Man, you're getting a mad bonus tonight. Normally, I don't write much on Fridays. Of late, I haven't been writing much at all. But tonight, we're gonna blow the dust off of this thing. We need to get back to business. Don't call it a comeback....
We need to revisit the greatest 33 hip hop recordings of all time.
It would make sense that we'd do a two-fer tonight given the fact that numbers 26 and 25 are both Wu-fam and were both released in one of the last great years of the Wu...1995.
We'll start with "Incarcerated Scarfaces" by Raekwon.
Make no mistake, as an album, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is as legit and definitive albums to ever come from the Wu stables. Top-to-bottom, Cuban Linx is an insane and dashing account of Shaolin's street life. "Knuckleheadz" and "Criminology" build a dog-eat-dog landscape and, musically, it ventered where few Wu recordings had to this date in 1995. It was gloss. It was hustle. It put money to the operation and turned that fat into muscle. If Meth was the drug element, GZA and RZA provided the martial arts and Eastern philosophy element, Raekwon, then, was the criminal element. His songs were paintings of sometimes a brutal and harsh existence where status is hard to earn, everything can be bought and nothing is free.
I received a copy of it on CD as a last second birthday present. Upon first listen, it sliced and diced like previous Wu releases, but offered a fantastically varied lyrical construction. Less were the cryptic prose. They were replaced with unfiltered reality. Black and white. Blood red and green cash money. It was more Kool G Rap than any other Wu production and "Incarcerated Scarfaces" was the standout.
With a Detroit Emerald hi-hat as the backbone, RZA's sparse yet effective beat provides the perfect effect for Rae's pitbull delivery. Rae's blazing verses on "Scarfaces" are probably his most scathing and ferocious verses ever put down. His high point didn't last long, but it lasted long enough to give us this street rap masterpiece. Raekwon would rarely match the prose exhibited on "Scarfaces." It was a defining moment in his life as a solo artist that would never be fully reached again.
Not to be outdone, though, is "Liquid Swords" by the GZA.
"Liquid Swords" fully exposed Wu's fu-fascination. Moving from the grime and gloss of "Scarfaces" to a more menacing, dark and theatrical plane, RZA takes as swipe at two bars of Willie Mitchell's "Groovin'", loops it and "Liquid Swords" was born. And while RZA's production seemed infinitely effortless during this period (1993-1995), so too was the ease in which GZA would construct his lyrical assault. "Liquid Swords", lyrically, is much like an emcee delivering a serious of roundhouses and leg sweeps. GZA's prowess as an emcee is first and finally realized as he's given full verses to expand on his styles greater than on his first solo outing (released on Cold Chillin' before the days of the Wu) and Enter the 36 Chambers. His delivery is poised, unphased, focused.
My minimum table stacks verse on a gamble. Energy felt once the cards are dealt with the impact of roundhouse kicks from black belts that attack the mic-phones like cyclones or typhoon. I represent from midnight to high noon.
With GZA's ferocious mic handling and RZA's sinister production, "Liquid Swords" is the essential representation of Wu's finest output.
Now, for the lowdown, we're gonna start blowing through this list because it's possible that in the coming weeks, The Root Down will be going through some transformation or even elimination and regeneration. This blog as you know it might be disappearing and reappearing as something else. Clock's ticking. I got 24 more songs before we unveil the GREATEST SONG IN HIP HOP HISTORY.
Ya'll be good to your neighbor.