GZA / The Genius

Legend of the Liquid Sword

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Released at the end of a quiet year for the Wu-Tang family, GZA's Legend of the Liquid Sword proves Gary Grice is easily the most underrated rapper in the fold, and definitely the most consistent as a solo artist. The album gains power as it progresses; after a compelling "Auto Bio" that's chained down by a bland production, and "Did Ya Say That," wherein the Genius sounds downright confused (or worse, resigned) about the game of label politics, Legend of the Liquid Sword locks into a great groove with the single "Knock, Knock" and rarely misses after that. Unsurprisingly, the Wu-Tang features "Fam (Members Only)," featuring RZA and Masta Killa, and "Silent," featuring Ghostface Killah, are big highlights, with a sound similar to 2001's Iron Flag. Surprisingly, though, his track with low-profile Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck bests the other two. "Fame" finds the Genius weaving some clever word games around celebrity names, and guest Allen Anthony makes the title track into a grand funk jam akin to OutKast. The productions on Legend of the Liquid Sword are below average for a talent like his, but chances are good that's by design; since GZA is a rapper's rapper, his smooth flow and excellent imagination are all that's necessary to propel any of these tracks.

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