, and he experiments quite a bit with stranger sounds and more layered tracks.