As promised in my last #ThrowbackThursday installment, I will provide more in-depth analysis of albums, including song-by-song reviews. Starting with “Liquid Swords” by GZA, this week’s album was suggested by the homie Jalen (who I give more than enough shoutouts to).
Yet, as always, I’m not a music critic or a “hip-hop head,” just someone giving their honest, first-listen opinion on an album considered a “classic.” Now, without further ado, here are my thoughts.
If you’ve been reading and paying attention to my opinion on other albums, I love when an album has a theatrical feel to it. It not only helps set the tone but allows listeners to be taken through some type of storyline or plot.
Although I’ve never seen the movie “Shogun Assassin,” the excerpt at the beginning of the album/this particular track was quite interesting.
I wish the transition from this sample to the actual lyrical content of the song was more smooth though. I was hoping for the rest of the track to have a similar dark and gritty vibe to it but it didn’t.
As far as lyrical content, I respected it and enjoyed verse two in specific but the monotone delivery made this track boring for me. For this reason, I personally felt this was a weak album intro.
A lot more could have been done with the film excerpt and the way the message of the song was presented musically.
Duel of the Iron Mic (ft. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Masta Killa, and Inspectah Deck)
Beginning with another excerpt from “Shogun Assassin,” I enjoyed this track a whole lot more than the previous/opening. GZA delivery was definitely stronger and I liked how the other artists each brought a different dynamic to the track that meshed well together.
Although it’s hard to say who had the best verse on this track, I personally think GZA held his own. That “cut across the semi-gloss rhymes you floss / shit is outdated, just like the neck loads of sterlings / suede-fronts, bell bottoms and tri-colored shearlings” bar made me do a ugly face so I’ll give him that one.
I also enjoyed the production of this track and the closing movie excerpt.
Living In the World Today (RZA, Method Man)
As far as production, delivery and the overall sound of this track, this is definitely one my favorites on this album. I want to say someone in Pro Era sampled this but I’m not sure. The production sounds eerily familiar.
My favorite moment on this particular track was the back and forth exchange between GZA and Method Man on the bridge. The hook and chorus is also quite catchy. There were a lot of stand out-lyrics on this track as well. Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this track and don’t have a bad thing to say about it.
The set-up for this track was weird because it sounds like one long ass interlude or some shit but I liked it. The production is probably the most stand out element of this track but that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I like how the track is about drug dealing but the message isn’t as clear or explicit as one would it expect it to be, if that makes sense. It has a story-telling type of feel to it like the rest of the set-up of the album, which I enjoyed.
In addition to the production though, I really loved the hooks and how they all had a similar flow and set-up but were different. The shit was hard to say the least.
Cold World (ft. Inspectah Deck, Life)
This was also one of my favorite tracks on this album. The element I liked most about it was the sing-song hook. It brought a different feel to the overall sound of the album. Then of course, the dominant story-telling element throughout the song was enjoyable.
I also liked the message of the song and how it somewhat touches on social issues and struggles within minority communities, which is obviously important to speak on and fits in with the rest of the album,
I do want to say that I did chuckle at the bar that included “crack like tacos from Mexican,” though because that shit was mad random but lowkey hard.
Labels (ft. RZA, Masta Killa)
What I liked about this particular track is the message behind it and the way the lyrical content was presented on it.
For one, the track is about how shady record labels can be and they even call out a few in particular. I also liked how the spoken word intro helped set the tone as well.
Second, the flows and wordplay on this track made it unique in comparison to the other tracks on this album. My favorite bar was easily “my priority is that I’m first priority / I bone the secret out a bitch in a sorority / so look out for A&M, the Abbot and the Master.”
There were a number of bars throughout this one that I felt had multiple meanings and stood out to me but I liked that one the most.
4th Chamber (ft. RZA, Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest)
I personally feel like this track was all over the place and I wasn’t a fan of it. However, I did like the rock type of vibe the production this one has. That was the only thing I liked about it though.
I feel if the track had more structure the message of it would have been more effective. Yet, there wasn’t anything about this that stood out to me as far as lyrical content, in comparison to other songs on this album. I will say RZA had the best version though, in my opinion.
Shadowboxin’ (ft. Method Man, Johnny Blaze)
Although the production on this track was pretty simple, the phrase “simplicity is key” applies here. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album but my favorite thing about it besides the production would definitely have to be the flows and wordplay throughout this one. Method Man stole the show on this one with the delivery and all.
Hell’s Wind Staff / Killah Hills 10304
As far as the theatrical feel and concept of the album goes, this track would have to be my favorite out of all the others. The set-up of the opening skit pulls me right into the storyline which was obviously the intent, therefore, the skit was effective.
I’m not a big fan of the production of this track however, I do think it was quite interesting. According to GZA himself, the production incorporates a bunch of random ass sounds he picked up with a portable recorder he used while out-and-about one day.
The production plays a huge role in a song and I don’t think producers receive enough credit for their creativity and hard work.
Investigative Reports (ft. U-God, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah)
Going back on the phrase, “simplicity is key,” this particular track is simple in terms of production and the hook but effective. I like how they let beat ride out and let the elements of the song that needed to stand out, do so on it’s own.
I also like how this track doesn’t include another movie excerpt but it does include some type of television report. It not only obviously relates to the title of the track but it also sounds sort of similar to the movie excerpts.
I don’t know if it was done on purpose or not and I’m just missing something but I thought that was pretty cool.
Swordsman (ft. Killah Priest)
Out of all of the other tracks on the album, I think this one sounds the grimmest and I like it. I think if the opening track followed a similar type of vibe, paired with the opening movie excerpt, I would have enjoyed it more.
I also like how GZA started his first verse on this one. The flow and deliveries were on point as well. Really don’t have much to say about this track though other than I enjoyed it.
I Gotcha Back (ft. Killah Priest)
This was another weird track for me. I’m not a fan of the production on this one, yet something about it makes me like it. It sounds like a movie soundtrack that would match the move excerpts used throughout the album.
The delivery of the hook was a bit annoying to me however, the lyrics were catchy and somewhat relatable.
My favorite moment on this track though was the added backronym for “crime,” which was “criminals robbing innocent motherfuckers every time.”
B.I.B.L.E (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)
This track also uses an acronym in its title and throughout and is actually my favorite track on the album, in addition to the other two tracks I specified as favorites.
From the overall theme/message and lyrical content of this track, to the production, as well as the flows and delivery, this one all around was well composed. It was also a great outro, making up for the album intro I wasn’t much of a fan of.
Overall, I think this was a pretty great album. I see myself giving it replay value in the future but nothing too heavy. It’s not something I would listen to often but every blue moon when I’m in the mood to listen to it.
What I enjoyed the most about it was of course the theatrical feel of it and the movie excerpts/skits throughout it.
What I disliked about it though was the lack of consistency in terms of the overall delivery of the album. There were some tracks that I felt had a more monotone vibe and ones I weren’t too hype about and then there were others that weren’t monotone all, that I was actually pretty geeked about.
However, as I previously stated, it was great album. I respect the artistry of it and in the end, I added a few of the songs in particular to my library. Oh, and the artwork for the album is hard as hell. That definitely did not go unnoticed.
Be sure to recommend albums for upcoming reviews and I’ll catch you all for the next installment two weeks from now, as always.