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GZA (2 Night Residency)

Perhaps more than any other MC, GZA decapitates the quite choppable theory that Black Studies’ rise out of Black Power amounted to a move from the streets to the accredited university. As Raekwon and Method Man explained on the Wu-Tang Clan’s first album, GZA is the group’s “head,” the stone tablets, the scrolls. Yet since we yield to the temptation to fetishize GZA’s large vocabulary, for us, for now, GZA’s raps speak in tongues. His dense, recalcitrant flows and rhyme schemes symbolize his own refusal to be legible to labels, as well as the Wu’s larger refusal of shiny suit narratives of post-civil rights progress. His classic 1995 solo debut album Liquid Swords only gains stature with time as we begin to come to terms with its revelation, but GZA’s apocrypha remains too grimy for canonization.

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