Monday, December 17, 2007

gza @ knitting factory, 12/14/07 ("wu tang is for the fucking babies")

as the gza is one of the world's nastiest lyricists and liquid swords is one of my favorite rap albums ever, it's safe to say that his pseudo-don't look back rendition of that record was probably my most-anticipated concert of the year. honestly, i've been excited for this show since i bought the tickets way back in august; i've even spent the past several weeks with liquid swords on repeat, re-memorizing every nuance of his rhymes and the rza's production. though it disappointed many people when he canceled his appearance at mccarren pool over the summer, i was overjoyed, because i was out of town. so when he announced a two night stint at knitting factory, i made sure i would be there, for an undoubtedly epic event.

though i had experienced a don't look back event before, i had a feeling that this would not be a straight recitation of liquid swords verse for verse, and not only because the whole wu wasn't going to be showing up. live rap is never like studio rap, and the gza, unlike slint, is still performing and creating new music. so i expected the show to revolve around liquid swords but not to venerate it, and that's exactly what the gza did.

doors for the show were at 11, and the line stretched from the door all the way to broadway, the sold out crowd rabid with excitement. when we finally made it to the floor, we were greeted by prince paul's progeny, prince paul jr. on the decks, who was spinning straight wu tang. the crowd was mostly white (no surprises there), and mostly from staten island, and had every other verse memorized. prince paul jr. switched it up after a while, playing great old-school stuff, from epmd and biggie smalls to dr. dooom and big pun, and the crowd ate it up. real quality stuff. he didn't do much mixing, just spinning one song after another, but the selection was really choice. by the end of his set, the sold out crowd was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, now rabid with excitement, and prince paul jr. well earned his applause.

the gza's lyrics have always separated him from the rest of the clan, profound and intellectual as well as devastating, and he really delivered at this show. despite the fact that liquid swords is credited to the gza, the whole wu tang is really an intrinsic part of the album, and their absence meant that there was no way most of the tracks could be reproduced faithfully. regardless, the gza rocked tracks from both liquid swords and wu tang albums, dropping a special verse to ol' dirty bastard as well as a special acknowledgment of the meaning of "liquid swords," and the continued importance of the wu. it was an all ages show, as the row of under 18 year-olds in front proved, and the gza seized this as an example of how wu tang is still relevant, saying "wu tang is for the fucking babies."

the gza did most of the tracks from liquid swords, including a badass "cold world" into "liquid swords," his verses flowing like butter, letting the crowd finish his sentences as often as not, acknowledging the extent to which everyone had the words memorized. it was a great show and really a privilege to see him perform. there is a divide between liquid swords and its performance, but it is an natural one, an organic one, and just as relevant and valuable as the album itself. the gza proved he (and the wu tang clan) are still a force to be reckoned with, as they have been for over a decade.

"living in the world today"

"'cold world' -> 'wu tang is for the fucking babies' -> 'liquid swords'"

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