Release Date: November 7, 1995
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: THE RZA
Written by Michael Grant – C.E.O. of RePPiN4U
What if I told you, that the making of this classic dated back to the year I was born? It might be a 20th Anniversary special but this is 35 years in the making.
On November 11, 2015 we mark the 35th Anniversary of Shogun Assassin. A film about a man and his son who escape and go on a violent journey after the wife of the Shogun’s Decapitator was murdered. The violent scenes were ahead of its time and was later banned in 1983 by various countries. It would later resurface in the year 2000 and was available for free for consumers who purchased Kill Bill Vol.1 on Initial DVD release.
I had a friend back in the 90s who was fascinated with banned films and went on a personal conquest to hunt them down. This film was one of them. I must have watched this a few months prior to the release of GZA’s Liquid Swords. After the Raekwon album, I decided to go on my own personal quest: To own every single Wu-Tang release. With the seemingly ever-growing affiliation of Wu Killah Bees, maybe I have underestimated the clan’s domination in Hip Hop.
This is MY STORY. This is the 20th Anniversary of The GZA/Genius – Liquid Swords.
A miserable November night, cassette inserted in the Walkman, full Duracell batteries, headphones over my head with the sellotape on it to hold the phones together, my paper round begins. And as soon as it comes on, I have that ‘Wu-Tang moment again’… Oh Snap – The Wu-Tang have sat down and watched this (Shogun Assassin)! You instantly imagine the Clan actually sitting down and watching the same film you just did, and you’re just mind blown. If you haven’t seen the film RZA samples, you make it your duty it find out which one it was. That was the beauty of being a fan those days and even now.
First time I heard this, the album wasn’t out yet. I heard it on my friend’s cassette from the radio. He was raving on about GZA’s new tune, saying the tune is ‘dark’… back then the word dark was slang for ‘good’, like the youth today use the word ‘sick’ as slang for good. I heard it and I LOST IT (my mind). The beat was on some tick-tock-tick-tock business, and the hook has gone on to become one of my favourite hooks of all time. I didn’t even know the tune was called Liquid Swords because the tracks were not arranged in the album inlay. You had to kind of, match the song with the title, and I don’t care what anybody says, you are not a Wu fan if you didn’t fantasize about performing on a big clock (hence the beat) while your friend breaks the wack records across the wall.
DUEL OF THE IRON MIC
My best memory of this was the Wu-Tang Disciples of the 36 Chambers DVD, or you have seen him live. If you haven’t, watch this DVD. Look at GZA while he’s performing this. The man is ‘IN THE ZONE’. Screwface and all. That’s how you gotta be when you’re on the microphone. If that is not your reaction, you’re not hip hop! This tune is major in the Wu shows. Should have been an official video. GZA even said in an interview that this was his favourite track on the album. CASE CLOSED.
LIVING IN THE WORLD TODAY
Sometimes I love when a clansman (in this case Meth) is featured in a cameo but doesn’t actually drop a verse,even though it would be nice if he did. Almost as catchy as the Liquid Swords hook, I like the little touches in this, the ‘Chic-POW!’ in the hook, the emphasis in GZA’s voice when he says the line ‘you’ll be hearing the slang what the WUU-TAANG say’… This was my favourite track on the album at one point. Don’t you just love albums where your favourite track changes almost daily? That’s when you know you got a great album.
I could be wrong, but I think this is the album’s most underrated track. Of all the tracks people post on social media, I don’t see Gold posted as much.
Today I learned something fascinating. In that same interview where he talks about ‘Iron Mic’, GZA says the hook was inspired by Diana Ross’ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. For 20 years, I had never clocked on because of the contrast of the two hooks.
Funny thing about this was, I had always prefered the remix featuring D’Angelo. But this tune right here was a personal moment. GZA had come to Birmingham Ballroom in February of 2012. He was performing this and he came over to my side, fans reciting the lyrics as we do, I said the line ‘Therefore, your 52 hand-blocks was useless.’, GZA heard me say that, and took my camera out of my hands and filmed himself with us – the Wu-Nited Kingdom/RePPiN4U family. That was the start of the surreal interactivity with the clan that I had… it really feels like the 20 years of being a Wu fan was paying off in an unexpected way.
The irony of this tune 20 years later is crazy. Before I get into that, just like Cold World, I prefered the remix over this so admittedly I felt slightly disappointed when this version was on the album initially. The version I heard on radio (Yes people, hip hop existed on radio – I know what you mean by those memes but RePPiN4U is out to crush all that) sounded like a run down sports car on the verge of crashing. The album version sounded a lot more cleaner. Anyway back to the irony. Bear in mind it was over 20 years ago, The first line that comes out of GZA’s mouth – ‘Tommy Ain’t My Muthaf***!n Boy, When he fake moves on a n!&&@ he employ…’ The year is 2015 and Ghostface Killah scored another classic with 36 Seasons, and Method Man received critical acclaim with ‘The Meth Lab’, both released under Tommy Boy Records. But Labels sparked off two things: One, some Wu fans discovered that through that one line, there was a first album entitled ‘Words From The Genius which was released before 36 Chambers and in the process discovered RZA’s first album ‘Oooh We Love You Rakeem’. The other thing it sparked, was the art of name dropping in songs. GZA wasn’t the first to do it but it was the style of how he did it, Publicity from Beneath The Surface was just as good, but Fame in my opinion from the Legend of The Liquid Sword album was the one that did it for me,
I could be wrong here but I think Wu-Tang were the first to fuse two tracks together in a video the point where fans actually wanted that version. Inspectah Deck & U-God are usually credited for being the best posse cut starters (kick off the tune wih the first rhyme). But Ghostface should get props as well. He kicked off 9 Milli Bros on his Fishscale album, Bring The Ruckus from 36 Chambers, and most notably this track. Sometimes I’ve seen Ghost almost forget it’s him that sets the tune off as it drops after the response of capacity crowd jumping up and down as high as they can under RZA’s command.
At this time Method Man was still my favourite Wu-member. This tune dropped along with Wu-Gambinos on Cuban Linx album – I noticed subtle changes in meth’s voice, like he lost a bit of that raspy effect in his voice when he was saying the rhymes. Listen to Meth on 36 Chambers then listen to him on this track and you will see what I mean. TRUE STORY – I was in my last year at school. They installed internet in the school – it was a dial-up connection – OLD SCHOOL! We were supposed to use it in our own time to work on our Record of Achievement – remember that? Back in the day we used to use that to get jobs. I don’t know if the youth today use it, but if they don’t, put it like this: If you had one of these (pictured right) YOUR CHILDHOOD WAS AWESOME!
Back to the story. Me & my school friend (Paul Whittaker) were meant to work on this… we used that time to find the lyrics to Shadowboxin’ and other Wu tracks and that’s how we discovered Ohhla.com (Original Hip Hop Lyrics Archive). We printed off as much as we could til one day we got caught by the teacher… I remember the name – Mr Collett – he said he was gonna take these explicit lyrics and show our parents. 20 years later my moms knows nothing about this… put it that way! He was probably a closet Wu fan himself!
HELL’S WIND STAFF
I think Wu Fans know the story behind this track now…originally a track on the album, it became a skit, and then actually manifested as a track on Wu-Tang Forever. The other question remains – What happened to the ‘Unexplained’? Meant to be a track on the album but it seemed to have manifested on the Gravediggaz ‘Pick, Sickle, Shovel’ album. Do you know a Don Rodriquez? No? Yes you do. We ALL know a Don Rodriquez. There he is, snitching to Mark Zuckerberg about what you post on your Facebook. Great album sequencing here, as this leads into…
KILLAH HILLS 10304
…with a few references to Tony Starks… We already know Tony and Lou (Ghost & Rae) are the mafioso kingpins of the clan, but it was good to see RZA & GZA put their spin on things, complete with one of my favourite RZA traits which was let the beat ride out, and when you hear that, you hear RZA ‘playing about’ on the keyboard… yeah, I miss those times too.
The Wu-Tang have 6 million ways to influence us. Today I don’t say – ‘I’m gonna investigate the problem’, I say (and it happens naturally) ‘I’m making Investigative Reports’, and the summoning of Tony Starks has brought him forth and it couldn’t happen without Rae, with additional support from U-God.
This was the tune that eventually would become my true favourite on the album, if Bruce Lee explained his theory of ‘Emotional Content’ into song, it would sound like this. Not only could I feel it in GZA’s voice, but I felt the same way. It was haunting, it was thought provoking, and even though past Wu tracks spoke of the 5%, this was the one that caught my attention. I started looking at people different when GZA said the lines –
“I suffered brutal pain, from whips and chains/Punishments that were set to wash the brain/So look listen observe and also respect this jewel/Drawed up, detect and reflect this/Light I shine, because my powers is refined/Through the truth, which manifest through eternal minds…” I love this hook more than the Liquid Swords one –The hook had me really want to slap people in their face like Batman and it relates up to this day when people try to put your boy down… then it turns out that the real title of this tune was indeed – UNEXPLAINED… which makes more sense but at the same time, ‘They say he’s a Swordsman’…
I GOTCHA BACK
This brings me back to the days of Yo! MTV Raps…those annoying nights when I’m hitting record on the video recorder, cranking the volume up but my moms telling me to turn it down… funny how mom told me crank it up when Lost Boyz ‘Music Makes Me High’ came on! But at this point I didn’t even clock on that a GZA album was coming. As far as I was concerned, this was for the movie ‘Fresh’, and I remember that film as plain as day. Back in the day, Swordsman/Unexplained became my favourite track, after that, admittedly I couldn’t listen to I Gotcha Back… nothing against it, just that Swordsman/Unexplained to me was becoming too personal!
B.I.B.L.E. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
I never heard this tune til 1998 when Killah Priest dropped his first album – Heavy Mental. I had the cassette tape of Liquid Swords and Cassette tapes didn’t usually have bonus tracks. I didn’t convert to CDs until it was clear that cassette tapes were extremely hard to get in my area. I didn’t even have a CD player. I had to play CDs from my Sega Saturn… I miss that console. I could play a tune such as this and zone out – and when I did, the Sega Saturn’s screen saver was a spaceship travelling through space, remember that? So technically, I read the Basic Instructions Before Leaving earth and then took off in my spaceship!
Congratulations to The GZA for finally making it platinum after 20 years…. but what I wanna know is, if millions of Wu-Tang Fans around the world consider this a classic (and it is…) why has it only gone platinum now? Don’t get me wrong, RePPiN4U cares not for album sales, but we as fans post about Liquid Swords everyday… some of us consider it a classic over Cuban Linx… surely there are more than a million Wu fans… and that’s just in the states alone!
Take a bow Gary Grice, it’s all about that Dark Matter now… the salute the man who could be responsible for finally derailing the mighty 50 Cent off his game (Paper Plates). Let’s be real, he hasn’t been the same since that day has he? 50 always loved slaying MCs across the neck with his diss records, he did that to hear that sound of wailing winds, but to have it happen to his own neck, was just…. ridiculous…at least to him!