GZA Liquid Swords, GZA Liquid Swords Reissue, GZA CMJAll great albums cast shadows, but some classic albums loom so largely over the careers of certain artists that they threaten to make subsequent records irrelevant. GZA’s Liquid Swords is undoubtably one of those albums. Along with Raekwon’s Built 4 Cuban Linx, Ghostface Killah’s Ironman, Method Man’s Tical and ODB’s Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, it was part of an unprecedented and still unmatched burst of creative energy from the nascent Wu-Tang Clan, and it established GZA as a gifted solo artist capable of crafting dense narratives filled with clever wordplay and stark imagery.
 
This week Get On Down will reissue Liquid Swords as a remastered two-CD box set featuring a new instrumental version of the record, a 20-page booklet and a mini chess set. But here’s the thing: Gary Grice didn’t stop making music after Liquid Swords. He’s recorded four records since then, and he even released a pre-Wu album in 1991 under the Genius name. And here’s the other thing: There are some awesome songs on those records. Since you probably already know Liquid Swords is a masterpiece, here’s a list of 10 great GZA solo tracks that don’t appear on Liquid Swords:
 

“Pass The Bone”

Album: Words From The Genius
Year: 1991
Grice’s debut solo album as the Genius—the only pre-36 Chambers solo full-length from any Wu member—is mostly notable for its status as an example of how record labels simply weren’t sure how to package an artist like the GZA (watch the goofy-ass video for “Come Do Me” to see what I mean). “Pass The Bone” wouldn’t fit in the cinematic and apocalyptic world of Liquid Swords, but it’s a charming polaroid of GZA and the RZA at their most playful and laid back.
 

“Breaker, Breaker”

Album: Beneath The Surface
Year: 1999
Beneath The Surface suffers from a lot of the same problems that plague many post-first-five-years Wu solo records: too many RZA knock-off beats by non-RZA producers, too many guest spots from undeserving underlings, no urgency. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few choice cuts. With its spry string loop and its garbled walkie-talkie chorus, “Breaker Breaker” is the type of simple and catchy track that GZA doesn’t get enough chances to shine on. Also, it’s got one of GZA’s best violent yet cerebral threats: “With age and experience, my reason ripens/I strike on you Vikings, slash like a hyphen”
 

“1112″

Album: Beneath The Surface
Year: 1999
It’s no surprise that one of Beneath The Surface‘s most visceral tracks finds GZA reuniting with his cousin RZA for a minimalistic slice of dread-rap. With his penchant for elaborate similes and dense rhyme patterns, GZA will always be tagged as the most “cerebral” member, whatever that means. I guess there’s a reason Method Man called him the head of the Wu-Tang’s Voltron, but songs like this show that when he’s paired with the right beat his lyrics can take on a startling physicality and intensity that belies his introspective reputation.
 

“Knock Knock”

Album: Legend Of The Liquid Sword
Year: 2002
You’d think after releasing an album that didn’t quite match up with the outsized expectations of his fans, GZA would have distanced himself from his iconic Liquid Swords record, but instead he doubles down here by referencing it right in the title, almost tempting listeners to go ahead and make the comparison. Legend Of The Liquid Sword isn’t a super cohesive album, but it’s more consistently rewarding than its soggy predecessor. On tracks like “Knock Knock” GZA shows once again how good he is at telling you how good he is at rapping. Surprise: He’s really good at it.
 

“Fame”

Album: Legend Of The Liquid Sword
Year: 2002
Now this is a silly song. Cleverness can be a blessing and a curse, and on tracks like “Fame” or the National Geographic catalog “Animal Planet” you can hear GZA gleefully crossing the line from inspired wit to downright lunacy. Like Liquid Swords“Labels,” this is one of GZA’s concept songs, meaning it’s all about connecting mischievous bits of proper noun wordplay into a string of interconnected puns. You either think this stuff is corny as hell or you love it. You decide.
 

Next page: Five more GZA songs