GZA

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For other uses, see GZA (disambiguation).
GZA
Gza-01-mika.jpg
GZA in Germany 2000
Background information
Birth name Gary Grice
Also known as The Genius, GZA/Genius
Born (1966-08-22) August 22, 1966 (age 50)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, songwriter
Years active 1989–present
Labels Cold Chillin', Loud, Geffen, MCA, Angeles Records, Babygrande
Associated acts Wu-Tang Clan, DJ Muggs, Soul Assassins, Easy Mo Bee

Gary Grice (born August 22, 1966), better known by his stage names GZA (/ˈɪzə/ JIZ) and The Genius,[1] is an American rapper and songwriter. A founding member of the hip hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA is known as the group's "spiritual head", being both the oldest and the first within the group to receive a record deal.[2] He has appeared on his fellow Clan members' solo projects, and since the release of his critically acclaimed solo album Liquid Swords (1995), he has maintained a successful solo career.

He is considered to be one of the best MCs and lyricists because he is "armed with sharp metaphors and a smooth flow",[3] and has been noted for his lyrical style, which often dismisses typical rap story lines in favor of science and wide-ranging philosophies.[4][5][6] An analysis of GZA's lyrics found that he has the second largest vocabulary in hip hop music.[7][8] He teamed up with an education group to promote science education in New York City through hip hop.[9]

Early life[edit]

Gary Grice developed an interest in hip-hop by attending block parties as a child in the early 1970s. He was involved in breakdance, graffiti, and DJing. Early on he devloped an interest in writing, studying Mother Goose and nursery rhyme. In 1974-76 he listened to The Last Poets,[10] however he was attracted by profanity rather than content, and didn't understand the underlying messages until many years later. The Last Poets, as well as songs by The Isley Brothers, the Commodores, and the O'Jays had a big part in his early life, especially regarding the tone and cadence of speech.[11] Later on, he began to listen to hip hop and R&B, for example by Secret Weapon and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.[12]

He formed a three-man group with his cousins, Robert Diggs and Russell Jones, who would later be known as RZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard. At the time he didn't like the sound of his voice.[11] The group, FOI: Force of the Imperial Master, and later All in Together,[13] saw the three rapping and DJing, switching names and performing local shows; since they lived in different boroughs, GZA and Ol' Dirty would travel from Brooklyn out to Staten Island to meet up with their cousin RZA, after which the three would travel across New York City and challenge other MCs to battles.[14] He left school in the 10th grade, but nurtured his affection for science as he developed his skills as a lyricist.[15]

After some years of this, GZA was signed to Cold Chillin' Records as a solo artist under the name The Genius.[16] He released debut album Words from the Genius (1991), produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee, but after it failed to sell, as the label didn't promote it, and his rocky experience on tour, Grice became fed up and asked to be release from the label.[10][17] Album's beat selection is similar to the classic boom-bap sound of the early 1990s, while the lyricism subject is the everyday situations of an individual living in the parts of New York.[18] At the time he worked as a bicycle messenger.[14]

Wu-Tang Clan[edit]

In 1992, GZA joined the Wu-Tang Clan, a group of nine, formed by his cousin RZA. GZA had some high-profile appearances on the group's debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993), including a solo track, "Clan in da Front".[19] This, combined with appearances on other Clan members' albums such as Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (1995) and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (1995) brought him much recognition. According to Method Man, "we form like Voltron and GZA happens to be the head".[19]

Solo career[edit]

1995–1999: Liquid Swords, Beneath the Surface[edit]

These guest appearances were followed up in 1995 with GZA's second studio album, Liquid Swords, produced and recorded entirely in the basement studio by RZA, with the participation of all original Clan members. It was released on November 7 by Geffen Records.[19] The album's complex composition included dialogue sampled from kung fu film Shogun Assassin. The album was met with positive reviews and sold well. It is considered to be one of the best albums from the Wu-Tang camp. It peaked at the #9 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and #2 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.[20] On October 8, 2015, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that the album had earned a Platinum certification for having sold more than 1 million copies. It became the first Wu-Tang-related album to get certified since 2004, when Method Man and Ghostface Killah both earned plaques.[16] In addition, he directed music videos for four album singles.[13]

After appearing on the Wu-Tang Clan's second album, Wu-Tang Forever (1997), his third studio album Beneath the Surface was released by MCA Records in 1999. The album and its singles "Crash Your Crew" and "Breaker, Breaker" met with critical acclaim.[21] The album earned a Gold certification by RIAA,[16] peaked at #9 on the Billboard 200 chart, and topped the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.[22]

2002–2009: Legend of the Liquid Sword, Pro Tools[edit]

In 2002, a sequel to his first solo album was released, Legend of the Liquid Sword.[11] It was well-received by critics, yet did not sell well and failed to go Gold. GZA spent 2004 touring, both solo and with the Clan, and made an appearance with RZA in Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee and Cigarettes, opposite Bill Murray. The two also appeared on the Chappelle Show's skits "Wu Tang Financial" and "Racial Draft".[23]

In 2005, GZA and DJ Muggs (the producer for hip-hop group Cypress Hill) released collaboration album Grandmasters. Muggs provided all the production for the album, which saw GZA using chess as a metaphor for the rap game, with every song having a chess-themed title.[2][24]

GZA performing at Paid Dues in New York City, 4 June 2008

In the summer of 2008, his fifth solo studio album Pro Tools was released by Babygrande Records. It featured production from Black Milk and Jay "Waxxx" Garfield, RZA, Mathematics and True Master. A very controversial song on the album was entitled "Paper Plates" a smooth flowing response aimed at rival rapper 50 Cent.[17] After the release GZA toured various parts of Europe on a "Liquid Swords Tour" where he performed songs from Liquid Swords as well as Pro Tools.[17] He later toured parts of the USA.[25]

2010–present: Dark Matter[edit]

In 2010 he lectured at Harvard University,[14] and since then visited, among others, MIT, Oxford, USC, NYU, Cornell where met with the scientists, like David Kaiser and Sallie W. Chisholm,[12][26] to seek inspiration.[27][28][29] In 2012 he discussed with Neil deGrasse Tyson.[15]

To improve science education in New York City and beyond in late 2012 he began to work with the assistance of Columbia University's professor Christopher Emdin and website Rap Genius on a pilot program called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching and Learning Science). This initiative motivates young high school students, especially African-American and Latino students who together make up 70 percent of New York City’s student body, to learn science through hip hop, creating scientific raps and engaging in a rap competition.[30][31][32][33]

In the meantime he continued to work on a related, new studio album called Dark Matter, which is based on a journey through spacetime, universe and physics.[26][34] In late 2015, GZA canceled European tour dates to focus working on the album with composer Vangelis.[13][35][36] It is planned to be one in series of albums related to Earth, with the following conceived around oceans.[15] GZA hinted that the albums will be without parental advisory, profanity and nudity.[15]

In February 2015 was released a single "The Mexican" (cover of Babe Ruth's song) featuring guitarist Tom Morello and singer Kara Lane. They performed the song live along with the The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[37] On 30 June 2016 was released new space-themed track "The Spark" produced by Paul Ryder for the NASA's project titled "Destination Juno" in celebration of the agency's ongoing Juno Mission.[38][39][40] Dark Matter is scheduled for 2017.[41]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications
US
[42]
US
R&B

[43]
US
Rap

[44]
CAN
[45]
UK
[46]
1991 Words from the Genius *
1995 Liquid Swords 9 2 * 20 73
1999 Beneath the Surface
  • Released: June 29, 1999
  • Label: MCA Records
9 1 * 13 56
2002 Legend of the Liquid Sword
  • Released: December 10, 2002
  • Label: MCA/Universal Records
75 21 *
2005 GrandMasters (with DJ Muggs) 180 69 *
2008 Pro Tools 52 13 9

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions[48][49][50] Album
US US R&B US Rap
1991 "Come Do Me" 86 19 Words from the Genius
"Words From a Genius"
"Who's Your Rhymin' Hero"
"Pass the Bone"
1995 "I Gotcha Back" (1994)[51] 29 Liquid Swords
"Liquid Swords" 48 33 3
"Cold World" (feat. Inspectah Deck) 97 57 8
1996 "Shadowboxin'" (feat. Method Man) 67 41 10
1999 "Crash Your Crew" (feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard) Beneath the Surface
"Breaker, Breaker" 80 16
2002 "Knock, Knock" Legend of the Liquid Sword
"Fame" 19
2005 "General Principles" (with DJ Muggs) GrandMasters

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sarah Marie Pittman (25 May 2011). "Rock The Bells Announce 2011 Lineup". Pollstar. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Peter Larson (15 September 2014). "I Played Chess with GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan". Vice Media. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "Top 50 MCs of Our Time: 1987 - 2007 - 50 Greatest Emcees of Our Time". Rap.about.com. 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  4. ^ Hao Nguyen (6 October 2016). "Part 3 of the 50 greatest rappers of all time". Stop The Breaks. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  5. ^ Kofi Bofah (2 November 2016). "The 10 Greatest Rappers of All Time". Cheat Sheet. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  6. ^ "The Source's Top 50 Lyricists Of All Time **Complete List Inside**". ThisIs50.com. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  7. ^ Matt Daniels (2014). "The Largest Vocabulary in Hip hop". Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Killian Young (5 May 2014). "Aesop Rock and GZA Have the Largest Vocabularies in Hip-Hop - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Nathaniel Janowitz (2014). "Ranked: Every Member of Wu-Tang Clan". Nerve. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Harriet Gibsone (19 June 2015). "Introducing the band: Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite interviews Wu-Tang's GZA". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c Reyan Ali (14 June 2012). "Q&A: GZA On Wrestling, His Hip-Hop Beginnings, Chess Metaphors, And The Chances of a Wu-Tang Kung Fu Flick". The Village Voice. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Phillip Mylnar (27 January 2012). "GZA Plans More Ivy League Lectures, Sitcom Pilot And Virus Names". MTV. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c Corbin Reiff (6 November 2015). "20 Years, 20 Questions: GZA Revisits 'Liquid Swords'". Spin. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c James M. Acer (2 December 2011). "Wu-Tang Clan Member Visits Harvard". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c d Anna Louie Sussman (30 May 2012). "A Rapper Finds His Muse in the Stars". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c Gary Suarez (8 October 2015). "GZA Gives Wu-Tang Clan First Platinum Album In More Than A Decade". Forbes. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c Vish Khanna (26 October 2008). "GZA The Exclaim! Questionnaire". Exclaim!. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  18. ^ Kiah Fields (19 February 2016). "Today In Hip Hop History: Gza Releases "Words From The Genius" 25 Years Ago". The Source. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  19. ^ a b c Pologod (7 November 2015). "Today In Hip Hop History: Wu Tang Clan's GZA Drops His Debut Album 'Liquid Swords' 20 Years Ago". The Source. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  20. ^ Kiah Fields (11 January 2016). "Today In Hip Hop History: GZA's 'Liquid Swords' Certified Gold 20 Years Ago". The Source. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  21. ^ John Bush. "AllMusic Review of Beneath the Surface". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  22. ^ Cristopher Oconnor (13 July 1999). "GZA/Genius Digs Up Hit LP Beneath the Surface". Forbes. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  23. ^ "GZA - Postponed". Howard Theatre. 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  24. ^ "Gza of Wu-tang : Rap, Hip-Hop Interview". Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  25. ^ "GZA – 2008 'Liquid Swords' Tour Dates (some w/ RZA)". BrooklynVegan. 17 June 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  26. ^ a b Matthew Perpetua (3 April 2012). "GZA Talks Lectures, Science and 'Dark Matter'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  27. ^ Andrew Martin (9 March 2012). "GZA Announces New Album, "Dark Matter"". Complex. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  28. ^ Jeff Weiss (21 March 2012). "Taking Physics Class with Professor GZA". LA Weekly. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  29. ^ Matt Whitlock (24 March 2014). "Watch GZA Drop Science On High Scholl Youth With New Program, Science Genius". The Source. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  30. ^ John Leland (16 November 2012). "A Hip-Hop Experiment". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  31. ^ Martin Rand (19 November 2012). "Professor: Enter the Wu-Tang to teach high school science". CNN. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  32. ^ "Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. Judges Choose Winning Science Rap". Teachers College, Columbia University. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  33. ^ Angela Watercutter (1 July 2013). "Video: How Rap Battles Are Helping High Schoolers Learn to Love Science". Wired. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  34. ^ Merrill Schwerin (27 March 2013). "School House Rapping With Wu-Tang Clan's GZA". PBS. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  35. ^ Evan Minsker (29 August 2015). "GZA Working With Vangelis on New Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  36. ^ Paley Martin (31 August 2015). "GZA Hits Studio With 'Rare' Collaborator Vangelis, Cancels Tour Dates". Billboard. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  37. ^ Evan Minsker (4 March 2015). "GZA and Tom Morello Perform "The Mexican" With the Roots on "The Tonight Show"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  38. ^ Corbin Reiff (2 July 2016). "GZA Drops New Song "The Spark" for NASA". Complex. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  39. ^ Laurent Fintoni (2 July 2016). "GZA recorded a song with The Happy Mondays' Paul Ryder for NASA". Fact. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  40. ^ Andy Gensler (4 July 2016). "Trent Reznor, Weezer, GZA & More Partner With Apple-NASA Collaboration as Juno Reaches Jupiter". Billboard. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  41. ^ "GZA/Genius - Dark Matter CD". UndergroundHipHop.com. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  42. ^ Billboard 200 chart history. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  43. ^ R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart history. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  44. ^ Rap Albums chart history. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  45. ^ RPM results. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  46. ^ UK Charts Retrieved June 29, 2012
  47. ^ a b Searchable Database. RIAA. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  48. ^ "GZA > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-29. 
  49. ^ Hot 100 Chart History
  50. ^ Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart History
  51. ^ "Genius* - I Gotcha' Back". Retrieved 2 July 2016. 

External links[edit]