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This album was released on November 7th in 1995. I’ve been really looking forward to this album for a few reasons. GZA is one of my favorite members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Lyrically, I’d say he’s definitely in the top 3 for me, rivaled only by Inspectah Deck & Raekwon. Also, look at that fucking album cover. That shit is beautiful. That’s one of my favorite album covers of all time. Even the title of this album is really cool to me. I just feel like this is gonna be a really cool project. When I think of the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA just seems the most Wu-Tangy, you know? I’m not really sure what I mean by that… Maybe it’s because he was the first member to release any music. That probably has something to do with it. Anyway, I’m expecting this album to be dope af. It’s usually mentioned as one of the best solo Wu-Tang albums, right next to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… & Ironman. And Fishscale too I guess. I’m not really sure which Ghostface album is supposed to be better. I just know they’re both classics. But yeah, this shit is gonna be great. Every track is produced by RZA.
Track 1: Liquid Swords
This track opens up with a sample from the 1980s martial arts film, Shogun Assassin. Okay, now RZA’s speaking. Oh shit. YES. This beat is dope af. God, I love the RZA. This hook is great. GZA’s rappin’ his fuckin’ ass off now. God, this is so fucking dope. I love Wu-Tang so much lmao.
I don’t waste ink, nigga, I think / I drop megaton bombs more faster than you blink / ‘Cause rhyme thoughts travel at a tremendous speed / Clouds of smoke of natural blends of weed.
This is great. Gotdamn. The first verse was really dope, but he’s fuckin’ killin’ this second one. His flow is dope.
Niggas styles are old like Mark 5 sneakers / Lyrics are weak like clock radio speakers / Don’t even stop in my station and attack / While your plan failed; get derailed like Amtrak.
I definitely fuck with this shit. This is dope af.
Track 2: Duel Of The Iron Mic Feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Masta Killa & Inspectah Deck
Oh fuckin’ shit. This is gonna be great. HOLY… This beat is fucking incredible. Fuck, dude. GZA’s killin’ this first verse.
Picture bloodbaths and elevator shafts / Like these murderous rhymes tight from genuine craft / Check the print, it’s where veterans spark the letterings / Slow moving MC’s is waiting for the editing.
His verse was dope af. Ol’ Dirty Bastard is just on the hook. It’s only two lines, so I don’t really have an opinion on it. I definitely don’t mind it at all, but I don’t think it was really necessary. Masta Killa’s on the second verse. He did his thing. It kinda seemed like he wasn’t even rhyming at first, but it got better as the song progressed. Deck fuckin’ murdered that shit. Fuck. I don’t know who had my favorite verse. I loved the way the production kind of expanded during INS’ verse. The way the movie samples were incorporated was really cool, and then once the bass came back in it just sounded so fucking awesome. Fuck. Lemme listen to this shit again so I can decide whether GZA or INS had my favorite verse. Fuuuck… Hmm… Okay, I think I’m gonna give this one to Deck.
Adults kill for drugs plus the young bucks bust / Ducking handcuffs; throats get cut when dough rush / Out of town foes look shook, but still pose / We move like real pros through the streets we stroll.
He went the fuck off on that shit. I really liked his explosive delivery too. I definitely fuck with this track. It’s even better than the previous one. This shit is dope af.
Track 3: Living In The World Today
Hmm… This beat sounds kinda familiar. I feel like I’ve heard this sample before. Why do I feel like Nas used it once? Oh shit. Once the beat actually drops this shit is incredible. This is definitely my favorite beat on the album so far. The hook is dope. There are some uncredited vocals from Method Man, but he only says one line. The first verse was awesome.
Sleep holds put strangle on commercial angle / Microphone cords tangled from being Star Spangled / Now, who could ever say they heard of this? / My motherfuckin’ style is mad murderous.
Holy mother of fuck. This motherfucker snapped on that second verse. Gotdamn. Lmao.
From that point the God made a statement / Draftin’ tracements, replacements in basements / Materials in sheet-rock to sound proof the beatbox / And microscopic optics received through the boxes / Obnoxious topic, major labels, flavor tropical / Punchlines that’s unstoppable.
Man this album just keeps getting better and better. I definitely fuck with this track. This shit is dope af to me.
Track 4: Gold
This beat is dope af. I love how dark and gritty it sounds. Fuuuck. It’s gonna be impossible to choose a favorite song. The first verse was so fucking awesome.
While we set up camp we got vamped / Put the stake through his heart, I ripped his fucking fangs apart / Snake got smoked on the set like Brandon Lee / Blown out the frame like Pan Am Flight 103.
There are so many dope lines I wanna quote in that first verse. That shit was HARD. He’s goin’ in about drug dealing. The hook is cool. Jesus, man… This second verse is so fucking dope. The way this man raps is just so awesome to me. Nobody says shit the way GZA says it. He’s rhymin’ his motherfuckin’ ass off on this shit.
His idols would lock down airports and extort / Some import, catching ten percent of what the fiends snort / Up in the ski resorts, up in hills / They move keys and had the skis making drops on snowmobiles.
Fucking shit, dude. That second verse was bananas. I definitely fuck with this shit. This is dope af.
Track 5: Cold World Feat. Inspectah Deck
This beat is pretty dope. There are some uncredited vocals from GZA’s cousin, Life, on the hook. It sounds like he’s a pretty good singer, but I’m not really sure how I feel about it over this beat. It doesn’t really mesh very well in my opinion. It’s not too bad tho. GZA’s telling a Night Before Christmas inspired street tale.
It was the night before New Year’s, and all through the fucking projects / Not a handgun was silent, not even a Tec / Outsiders were stuck by enemies who put fear / And blasted on the spot before the pigs were there.
This is really fuckin’ cool. Good fucking lord. GZA is rhyming his motherfuckin’ ass off right now. I feel like I’m saying that for all of his verses, but seriously this dude is killin’ this shit. His flow isn’t anything special, but his rhyme schemes are crazy. The first verse was dope af.
Similar to hit men who pull out Tecs & then / Drop those who crack like tacos from Mexicans / Rapid like recipients cashing checks again / Back to the motherfucking spot on Lexington.
Yeah, I’m not crazy about this hook from Life. Apparently when they originally recorded this song, Life was so off beat that the RZA had to go in and manually alter the placement of his vocals over the production. Holy shit. Okay, I honestly think Inspectah Deck might be my favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan. From what I understand, a lot of people acknowledge him as one of the better MCs in the group lyrically, but he doesn’t get as much recognition due to his lack of a classic album. That kinda sucks that he doesn’t have a classic project, but I don’t think that’s enough to keep him from being my favorite member. He’s fucking awesome.
No time to freeze, undercovers ease up in Grands Prix / And seize packages and pocket the currency / Cliques control strips full clips are sprayed / Yellow tape barricades sidewalks where bodies lay.
I’m still not really feelin’ the hook. This is my least favorite track so far, but it’s still really fuckin’ good. I just don’t think it’s as good as the other songs sonically. INS & GZA both killed this shit tho. This song is dope.
Track 6: Labels
Alright, it’s clear from RZA’s intro that this song is gonna serve as a giant middle finger to the music industry. Well, not the artists, but the corporations and labels. This has everything to do with the politics involved in the music business, and nothing to do with the art itself. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but GZA hates Cold Chillin’ Records about as much as I hate Cardinal Gibbons High School because they didn’t give his first album the promotion it deserved, so that’s why GZA’s on his Joe Budden shit. Well I guess Joe Budden’s technically on his GZA shit now because he hasn’t been so public about his enmity towards labels until recently. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. GZA’s goin’ in now. This is awesome. He’s throwing so many shots. Nearly every single line has a clever diss towards a specific label.
Tommy ain’t my motherfuckin’ Boy / When you fake moves on a nigga you employ / We’ll all emerge [EMIRG] off your set, now you know, goddamn / I show Livin’ Large niggas how to flip a Def Jam / And Ruff up the motherfuckin’ House ’cause I smother / You Cold Chillin’ motherfuckers; I still Warn a Brother / I’m Ruthless, my clan don’t have to act wild.
Holy fuckin’ shit. This is insane. This has to be one of the best verses I’ve ever heard to be honest. Just the way he worked in so many different labels into one verse is fucking crazy. I might’ve missed a few, but if I’m counting correctly he referenced THIRTY FOUR different labels in that one verse. I almost didn’t catch that Warner Bros. one. This dude is a fucking genius. I definitely fuck with this track. This shit is dope af.
Track 7: 4th Chamber Feat. Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest & RZA
Holy shitfuck. This beat is fucking incredible. Okay, this is definitely the best beat on the album so far. It sounds like a better version of the beat from Bug Zapper by Aesop Rock. Maybe Aesop Rock sampled this track. The first verse from Ghostface Killah was fantastic. Man, this shit is so fucking awesome. This whole album is like a dream come true so far.
Kangols in rainbow colors, promoters try to hold dough / Give me mine before Po wrap you up in so & so / I ran the Dark Ages; Constantine the Great, Henry the 8th / Built with Genghis Khan / The red suede Wally Don.
The way Killah Priest comes in right behind him is really nice too. His flow is nice. Killah Priest is actually a really good rapper. His verse was dope. Holy fuck. RZA slaughtered this shit. Man, I REALLY like RZA. I know he’s not the most popular member of the group as an MC, but I really like his voice and delivery. His flow was fucking great on this shit too.
Documents on how they raped the continents / And lynched the prominent Dominant Islamic / Asiatic black Hebrew; The year 2002, the battle’s filled with the Wu / Six million devils just died from the Bubonic Flu / Or the Ebola virus,under the reign of King Cyrus / You can see the weakness of a man right through his iris.
GZA’s on the last verse. He had a real cool delivery, and he rhymed his ass off too. This might actually be my favorite track so far. I don’t have any gripes with it at all. This is dope af to me.
Track 8: Shadowboxin’ Feat. Method Man
This beat is cool. Goddamn. The first verse from Method Man was fantastic. I wasn’t expecting that shit. Well, I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know Method Man could rap like that; it just kinda caught me off guard. I don’t know why.
I keeps it moving, know just what the fuck I’m doing / Rap insomniac; fiend to catch a nigga snoozing / Slip the cardiac, arrest me / Exorcist Hip Hop possess me / Crunch a nigga like a Nestle / You know my steez / Burning to the third degree / Sneaky ass alley cat, top pedigree.
He killed that shit. This song uses the same movie sample that was on Guillotine by Raekwon. The second verse from GZA was really dope, but I don’t know… I honestly think Method Man might’ve got him on this one. It kinda feels like Meth hijacked the song because he comes in again right after GZA’s done. He has a much larger presence on this track. I really fuck with this song tho. I’m not completely amazed by it like I was with a lot of the other songs, but it’s still pretty fuckin’ dope.
Track 9: Hell’s Wind Staff / Killah Hills 10304
Okay, the “Hell’s Wind Staff” section of this track is just a skit in which RZA & some other fucks perform some kinda drug deal. It was cool I guess, but I could’ve done without it. Killah Hills 10304 is starting now. This beat is dope. Okay, GZA’s tellin’ a drug dealin’ story again. GZA’s flow is really fuckin’ nice on this one. He’s rappin’ his fuckin’ ass off.
Briefcase filled with one point five, that’s the bribe / Take it or commit suicide / First rule: anyone who schemes on the gold in Syria / I want they small intestines ripped from they interior.
This shit is hard as fuck. Oh. It just ended. There’s only one verse. That’s fine. The beat was great, and the verse was nice as hell too. I could’ve done without that long ass skit, and I guess another verse couldn’t hurt, but it’s honestly not that big of a deal. I fuck with this track. This is dope.
Track 10: Investigative Reports Feat. U-God, Raekwon & Ghostface Killah
This beat is really fuckin’ dope. The hook from U-God is cool. Raekwon’s rippin’ this first verse apart. Fuuuuck, man… It’s really hard for me to choose a favorite member. It’s definitely between Raekwon and Inspectah Deck. I don’t know… Fuck. You know what? For now I’ll play it safe and say Raekwon is my favorite member just because I’ve heard a lot more material from him. I’ll hopefully be able to make a final decision after hearing INS’ first album. Anyway, the first verse from Rae was awesome.
Change for better, that be my only vendetta / With life, feed your seed right, he’s breathing indeed right / Chef remarkable, sparkable raps & tackable gats / Never get jacked; see you then move back.
GZA’s on the second verse. He did his thing. Hmm… I’m honestly not really crazy about this hook from U-God. It’s not really bad, but I just feel like it really puts a halt to the momentum carried by the actual verses. Ghost fuckin’ killed this shit. Fuuuck. Lmao. I kinda wanna put him up there with Deck & GZA. Man… You know what? In 5 years when I’m finally finished with the entire Wu Marathon, I’ll rank all the members of the group. All I can tell you right now is that Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, GZA, and Ghostface Killah are at the top. Not in that order tho. I haven’t figured that shit out yet. Anyway, I really fuck with this song. U-God is only on the hook, and that’s probably for the best if I’m bein’ real. I like this song a lot, but, as I stated earlier, the hook kinda slows things down more than I would’ve preferred. It’s still a really dope song tho. I fuck with this one.
Track 11: Swordsman
Holy fucking shit. This beat is fucking awesome. Jesus fucking Christ. Fuck, man… Okay, this is my favorite beat on the album so far. Lmao. That’s crazy. I didn’t think anything would beat the 4th Chamber beat, but this is fucking incredible. I love how dark it is. It has a really gritty, almost Lo-Fi sound. This shit is crazy. GZA’s rhymin’ his ass off. YOOOO… Okay, THIS shit right HERE, bruh? This is fucking amazing. I love the hook, and GZA murdered that first verse. He’s basically just rapping about being woke.
At a young age, I was molded in a religion I relied on / And got caught up in superstition / Scared to split pole, ducked black cats / Once in a while threw salt over my back / But with knowledge of self from off the shelf / Made things seemed complicated now small like elves.
Holy… mother of… lord… That second verse was fucking awesome. Bruh, this shit is so fucking dope. The way he was rapping about bein’ on the slave ships with white people, and escaping slavery, and the whole love & hate thing… This is just so fucking cool. Yes.. I definitely fuck with this track. This is my favorite song so far. This is dope af.
Track 12: I Gotcha Back
This beat is cool. It sounds really chaotic. The hook’s alright. Lyrically, this is arguably the grittiest track on the whole album. He’s describing the hectic lifestyle one lives in the treacherous inner city environment in which he grew up.
What is the meaning of crime? / Is it Criminals Robbing Innocent Motherfuckers Everytime? / Little shorties take walks to the schoolyard / Trying to solve the puzzles to ‘why is life so hard?’ / Then as soon as they reach the playground, BLAOW / Shots ring off and now one of them lay down.
This is curiously similar to a verse I wrote a while back. Like, it’s almost scary how similar it is. The shit I wrote told a story just like this, except with a much darker, more cynical attitude. That’s neither here nor there tho. Anyway, I wasn’t too crazy about this track sonically at first, but the detailed lyricism definitely made up for it. I definitely fuck with this track. This is dope af.
This album is outstanding. I really don’t know whether I like it more or less than Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… They’re both incredible. In my opinion, they’re pretty much equal. I guess it just depends who I’m in the mood to listen to whenever I’m deciding which one to go with. I mean, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a solo Wu-Tang LP. It’s got a pretty straightforward structure, and it never really tries to do anything too ambitious. It’s just that the execution is damn near flawless. There’s not a single song on this album that isn’t good. I don’t know what kind of person it’d take to hate an album like this. There’s almost nothing wrong with it. The production from the RZA is superlative as always, GZA’s diction and rhymes are impeccable, and all of the features came correct as well. It should be clear by now that I absolutely loved this album, just as much as I loved Raekwon’s debut. This shit is dope af.
Favorite Song: Swordsman
Least Favorite Song: Killah Hills 10304
Denys Cowan did the artwork, he had long run at DC Comics from 1980-1988 before he started freelancing. And has since worked for Marvel and BET along with being a producer on The Boondocks.
This was a great debut, every track flows together, there really isn’t any weakness to this album personal standouts in my head are Labels, Liquid Swords, Living In The World Today, Duel Of The Iron Mic, and Swordsman. Overall I give this a 9.5/10.
Here’s a HipHopDX article about the origin of the cover.