Gza/Genius Beneath The Surface

While recent Wu-Tang releases have drawn on hedonistic excesses and pre-millennial tension for their concepts, GZA/Genius takes a down-to-earth approach on his third effort. Known to be the most respected MC within the Wu ranks, GZA is also notorious for his relatively slim output. So even though it’s been four years since his last effort Liquid Swords, Beneath the Surface is a welcome surprise to the Clan’s fans anxiously awaiting Inspectah Deck’s project. This time around, GZA’s compelling narratives are traded in for a seemingly random barrage of densely worded phrases that elude easy comprehension, and crisp, drum-heavy production provided by RZA disciples Mathematics and Arabian Knight replace Liquid Swords’ murky sonics. Other contributions from the Wu-Tang’s second generation by Njeri and Hell Raizah (who contributes a blistering verse on “Hip-Hop Fury”), almost makes you forget about the sub-standard material released by Wu offspring in recent years. The old guard crop up now and then, but while the appearances of Method Man and RZA are underwhelming, it’s jail magnet ODB’s hook on “Crash Your Crew” that is this department’s highlight. Humorous diversions like this are few though; GZA is more serious throughout, whether injecting social commentary into skits or hammering out abstract visuals with Killah Priest on the alluring title track, reaffirming his status as the Wu-Tang Clan’s lyrical patriarch. (MCA)