GZA | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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It's been a couple years since the Wu-Tang Clan made an album, but with RZA and Raekwon putting out CDs in the last few months and several other members (Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and Masta Killa) gearing up to release solo projects this year, the Wu is definitely still a going concern. But it's a shame to see the power of the brand diluted: though these two shows are billed as Wu-Tang, only one of the group's nine members, GZA, is appearing. Rounding out the bill is a roster of second- and third-tier associates like Cappadonna, Killah Priest, and Remedy, which strikes me as false advertising bordering on bait and switch. Still, there's no point in taking it out on GZA, whose most recent album, Legend of the Liquid Sword (MCA, 2002), was an undiminished showcase of the verbal dexterity that's made him a hip-hop deity. On "Animal Planet" GZA revisits the classic Grandmaster Flash line "It's like a jungle sometimes," extending the metaphor with a detailed taxonomy of urban wildlife: "Those pelicans who smuggle contraband for the whale / While the skunks spray the scent to keep the dogs off the trail / The scorpion set up a sting for sly foxes / That use stool pigeons just to keep them in the boxes." In "Fame" he punningly manipulates the names of celebrities into a hazy narrative about the climb to stardom: "He stayed on line chatting with rap celebs / Used Bernie's Mac to search Veronica's Web / It cost them their life for the advice you gave / Now Pete's rose lay on Vanessa's red grave." Only one track, "Rough Cut," was produced by RZA, and the hodgepodge of other producers results in a mixed bag of beats, but more often than not GZA's assured delivery and lyrical wit put him over. Also appearing: Rhyme 'n' Reason, Dezert Eez, and Ill Noiz. Friday's show is all-ages, Saturday's is 18 and over. Friday, January 9, 7 PM, and Saturday, January 10, 11 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/T. Hopkins.

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