GZA the Genius
Real Name: Gary Grice
D.O.B.: August 22, 1966 Brownsville Brooklyn, New York
A.K.A.: Allah Justice (Original 5% name), God Zig-Zag-Zig Allah, The Genius, Maximillion
Label: MCA Records
The Genius is a founding member of the seminal hip-hop super-group, Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to appearing on all the group albums, as a solo rap artist he has released five albums and appeared on other Wu solo joints.
The Early Years
Born in Brooklyn, GZA spent his childhood living with various groups of relatives in the other New York boroughs. During this time began to visit the Soundview Projects in the Bronx where he became fascinated with hip hop. Influenced by the early MC's of the time he began to write his own rhymes.
Also sharing his interest in hip-hop were his cousins Robert Diggs and Russell Jones. The three performed together as the group All In Together Now with Grice going under the alias The Genius; Diggs and Jones performed as The Scientist and The Professor respectively. After gaining some notoriety in the underground Grice and Diggs were signed as solo artists. Grice managed to ink a deal with legendary hip-hop label Cold Chillin' Records. In 1990 Grice released his debut album under the moniker - The Genius with Words from the Genius.
The album was produced by Easy Mo Bee and was heavily influenced by the style of Cold Chillin at the time. The corporate heads of that label wanted to make Grice a commercially viable artist like Big Daddy Kane. However critical reception for the album was lukewarm at best, and sales were disappointing. Eventually Grice was dropped from the label. Grice's experience with Cold Chillin was shared with Diggs' experience at Tommy Boy Records, who had only managed to put out an EP under the alias Prince Rakeem.
Disillusioned with the recording industry Grice and Diggs got back together with Jones and decided that they would make the music they wanted, rather than what label executives made them create. Calling themselves the Wu-Tang Clan, based on the movie Shaolin v. Wu-Tang, Grice, Diggs, and Jones brought together the most talented MC's in the New York underground and began making music. It was at this time that Grice took up the moniker of GZA, which derives from the sound made when the word "Genius" is scratched by a DJ on a record. Diggs became known as RZA (Rakeem scratched) and Jones the Ol' Dirty Bastard, after a character in the Kung-Fu movie "Ol' Dirty & The Bastard", and based on the fact "he has no father to his style" according to Method Man.
The group debuted in 1993 with the critically acclaimed and commercially successful album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The album was produced entirely by RZA. GZA was featured throughout the album. The whole album was hailed by critics as a masterpiece, and GZA was touted by many as the best lyricist in the group. Building off of that success, GZA signed a new deal with Geffen Records and in 1995 released Liquid Swords. This album was also produced by RZA and featured a plethora of guest appearances by fellow Wu-Tang Clan members. It was lauded by critics as a hip-hop classic and was certified platinum by the RIAA. In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums of all time.
After appearing on the Wu-Tang Clan's second album, Wu-Tang Forever, GZA released Beneath the Surface in 1999. Reviews were mostly positive, though it failed to live up to Liquid Swords acclaim and commercial success. Critics pointed to production as the albums main weakness, noting a distinct lack of RZA produced tracks, resulting in a messy collage of beats rather than a cohesive sound. There were also complaints about the presence of skits and the vast number of guest spots.
GZA laid low for the next few years, appearing on the Wu-Tang Clan albums The W and Iron Flag, but shying away from solo work. In 2002, he dropped Legend of the Liquid Sword. The album was received well by critics, but did not achieve commercial success, failing to go gold as his previous release had. GZA spent 2004 touring, both solo and with the Clan. He also made an appearance with RZA in Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee & Cigarettes opposite Bill Murray. In 2005, GZA and DJ Muggs (the producer for Cypress Hill) released the LP Grandmasters. Muggs provided all the beats for the album, which saw GZA using chess as a metaphor for the rap game, exercising his story-telling muscle and commenting on his place as a senior member in the hip-hop community. The album received overwhelmingly positive reviews and modest commercial success.
A compilation album called Pro Tools, was released on January, 8 2008. In an interview with XXL magazine prior to the album's release, GZA stated that RZA was to produce the album. He also mentioned plans to release a collaborative album with his son Young Justice sometime afterwards. GZA also appeared in the Wu-Tang Clan's 2007 album 8 Diagrams. He was also said to be featured heavily on fellow Clansmen Raekwon's new CD, the highly anticipated, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. However, the state of that album including GZA's role is currently unknown. GZA partook in the summer 2007 Wu-Tang tour of Europe and the Rock the Bells tour with the rest of the Clan. It has also recently been announced that GZA and Killah Priest are set to begin work on a collaborative album of their own.
Recently GZA made disparaging remarks about the current state of Hip Hop, and specifically mentioned 50 Cent and Soulja Boy. In response 50 Cent mocked GZA's age and targeted the whole Clan.