GZA Interview: My Albums Out: GZA

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Eavvon ONeal

The Genius of the Wu-Tang Clan breaks down his new solo album, Pro Tools
Gary Grice, has taken time, approximately 30 years, to develop the artistic caliber of his stage name, GZA, the Genius. In this time, where we have all become acquainted with the girth of Wu-Tang’s presence in hip hop, GZA has also been credited as one of the brightest talents, lyrically, from the Clan. Most notable is the obnoxiously fantastic skill contained within his 1995 classic, Liquid Swords.

Fast forward 13 years later to witness how this lyricism has been revamped and updated on his newest release, Pro Tools. An album which promises to progress GZA’s legacy as a dedicated artist and illustrates GZA’s love for unstrained, hardcore emcee stature, and of course, sicker beats then you can wave a Hattori Hanzo at. Where did the album title, Pro Tools, come from? How long were you working on and developing the project?

GZA: Well it’s the production software program, basically. The people at Babygrande were asking for a name. I was looking around the house, or the studio, and trying to come up with something, and I may have even been reading the actual Pro Tools manual and just went with that, and it works great with the album. The album has very few guest appearances, what’s the reason for this?

GZA: I’m not one who works with big producers because I expect that to make the album go double platinum. I remember once we paid $150,000 for a Trackmasters beat once, with Ron Isley singing, the “Back In The Game” track off of Iron Flag, and it wasn’t even a single, so I don’t bother searching for names.

I’d rather people buy the record because they want a GZA album, and then the extras be a surprise. The album as a whole has only two Clan members on it. The last day we were recording, I was in Paris supporting the Wu tour, and a call was put out that I was in the studio and the only two that showed up were RZA & Masta Killer, so that’s what we went with. My next album is going to be no guest appearances; emcees need to start carrying their own weight.

Who were some of the producers on the album?

There were various producers; RZA, Mathematics, True Masters, Black Milk, Arabian Knight, Jay Waxx Garfield, Bronze Nazareth & Rock Marcy.

Why do you think the RZA tracks sound so different from those on the most recent Wu release, 8 Diagrams?

Well, you have to put in time with your producer, and RZA and I have been working back since I was 11 & he was 8 going to the Bronx to check out this hip hop stuff, so you have to know where they are coming from. Whenever I close my eyes and listen to his stuff, I can’t put a rhyme to it. His beats are more cinematic.

Where did the idea from blending you vocals with your son, Justice Kareem for the track “Groundbreaking” come from?

With that track, we were pressed for time I didn’t think he delivered well. He didn’t have time to redo the track, because he is making moves and going out of town, so I chose to redo it on some Ghost and Rae shit. And I’d like to use that technique again.

The theme of the album is relatively separate from the usual kung-fu influenced Wu-Tang album, was that deliberate?

It just kinda happened. It was just the progression of how beats were selected and the attitude of the beats. The same thing happened with Liquid Swords, in terms of the theme just developing naturally. We were literally mixing the album, and RZA asked someone to go pick up the Shogun Assassin, and then we just went with it. So with Justice working on the beats and RZA’s input, things just happened.

What are some of your favorite tracks on the album?

“0% Finance” is probably the track I like the most right now. It’s 104 bars straight through and the beat is 110 [bpm] and the whole thing is just incredible. It’s takling about automobiles but not in the way cats rap about cars now. It isn’t just “Yo I got rims and the dubs is real sick” its an approach that is really lyrical and grows as the song moves. It’s unique.

“Paper Plate” is my favorite track on the album. What’s the meaning of the track?

You know what “Paper Plate” is about? [A paper plate is] just something that is lightweight and disposable. You can recycle it and get rid of it after you’re done with it. It’s just a statement that I wanted to get out, saying that “I’m lyrical and I’m not material.” I’m a sum of a beautiful equation and sometimes these dudes need to just realize and respect the tradition of an emcee.

I’ve been working in this game for a while to try and focus on the lyrical aspect of all this. It’s saying 50 Cent and G Unit could never write like me and I’m coming at it focusing on shelf life. I’m not trying to clown all the younger rappers, but just saying that there is so many things to be inspired by, so I don’t understand why people are still rhyming about the same thing. I’m trying to move forward a tradition, and you can see that when I’m going on a Liquid Swords tour 10 years after it came out. Wu-Tang has two or three generations of fans so we must be relevant. And what does it matter that they callin me grandpa? Cuz I fathered your style?

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