Beneath the Surface

The Genius / GZA

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Beneath the Surface Review

by John Bush

There were so many Wu-Tang-related projects released during 1998 and 1999 that listeners -- and even fans -- could be forgiven for a bit of apathy regarding the second solo effort by Wu-Tang's Genius/GZA. The collective's trademark detuned strings had gone from de rigueur to downright dated by mid-1999, and except for a well-received RZA solo album earlier in the year, the lead in hip-hop's hype game appeared to have been taken over by Timbaland's brand of future funk. It may not have proved the commercial smash of a proper Wu-Tang LP, but Genius/GZA's Beneath the Surface is a worthy continuation and development of the Wu-Tang Clan conglomeration. The best tracks here, "Amplified Sample" and "Crash Your Crew," are quintessentially Wu-Tang, but with important tweaks to the trademark sound. The crisp, clean production -- by Wu associates Inspectah Deck, Mathematics, and Arabian Priest -- sounds much better than any project that had been recently issued (even RZA's Bobby Digital), and GZA's raps prove he's the most innovative and talented vocalist Wu-Tang had to offer. The only failure (at least in terms of sound) is "Victim," a cloying track with a bit of scratched acoustic guitar and some X Files-styled strings. Other than a few "skits" that disturb the flow, Beneath the Surface is arguably the best thing to come out of the Wu camp since their second proper album, Forever.

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