April 23, 2008

Gza/Genius - Legend Of The Liquid Sword (December 10, 2002)


Gary Grice's fourth solo album, Legend Of The Liquid Sword, deliberately aims for the fanbase that hold his breakthrough disc Liquid Swords close to heart. Addressing the criticisms regarding his last disc, Beneath The Surface (the main one being that the album wasn't very good), Gza/Genius secured much better beats from some relative unknowns in the game, called in more of his Wu brothers to do battle, and released this attempt to appease his longtime fans.

Obviously, he was trying to bait fans by making them think this album would be as good as Liquid Swords with that tricky title. The problem with that line of thinking is that Liquid Swords was not a Gza solo effort: it was as much The Rza's album as Gza's, as the production on that disc was nothing short of brilliant. The Rza only contributes one track on Legend Of The Liquid Sword, and appears on a completely different track; this is clearly a long way from 1995, my two readers.

Gary boldly attempted to make Legend Of The Liquid Sword a "clean" album, so that his kids could listen to his verses without curses (hey, that rhymes!), well before Chamillionaire turned his last album into a Congress-baiting publicity stunt. This means that, even though there is a large Parental Advisory label on the front cover, most of the curses are masked by random noises taken from a foley artist's hard drive, which might make this the cleanest rap album since the Dino 5 debut.

This disc was a minor critical hit, but failed to sell enough copies to warrant a future on a major label. Soon after, Gza/Genius found himself dropped from MCA, the home he was shifted to when Geffen folded, and now he calls Babygrande home, a label that provides probably the same type of treatment as Koch's graveyard, but has more street cred due to its indie-minded roster.

Anyway.

1. INTRO
Gza's son Justice, who is apparently a rapper in his own right, tells us a story to lead off the album, a la the Shogun Assassin intro from Liquid Swords, except this time the story is about his father and the beginnings of hip hop. It's not the worst rap album intro I've heard, but it still comes off sounding like wasted space.

2. AUTO BIO
The rhymes themselves are good, but the beat isn't deserving of Gza's presence. This will be a running theme, by the way.

3. DID YA SAY THAT?
Did he just say "closion"? The chorus is incredibly ineffective, as if Gza just picked up rapping on a whim last Tuesday.

4. SILENT (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & STREETLIFE)
Good, but too short. Streetlife proves that he can actually do some work without his daytime supervisor Method Man being in the building.

5. KNOCK, KNOCK
The first single. The beat isn't exactly what you would want to hear Gza spit over, but then again, neither was "Breaker Breaker". And the chorus is censored on purpose. It worries me that, in his effort to make a "clean" rap album, he felt it necessary to censor his work, instead of actively trying to write clean lyrics.

6. STAY IN LINE (FEAT SANTI WHITE)
The guitar-driven beat grew on me during the song's four minutes, but the song is an 'alright' mixed with a 'blah' chaser due to the hook, performed by the artist currently known as Santogold.

7. ANIMAL PLANET
Gza seems to be running out of concepts for these themed songs of his. At least he doesn't try to mate all of these animals together, like Kool Keith.

8. FAM (MEMBERS ONLY) (FEAT THE RZA & MASTA KILLA)
I remember reading that "Silent" was a late addition to the album, which is why Ghost gets away with cursing while Rza and everyone else are censored to no end. The sound effects used to mask the bad words are off-putting (although they are sounds of clashing swords and kung-fu fights, a nice Wu-Tang touch), but it's always good to hear Gza alongside his Wu brethren.

9. LEGEND OF THE LIQUID SWORD (FEAT ANTHONY ALLEN)
This is the chorus? You gotta be fucking kidding me.

10. FAME
A song that mentions an awful lot of celebrities, an idea which Ghostface borrowed for his own "White Linen Affair". This song isn't that bad, but I stand by the above "Animal Planet" comment.

11. HIGHWAY ROBBERY (FEAT GOVERNOR TWO'S)
For someone that's trying to record a clean album, Gza sure forgets that the term "n----z" is offensive for a good percentage of the world's population. This song's lyrics and promising beat are definite pluses, but the hook is out of place.

12. LUMINAL
This Gza/DJ Muggs collaboration is fucking terrible. Whose idea was it for these two to link up for the Grandmasters album?

13. SPARRING MINDS (FEAT INSPECTAH DECK)
This actually rocks. It probably helps that Deck had nothing to do with the production on this track.

14. ROUGH CUT (FEAT ARMEL, PRODIGAL SUNN, & 12 O' CLOCK)
Why are the weed carriers the ones that get to bless the only Rza production here, while Deck, Ghost, Masta Killa, and Rza himself are locked out of the booth? Even Gza only spits the damn hook on this motherfucker. The final product is decent, but may have been a lot better if the A-team was allowed to participate. (B.A. Baracus can spit that hot fire, you know.)

15. UNCUT MATERIAL
Meh.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Legend Of The Liquid Sword is a much better effort than Beneath The Surface (whatever happened to that Above The Surface album Gza promised us years ago, anyway?), but even The Genius has to realize that there is no topping Liquid Swords for pure unadulterated hip hop enjoyment. He developed an of fondness for shitty hooks, though, which derail the Legend train before it leaves the Wu station. Maybe if this weren't associated with the greatest rap group of all time, it would sound better to me, but the Killa Beez have a standard of excellence that they are committed to, for better or worse, and Legend Of The Liquid Sword isn't on that level.

BUY OR BURN? I would recommend a burn, especially of the songs listed below. The album isn't entirely bad; it's just very disappointing, and undeserving of your fifteen bucks. Time to go listen to Liquid Swords again, my two readers.

BEST TRACKS: "Silent"; "Fam (Members Only)"; "Sparring Minds"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read all of the Gza/Genius write-ups by clicking here.

8 comments:

  1. This shit deserves a fucking buy so go fuck yourself! Just because it's not Liquid Swords doesn't mean it's not worth the money. Fuck that shit!!!

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessApril 23, 2008

    I really enjoyed this album when it dropped and I still like it today. That being said the hooks are just terrible, some of the worst I have ever heard. I feel like his rhymes on Uncut Material qualify it for more than a meh particularly since this is one of the few songs not sabotaged by a horrendous hook. You are 100% correct that the Gza has run out of worthwhile concepts for his name dropping songs. Animal Planet is an unqualified disaster, something that only a retarded kid would deserve praise for creating. The Ghostface, Rza, and Inspectah Deck songs are certainly highlights. The Ghost song served as further notice that he was beginning to make sense in his verses and the Rza sounds like he limited himself to 2 honey blunts glazed with a delightful embalming fluid and cream sauce.
    Rza's The Birth of a Prince album is review worthy Wu material. What do you say, Max?

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  3. Don like VitoApril 24, 2008

    this album was not bad, but had more potential and could be better

    but i give propz to Gza for not joining Rocafella at that time, he stayed true to his song "Labels"

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  4. I m so with you on this one, Max. I bought this on the day it came out, even though knock knock was the only track i heard before... and i didnt like that one at all!!!
    I ended up burning it and taking it back to the store where i bought the CD. Too many straight up wack hooks and boring or bad beats. Silent and Silverbacks are the only tracks i still feel to this day. I think its crazy disappointing - GZA has so much poetical potential, but managed to release only 3 albums in the last 13 years - and 2 of them are not even good albums. Beneath the surface had tracks on it that i really liked a lot, some i didnt, but the sequencing - WTF! And Legend... is pure average.

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  5. AnonymousMay 31, 2010

    your bugging out max, this shit is pure fire! not better than Liquid Swords (i don't think that GZA will ever top Liquid Swords) but this shit deserves a buy, GZA still spitting hot shit

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  6. In my opinion this is the worst GZA album(not a horrible album tho). The production is kinda meh for me and there isn't really enough Clan members featured. I tought Beneath The Surface was a really good album, why is it getting all the hate?

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  7. Arabian Knight fucking brought it on this shit.

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  8. Fuck Anthony Allen. The title track had potential otherwise.

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