Liquid Swords



After being boxed in by the commercial moves that Cold Chillin’ expected of him on his failure of a pre-Wu debut, GZA didn’t so much atone for Words from the Genius as he evaporated it on contact. This is the kind of album you get when someone who was fucked over is finally liberated to make something he always wanted to make, with the merging of two Wu-Tang cultural touchstones, Asian martial arts films and chess, intertwined with his perceptive breakdowns of interpersonal conflict. Built off RZA beats that feel like they’re meant to loop forever — including the infinite tension-building of the title track’s plucked-nerve riff and the oscillating nightmare synths of “4th Chamber” — it slices its way directly into your brain and cuts a new notch into it with each listen.

Nate Patrin