Everyone remembers those albums that their families used to play growing up. In my case, there are a few particulars that have been burned so deeply into my consciousness that I can still recite song lyrics and track listings by heart. These include Sportsby Huey Lewis and the News, INXS' Kick, and....um....Enter the Wu-Tang. Yeah.
As a suburban kid growing up in Ontario in the '90s, hip hop was kind of a big deal, but, like any other type of music, you were defined by the particular category that you preferred within the genre. My hip-hop sphere of influence began and ended with the bookish, cuddly Q-Tip repeatedly describing stuff as "abstract" in Low End Theory and the kooky grooves and punk songs on Check Your Head, which to this day makes me feel better about being a dorky white person who persists in liking hip-hop. It was comforting stuff. Safe and fun, with rhymes that were easy to mimic at parties.
For my younger brothers, though, it was all about HARD SHIT. That would include NWA (my brother Matt still has a copy of Straight Outta Compton on tape somewhere) and the Wu. I became acclimatized to this music because, as with INXS and Huey, I had no other choice. In our democratic family, we all got to choose the music on car trips. I remember eight-hour drives to Maine where we cycled through Enter the Wu-Tang at least two and a half times. Gradually, it became three. I was amazed that my parents were able to endure multiple rotations of an album that features a five-minute monologue about torturing someone, until my mother admitted to me years later that she actually kind of likes the songs that feature Method Man. Whaaaat? I was like, "Mom, you're weird."
Anyway, this is a very long preamble to me admitting that I was really excited about seeing GZA on Friday night and he did not disappoint. What can I say? It's the fuckin' GZA. I have to admit I haven't heard much of Liquid Swords, the oft-praised solo album that he performed in its entirety at the Marquee, but the nice thing was that the show was still good whether you could quote the whole album (and lots of people did) or whether you only knew who GZA was because of his scene with Bill Murray in Coffee and Cigarettes.(Incidentally there was a rumour that the RZA was going to perform with his cousin and Wu-mate on Friday night, which had everyone in quite a tizzy. Sadly, Rizz didn't materialize.)
The whole show was a dream. I quite simply don't have enough words in my hungover state to describe it accurately. He was a total gentleman, funny and a little goofy, loved the audience's reactions when he dropped old ODB and Wu ditties like "Clan in Da Front," "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Triumph," and just basically put on a lengthy, satisfying show. He is a great MC with punchy, clear emphasis and he also came across as extremely professional and gracious. Gushgushgush. So great.
My one quibble with the whole evening is that I felt the showcase of local MC's and DJs in Hell's Kitchen got a bit of a dick ticket, as a tough friend of mine likes to say. The entire night I did not see more than maybe 15 people in attendance. And some of the acts were pretty good. Or amusing. Or both.
This guy blew us away. He has a great, smooth delivery and his lyrics were intense. He spat songs about friends committing suicide, people telling him he's not black enough, and a breakup with a girlfriend. Then he would have a rave-up dance number and wave around a beer bottle. He was alternatively intense, hilarious and heartbreaking. I could have watched him for a lot longer. As it was, we stood there totally absorbed. And this was him performing to an audience of 15 people---I can only imagine what he would be like in a Marquee-type environment. I will definitely go and see him again because I have a nagging feeling that he's going to get all famous like Classified and then he'll be gone forever.
So, to close perhaps the most rambly blog entry so far, I have to say that as much as I love Ghettosocks and DJ Cosmo, I would have liked to see someone like J-Bru share the stage with them too. It doesn't seem fair that there were twice as many people upstairs at the Marquee sitting around for an hour before Cosmo began while the people performing downstairs were trapped in a dead zone.
To close, here are five facts you may/may not have known about our friend Mr. GZA, courtesy of our friend the Internet.
5. He wrote a graphic novel (it never got published)
4. He has a son who also raps and whose name is Young Justice.
3. He was born in 1966, which makes him 42!!!
2. He thinks rappers should test themselves by rapping about the 17th century and not just fall back on the bitches and hoes stuff all the time. He says if you have trouble doing that, you're not very good. Can you imagine trying to rap about the 17th century, though? I feel that would be very difficult.
1. He thinks 50 Cent is stupid. Ten points for GZA!