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.
AllMusic Review by John Bush
feat: Killah Priest