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Released 1995, Geffen Records

A solo effort by the GZA, aka The Genius, of Wu-Tang Clan fame. Like most Wu-Tang albums, it was produced by RZA (RZA and GZA are pronounced phonetically, ie 'rizza' and 'jizza'). In addition to producing the album, RZA also raps on the album, along with Method Man, Killa Priest, Inspecta Deck, Ghostface Killah, ODB, Masta Killa and Raekwon (this might make you think it isn't a solo album, well it just is).

I'm having trouble finding the tracklist for this LP (I've even heard that the tracklist printed on the cover was out of order...), but I think it goes something like this:
1. Liquid Swords
2. Duel Of The Iron Mic
3. Living In The World Today
4. Gold
5. Cold World
7. Labels
8. 4th Chamber
9. Hell's Wind Staff
10. Shadowboxin'
11. Investigative Reports
12. Killa Hills 10304
13. Swordsman
14. I Gotcha Back
15. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
(/msg corrections)

This album by the Genius/GZA was his first solo album released, and the second recorded. It was the fourth Wu Tang Clan solo album released, and at the time was considered to be Vintage Wu. The GZA has been a somewhat less than prominent Wu-Tang member in recent years, but when this album was released, it was perhaps the artistic high point of the Wu.

The album succeeds because it balances the two things the Wu always does- grit and philosophy so well. It is full of violent street tales interspiced with cosmological themes, inlcuding a running series of clips taken from the famous story of Itto Ogami, the Shogun Assassin. All of this fits together into a mishmash of references to drug trafficking, King Cyrus, slave trade and international conspiracy. Also, the last two songs allow the GZA to comment on his own life with such lines as "I could have written a book with a title 'Age twelve and and going through hell'".

The music on the album, as befits the somewhat somber lyrics, is somewhat more introspective and muted then the usual Wu fare. This is not party music. Not to say that none of the tracks bang. One or two do (such as 4th Chamber), but it is more the type of music to get hyped and pissed off with simuletaneously, then some of the purely boomable music found on other Wu-Tang albums.

This remains one of my favorite rap albums to this day. If anyone wants to understand the multifaceted world of the Wu, this is the place to start.

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