Review Summary: GZA gets Muggs and makes the best album of his career since Liquid Swords
GZA is on his way to a make a master piece again, or is he? While he is one of the best MC’s to ever have a grip on the microphone, he’s a bit boring on his own with a production genius behind him, making the perfect beats for him. That easily explains his first two albums after Liquid Swords. They’re great albums, but without the presence of a soul producer, they sounded a bit uninspired musically. On Grandmasters, GZA makes an album that is almost worth every ounce of weight that Liquid Swords was, and is easily one of the best solo Wu-Tang albums released so far.
Why is that Grandmasters is so good and albums like Legend of the Liquid Swords are good but boring? Well, this could be the production of DJ Muggs, who, like RZA on Liquid Swords, creates a dark atmosphere on his own. Muggs occasionally adds a little bit of light flavor in order to spice up the record, like the dream-like sequence in the beginning of the third verse of “Destruction of A Guard”, but the production mostly consists of a precise, hard hitting hypnotic dark atmosphere, with the occasional use of soulful voices. Production-wise, highlights come in the form of “Queen’s Gambit”, which has a very minimalistic use of a singular piano line and slight back drop of horns and bass, to create very relaxed, easy moving, and almost jazzy groove. Another highlight on Grandmasters production-wise is “Those That’s Bout It”, a song that consists of a menacing-sounding keyboard and high pitched soul samples.
GZA puts up a great performance as well, but that is merely status quo for him. Even then, he has some highlight there as well. “All In Together Now” is head banging respect to Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and “Those That’s Bout It” is an excellent opening, and shows that this effort is a bit more of a story tellers album instead of a rap hustlers album. While songs like “Liquid Swords” in his earlier career were almost word-play show-off tracks, GZA no longer feels the need to just be a gigantic lyrical show off, and instead of that, he has been decidedly more of a story teller, and it works great for Grandmasters.
Truth is, Grandmasters is every bit of the album that Liquid Swords ever was, but instead of spending a lot of the albums time proving himself, GZA spends all of his time giving us realistic, brooding stories of the hood and all of the interesting details it has. Saying that you should get Grandmasters right now is an understatement of what I want of you right now.