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GZA - Biography
|last update : 11-09-2012 01:35|
|Born in Brooklyn, GZA spent his childhood living with various groups of relatives in the other New York boroughs. During this time began to visit the Soundview Projects in the Bronx where he became fascinated with hip hop. Influenced by the early MC's of the time he began to write his own rhymes.|
Also sharing his interest in hip-hop were his cousins Robert Diggs and Russell Jones. The three performed together as the group All In Together Now with GZA going under the alias The Genius; Diggs and Jones performed as The Scientist and The Professor respectively. After gaining some notoriety in the underground GZA and Diggs were signed as solo artists. GZA managed to ink a deal with legendary hip-hop label Cold Chillin' Records. In 1990 GZA released his debut album Words from the Genius on the label.
The album was produced by Easy Mo Bee and was heavily influenced by the style of Cold Chillin at the time. The corporate heads of that label wanted to make GZA a commercially viable artist like Big Daddy Kane. However critical reception for the album was lukewarm at best and sales were disappointing. Eventually GZA was dropped from the label. GZA's experience with Cold Chillin was shared with Diggs' experience at Tommy Boy Records, who had only managed to put out an EP under the alias Prince Rakeem.
Disillusioned with the recording industry GZA and Diggs got back together with Jones and decided that they would make the music they wanted, rather than what label executives made them create. Calling themselves the Wu-Tang Clan after they saw in old Kung-Fu movies, brought together the most talented MC's in the New York underground and began making music. It was at this time that GZA took up his moniker, which derives from the sound made when the word "Genius" is scratched by a DJ on a record. Diggs became known as RZA (Rakeem scratched) and Jones the Ol' Dirty Bastard, after a character in "Ol' Dirty & The Bastard" another one of the Kung-Fu movies so influential to the group.
The group debuted in 1993 and their album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) took the music industry by storm. Produced entirely by RZA, it was like nothing that had ever been heard at the time. GZA was featured throughout the album. The whole album was hailed by critics as a masterpiece, and GZA was touted by many as the best lyricist of the group.
Building off of that success GZA signed a new deal with Geffen Records and in 1995 released Liquid Swords. Again produced entirely by RZA and featuring a plethora of guest appearances from his fellow Clanmates the album was lauded by critics as a hip-hop classic and was certified gold by the RIAA. The album took the dark, foreboding atmosphere found in previous Clan releases to a whole new level. GZA's lyrics are still considered some of the sharpest ever created, combining vicious battle raps, mind-bending word-play and rich visuals. In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums of all time.
After appearing on the Wu-Tang Clan's second album, Wu-Tang Forever, GZA released Beneath the Surface in 1999. Reviews were mostly positive however it failed to live up to Liquid Swords acclaim and commercial success. Critics pointed to production as the albums main weakness, noting a distinct lack of RZA produced tracks, resulting in a messy collage of beats rather than a cohesive sound. There were also complaints about the needless skits and the vast number of guest spots which allowed little time for GZA to actually rap.
GZA laid low for the next few years, only appearing on the Wu-Tang Clan albums The W and Iron Flag. However in 2002 he dropped Legend of the Liquid Sword. The album was received well by critics, with some hailing it as GZA's return to Liquid Swords form, but with most agreeing it was an improvement on its predecessor as its production is superior and the record features fewer guest appearances. However the album lacked commercial success and failed to go gold as his previous two releases had. GZA spent most of 2004 touring both solo and with the Clan. He also made an appearance with RZA in Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee & Cigarettes opposite Bill Murray. In 2005 GZA and DJ Muggs (the producer for Cypress Hill) released the LP Grandmasters. Muggs provided all the beats for the album, which saw GZA using chess as a metaphor for the rap game, exercising his story-telling muscle and commenting on his place as a senior member in the hip-hop community. The album received overwhelmingly positive reviews and decent commercial success.
2005 also saw GZA ink a deal with indie label Babygrande Records to release a new LP. The album was originally scheduled to drop sometime in October 2006, but since that time there has no word as to when it will be released. However in a recent interview with XXL magazine GZA stated that he is working on the album with RZA in addition to a collaborative album with his son Young Justice. His new solo LP has been referred to at various time as The GZA Presents..., Return of the Genius and More Words from the Genius. GZA will appear on the Wu-Tang Clan's newest album 8 Diagrams, set to be released in November of 2007. He will also be featured heavily on fellow Clansmen Raekwon's new CD the highly anticipated Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. It is speculated that he will have the co-starring role similar to Ghostface Killah's on the original Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. GZA partook in the summer 2007 Wu-Tang tour of Europe and the Rock the Bells tour with the rest of the Clan.
Recently, Killah Priest told HipHopGame.com that GZA had contacted him about recording a joint album upon hearing Priest's latest release, The Offering. Priest reportedly accepted, and it is thought that the recording will begin soon. GZA's fifth solo album is scheduled to be released before the end of 2007 on Dreddy Kruger's Think Differently Music imprint, distributed through Babygrande Records