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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Album Review: "Pro Tools" by GZA

Posted by Tariq al Haydar

 

by Tariq al Hayder

My American sojourn was scheduled to end on August 20th, so I was thrilled when I realized that GZA's new joint was coming out on the 19th. Nothing like some new GZA to make a 12-hour flight a bit more bearable. And the Genius did not disappoint, although I have to admit I miss those old Kung-Fu samples and extended chess metaphors.

Don't get it twisted, this is no Liquid Swords. But if you don't get caught up in comparisons, it's easy to appreciate "Pro Tools" for what it is: A superlative artist delving into the intricacies of the craft he's mastered. You get the feeling that the erstwhile "head" of the Wu-Tang Clan is comfortable in the knowledge that he needs to prove nothing. Even "Paper Plate," in which he annihilates his "rival" 50 Cent, is devoid of any real rage. This is probably the only diss track I've ever heard which contains almost no profanity. It's almost a lecture: GZA successfully cuts Fiddy down to size by illustrating what Curtis lacks: lyricism. He points out that 50 Cent has "got a few hooks but no jabs." And then almost matter-of-factly drives home the difference between the two of them:

Have you ever been stung by a thousand hornets?
Five hundred killa bees, buzzin' and really on it
Whipped with CUBAN LINX, cut with LIQUID SWORDS
Choked by IRONMEN 'til we crush your vocal cords.
You ain't nothin' but a pig in a blanket
Hoghead, the deadliest food at the banquet.
All this rap crap that's trapped in your colon
Only means, get rid of the wack sh-- ya holdin'


And that's the one hushed, aborted profane word in the entire song: "Sh--", but the way GZA censors himself, it sounds like "shhh", like he's simply silencing 50. I would really like to see 50 Cent respond to this emasculation.

"0% Finance" is the latest offering in which GZA builds a song around a single theme. Remember how "Animal Planet" and "Fame" revolved around using the names of animals and celebrities? In "0% Finance" the Genius flips car metaphors: "...like the distance from MERCURY to SATURN". "Cinema" is a chilling horror-film-type track, which is followed nicely by "Life is a Movie". "Alphabets," meanwhile, sees GZA casually strolling through each letter of the alphabet with characteristic ease.

Throughout, the GZA's lyrics remain sharp like cactii. That's the focus of the album, to show the "pro tools" with which he has honed his craft. There aren't many appearances by his fellow Clansmen. RZA pops up a couple of times while Masta Killa appears on "Pencil". But that's OK, because GZA more than hold it down. To borrow a phrase from Masta Killa, "Pro Tools" sounds like the work of a master.

23 comments:

Hursty said...

Tariq since your, like, good at writing and stuff, do you think you'll do an article on the relationship between hip hop and basketball? Never even heard of the rapper but I might listen to a bit on youtube.

TADOne said...

I'm so ashamed that I didn't even know this was coming out. Then again, the music industry doesn't promote "lyrical" hip-hop anymore. God forbid you actually have to listen and THINK while listening to music. Thank the lord for Nas. I'll be copping this GZA ASAP.

Hursty: I'm speachless that you have never even HEARD of GZA. Expand your horizons young man!

Wu-Tang Forever!

Tariq al Hayder said...

hursty:

I really wouldn't know what to write. I guess I'm not really interested in the "culture" of hip-hop. I listen to it because I like the music. That's it.

And TAD, I only found out it was coming out about a month ago from this great blog called "Straight Bangin'". Practically NO mainstream media promotion whatsoever.

Tariq al Hayder said...

hursty:

I really wouldn't know what to write. I guess I'm not really interested in the "culture" of hip-hop. I listen to it because I like the music. That's it.

And TAD, I only found out it was coming out about a month ago from this great blog called "Straight Bangin'". Practically NO mainstream media promotion whatsoever.

AR said...

"? Never even heard of the rapper but I might listen to a bit on youtube."

Fucking youth of today.

Hursty said...

Izzo, your about 6 months older than I am. In Australia... the music we are exposed to on a regualar basis is complete shit. Not my fault.

TADOne said...

Lesson learned? Don't vacation in Australia.

BETCATS said...

i used to be on the other end of this issue, but Weezy made me realize: hip hop today is too main stream. If you sell 1,000,000 albums today, you making Hip Pop not Hip Hop. Dont get me wrong, before this i was bumping weezy like crazy, when the Carter 3 was leaked i went on Limewire and started bumping it like crazy. But then it happened. People who should not have been listening did, and they all went out and started buying the album. I am not trying to knock Weezy's hustle but you look into the lyrical connetent: "a milli a milli a milli". Its just not deep anymore. LL and the Game both have new albums with lyrical connetent and i am bumping them right now. I am not one who listens to GZA all that much but i might buy the album.

TADOne said...

Lil Wayne was deep and lyrical before??

BET: I know me and you are from completely different generations, but if you want deep and lyrical peep these: Any Wu or GZA albums, Big Pun, Aceyalone, Little Brother, Canibus (lyrical, but not deep), Chino XL, Cunninlynguists, any unreleased or B side Em, Ras Kass, Dead Prez(more deep than lyrical), Non-Phixion, No I.D., MF Doom...

I know i'm missing a few, but it's Friday.

BETCATS said...

only dudes i am bumping now is Game, LL, some old Common, some old Lupe, some Jeezy. I am done with lil wayne though, his shit is collecting social security from my ears because it is retired. D-O-N-E.

TADOne said...

Nothing wrong with that list BET. Well, maybe Jeezy. I don't really feel him. I was trying to give you underground or slept on stuff. If you listen to Pandora radio on the web, type in any of these artists. If you like lyrics, you won't be disappointed.

Hursty said...

Well what about KANYE!!? lol Im j/k.

Tariq al Hayder said...

hursty:

Kanye may not be absolute top notch when it comes to rapping, but he's pretty good, plus he's one of the best producers out there.

TADOne said...

Kanye has some witty wordplay and has always been an excellent producer with an ear for music. Kanye actually 'works' at his craft, unlike most so-called MC's in today's game.

B. Long said...

Some of Lil Wayne's mixtapes have some decent lyrical content like all Da Drought's but I was expecting more from the Carter 3. I liked Tie my Hands and Mr. Carter and that's about it. The Gza is the man though. I wish him and Raekwon would get back in the studio together. Meth too. As far as what you guys are saying about Hip Hop not being lyrical anymore I feel yall. That's the whole reason Game is wearing a shirt that says Hip-Hop broke my heart in his new video. I don't know if yall have heard any of the new leaked tracks off LAX yet but it is fire. It won't sell like The Carter 3 but it's twice the album. DMX opens and closes the album with a prayer like he used to on his. Crazy.

BETCATS said...

b. long: wayne's mixtapes are for the hood and the hood only. Thats why i can always bump them. His albums used to be that way too, my point is he has become a cutural icon, yet culture in general sucks.

Hursty said...

Thanks for recognising hibachi fellas.

ASPOV said...

Gotta have it. Thanks Tariq.

B. Long said...

Yeah, So... I'm getting the BETcats treatment from Slam today and I have no idea why. Ben just emailed me a couple days ago about my noyz submissions and now this? Ryne says I didn't do anything wrong and that its a tech problem but that I won't be able to get on until tomorrow. To bad too. Lots of good stuff about Team USA on there today and without me there to defend him shamelessly Kobe is going to take a one sided beating for sure. By the way, Yall all need to hear the new Put On Jay-Z remix and LAX files. Dope tracks.

AR said...

My friend recently pointed out to me that
"I haven't listened to rap that has nothing to do with the Wu Tang Clan in 4 months and I know you haven't either."

He was right

TADOne said...

Hey Alan: What is the Stradelberry Electric Picnic and are you going? I'm just asking because the Root's will be there and I think you had told me before that you have never seen them live.

Eboy said...

My two younger brother-in-laws (27 & 22) love this album. We had a barbecue over this past weekend and they were both taking turns listening to it on one of their I-Pods. From what I've heard, it's really well done. T, great review, and I will be looking for it this weekend. Like how he used Protools as the title since it was that program that has basically ruined music in all forms in the 21st century. Smart guy to use the veiled insult.

Money Bill Williams said...

this album shall be good when i cop it but it will not top only built for cuban linx 2, that album will be an instant classic if it's half as good as the original. Hursty, take a break from the heavy metal and listen to wu tang, they are the masters