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Words for the Genius: An open letter to GZA

On the rapper's 50th birthday, I look back on the first CD I ever bought and how much it meant to me.

Asmar Bouie // REVOLT

At sixteen, I saw many people in my life going down paths that were dissimilar to mine, some for the better and some not so much. For myself I had become engulfed in the raw artistry of beats and rhyming. It was also the same year I mustered up enough cash to buy my first CD. At this point in time, I was in love with history, the history of Hip-Hop. It had the ability to teach me about the past, the present, and was going to assist in the shaping of my future. Hip-Hop was my spiritual lover. The love and knowledge she bestowed upon me is all I’ve ever wanted to share with others, even when impossible.

But that CD I purchased with my well-hustled money was none other than Liquid Swords.

“Picture blood baths in elevator shafts like these murderous rhymes tight from genuine craft,” GZA rapped on “Duel of the Iron Mic”, lines that absolutely rocked me to my core, painting a grimy visual of a life I had partially explored. It was easy to get lost in the cold sounds of RZA’s production and flows that the album offered as I traveled within this plane of existence. As for the LP’s subject matter, it was too much to handle but I was an eager one – moving in a state of total awareness and ready for whatever effect it would have on my mind and soul.

See, the Wu-Tang Clan had become gods to me — a bunch of emcees who consistently delivered the science of life, and were just absolutely deadly when united. Every member had their standout quality, but GZA was in a class of his own and still is to this day. It was easy to accept the emcee in smaller doses as his words were usually just the extra layer of icing on a cake of pure dopium. Sitting down and playing Liquid Swords in its entirety morphed into a one-on-one lesson between a master and his prodigy. GZA became one of my many teachers, but it was hardened compassion and no-holds-barred mentality that kept me invested. What's public school when you've got rap?

But as I grew, I held those lessons close, even when the house was winning. I was dealt some bad hands and even played a few bad ones, resulting in the questioning of my purpose in this reality. Often times everything seemed unclear, and shaky but your music was there. I only hope that when I reach the age of 50, somebody will share with me how served as a guiding light in their darkest hour. I know you have other albums, but Liquid Swords taught me some ish I have yet find in a book or through other vessels. It was another voice in the universe talking to me.

Thank you.

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