July 16, 2009

Reader Review: The Genius/Gza - Liquid Swords (November 7, 1995)


(As far as Hip Hop Isn't Dead is concerned, Liquid Swords by The Genius/Gza (as he was known back in 1995) is a fucking no-brainer. There aren't many people who will dispute the album's grand supremacy, and if you do, you don't really like hip hop to begin with. Longtime Reader Reviewer Banksta will probably not change anybody's mind, but his point of view deserves to be heard (or read, as it were).)

If you've been following the guest write-ups I'm doing for Max to support his awesome blog (no, really, his U-God, 50 Cent or Cappadonna reviews are on par with Monty Python's Flying Circus for me), you may believe I'm a massive Wu stan, with the incurable insanity that goes with that label. Well, you're probably right. Which is why I'm presenting (surprise!) another Wu-Tang Clan album.

I've wanted to review something else, something that hasn't been looked into yet, such as DJ Muggs and Sick Jacken's Legend of the Mask and the Assassin or Eazy-E's Str8 Off Tha Streetz Off Muthaphukkin' Compton, but the titles of those discs are too long and they just aren't my desert island choices, because this round of Reader Reviews is based on such a choice. Now, some kind of album introduction is in order.

I suppose you already know the history of the Clan in short way, such as one I could write here, so I'll tell something different. My life has been normal until I fell into, you know, the Clan. It all has started innocently, just rare listens to tracks such as "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin", "4th Chamber", "Method Man" or even "Must Be Bobby", and I liked the Wu-Tang. I even converted my best friend into a Wu stan. But before any of that happened, I was a longtime Cypress Hill soldier. It wasn't until I was bored one day and listened to “Clan In Da Front”, with The Gza ripping the minimalist beat with dirty drum accompaniment, that I became a fan of Wu-Tang. Suddenly, my life has become worse and worse from then... spending all of my money on albums, posters, you know. So it makes sense that I would write about Liquid Swords.

1. LIQUID SWORDS
The Shogun Assassin-sampled intro is merged with the actual song, so it's hard to skip it. However when the beat stabs your eardrums, you'll find yourself looped into it until it ends. But you knew that already, I assume.

2. DUEL OF THE IRON MIC (FEAT MASTA KILLA, INSPECTAH DECK, & OL' DIRTY BASTARD)
Unlike the previous track, the introduction works well, as it leads directly into a duel between three people. Some people say this is Gza's best verse ever, and I'm not arguing with them. (That's what I'm here to do.) This triple-team proved to be capable of ripping most, if not all, songs to shreds on which they appear on in their various later catalogues. Ol' Dirty's on the hook only, so I'm not too excited.

3. LIVING IN THE WORLD TODAY (FEAT METHOD MAN)
Damn me if I ever find weak songs on Liquid Swords.

4. GOLD (FEAT METHOD MAN)
Featuring, sure, but only for a few words. Just like Max, I was skipping it back in the days. I'm digging the hell out of this now, though. Gza mutilates this beat, but that statement can be applied to every other track presented on Liquid Swords.

5. COLD WORLD (FEAT INSPECTAH DECK)
After my first spin of this album, this was a standout for me, and today I still love this song. “Inspector” Deck managed to climb on Gza's level back in the days: regardless of his current output, he's still my second living favorite from the Clan. I still wonder how his debut would have sounded had it been released during the first wave of Wu-Tang solo shots. (Does anybody out there prefer the remix that features D'Angelo on the hook to this album version? Anybody? Bueller?)

6. LABELS (FEAT THE RZA)
I assume you already know that these “themed” songs started here, and this one is about 9,304 different record label names sewn together into an actual verse. As this was the first time he did this, it was something new, fresh, rendering it even more awesome. Of course, The Rza's groundbreaking beat only helps the matter. (For an added bit of Prince Rakeem fun, you can also track down Rza's remix of “Labels”: I think I prefer his beat on that version a bit more.)

7. 4TH CHAMBER (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, KILLAH PRIEST, & THE RZA)
This song sucks balls.

Okay, you got me; it's actually the best song on this album. Just trying to be different.

8. SHADOWBOXIN' (FEAT METHOD MAN)
“4th Chamber” and this have been combined into one single, which was a fantastic idea if you ask me. I didn't care much for this when I first listened to it, but although this sounds more like Method Man featuring The Genius, I now believe this to be the second best track on here. What can I say? Blame my wasted-right-ear-which-hears-very-little-now for not catching this beauty first time I've heard it.

9. KILLAH HILLS 10304
This is the most controversial song here, thanks to the Wu-Gambinos influence and high-pitched loop, so it's up to you (yes, you, this one in front of the screen) whether you like it or not. I do. I love the (introductory) skit, but The Rza probably didn't mean for it to come out sounding ridiculously ridiculous.

10. INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS (FEAT RAEKWON, GHOSTFACE KILLAH, & U-GOD)
Another criminal track, but I think you've guessed that. I was never really that impressed with it. Gza outshines his invited guests, but that's probably good, since he's the host and all that. U-God handles only hook duties here (insert breath of relief here).

11. SWORDSMAN
Oh, a song without guest spots! It's “Swordsman” for me, because it sounds better as a title, more Wu-esque, and when I converted my shining Liquid Swords CD-with-box-broken-on-arrival-but-I've-lost-it-somehow-and-need-to-buy-it-again into MP3s, it wrote “Swordsman” and not “Unexplained”. (Hopefully you two already know what he's talking about, but for those of you who are lost: track eleven on Liquid Swords is the only song whose official title may be lost upon the world. The back of the CD case and the liner notes list two songs, “Unexplained” and “Swordsman”; neither features guest stars, so it's been a long-standing mystery as to what this song is actually called. So, flip a coin and let's move on.) Besides, this track doesn't explain anything unexplained. Later, the kind of sequel was made (“Illusory Protection” off of the Grandmasters album) which sounds just about as good as this.

12. I GOTCHA BACK (FEAT THE RZA)
I believe this was the first single; very weird choice if you ask me. (That's because this wasn't really the “first” single, but it was a part of the soundtrack to Fresh, so a video was shot. Raekwon and Ghostface Killah's “Heaven Or Hell” was on the same soundtrack.) It sounds dated, just like “Cuttin' Headz” off of Ol' Dirty's Return To The 36 Chambers (The Dirty Version), and just like that song, this is the last actual song on here (sort of), and just like that one, this is pretty good (and The Rza is a good addition to both). The lines “My lifestyle was far from well/Coulda wrote a book entitled Age 12 and Going Through Hell” and “What is the meaning of CRIME?/Is it Criminals Robbing Innocent Muthafuckas Everytime?” should give you an idea of what you'll hear here.

13. B.I.B.L.E (BASIC INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE LEAVING EARTH) (FEAT KILLAH PRIEST)
I've always treated this as a bonus track unmarked as such, because it's a Killah-Priest-performed, 4th-Disciple-produced song that kind of disrupts the album. The fact that it was also included on Killah Priest's solo album (Heavy Mental, for those of you keeping score) supports my theory. This song's very good, yeah, but certainly my least favorite here. Sorry, I just don't like it, and this vocal loop didn't grew on me so much.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Liquid Swords is an awesome album. No, no, I mean A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It grows on me more and more each day. This is undoubtedly my #1 desert island choice. Chris Rock once said it's just the essence of the Wu-Tang collected in one modest little CD, so if you want to become a disciple of the 36 chambers, this album or Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers would be your best choice. What do you mean, I need a therapist?

BUY OR BURN? No comment.

BEST TRACKS: “4th Chamber”; “Shadowboxin'”; “Duel of the Iron Mic”; “Liquid Swords”; “Labels”; “Cold World”

-Banksta

(Be sure to leave your comments and concerns below. Here's a link to my original post, which I just realized I wrote a really long time ago. Fuck, I feel old.)

25 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 16, 2009

    "his U-God, 50 Cent or Cappadonna reviews are on par with Monty Python's Flying Circus for me"

    Oh my God get off your knees... And yes we all know it's a classic album so why the fuck would you review the obvious when Max did you the favour about 10 months ago?

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  2. AnonymousJuly 16, 2009

    Guy above me: Max was waiting for a reader to review Liquid Swords (see Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Reader Review), so that's probably why it was posted.

    But yeah, I don't think anyone is going to dispute that it's a great album. You could probably just say "this track rips dicks" for each song and it would be a decent review.

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  3. AnonymousJuly 16, 2009

    Lol at anonymous.

    hey check out novablast.blogspot.com if u like hip-hop. (or just the opinons or an asshole)

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  4. I listened to the Cold World remix, and while D'Angelo's hook was a lot better than the regular one, I didn't like the beat nearly as much.

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  5. Nice read. Your 4th Chamber bit had me skipping a heart beat

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  6. Yeah,very great album.Cold world is my fav joint there.

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  7. Thanks for posting my review. I listened to 'Cold World' remix also, but original was better in my opinion. About remixes, though, I prefer the one for (blasphemy alert) 'Wu-Gambinos', maybe because I heard it much later, and I listened to the original so many times I'd vomit if I would listen to it again.

    @ Anonymous (the 1st one): What do you mean I'm dickriding Max? These particular reviews are funniest here, don't tell me you didn't just laughed out loud while reading write-ups about U-God. And Max did the favor to me yesterday.

    Of course it's a classic album, but what's wrong in reviewing it again with different perspective? I don't recall Max calling 'Duel of the Iron Mic' as one of the best tracks.

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  8. Good review.
    I'm a rookie in the rap audience, so I started off with Wu-Tang (thanks in part to this blog; you've affected my lifestyle Max, in a good way). Obviously Liquid Swords is without a doubt in the top 3 of all their albums, be it solo, group, compilation or whatever.
    Though I'd like to know, what's with the divided opinion on KH 10304? I particularly love it, but I don't quite understand the 'controversy' around it.

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  9. Truth be told, I don't know what's so "controversial" about it either, but I left it in the review just in case someone felt the same way. I feel it may just be a language barrier thing.

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  10. AnonymousJuly 17, 2009

    4th cmaber sucks balls????? what the fuck is wrong with you? even max out of all ppl liked it

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  11. He didn't actually say that the song sucked balls. Re-read that portion of the review.

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  12. The whole thing I meant on 'Killah Hills 10304' is that usually (at least I met with that) when someone is naming the 'weakest track' off of Liquid Swords, it goes for this particular song. People who do it are not blaming GZA's rhymes, but rather high-pitched and, for some people, annoying RZA's beat. I just meant that some people love it, some don't, and while nobody is discussing grandeur of, say, '4th Chamber', I understand 'Killah Hills 10304' is more to personal taste.

    About '4th Chamber', though, and the last Anonymous; I somehow KNEW someone would just skip to the comments to say I'm retarded after reading first sentence of that portion, or misunderstanding it, but I can't imagine what part of it can't be understood.

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  13. PS. And I think it's not a language barrier thing, since many people actually have problems with understanding me. Sorry.

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  14. I wouldn't worry about it too much.

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  15. Killah Hills 10304 is an album highlight for me.

    "He set bombs in bottles of champagne
    and when niggas popped the cork
    niggas lost half they brain"

    One of the best lines on the album!

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  16. nigga this shit is a masterpiece....i have bitch that think that think they know everything...if you dont like it just shut your ass..

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  17. CLAAAAAAAASSSSSIC . WERDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  18. P_CaptainMay 17, 2011

    I know I'm a bit late on this but I had to come and mention this for future readers that don't want to be misled with false information.

    "I assume you already know that these “themed” songs started here"

    This is NOT true. Spice 1 already did "187 Proof", "187 Pure" and "Trigga Happy" in 1992 and 1993 which were built upon a specific theme. On the former, he tells a crime tale using various alcohol products as the characters, the same is done in "187 Pure" but with drug names while the latter does it by naming guns.

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  19. Although I appreciate you going way back with these write-ups, I'm talking about how GZA's themed songs started on here. The gimmick had obviously been done before. But given that this was written way back in the day, I will admit that my writing wasn't yet as concise, so it's easy to misinterpret that sentiment.

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  20. P_CaptainMay 18, 2011

    Actually it's not you who wrote this review so unless you added the highlighted part yourself without it being mentioned by Banksta, it wasn't you who I was referring to with that comment.

    Another one I forgot to mention is "Cereal Killer" by Geto Boys where Scarface raps one lengthy verse about a crime tale using breakfast cereals as the characters. (Funny, I know!)

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  21. Eh, you're right. I make mistakes. It's cool.

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  22. FRESH! Fresh is a fucking awesome movie. Fuck yeah.

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  23. AnonymousJune 28, 2013

    how is your right ear wasted? Must be horrible to listen to music only with one ear

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  24. I much prefer the Cold World D'angelo remix. But I heard it first though, I got the Wu-Chronicles cd first before I picked up Liquid Swords as a kid, probably has something to do with it. But I much prefer the remix, even has very cool sound fx that go on top of swear words, but swear words are not actually removed so sounds awesome.

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