Review: GZA Goes Out With a “Big Bang” at Lecture and Concert

The Wu Tang Clan‘s diverse canon of work was on full display Saturday, as the McGill University received GZA for a lecture on how science affected his life and how it helped him understand what surrounds him. It was an intriguing lecture although I must say he didn’t seem all that comfortable just yet. Understandably, grabbing the mic as a keynote speaker in a prestigious university is not quite the same as doing a show and reciting pre-recorded lyrics.

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The themes of the lecture were “Consciousness, Creativity, Music, and the Origins of the Universe”, but in little over 30 minutes, he didn’t really go beneath the surface. He did however answer a few questions from the public, some of which were interesting. One of the questions asked brought the GZA to talk about the double standard of responsibility rappers have to deal with and why they are often associated to something that precedes them and their art form (gang culture, violence, drugs).

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Dj Pro V. Credit: Bianca Lecompte

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We also got word that his next album, Dark Matter, will be dropping within this year and that he’s been working with scientists to make sure his texts are accurate. Someone from the audience also asked him about the secret album that’s  suppose to drop this summer. As a true politician, GZA managed to say nothing, telling us we probably knew more about it than he did.

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Local emcee Markings warming up the crowd. Credit: Bianca Lecompte

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Vincent Pryce on the ones and twos.

His Montreal stop culminated with a show at Cabaret Underworld. He covered many of his classics, Liquid Swords, Investigative Reports, while also giving the usual crowd pleasing nod to ODB. Not much else to say about the concert itself. It was a strong lyrical performance, something we’ve come to expect from probably one of the most articulate MC’s of all time. If anything, he seems to be as tight as ever on stage.

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However, what really captivated everyone’s attention was the very last part of the show. Crowd goes silent. Beat goes off. Light on GZA. What followed must have been one of the most compelling a capella performances I’ve heard in a very long time. At the very least the best rap on the Big Bang I’ve ever witnessed. Not sure if this is on his next universe-themed album, but it was ridiculously good.

 

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How the Wu stayed relevant in hip-hop for 20 years

It’s now been 20 years since the Wu-Tang emerged from Staten Island. And according to Method Man, their best is yet to come. As the most mythical group in the history of Hip Hop, the Wu has cultivated an image that transcends music genre. Books, movies, art, it’s the whole package. Even for someone who isn’t much of a hip-hop fan, the Wu-Tang will most likely still ring a bell as they are well entrenched in the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.

When they launched Enter the 36 Chambers, the master plan was to have it lead to multiple solo releases. Each member managed to spin off the strength and impact of the collective and it’s allowed them to pursue a solo career. But, as individuals, it’s also allowed them to pursue more than just a Hip-Hop act.

This summer, The Wu is dropping their 20th anniversary album A Better Tomorrow, their first collective effort since 2008’s 8 Diagrams. The album is apparently complete and should be dropping somewhere in July. The recently released single Keep Watch was a bit underwhelming, but hopefully the rest of the album doesn’t have too much of the RnB vibe this track has.

And while A Better Tomorrow is apparently almost ready to ship, the Clan is offering another release this summer, albeit a much more exclusive one. During an interview with Forbes, RZA spoke about Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, the album which will most likely sell for more than 20$. Actually, for 50$, we might get a taste of it once during a listening session reminiscent of a high-profile art exhibit.

“We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before […] We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”

We will probably hear more about this project in the upcoming weeks, but until then the speculation will go rampant. Let’s just hope the project’s high ambitions don’t let fans down, as there seems to be a fair of tension within the group these days.

All pictures were taken by Bianca Lecompte.

 

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