(Photo by Fergus McDonald/Getty Images)
It may have taken nearly twenty years, but a heralded hip-hop classic has finally caught up saleswise to its platinum reputation. Yesterday, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that Liquid Swords, the sophomore album from the New York City rapper and Wu-Tang Clan member GZA, had officially crossed the threshold of one million units sold as of September 15th.
As one of the best known and most respected hip-hop groups ever, the Wu-Tang Clan are no strangers to gold records and platinum plaques. Several of their albums, as well as the solo efforts of its multiple lyrically adept members, have sold at RIAA award levels. Yet the group’s last certifications came in 2004, with a gold nod to Method Man’s Tical 0: The Prequel and a platinum one for Ghostface Killah’s Ironman, thus making Liquid Swords the first Wu-Tang Clan project to reach RIAA platinum status in more than a decade.
Born Gary Grice, GZA’s rap career precedes his involvement in the Wu-Tang Clan. In 1991, he released an album for seminal rap label Cold Chillin’ Records under the moniker The Genius. While the album failed to catapult him into stardom, he retained that name in a hybridized form (Genius/GZA) for his next effort, released two years after the group’s platinum selling Loud Records debut Enter The Wu-Tang. First released in November of 1995, Liquid Swords peaked at #9 on the Billboard 200 album charts and was certified gold the following January. It capped off an impressive year of solo wins from his fellow Clansmen, including gold awards for Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return To The 36 Chambers and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, as well as a platinum one for Method Man’s Tical.
GZA’s follow-up Beneath The Surface went gold in 1999. Like 1995, it was a banner year for Wu-Tang Clan in terms of RIAA awards, with gold status for new albums from Ol’ Dirty Bastard (N**** Please), Raekwon (Immobilarity), and RZA (Bobby Digital In Stereo) in addition to GZA. The certifications continued on the other side of the millennium, with platinum plaques for the group’s third full-length The W and Method Man’s collaborative Blackout album with New Jersey native Redman, both honored in 2000. That same year, Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele went gold within a month of its release. The group’s fourth outing, 2001′s Iron Flag, did so as well.
Though it doesn’t match the Wu-Tang Clan’s sales king, the quadruple platinum Wu-Tang Forever, GZA’s Liquid Swords remains one a favorite among hip-hop fans and critics alike. Featuring a dozen beats from producer RZA, the album proved a logical extension of the group’s signature sound, blending samples from old kung fu movies and dusty records into gritty albeit robust instrumentals designed to support GZA’s dextrous wordplay. Arguably the Wu-Tang Clan’s most verbose emcee, GZA graciously shares the mic here with each of the group’s members, making for rap classics like “4th Chamber” and “Shadowboxin’.”