GZA / Killah Priest / Raz Fresco Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, January 20
Published Jan 21, 2020GZA's sophomore album, Liquid Swords, is not only one of the best solo Wu-Tang Clan releases, it's a hip-hop classic on its own. This year it turns 25, and "The Genius" GZA has taken it on an anniversary tour, which included a stop at the Commodore Ballroom on Monday night.
Doing the opening honours for the hip-hop veteran was "The Young God" Raz Fresco, a Toronto-born rapper who's clocked a decade in the game himself. In that time, he's racked up notable collaborations Mac Miller, French Montana, Tyga, Wale and B.o.B.
Monday marked Fresco's BC debut, and he made a memorable impression. Flow wasn't his strong suit, but he made up for it with high energy in both his music and his crowd work; overflowing with confidence, he never came off as desperate. He also impressed with his ability to jump from turn-up standouts like "Marvellous Right Wrist" and "Cold Wave" to one track whose beat twinkled like it could have lifted off into scrambled heights like "Sweet Love for Planet Earth" by Fuck Buttons.
Extended Wu fam members Killah Priest and DJ Symphony kicked the warm-up into another level with several tributes and shoutouts to the core Wu-Tang members. He commanded fans to put their phone lights high in the air in memory of Ol' Dirty Bastard during "Black August (Daylight)." Later, he performed a snippet of the ODB's all-time classic, "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," in another tribute to the late Wu original. Priest also unleashed Wu-Tang tracks, including "America," and brought out a local artist, giving her a moment to shine with an impressive vocal performance.
After a brief changeover, the man Killah Priest called his mentor and big brother, GZA, made his grand entrance.
The master wordsmith of the Wu hacked and slashed his way through most of Liquid Swords, starting with "Duel of the Iron Mic," "Living in the World Today," "Gold," and "Cold War." From there on, GZA plugged away at Wu-Tang classics from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Wu-Tang Forever. If GZA was mildly reserved for much of his Liquid Swords set, except for "4th Chamber" and "Swordsman," he became alight for firebomb classics "Clan in da Front," "Older Gods," "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit" and "Crash Your Crew." The roof popped off for a full rendition of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Here, the bass was cranked to clothes-rippling volume; the beats were palpable inside one's chest. "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" careened straight into another rousing favourite, "Protect Ya Neck."
GZA also dipped into his other solo material now and remained fired up for the scratch-happy "Mic Trippin" relentless "0% Finance." He also dug out two songs from Grandmasters (his collaborative album with DJ Muggs), "Illusory Protection" and "General Principles."
After "Reunited," a fan presented GZA with a copy of his debut album, Words From the Genius. "Real hardcore fan right here. Lemme sign this," an impressed GZA offered. An onstage signing and selfie session ensued, which most fans took as a cue to head home. They ended up missing "Triumph" and "Liquid Swords," but they witnessed enough to satisfy any hardcore Wu fan.