Opening with the iconic title track, “Liquid Swords” is taken from Shogun Assassin where The Lone Wolf and his cub begin a tale of decapitation, betrayal, and ultimately unruly iron wills. The Cub at this point, explains, “When I was little, my father was famous. He was the greatest samurai in the empire… He wasn’t scared of the Shogun, but the Shogun was scared of him. Maybe that was the problem.” As the bounce from GZA taps on the strings with basement 808 bass and a snap on the snare, his vocals here are a cold reflection of the story from the Cub.
He describes, “Fake niggas get flipped in mic fights, I swing swords and cut clowns. Shit is too swift to bite, you record and write it down.” GZA continues, “I flow like the blood on a murder scene, like a syringe. On some wild out shit to insert a fiend.” Even as the introduction is a captivating tumble, GZA is able to institute surgical precision with a scalpel instead of katana.
“Living In The World Today” is a low-tuned creep with these carnivals of horns and percussive cracks almost as good as nuggets to a basehead. Recruiting Method Man and RZA for the hook, the three Wu generals describe, “Well if you livin’ in the world today. You be hearing the slang that the Wu-Tang say. Niggas that front, we don’t have ‘em, so we blast ‘em alright, well okay.” Almost as intimidating as the production he rhymes on; GZA is deadly as he moves into his verse and has some strict flows here. Sticking to the script of death before dishonor, GZA describes, “MC’s be out like bank robbers, fleeing the scene to be the sole survivor. DJ the getaway driver, tried to dip but he dive, I socialize on vocal vibes. On tracks stabbed up with razor-sharp knives.”
Even later tracks like “I Gotcha Back” where the instrumentation is representative of a monster movie stemming from Monster Island. GZA becomes Godzilla, rhymes that swing from building to building leaving nothing but misery in its wake. While only a sample on Liquid Swords, his final message is captivating coming from The Lone Wolf And Cub.
Illustrating, “When cut across the neck, a sound like wailing winter winds is heard, they say. I’d always hoped to cut someone like that someday.” As the voice struggles to push the last rites out, he describes, “To hear that sound, but to have it happen to my own neck is… ridiculous,” before the narrator gasps for air and falls a corpse in the snow-filled arena.
Liquid Swords is a similar beast, but entirely able to stand among the grass stalks, wind whirling across a barren wasteland of sound. From 36 Chambers to the mountains of a mystical land, GZA earns the title of genius.