CD Review of Pro Tools by GZA/Genius
Recommended if you like
Wu Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah,
Mos Def
Label
Babygrande Records
GZA/Genius: Pro Tools
  • Sharp lyrical
    flow over stark
    Wu Tang-style
    beats
  • 2008
  • Buy the CD

Reviewed by Jim Washington

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A
re you ready for more of that voodoo that Wu do?

Wu-Tang Clan alumnus GZA aka The Genius is back with his fifth solo album (counting the pre-Wu Words from the Genius), and it’s probably his best since the classic Liquid Swords.

While it may not reach the heights of recent releases by his fellow Clan member Ghostface Killah, Pro Tools can be counted among the better of the many various solo Wu works.

Released on indie label Babygrande, the album features a roster of backups from Wu Tang’s RZA and Masta Killa to talented outsiders Justice Kareem and True Master.

The spare production is pure Wu, and GZA’s flow is as tight as ever (those in the know often called him the Clan’s greatest rapper, despite the higher profiles of Ghostface, Method Man and the late, lamented Ol’ Dirty Bastard).

In addition to the smooth, dexterous rapping it’s the writing that sets the album apart, from references to Russian wrestler Ivan Koloff to lyrical tricks in “Alphabets” -- a chorus that uses all 26 letters in order -- and “0% Finance,” which drops a head-spinning number of car references over (I have to say it) a hard-driving beat.

But Pro Tools shines just as brightly on what British rapper Dizzee Rascal calls “that old-school storytelling tip.”

GZA

Tracks like “Groundbreaking,” “7 Pounds,” and “Short Race” cover well-trod ground such as discovering a love of rap as a youngster and perils of the rap game, but they do it with stanzas like this -- “The slang is dangerous / MCs are like sperm cells, a gang of us / Fighting to reach the egg, biting and lose a leg.”

There’s the usual slew of head-scratching but awesome samples, using what appears to be that sprinkling of fairy dust sound they used to play between scenes on “Charlie’s Angels.” The album’s highlight is “Life Is a Movie,” based Gary Numan’s “Films.” Why don’t more rappers sample Gary Numan?

Over a rubbery bass line, GZA reels off a list of ironic bummers worthy of Alanis Morrisette, including the feeling that he’s “The man who hit the lotto and lost the ticket / In a rainstorm and got hit by lightning trying to get it.”

Ouch.

GZA caps off the album with a fun, live version of “Elastic Audio,” and even that sounds cool.

It seems that whether he’s kicking it with Bill Murray on film or putting out consistently strong albums, The Genius is still right up there at the head of the Wu-Tang Clan class.

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