Twenty-five years ago, New York rapper GZA of the legendary Wu Tang Clan released an album that to this day remains a hip-hop classic. Liquid Swords holds nothing back. It’s a relentless look into the dark social issues surrounding GZA’s world which fueled his mind-bending lyricism over some of RZA’s greatest production.
The lead single from this album, “Cold World,” represents everything that is great about this project and exemplifies why GZA is known as “the genius.” This track starts by adapting Clement Clark Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas” and transforming it into a ‘dark, gritty street tale’ to quote GZA himself. He goes on to rap “gunshots, shatter first floor window panes // shells hit the ground and blood stained the dice game // whether pro-calisthenic, any style you set it.” Not only does GZA showcase why he has the 4th largest vocabulary in hip-hop, he also explores the impact of violence on innocent civilians within the street cycle. You could be an expert in martial arts or simply playing a game of dice yet in a “Cold World” death can be right around the corner.
To label “Cold World” as simply a track about violence would be a drastic misinterpretation. It is a social commentary on the dark depths in deprived, crime-ridden neighbourhoods and the consequences this has on the people living there. GZA explores the corruption of crime in these areas on the authorities in place to protect them with the line, “cops creep like caterpillars…// those who try to flee hit the vertebrae // increase the murder rate.”
Liquid Swords is an album that could be studied in immense detail and still there would be room to discover something new. For anyone who claims to be a hip-hop fan this masterpiece is a must listen.