Critics Choice: GZA

GZA, at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, August 24, drops lyrical moves that will keep you in check. Touring in support of his third release, Beneath the Surface, this elder statesman of the Wu Tang Clan executes lines that are both visual and abstract. For instance, the title track asks, "Scratch beneath the surface/Where does your purpose lie?" On "Breaker, Breaker," the first single, GZA taps his father, who worked as a cross-country truck driver, for inspiration. "Publicity" drops the names of 58 publications, some of whom GZA dices up with verbal swords ("Rollling Stone out of zone/Where they can't monitor my rap tone"). With GZA, you have to let the music marinate a bit before you can taste its full flavor. Beneath the Surface, which features an array of producers (Allah Mathematics, Arabian Knight, RZA and Inspectah Deck) and MCs (Method Man, Masta Killa, Killah Priest), is yin to the yang of his previous release, Liquid Swords, which ranks as one of the better solo Wu joints. Whereas the latter was dark and cold and released in the winter, Beneath the Surface is as cool and refreshing as an unlocked fire hydrant on a hot day in a stifling, asphalt-covered city. Using tight, sparse beats that echo Wu's claustrophobic slices of sound, GZA plays the hip-hop game like a true Chess master. -- James Mayo

 
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