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Gza Genius Biography
The Genius, aka the GZA, was the most cerebral MC in the
Wu-Tang Clan, as well as perhaps the most acclaimed. His cool, precise
flow and intricate, literate rhymes weren't as theatrical as Method Man
or Ol' Dirty Bastard, the two biggest commercial stars to spring from
the collective. But among hip-hop aficionados, the Genius was revered
for his flawless technique and lyrical dexterity, and was considered by
many to be the best pure rapper in the entire Clan. The Genius was born
Gary Grice on August 22, 1966, in Staten Island, NY, and shuttled
between several other New York boroughs with various relatives during
his childhood. He started learning rhymes by the earliest hip-hop MCs
while spending time in the Bronx, and returned to Staten Island to
share them with his cousins, who later became Ol' Dirty Bastard and the
RZA. In fact, the three of them first teamed up in the early '80s as
part of an obscure group called All in Together Now.
Time passed, and the Genius landed a recording contract with Cold
Chillin', which, unfortunately, was nearing the end of its brilliant
run. In 1991, he became the only future Wu-Tang member to release a
solo album prior to the Clan's formation, with Words From the Genius.
Produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee, the album flopped badly and,
creatively, did little to hint at the Genius' future standing.
Conflicts with the label sent the Genius packing, and he reteamed with
a similarly disenchanted RZA (fresh off a failed stint with Tommy Boy)
and Ol' Dirty Bastard to co-found the Wu-Tang Clan. Adding six other
friends and associates, the group became an underground sensation and
took the rap world by storm with its 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36
Chambers). Their innovative contract allowed each member to sign a solo
deal with whatever label they chose, and the Genius wound up on Geffen.
In 1994, his first post-Wu solo track, I Gotcha Back, appeared on the
soundtrack of the film Fresh. His second solo album, Liquid Swords,
followed in 1995 and was hailed as a hip-hop classic thanks to its
coolly understated menace. While it didn't make him a star on the level
of Method Man, the album did sell well, reaching the pop Top Ten and
falling one spot short of the top of the R&B charts. There were no
big mainstream hits, but the title cut, Cold World, and
Shadowboxin' all did well on the rap charts.
Following the Clan's 1997 sophomore set, Wu-Tang Forever, the Genius
returned to the solo arena with 1999's Beneath the Surface. While
critics didn't praise it quite as lavishly as Liquid Swords, it was
another well-received effort (especially compared to some of the
lackluster follow-ups elsewhere in the Wu-Tang camp), and it topped the
R&B album charts. After reconvening with the Wu for 2000's The W
and 2001's Iron Flag, the Genius dropped his fourth solo effort, Legend
of the Liquid Sword, in late 2002, consolidating his reputation as one
of the most skillful rappers around. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide
Written by Steve Huey