b. Gary Grice, 22 August 1966, Staten Island, New York, USA. The Genius (aka GZA) is one of the many talents who comprise the Wu-Tang Clan, the chess-playing, martial arts hip-hop crew whose members include Raekwon, Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and RZA, among others. The roots of the Wu-Tang Clan lay in All In Together Now, formed by Genius with his cousins RZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Like the majority of his compatriots he is a native of New York’s Staten Island district. In common with RZA, the Genius had already recorded as a solo artist for Cold Chillin’ Records before becoming part of the collective. However, when the Clan as a whole signed with BMG Records, provision for each member to work solo was enshrined in the contract, and the Genius used the opportunity to link with his third record company, Geffen Records.
The Genius’ Liquid Swords closely mirrored the sound of the Wu-Tang Clan, built around a musical backing of stripped down beats, with samples culled from martial arts movies and movie dialogue. This came as little surprise given that RZA, the production mastermind behind both the collective Wu-Tang Clan and several associated solo releases, was again involved in Liquid Swords. Lyrically, Genius continued to concentrate on down at heel scenarios concerning blue collar crime and drug smuggling, epitomised by the chilling true story tale of ‘Killah Hills 10304’. Following the Wu-Tang Clan’s disappointing second album, 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever, Genius began work on Beneath The Surface. Released in June 1999, album tracks such as ‘Publicity’ and ‘Victim’ served as a timely reminder of Genius’ striking lyrical talent.