“Luminal”

Album: Legend Of The Liquid Sword
Year: 2002
GZA has a crime-fiction writer’s eye for detail, and while Liquid Swords is filled with bloody street-rap specifics, this song might be GZA’s finest bit of grisly reportage. Over a menacing beat from eventual GrandMasters collaborator DJ Muggs, GZA crafts a spooky American Psycho-like narrative that manages to simultaneously succeed as a psychological profile, a tabloid horror story and a nuanced media critique. Get your goosebumps ready.
 

“Exploitation Of Mistakes”

Album: GrandMasters
Year: 2005
GZA loves chess, and obviously he loves extended metaphors, so it makes sense that he would record an entire album of chess-influenced songs. It’s like an album-length variation on that chess scene from The Wire, but, you know, not as dopey. The album is actually pretty consistent thanks to the nuanced production work from GZA’s collaborator DJ Muggs. This stand-out shows off how awesome GZA sounds over some haunting piano keys.
 

“Illusory Protection”

Album: GrandMasters
Year: 2005
GZA sounds relatively fired up on this track. While his delivery often has a detached, contemplative tone, which fits with his complex lyrical precision, songs like this show that on the right beat, he can sound as nimble and bold as his more impulsive Wu-Tang cohorts. Here’s the proof: “Half of these rap lyrics ain’t thoughts provoked/Just alotta beef ’til they get caught in smoke.”
 

“0% Finance”

Album: Pro Tools
Year: 2008
This is another concept song, only here instead of focusing on publicity, celebrities or animals, GZA turns his pen to automobiles. At first it seems like GZA is carrying on the rap tradition of people wanting to have sex with, in and around cars (UGK’s “Fuck My Car” is a classic of this particular genre), but he’s actually up to something even more peculiar: He’s imagining a whole Pixar Cars universe. Craziest line: “Her man used to hustle and ran a crack corner/So insecure he kept LOJACK on her.”
 

“Pencil”

Album: Pro Tools
Year: 2008
At 45 GZA is the oldest member of the Wu Tang Clan, and while he’s not much older than his fellow MCs, he’s always worn his age proudly. Even on Liquid Swords he seemed world-weary and wise. Pro Tools is a level-headed and mature album. On “Pencil” GZA returns to one of his favorite topics: his own writing process. Like many aging artists, he’s constantly in conversation with his younger self, annotating and revising his own mythology.