Monday, August 12, 2013

Album Review: "Liquid Swords" - GZA The Genius (1995)


I'm not even sure this man needs an introduction, but I'll give him one anyway.

As most of you already know, GZA The Genius (more commonly known as just "GZA"), is a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, one that most consider to be the most lyrical member of the group. You also probably already knew that he is the cousin of RZA and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard.

What some of you may not know, however, is that GZA entered the game before the Wu even existed. In fact, he, RZA, and ODB started a three-man group called "All In Together Now" back in the day. That eventually resulted in GZA (then known as just "The Genius") being signed to Cold Chillin' Records. There, he actually released his debut album, Words From The Genius, in 1991. To be perfectly honest, I really couldn't care less about that project, as Liquid Swords is miles beyond it. Heck; Liquid Swords is miles beyond just about every hip-hop album that has ever graced the genre.

That's why I will be reviewing GZA's first album with the Wu rather than the actual first album of his career. 

Except for Killah Priest's "B.I.B.L.E.," Liquid Swords is produced entirely by RZA, and because "B.I.B.L.E." (produced by 4th Disciple) is a Killah Priest song and is on Priest's debut album Heavy Mental, I will not be including it in this review.

Now that's enough background information about a guy that you likely already know about, anyway. Let's get to the review.


1. Liquid Swords
One of the RZA's goofier beats, but it works. You would think GZA would have started this album with a more aggressive backdrop, but he easily glides over the almost comical (in a good way) instrumental. Solid way to begin a classic effort, but to me, this title track doesn't even scratch the surface on how good the rest of Liquid Swords is.

2. Duel of The Iron Mic
The energy picks up nicely here on this posse cut, as RZA's piano-sampled instrumental sounds really freaking good and GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck all oblige. They just don't make music like this anymore.

3. Living In The World Today
The first thing you will notice about this record is how dope the drums are. Well, once the drums actually kick in anyway. Once they do, you'll feel like your eardrums are being battered. The horns that pop up throughout the track sound pretty cool, too. Method Man drops some adlibs on the hook, but he doesn't actually put down a verse. Don't worry; Meth will do that soon.

4. Gold
No; those adlibs you hear from Meth at the beginning do not mean he is going to drop a verse on "Gold," but you know what, GZA doesn't need him (and again; be patient; Meth is on his way). On what is easily the most aggressive beat on Liquid Swords thus far, Genius goes in and makes you want to strike the nearest object repeatedly. Instrumentals like this just confirm RZA's genius.

5. Cold World
This has always been one of the most popular records on the album, and while it's certainly better than just about all of the B.S. that saturates the market today, I was never all that into it. The beat strikes me as a bit bland as opposed to the rest of the project. The hook by Life was pretty cool, though. Oh, and Deck makes a guest appearance here. It really is a shame that he never released an album during that period of Wu dominance during the mid 90s. By the time he put out his debut record, that era was sadly over.

6. Labels
Remember when I commented on how hard the drums were on "Living In The World Today"? Well, they're even grimier on "Labels." On what is actually a fairly simple (but incredibly dope) instrumental by RZA, GZA rips ish up. It's short, but it's sick. "Labels" is best listened to in the ride. You'll thank me later.

7. 4th Chamber
This posse record was another one of the most well-liked songs on Liquid Swords, and you can easily see why. Once that beat kicks in, you'll immediately start nodding your head. It's as if your head will start moving independent from your brain, even though that isn't even possible. Ghostface Killah makes his first appearance on the album here, and Killah Priest and RZA himself also drop guest verses. Everyone comes correct.

8. Shadowboxin'
Anddd Method Man finally makes an appearance where he doesn't just drop adlibs. He comes with one of the most vicious performances in the Wu catalog, and what Wu fan hasn't said "talkin' out your assholeeeee" in casual conversation at some point in their life? Plus, Meth's "you know my steez" line helped give birth to one of the most famous songs Gang Starr has ever done (I'm not going to tell you the name, because, well, you should know it, and if you don't, well...I don't even know). RZA's beat on this also bangs. If you don't love this song, you probably hate your life.

9. Hell's Wind Staff/Killah Hills 10304
This sounds good at the start, but then after a while, the beat kind of gets tiring and repetitive. Plus, it's kind of annoying that the song doesn't actually start until a minute-and-a-half in. I don't really have much else to add. Definitely not one of my favorite cuts on Liquid Swords.

10. Investigative Reports
I go back and forth between this and "Shadowboxin'" in trying to decide which is the best song on the album, but I find myself leaning toward "Investigative Reports" more often than not. The beat is absolutely crazy, possessing hard-as-hell drums and an extremely ominous sample. Raekwon makes his presence on Liquid Swords known here, and he drops what is the best verse on the record. Also, how about U-God on the hook? He sounds really damn good. Ghostface puts down a verse, as well, and he does not disappoint. One of the best songs in the Wu catalog. Easily.

11. Swordsman
One of the best tracks on Liquid Swords. The RZA instrumental is particularly menacing, and GZA's raps are equally as ominous. GZA makes sure to let you know what happens to motherfuckers who step out of place, and you know what? It makes you never want to step out place. Thanks, Genius.

12. I Gotcha Back
Solid way to close out the album. "I Gotcha Back" isn't one of the project's most impressive tracks or anything, but it's good in its own way. Nice drums and a nice use of multiple samples by RZA, who also appears on this cut for some adlibs.


There really isn't much else to say other than the fact that Liquid Swords is phenomenal in every sense of the word. It is one of the few albums that can go blow-for-blow with Illmatic, and, in my opinion, it is the best work in the Wu-Tang catalog.

There are never any significant dropoffs on this record, as the energy effectively remains the same throughout. GZA also proves that he is the best rapper in the Clan, as his lyrical acrobatics surpass that of anyone else in the group.

What else do you want me to say? If you don't like this album, then you do not like hip-hop. Sorry.


1. Investigative Reports
2. Shadowboxin'
3. Swordsman
4. Duel of The Iron Mic
5. Gold


  1. Hey man good to see you back with some reviews...I found your site early this year and I appreciate your work. GZA is one of my favorite artists and obviously this is album is legendary. I like that you Investigative Reports in your top 5, I love that beat especially. Labels is definitely in my top 5 GZA songs period though. Good work!

  2. I appreciate that man. I was just incredibly busy the past two years and didn't have much time for this site, but now I'll hopefully be back for good.

    "Labels" is definitely awesome. I was choosing between that and "Gold" for the final spot in the top five. The album is just so raw that it's hard to pick which songs are the best.

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  4. I'm interested to see what you think of GZA's other albums

  5. Yep on any really good album, it's always impossible to pick a top 5. I'd also have Living In The World Today in my top 5 on this album. I'm excited to see what other dope albums you look at next. peace

  6. I honestly don't think GZA has a bad album in his discography. A lot of people hate on Beneath The Surface, but I actually thought it was pretty dope. I'll get to some more of his stuff eventually. Thanks for reading/commenting!