January 30, 2003

Test Spin: GZA

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Although a man of many aliases, Gary Grice (more commonly known as GZA/The Genius) maintains a distinct recognizable musical identity on this, his third solo album.

The fifteen tracks of Legend of the Liquid Sword are filled with the riding bass lines, gritty lyrics and, of course, Kung Fu movie sound bites that have made The Wu-Tang Clan hip-hop’s most recognizable force.

The album may not blow you away, but it is still one to buy. The beats on “Auto Bio” and “Animal Planet” could be rhymed over for the entire album’s length without getting tiring. “Fam (Members Only)” screams of 36 Chambers and features Wu-members Masta Killa and RZA (GZA’s kindred spirit) at their best.

Fellow Wu-members Ghostface Killa and Inspectah Deck are also featured on “Silent” and “Sparring Minds” respectively — two of the album’s best tracks — making this very much a “family” piece.

Unlike so many rap albums, Legend of the Liquid Sword is the perfect dosage of music at 15 tracks. Beginning with the mood setting “Intro” (read by GZA’s son) and closing with the raw freestyle-sounding “Uncut Material,” the album has the unique air of concise and honest storytelling.

The occasional song stands out as noticably weaker, and at times marks a scratch on the Sword’s sharpness, but as you would expect from any GZA project, mic skills make up for the very rare occasion where production falters.

In the year 2003, Grice’s “genius” may not be anything groundbreaking, but Legend of the Liquid Sword undeniably reaffirms what certainly once was.

Archived article by Tom Britton