Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

The plates in Omarr's kitchen cabinets used to rattle when we played this at his crib.

GZA feat. Method Man "Shadowboxin'"

Along with Mobb Deep, The Fugees, and OutKast, various Wu-Tang projects stayed in rotation in the years I lived in the same neighborhood with my friends Omarr and Andre. I can't begin to tell you how many times we must have listened to "C.R.E.A.M.," "Bring the Pain," "Incarcerated Scarfaces," "Cold World," "For Heavens Sake," and countless other tracks from the various Wu-related albums. However, for me this particular cut seemed to embody everything that was essential to the Wu-Tang aesthetic. There's something about the incredibly ragged and muddy feel of RZA's production and the faint distortion of GZA and Method Man's vocal track that captured the purity of the Wu-Tang sound during this era.

Listening to this track in 2011 has illuminated something about RZA's work that I've barely noticed before now, his approach to sampling. The sample he used for this particular tune is from one of hip hop's favorite soul artists, Anne Peebles. Her song "Trouble, Heartache, and Sadness" is the foundational element of RZA's composition, providing the skeleton upon which he layers the drums and baseline. When I hear how Anne's voice becomes such a prime element of the instrumental, I recognize the artistic inspiration RZA provided for today big-budget producers such as Just Blaze, Kanye West, and the late J Dilla. Along with cats like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Timbaland, and Dr. Dre, RZA should certainly be considered one of the pillars of hip hop production.

This track is the realest.


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