Countdown to 8 Diagrams, Part 5: GZA/Genius.

According to his Wikipedia entry, GZA describes his style as “visual and descriptive, yet at the same time succinct.” Fitting that this would come from someone with a nickname like “Genius”. I couldn’t picture Gucci Mane saying something like that.

Today’s honoree: the head of the Voltron that is the Wu. New album, Protools, due out in January.

Download: GZA – “Destruction Of A Guard (Pop, Pop, Pop)” featuring Raekwon (off Grandmasters, 2005)

This album, a collaboration between GZA and DJ Muggs (of Cypress Hill/Soul Assassins fame), unfortunately didn’t get much recognition. Some may have not pictured Muggs as being an ideal producer for GZA, but “When The Fat Lady Sings” (off Muggs’ 2nd Soul Assassins album) showed potential for great chemistry between the two. Lyrically, GZA was as sharp as ever — I’d say this was his best work since Liquid Swords… that is, if we can acknowledge any of GZA’s post-Liquid Swords work.

Download: Wu-Tang Clan – “Reunited” (off Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)

GZA is known for sounding rather calm and collected when rhyming — you could almost picture him standing perfectly still in the studio reciting his verses. So, it was quite a shock for the first MC heard on Wu-Tang Forever (after that long, dragging intro) to be an energetic, almost-rowdy GZA. Always that element of surprise with the Wu — that’s probably why everyone who still hasn’t heard 8 Diagrams yet — all 3 of us out there — have no idea what to expect.

Download: Ghostface – “Wu Banga 101″ featuring GZA, Raekwon, Cappadonna & Masta Killa (off Supreme Clientele, 2000)

In a classic, semi-biographical verse, GZA pays homage to himself (“My first verbal brawl, started on some ‘yes, yes, y’all”), the Clan (“See the logo? A monument in hip hop/Carved out in a giant landscape of broken rocks”), and Wu-Tang Forever (“No surprise, double disc touched five/Those elements, kept environments colonized”).

Download: Afu-Ra – “Big Acts Little Acts” featuring GZA (off Body Of The Life Force, 1999)

Afu-Ra’s debut album is a heavily slept-on near-classic, with a solid amount of DJ Premier production, and only 2 bad songs on it (which, for the record, are undeniably bad songs). GZA hasn’t made too many appearances on other rappers’ albums outside of the Wu camp — Afu definitely made the most out of the opportunity.

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