Discord & Rhyme: An Album Podcast

Discord and Rhyme is a podcast where we discuss the albums we love, song by song.

032: Genius/GZA - Liquid Swords (1995)

“GZA was taking it down to something else. You caught real drama off his rhymes and his style. He could make ‘cat’ and ‘rat’ sound threatening.” ⁠

RZA

This week on Discord & Rhyme: witty, unpredictable talent and natural game. In the early ‘90s, Bobby Diggs, aka Bobby Digital, aka the RZA, served as de facto leader for a nine-piece Staten Island (or Shaolin) collective that changed the face of hip-hop. The Wu-Tang Clan’s rhymes were clever, aggressive, filled with pop culture references, and came at you from all sides, paired with production from the RZA, who preferred to sample empty space and dissonance over conventional hooks. Between 1994 and 1996, the members of Wu-Tang unleashed a whole volley of classic solo albums, and 1995’s Liquid Swords by the GZA, alias the Genius, might be the greatest of all of them. On this episode Rich leads Mike, Ben, and Phil through RZA’s chaotic sound landscapes and GZA’s murderous rhymes tight with genuine craft, both of which helped him realize that hip-hop is one of the greatest things in the entire world.

Miscellany

  • The observation that GZA has one of the largest vocabularies in hip-hop is from this visualization by Matt Daniels of The Pudding, which ranks MCs by the number of unique words used in their lyrics. Indie rapper Aesop Rock comes in first place with 7,879 words. Based on his solo albums, GZA comes in at 6,390 words, just ahead of Wu-Tang in general at 6,196 words. (By the way, just to be clear, verbiage doesn’t always correlate with quality in hip-hop, and often less is more.)

  • Rich caught most of the label names in “Labels” but missed one of the biggest ones: Capitol! To quote Arrested Development’s Mrs. Featherbottom, always read the label, always read it well ...

  • Correction: “B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)” was produced by 4th Disciple, not Mathematics. Our bad there are a lot of Wu-Tang affiliates. To hear Mathematics production, check out GZA’s 1999 follow-up album Beneath the Surface, which is solid if not outstanding.

  • Rich actually did make a sourdough starter the week of this recording, but didn’t overfeed it.

Other links

Discord & Rhyme roll call

  • Rich Bunnell (host)

  • Ben Marlin (moderator)

  • Mike DeFabio

  • Phil Maddox

Liquid Swords tracklist

  1. Liquid Swords

  2. Duel of the Iron Mic

  3. Living in the World Today

  4. Gold

  5. Cold World

  6. Labels

  7. 4th Chamber

  8. Shadowboxin’

  9. Hell’s Wind Staff / Killah Hills 10304

  10. Investigative Reports

  11. Swordsman

  12. I Gotcha Back

  13. B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) (CD bonus)

Other clips used

GZA/Wu-Tang:

  • Wu-Tang Clan - Da Mystery of Chessboxin’

  • Ghostface Killah - Be Easy

  • Gravediggaz - Diary of a Madman

  • RZA - B.O.B.B.Y.

Others:

  • Mark Lindsay & W. Michael Lewis - Legend of Lone Wolf

  • Mark Lindsay & W. Michael Lewis - The Ninja

  • Willie Mitchell - Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

  • Willie Mitchell - Groovin’

  • David Porter - I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over

  • Ennio Morricone - The Big Gundown

  • DMX - Party Up (Up in Here)

  • Ann Sexton - I’m His Wife (You’re Just a Friend)

  • The Bar-Kays - In the Hole

  • Cannonball Adderley and Nat Adderley Sextet - Aries

  • Elephant’s Memory - Mongoose

  • Stanley Black - Meadowland

  • Stevie Wonder - Rocket Love

  • The Mothers of Invention - Plastic People

  • The Dramatics - In the Rain

  • Elmer Bernstein - Love and Ambition

  • Slick Rick - Children’s Story

  • DeBarge - Love Me in a Special Way

  • Thelma Houston - Don’t Leave Me This Way

  • Kalyanji Anandji - Dharmatma Theme Music (Sad)

  • Ann Peebles - Trouble, Heartaches & Sadness

  • Dorothy Ashby - Soul Vibrations

  • Three Dog Night - I’d Be So Happy

  • The Charmels - As Long As I’ve Got You

  • Jackie Jackson - Is It Him or Me

  • The Mar-Keys - Morning After

  • El Michels Affair - Dual of the Iron Mics

Songs we mentioned but didn’t clip

GZA/Wu-Tang:

  • Wu-Tang Clan - Triumph

  • Genius - Stay Out of Bars

  • Wu-Tang Clan - C.R.E.A.M.

  • GZA - Publicity

  • Wu-Tang Clan - 7th Chamber

  • Wu-Tang Clan - Bring Da Ruckus

  • Method Man - Bring the Pain

  • Wu-Tang Clan - Black Shampoo

  • Wu-Tang Clan - Shaolin Brew

Others:

  • Common - On the Corner (with the Last Poets)

  • Insane Clown Posse - Toy Box

  • INXS - Guns in the Sky

  • Prince - Gold

  • Kanye West - So Appalled

  • Pink Floyd - Brain Damage

  • Pink Floyd - Eclipse

  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions - No Action

  • Soul Coughing - Casiotone Nation

  • The Beach Boys - Getcha Back

  • Grandmaster Flash & the Furious 5 - The Message

  • King Crimson - Elephant Talk

Band/album personnel

  • GZA – performer

  • RZA – producer, performer

  • Killah Priest – performer

  • Inspectah Deck – performer

  • Ghostface Killah – performer

  • Method Man performer

  • Masta Killa – performer

  • Raekwon performer

  • U-God – performer

  • Ol' Dirty Bastard – performer

  • Dreddy Kruger – vocals

  • Life – vocals

  • 4th Disciple – producer (track 13 only)

  • Tom Coyne – mastering

Credits

“Discord & Rhyme (theme),” composed by the Other Leading Brand, contains elements of: 

  • Amon Düül II - Dehypnotized Toothpaste

  • The Dukes of Stratosphear - What in the World?? ...

  • Faith No More - Midlife Crisis

  • Herbie Hancock - Hornets

  • Kraftwerk - Autobahn

  • Talking Heads - Seen and Not Seen

  • GZA - 4th Chamber (this episode only) 

You can buy or stream Liquid Swords and other albums by GZA, the Wu-Tang Clan, and other Wu-Tang solo members at the usual suspects such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and Amazon [affiliate link]. Follow Discord & Rhyme on Twitter @DiscordPod for news, updates, and other random stuff. Follow Rich @zonetrope, Phil @pamaddox, and Ben @BenjaminM1019. Editing is by Rich and production is by Mike. See you next album, and be ever wonderful.

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