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Genius/GZA: Legend of the Liquid Sword ***
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

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GENIUS/GZA: Legend of the Liquid Sword

With Legend of the Liquid Sword, GZA (born Gary Grice) once again establishes himself as the most consistent -- and consistently underrated -- solo artist to emerge from the Wu-Tang Clan, even if this latest outing lacks the intensity and hard-hitting grooves that made 1995's Liquid Swords and 1999's Beneath the Surface such seminal hip-hop releases.

Not that GZA has lost his razor-sharp edge. "Knock, Knock," the first single from Legend of the Liquid Sword, features more of the slick, lightning-quick wordplay that distinguished his previous solo efforts, proving that GZA's swords remain eminently choppable. Meanwhile, there are plenty of tantalizing cameo appearances by fellow Wu-Tang veterans, from the low-profile Inspectah Deck (on the ultra-smooth "Sparring Minds") to Ghostface Killah, who lends his commanding presence to "Silent," one of the albums many cynical rants about the music industry. Yet it is "Fam (Members Only)," a fierce collaboration with RZA and Masta Killa, that provides the biggest highlight, finding a spirited GZA at the top of his lyrical game.

Even so, there are enough noble misfires ("Animal Planet," "Rough Cut") to remind even the most casual fan that Legend of the Liquid Sword isn't quite as sharp as past GZA efforts. It's hardly his most challenging material, and it doesnt move with the breakneck speed and riveting force that made Liquid Swords such a welcome revelation, but it's a solid appetizer that whets our hunger for the next full-scale Wu-Tang assault. -- Rossiter Drake

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