The Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA has an impressive résumé that dates back to his 1989 Cold Chillin’ debut, Words from the Genius. His 1995 Wu-affiliated album, Liquid Swords, can claim to be one of the best full-lengths the Clan have to their credit. And GZA’s follow-up, Beneath the Surface, was brief but tight.
The long-awaited Legend of the Liquid Sword offers a few more soon-to-be Shaolin classics, and even the filler with various Wu B-leaguers doesn’t get in the way of the GZA’s next-level rhyme schemes. The first single, "Fame," booms with a simple bass, snare, and piano loop — a perfect counterpoint to GZA’s witty, celebrity-laced flow ("Took Abraham’s Lincoln through the Todd Bridge expansion"; "Larry’s Bird flew outta Nicolas Cage"). On "Animal Planet," he narrates life within the concrete jungle. Trickling piano keys open "Auto Bio," and a warped guitar riff emerges to accompany the deft rhyme pace on "Stay in Line." And original Wu members Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck make memorable cameos. All of which should help quash any loose talk of the Wu-Tang’s imminent demise.