Legend of The Liquid Sword
Q: When are the individual parts stronger than the whole? A: When Wu Tang Clan members go solo. Recent releases from Ghostface Killa and the latest from GZA prove that the solo projects from “strong” island’s prolific Wu-Tang crew are indeed stronger than the collective efforts that resulted in disjointed Wu-Tang Clan releases.
GZA’s Legend of the Liquid Sword pushes no boundaries, breaks no new ground and hardly challenges the listener. It’s just solid hip-hop like the Wu usually makes: straight-up beats and rhymes and no “fake-ass R&B shit.”
Sword is introduced by GZA’s “son.” The monologue furthers the Wu/ Shaolin/NYC mythology by describing his father’s journeys and his liquid sword: his vocal skills. Fortunately, this is the only story-telling track, and it’s music the rest of the way out.
GZA starts personal on “Auto Bio,” punctuated with ’70s-style soul strings, which leads into “Did Ya Say That,” the first of a few critiques of the ugly but necessary business side of the hip-hop industry. Subsequent rhymes go from cutting MCs to crazy jungle allegories that take a few listens to grasp. The second single, “Fame,” is a clever play on celebrity names and their interactions. GZA’s a damn clever MC. He doesn’t mix up his style much but doesn’t really need to.
Guest appearances are minimal in comparison to many recent releases with so many guests you wonder whose album it is. Wu members Ghostface Killa, RZA, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck all make appearances. In typical Wu fashion, the female presence is light. Santi White drops a chorus on “Stay in Time,” one of the best cuts. Allen Anthony sings a tight Curtis Mayfield-sounding chorus on the title track.
Speaking of Mayfield, “Animal Planet” is based around the theme of his “Man’s Temptation,” and his smooth yet hard vibe typifies this album.
The beat production on Sword is solid, classic Wu. They’re made up of thick drums and bass, with piano, strings and dissonant guitars, and minimal reliance on recognizable samples. Lesser-known producers make most of these tracks and there aren’t any Neptunes- or Dre-produced radio-ready sound in sight. Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs drops a spooky beat for “Luminal,” the story of a mysterious murderer. RZA proves he’s still got the production touch on “Rough Cut,” and GZA drops the final track, “Uncut Material.”
There’s been some controversy about the “censorship” of this album. Two tracks have most of the curses edited out, which seems ridiculous on a non-edited version when completely edited versions are available. GZA’s latest single, “Knock Knock,” is self edited – he only says half the word “Fuck” – which makes a little sense. That’s all that needs to be said.
Whether there are half-fucks or car horns, this is a solid release that should keep the Wu warriors happy until the crew can get it together to drop another masterpiece.
The Now Sound of Brazil
Bossa Mundo 2
What could be better right now than a Brazilian vacation? There are probably a few things, sure, and for most of us they’re as unlikely as world peace. At least we have beautiful Brazilian and worldly modern music to take us halfway there (wherever that is).
The Ziriguiboom label specializes in all things Brazilian – from electronic and modern to classic bossa, samba and soul. The Now Sounds of Brazil is a smooth play featuring, you guessed it, the now sounds of Brazil. These now sounds encompass a couple main vibes. The hot tracks cook for a Rio dance floor, while the milder few cuts seduce for an evening stroll by the ocean. You get the idea.
The collection includes two tracks from the late, esteemed producer Suba, including an unreleased retreatment by Nicola Conte. Two previously released tracks by Bebel Gilberto, heiress to the legendary Gilberto family’s musical throne and a growing voice in her own right, are also included. Bossacucanova keep things bouncible on the instrumental tip, while contempo-Brazilian artists Zuco 103 get remixed. Newcomers to most ears, Cibelle, Celso Fonseca and Erlon Chaves are all previewed here before their upcoming releases.
Bossa Mundo is less authentically Brazilian but is still a tasty collection of Brazilian influenced nuggets compiled by NYC and Parisian tastemakers Francois K and DJ Yellow. They wanted to expose the underexposed, and make the lounger move and the techno thumpers dance to a more sophisticated (or syncopated) beat. Once again there’s material for the dance floor and the long walk on the beach. Production on these tracks is sleek and modern – the sonic accompaniment to a fancy cocktail and some of that “fusion” cuisine. The selected artists hail from such exotic locations as Italy, Belgium, Manchester, Paris, Japan and the U.S. of A. No Brazil, per-se, but it’s all in the ballpark. The artists chosen: Muro, Montage, Gotan Project, Tom with Joyce and Julie (he gets around), and a bunch of others are really only widely known in smaller circles. Hopefully, a tasteful and well-programmed compilation like this one will get their names out to the bigger circle. If not, the collection still serves its purpose and is probably better as a sum of parts than any individual’s release would be.
They may not beat a stroll through Carnival on top of a camel with five golden Brazilian boys and a Pina Colada helmet, but these two discs in the changer should make your gray days a little hotter.