Friday, January 07, 2011

Behind the Boards Pt. 8: RZA

Of all the producers I've written about for the "Behind the Boards" series, this one might have been the toughest. RZA, the abbot (leader) of the Wu-Tang Clan is without a doubt one of the best Hip Hop producers of all time, and has executive-produced some of greatest albums ever including (but not limited to), Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., Wu-Tang's Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, and GZA's Liquid Swords. RZA's sound is completely unique- he usually resorts to sampling, but unlike other sample-based producers, his style has a very "Eastern" sound to it. RZA, along with the rest of the clan, grew up watching Kung-Fu flicks such as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, and Shogun Assassin among others. He has since gone on to work in film- he put together the score for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1, and is directing his debut film called Man with the Iron Fist.


1) Raekwon- "Incarcerated Scarfaces"

Raekwon's 1995 album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., is one of the best Hip Hop albums of all time, and one of my top 10 favorite albums ever. RZA produced every song on the album, and each one positively contributes to the overall package. I can honestly say that there isn't a single song that I would consider to be "filler material," and I usually just let the album play out all the way through. "Incarcerated Scarfaces" is one of the hardest beats of ever, and the drums are just ferocious. I dare you to listen to this song and not mean mug... it's impossible.

2) Wu-Tang Clan- "Protect Ya Neck"

Considering this as one of the standout tracks on Enter the 36 Chambers just goes to show how good this song is. Every song on 36 Chambers is fantastic, if not legendary, and this one might be top three. Wu-Tang brings a raucous energy to this track, and it always gets the crowd hype.

3) GZA/Genius- "I Gotcha Back"

GZA's Liquid Swords, is another classic RZA-produced album. "I Gotcha Back" is filthier than Gary Glitter in Thailand- it's absolutely despicable to think any two people could make a track this hard.

"Kids are slingin' in the lobby, little Steve and Bobby, gettin' paid but it's a life-threatenin' hobby. Yeah, they still play hide and seek... the fiends seek for the crack, and they hide and let the cops peep."

4) Raekwon- "Ice Cream"

The third single off of Cuban Linx..., RZA laces the beat with a ghostly-sounding piano loop, and Ghostface and Method Man make contributions to top it off (pun intended). This is probably one of my top 3 songs off of Rae's album. Meth's hook is too dope, the way he relates women to different flavors of ice cream is hilarious- "one love to my chocolate deluxes, keep ya nails done... one love to my butter-pecan 'ricans for callin' me papi."

5) Wu-Tang Clan- "Gravel Pit"

The second single off of Wu-Tang's year 2000 album, The W, "Gravel Pit" is the kind of jam that makes everyone wanna go crazy in the club. As RZA says in the beginning of the track,"leave ya flowers at home, leave ya children at home." He gives you fair warning, because this song is definitely hype.

6) Method Man- "All I Need"

"All I Need" won Method Man and Mary J. Blige a grammy award for "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group" in 1996. It is the perfect combination of Wu-Tang grime and mainstream appeal, which is most likely what led to its success.

7) Ol' Dirty Bastard- "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"

There will never be another Ol' Dirty Bastard. The man was 100% real... nothing about him was an act, everything you saw and heard from him was truly authentic. ODB had the most unique and identifiable personalities in Hip Hop until his death in 2004. "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" may seem like typical nonsensical rambling, coming from the king of nonsensical rambling, but the song is hot.

8) Raekwon- "Criminology"

"Criminology" is another all-time great Wu-Tang track. Ghostface's verse is considered by many to be one of the greatest Hip Hop verses ever, and the beat is infectious. This is definitely a standout on Cuban Linx..., which is impressive considering how many phenomenal tracks there are on that album.

9) Wu-Tang Clan- "C.R.E.A.M."

"Cash rules everything around me, CREAM, get the money... dolla dolla bill ya'llllll"

Everyone and their mother knows the hook from this song. You may even know it even if you've never heard the song before in your life. A certified Hip Hop classic right here. There's not much else to say, so enjoy...

10) Wu-Tang Clan- "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit"

If there was ever one song in the history of music that could literally start a riot, this is it... "If you want beef, then bring the ruckus... Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuthin' to fuck wit'." This song defines what the Clan is all about- gettin' rowdy, and destroying any competition that comes in their path.

Honorable Mention: Wu-Tang Clan- "Bring Da Ruckus," Wu-Tang Clan- "Triumph," Ghostface Killah- "Buck 50," Ghostface Killah- "All That I Got Is You," GZA/Genius- "Liquid Swords."

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