Wednesday, 2 April 2008



Words From The Genius was the first album to be released by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.  Pre-dating Enter The Wu-Tang it came out in February 1991 and presented a much different version of Gary Grice who would soon come to be known as GZA.

It goes without saying that this is a strange sounding record somewhat removed from the collective sound of the Wu.  I guess the starkest difference is the lack of martial art film samples and reference.  Here was a young man without rocking up with an earnest rookie effort.

And it’s actually a pretty good offering sounding very 90s in a most healthy way.  It opens with a siren but it’s a passing siren, one that does not drive or consume proceedings.  He wasn’t into heavily criminology or the hard bop.  This was not the chronicle of a thug life.  Indeed with its bounding beats and jazz sample accompaniments this wasn’t a million miles away from what De La Soul were doing at the time.

To date there have been three versions/variations of this album with adjustment in the order of the tracklist and an explicit change in cover art on the two post-Wu Tang reissues in 1994 then 1996 which transformed the smart, clean cover art to something more grainy with a completely different suggestion.  The makeover does not necessarily rub.

Having adopted the moniker The Genius naturally there is something of a high brow, intellectual approach to proceedings.  At this point he flow was not as heavy as it would later be flowing out in a style similar to KRS-One and Michael Franti.  That said there appears no lack in confidence on his part; such doubts were saved for the listener.

Its interesting to contrast the opening track on the original version (“Come Do Me”) with the one used for the 1994 reissue (“Pass The Bone”).  The former is self referential and silly, almost pop rap while the latter with its drug reference brings a kind of fresh celebration that appears barely considered first time round.

Referring to my notes I have highlighted more stand out slip ups than successes.  “Phony As Ya Wanna Be” shares a sample with Will Smith and “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” (although The Genius did use it first), “The Genius Is Slammin’” references Mr T, “Words From A Genius” refers to his rhymes as poetry and having a female chorus hook of “go Genius, go Genius” on “Who’s Your Rhyme Hero”.

“Life Of A Drug Dealer” does succeed in reminding me of The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy exhibiting social conscience through narrative even if does feel a tad naïve in the process (not least with the Shaft comparison/references).  The stark declaration “this is the life of a drug dealer” does remind heavily of the eventual “that’s the life of a crimey” which later came on “Can It Be All So Simple”.  Then the good intentions maintain with “Stop The Nonsense” and “Living Foul” with the suggestion of some housecleaning.

The album does actually manage to close in strong fashion as the issues remain sensible/serious and the pop hooks dissolve, save for a final silly stumble and the ending of “What Are Silly Girls Made Of” and “Superfreak”.  Despite that this you can see why the powers that be deemed it worth salvage and fresh promotion following his full mutation into GZA.

Good game good game.

Thesaurus moment: suggestion.

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