Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Gza and Willie Mitchell are Groovin'

Its late 1995 and although the year clearly belonged to the East Coast in particular the Wu Tang Clan no one was ready for the lyrical and musical onslaught that two cousins from Staten Island was about to release on the hip-hop world. Not only had Rza shown us the grimy underbelly of Staten Island's sound with the original Wu Tang album but he had gone on to smack the hip hop world in the head with amazing albums by Method Man, Old Dirty and of course Raekwon. But so far nothing had prepared us the the lyrical genius that was Liquid Swords. Without a doubt my favorite Wu solo album. We had heard rumors and comments from various Clan members about Gza's complex lyrical skills but nothing could have prepared everyone for the immense and complex lyrics that we were to hear on the Liquid Swords LP. Not to mention the dark, sample heavy, intrictae production supplied by the Abbot, Rza.

The first 12" from the album was the title track Liquids swords with the double A side Labels. I remember hearing Liquid Swords on the radio, probably Westwoood or maybe 279 and thinking what the fuck is this. It struck me as something totally different and at first I found myself waiting for the rest of the beat to come in only to realize that this was the whole beat once Gza and Rza started to say the hook. Then Gza starts dropping his lyrics over this off key guitar loop, with dope lines like; Lyrics are weak like clock radio speakers, I'm low key like sea shells, wide entrance small exit like a funnel so deep its picked up on radios in tunnels. This was intricacy the like of which we had'nt heard before. Sure Nas had a great flow, Slick Rick could tell a dope story and Rakim dropped knowledge but these were metaphors and similes that you had to hear a number of times before they clicked and this combined with dope storytelling too.

I heard the 12" and bought just as soon as I could from the legendary Deal Real Records took it home and proceeded rinse the tune out for months. Until the album dropped and then that album pretty much stayed on my 1200s for months and the Mini Disc copy I made of it never left my MD player whenever I went out. Its an amazing album that has stood the test of time so much so in fact that when Gza toured a couple of years back he did it off the strength of that album. Performing the whole album from start to finish to sold out venues. I saw him in early 1995 and again in 2007 and the album sounded just as good live in 2007 as it did in 1996.

Moving over to the breaks side of things, Rza taps a Willie Mirchell song for Liquid Swords. The track is called Groovin' and is taken from the Solid Soul album released in 1969 on Willie's own Hi Records label. Willie Mitchell is a serious musician as who dropped numerous albums of funky soulful music. In addition to these albums he also produced music for Al Green, Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright and Ann Peebles (other people Rza often sampled). Willie Known at the recording studio as "Papa Willie," Mitchell earned his nickname by taking over the reins of Hi Records in 1970 and guiding it through its most successful period. Mitchell's productions have been much noted for featuring a hard-hitting kick drum sound (usually played by pioneering Memphis drummer Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MG's). Rza chopped up the intro to the track Groovin' taking the guitar riff from about 5 seconds into the song and turning it into a tremendous track for Gza to drop his gems over.

But the track Groovin is in itself a damn funky joint featuring dope organ's, sick drums and wicked guitar riffs. However Willie is most well known for his work behind the boards, he produced Al Green's lets stay together, Ann Peebles' I Can't Stand The Rain, Syl Johnson's Diamond In The Rough and the underrated Stax released Jimmy McCracklin's Yesterday Is Gone. To call Willie Mitchell a musical genius would be an understatement. He gave Al Green the music to accompany Al's perfect voice.
Check the link below for the 12" rip and the sample. Support both Gza and Willie by buying their albums, any self respecting music fan should have at least one of each in their collection.

I'm low key like seashells

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