Gary Grice, better know as the GZA/Genius, has continued to stick with the rugged Wu-Tang style he help invent and popularize in the 90’s (Even when at times it might not be the most appealing to the average Rap fan). When the Wu was at their best, he was arguably the most lyrical of the bunch. The GZA has also had solo success capturing Platinum status (With Liquid Swords in 1995) as well as Gold (With Beneath The Surface in 1999). But in recent years, GZA hasn’t received as much commercial success as he and his Wu brethren once had. Other than the release of last year’s 8 Diagrams from Wu-Tang Clan, there hasn’t been mush buzz on GZA. The most anybody has heard is that he dissed Soulja Boy and had a minor (And I mean minor) beef with 50 Cent earlier this year. A lot of complaints about his music are that it’s lyrical heavy while production wise very hard and dense. Plus with all the talk about the ages of rappers these days like Jay-Z and Dr. Dre, it must be noted that GZA is 43! With the release of his sixth album, Pro Tools, does GZA stick to the script? Let’s find out…
1. Intromental Produced by Dreddy Kruger
I really liked this into a lot. Even though it clocks in at less than a minute and contains no rapping, the beat is really soulful. If this is a sample of what’s to come, I’m officially excited.
2. Pencil Featuring by Masta Killa & RZA ; Produced by Mathematics
The GZA links up with his Clan brothers on this one which is fitting because the production sounds like something that would’ve appeared on Liquid Swords. No hook just a looped up beat with back to back rhymes. The RZA verse is long as hell (Am I the only one who thinks he just can’t rap anymore?)! The track is okay, but a little boring.
3. Alphabets Produced by True Master
Listening to this track I kinda understand what most of the album will sound like. Similar to the last track, it’s another looped track (Which I understand is the Wu style). The loop can get monotonous, but does work better here and GZA gets deep as usual: “Delivered in the perfect pitch/Because Hip-Hip is all in my genes/The pattern and seams in every stitch”.
4. Groundbreaking Featuring Justice Kareem; Produced by Bronze Nazareth
For those who don’t know, Justice Kareem is actually GZA’s son. I can’t really judge his skills here because he’s only goes back and forth with his Pops on the second verse. But I guess the debates can start about whose son is better: Ghostface’s kid Sun God or GZA’s kid Justice. Oh yeah, I wasn’t really feeling the track either.
5. 7 Pounds Produced by Black Milk (Intro by Preservation)
I’m noticing that most of the songs so far are not even 3 minutes. But this song in particular has some nice drums on it and a good breakdown. GZA touches on one of his favorite subjects: weak rappers. If you a GZA fan, you know it’s songs like this that show his effortlessness.
6. 0% Finance Produced by Jose “Choco” Reynoso
Here The Genius stretches out his storytelling abilities. But don’t get it twisted; he didn’t get that name for nothing. Instead of telling a story he uses mostly car metaphors: “Steering in the right direction/Made sure I wore seatbelts and had airbags for protection/In her tank she loved to stash my tool/I kept her full/Super unleaded fuel”. The beat is okay, but it’s mostly just there as an afterthought to GZA’s wordplay.
7. Short Race Featuring by Roc Marciano; Produced by Arabian Knight
This one is straighter forward as than the last track as far as storytelling. The beat is more complex because Arabian Knight seems to not be content with just a straight loop. The message is your basic “life it too short” thing. Roc Marciano is oaky but mostly your average New York rapper.
GZA talks about Wu-Tang’s impact and seeing a Wu symbol on a dudes face. That’s nothing; I’ve seen one on a girl’s ass!
9. Paper Plate Produced by RZA
This was released not to long ago to the internet and didn’t get buzz behind it. Not to say it isn’t good. GZA basically rips 50 a new asshole! The RZA steps in and does what he supposed to for the whole album: produce. Even though it won’t be mentioned in the same breath as “Hit ‘Em Up”, GZA drops some gems on Curtis: “Got a few hooks with no jabs/Took ’em out ya corndog books and notepads/I get it, you got rich robbing those in the industry/Bite off this one, steal from your enemy”. So far, the best track on Pro Tools.
10. Columbian Ties Featuring True Master; Produced by Bronze Nazareth
When you put this beat up against the last track that was produced by RZA, you see the cohesiveness drop. True Master drops by for the hook, but this track is just plain boring.
11. Firehouse Featuring Ka; Produced by Roc Marciano
Not to sound like a hater, but Ka’s voice gets real annoying, real fast. I make this point because it’s basically his song (GZA just does the hook). The beat, complete with strings and what not, was satisfactory.
12. Path Of Destruction Produced Jay Waxx Garfield
GZA drops more knowledge about how a lot of kids from the ghetto are on a path of destruction. The beat consists of another loop but it is anchored by other things as well. There also are some well placed sound bites here that help get the point across.
13. Cinema Featuring Justice Kareem; Produced by Arabian Knight
Here, GZA tries to paint a suspenseful picture. When the hook comes on, it totally messed up the whole song for me. The hook is straight garbage. It’s a shame since the production wasn’t half bad.
14. Intermission (Drive In Movie)
This sounds like something from Grindhouse.
15. Life Is A Movie Featuring RZA & Khan-Acito; Produced by RZA
The RZA turns in his second produced track for this album. Once again, the production almost puts most of the tracks on Pro Tools to shame. Even though I’ve grown sour to RZA’s rhyming, I can see him and GZA make a good team. You’ll also think the hook is either really good or really bad. The GZA shines on this kind of production.
Pro Tools seems to be right in line with past releases from GZA. But that’s a double edged sword; while it will keep his die hard fans happy, the music is really hard for new fans to jump aboard. But I guess you can applaud GZA for not bending to trends. If you a big GZA fan I know you’ve already got this. If you not a fan of heavy loops, deep concepts, and weighty lyrics with minimal charisma, you might wanna look elsewhere.
nappyPicks: “0% Finance”, “Paper Plate”, & “Life Is A Movie”