interview DJ MUGGS VS GZA - Grandmasters | Review By: Shaun

Release Date : October 25th, 2005
Label : Angeles Records
Rating: 4/5


From the get-go, I gotta let everybody know that for the year 2005, I rated Common’s “Be” as the album of the year (for another publication). And on that note, I rated “Grandmasters” as one of my runners-up for that same album of the year selection (along with Kanye’s “Late Registration”). That’s what I call puttin’ in work for an album that didn’t come out until October 25! If you ain’t got it yet, quit slackin’ and pick it up!

Super-producer DJ Muggs hit us up with straight heat, again. As a producer, Muggs is on a whole other level. It’s almost like he’s the long lost twin brother of the Alchemist (Mobb Deep), not the exact same style, however similar. His discography is incredibly impressive, and extensive. Think about it, anything Cypress Hill, classic songs like “Now I Gotta Wet’Cha” and others from Ice Cube’s last good solo album, “The Predator,” all the Soul Assassins material and countless others. You should consider this as a spin-off from the Soul Assassins series, which GZA has been a part of since the first volume came out way back in 1997.

This is, essentially, GZA’s fourth solo album and he matches Muggs’ heat on the mixing boards with some lyrical fire of his own, but then again, they don’t call him the “Genius” for nothing. In my opinion, GZA is the top lyricist out of all the Wu-Tang Clan members and that’s really saying something! Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Muggs’ production credits, are GZA’s rap credentials. If I had to name the one thing that sets him apart from his Clan brethren, I would have to say that it’s his ability to tell a story. Every song is like a poem, or better yet, it’s like street scripture that even someone like Shakespeare himself could appreciate.

One reason why Muggs and GZA work so well together is that Muggs’ beats are a lot like RZA’s old Wu-Tang style. They’re less gritty and more refined production-wise, yet he still has that grimy foundation. There’s the same dark and eerie, orchestral sound to most of this album, much like both volumes of the stellar Soul Assassins series.

In the song “Fame (“Legend of the Liquid Sword”),” GZA flows using the names of numerous pop-culture icons to tell a story. This time, on the song “Queen’s Gambit,” he pulls the same trick using the names of all 32 NFL teams, a truly creative way of flexing a little lyrical muscle. Here’s an example, just a little sample (Can you name that tune?):

“Her ancestors were Chiefs, who ran with running deer
They sailed with the Seahawks, who battled the Buccaneers
The Redskin garments, was suede coat liners
Held rare coins, frequently sought from gold miners
They were hard working warriors, we call over-timers
Shot plenty arrows at Cowboys and 49ers
Her interesting background, was quite unusual
Great for a strip, but out of bounds for a musical
She told me to call her, if I came to town
I started Texan her, soon as my plane had touch’down
Holding my luggage, in the hand that revealed the bad scars
She pulled up at arrival, driving the Jaguar
Her Brown skin was soft, her legs beautifully shaven
Her house was fly, sitting on the roof, was a Raven”

“Smothered Mate” is also one of the best songs on this album. The heavy guitar riff reminds me of the song “4th Chamber (“Liquid Swords”),” a personal favourite GZA track of my own.

There are also a few noteworthy guest appearances by Raekwon, RZA, Mastah Killah, Prodigal Sunn and Sen Dog, but make no mistake, this isn’t a radio-friendly album. GZA has never changed his style or who he is as an emcee to try and get that crossover, mainstream success and he should be commended for that. Too many artists compromise their integrity just to make a few bucks and in the long run, they just end up losing their true fans. But as ever, he says it best himself:

“This is hip-hop, emcees get busy
It’s not pop, you front and you get dropped
Listenin’ to slanged out goodies, in Timberlands and hoodies
With the rhythm that came from the street”

All In Together Now was a group comprised of RZA, GZA and ODB and was the foundation for what would later become the Wu-Tang Clan. The track “All In Together Now” pays tribute to fallen Wu brother ODB, and features RZA on the hook. Finally, a tribute song worthy of the artist it’s about. This isn’t an attempt to make a bunch of money off a brother’s death like what Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy (or whatever the hell he calls himself these days) did a few years back when he re-did “Every Breath You Take (The Police)” – with lyrics he didn’t even write, no less – for B.I.G. How can you do a song about a dude who’s supposed to be your best friend, and not even come up with the lyrics yourself? It’s bad enough that he just took the beat and didn’t really add anything to it, but then he didn’t even have the ability (talent?) to write his own feelings down. Here’s an example of how a true emcee expresses himself:

“The All In Together Now started in Bed-Sty
Human beat-box specialist, who dressed fly
A half-ounce of blow and a 40oz. drinker
Magnificent flow – critical thinker
Unique as one grain of sand from the beach
And had b------ eatin’ out of his hand
He was intelligent, his style was relevant
I can name ten n----- that stole an element
From the high speed chase to the court arraignments
All of the above was entertainment
He caused earthquakes just from experiments
Some thoughts got lost, not knowing where it went
His songs had a rep for many inducements
Giving birth to new styles after recruitments
There’s no replacement or any supplement
He was a new testament, what he said’s what he meant”

This is GZA’s best offering since “Liquid Swords,” no doubt. To top it all off, Muggs has also announced that the third volume of the Soul Assassins series will be dropping this August and you know it’ll be hot! Keep them trunks bangin’ Muggs!



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