I’ve been hearing a lot of talk today about an upcoming Instagram Live DJ battle between DJ Premier and RZA, two legendary hip-hip producers who shaped the sound and direction of ’90s East Coast hip-hop, and how such a battle would play out.
No, I’m going to weigh in on that (cough*Preemobyalongshot*cough), but I do have a prime RZA beat on repeat this evening, from the classic solo debut of GZA, Liquid Swords.
So by 1995 Wu-Tang Clan was running shit. Their ’93 debut Enter The Wu-Tang helped kick off NYC’s ’90s rap renaissance, giving the East a blueprint for a guttural sound that would compete with Cali’s popular gangsta rap. It would also be an amazing jump off point for the group’s members, who were beginning to issue their own solo efforts, all orchestrated by RZA. Method Man was the first in ’94, and in ’95 we’d see albums from the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, and right here, GZA.
Liquid Swords reigns as one of the best albums from the Wu camp, and one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever. GZA’s pen game is cerebral and layered, and everything is handled like a match of chess (Fun fact: Ka got his restart on a GZA record, and is most definitely cut from the same cloth). The album is dark, cold, and calculating.
So tonight is one of my favorites from the album. “Living In the World Today” is phenomenal. The beat is ominous as hell, as RZA deftly employs some sinister sounding organ and horn hits (which he’s a deity at) and a muted sample. GZA runs wild on the beat, doing loops and pirouettes with complex bars and skillful rhyme schemes. This man had to have been an English major, I swear. This listen is a standout.