Two producers. Two legends. Two originators. The year of 2005 has brought together some nice collaborations, but this one could have the most credibility. GZA — one of the founding members of the Wu Tang Clan, and creator of the classic Liquid Swords. DJ Muggs — a multi-platinum producer for Cypress Hill, House of Pain, and the guy who sparked a joint on Saturday Night Live and got his group banned for life. With the likes of Raekwon, RZA and Masta Killa, this album has the ingredients to make a Wu-Tang soup that eats like a meal.
Before we get started, let it be known that production is strictly handled by Muggs, and GZA is the man confined to the booth. The album starts strong with “Those That’s Bout It”, a beat that immediately thumps a hard rolling bass line, beautifully matched piano loops and high pitched singing samples. This track could easily have been a perfecty fit for Legend of the Liquid Swords. The message is the following — if you’re with us, you’re with us, if you’re not, prepare for impact.
“Destruction of a Guard” samples a crooning woman singing “you” every few seconds over a nice keys solo, sounding like another RZA production from an unreleased Wu casette tape gem. The track details the likes of a robbery and shooting, becoming much more devestating as Raekwon starts his recipe: “Pop pop pop when there’s shots whose to blame? / Three get dropped and we move from the game / One get knocked now his whole life has changed / cause he’s so far from free in a world that seems strange.” Dirty with grass stains.
“Exploitation of Mistakes” is like an episode out of CSI Brooklyn Zoo. A typewriter quickly ticks in the background, while periodic gongs chime in background, like a man sitting the clock tower, explaining what he saw at the scene of the crime: “Two individuals pulled from a lake / Inside a vehicle, one had his foot on the break / The windows was fully up and the doors was locked / The news made the headline and the town was shocked / The driver was clutching a can of Hi-C / His jacket was tied to a nearby tree / His jeans had dye in’em / An unusual tattoo was the only hope of identifying’em.” This track could easily make the best video if done correctly, or at least be used on an episode of The Wire.
The most hilarious track comes in the form of sweet love on “Queen’s Gambit”. This sounds like a theme song made for the Minnesota Vikings newest boat cruise: “Before you know it I had all three in a huddle / Bucking like a Colt before I released the puddles / They spead Eagles like wide receivers / As I ran them in the endzone they became true believers”. The clever wordplay of this song will have you hitting rewind to see if every team is actually referred to, or how many words you can get in one sitting.
Plain and simple, this album is fantastic. Far too often we judge harshly on classic colloborations cause it only seems like they’ll make a mess. Grandmasters has the Genius showing off his IQ. His lyrics are much stronger than Legend of the Liquid Swords, and he seems to be moving back to what made him great in the first place. Only Ghostface Killah stands ahead of him now for solo releases from the Clan, and this guy is a close second.
DJ Muggs is often ignored for his production skills, because when you were in school, every kid or stoner who knew nothing about hip hop still knew every lyric to “Insane in the Brain” and “Hits from the Bong”. The beauty of the production on this album is that Muggs is making the type of beat that fits perfectly with GZA’s flow, like the last piece of the puzzle that goes missing from the box. The title Grandmasters can be looked at as arrogant, but once you’ve heard this, you just might agree.
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