Four scores and seven years ago, before the Wu-Tang Clan would collectively leave their fingerprints all over our chosen genre, there were three:Prince Rakeem (Rza), Unique Ason (ODB), and today’s subject, Gary “The Genius” Grice. In the late eighties/early nineties the three went by the name All In Together Now, creating quite a buzz performing at parties in the New York boroughs. This buzz eventually led to solo deals (except for ODB, who was probably too involved in street drama and collecting illegal welfare to take hip-hop serious at the time), as Rakeem would release an EP on the Tommy Boy imprint, and The Genius would sign with Cold Chillin’ and release his first solo album Words From The Genius. The sales for Words From The Genius were unimpressive, which was part of the reason why the Genius would eventually leave the label, and with the help of Prince Rakeem (who’s EP didn’t do well either), begin the formation of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. More on that at a later date.
Now, I was fully engulfed by hip-hop in 91′, literally saving my allowance and any other money I could get my hands on to buy the new releases each Tuesday (which seemed like they came in bunches in those days) and reading The Source each month from cover to cover. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how I completely missed Words From The Genius. It was released on Cold Chillin’, which was a viable hip-hop label in 91′, with most of its artists receiving heavy promo in the hip-hop mags as well as video rotation on shows like Rap City and Yo MTV Raps.
About a year ago, I stumbled upon a copy of the 1994 reissue of Words From The Genius at one of the few surviving mom and pop records stores in my home town (I see you Electric Fetus!!!). Besides a
generic different album cover (the album cover above is from the original release, the 94″ reissue album cover is at the bottom of this post) and the track sequencing being completely different from the original release, the only major difference between the two versions is the original release has “Come Do Me”, which is taken off the reissue and replaced with “Pass The Bone”, which is really strange considering “Come Do Me” was the first single released on Words From The Genius.
Without further adieu, lets give her a spin, kids.
Pass The Bone – Gary kicks off the evening with a duet with the Rza, who went by Prince Rakeem at the time. This is a dedication to weed (how original). Rakeem warms things up on the first verse with the Gza wrapping things up on second. Both emcees sound pretty good and not too far removed from what they would sound like a couple of years later when they re-emerged as part of the Wu-Tang Clan. Old Dirty (Unique Ason) even get a shout out from Gza in his verse, making this feel more and more like a Wu-Tang affair. Both Gza and Rza are credited for the production, which is average, compared to the bangers Rza would serve up later in the decade. I’m sure this was included on the reissue as an attempt to capitalize on the recent success of the Wu at the time.
Life Of A Drug Dealer – Genius paints a very vivid picture of life from a drug dealer’s perspective on this one verse wonder. Even back in 91′ Gza’s wordplay and razor-sharp flow were fully developed. Easy Moe Bee’s funky instrumental completes the song making this an enjoyable listen.
The Genius Is Slammin’ – The Genius completely destroys this Easy Moe Bee yummy, leaving no evidence he was here, other than the finished recorded product. Maybe its too early in the album to say this but I can’t believe The Gza didn’t get more attention back in 91′. Son was a lyrical beast! I’m still scratching my head at how I completely missed Words From The Genius back in the day.
Those Were The Days – The Gza reminisces back to Jr. high and high school, when he was honing his microphone skills. Easy Moe Bee provides a butter instrumental that the Genius dismantles with ease. The Genius doesn’t just spit rhymes, he verbally paints pictures. This song is a monster.
What Are Silly Girls Made Of – The Genius asks the question (which technically isn’t really a question since he forgot to include the question mark at the end of the song title) and then spends the next three verses answering himself. Gary turns in decent verses but the Patrick Harvey instrumental is a step backwards compared to the previous four songs.
Living Foul – The Genius confronts drug dealers, drug users (including marijuana smokers, which is a bit hypocritical, consider he and The Rza spend the entire first song passing “the bone”), and black on black crime. Moe Bee’s instrumental isn’t great but it’s not terrible either, so I guess that makes it mediocre.
Drama – Our host discusses life in the ghetto and the different snares designed to keep people in poverty. Not sure how I feel about this one. Definitely not my favorite song on Words From The Genius.
Words From The Genius – The Genius completely obliterates this sick Easy Moe Bee instrumental, as his wittiness and razor-sharp flow are on full display. You’ll have to rewind this at least once. You are witnessing a true wordsmith at work, folks.
Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero – Patrick Harvey’s instrumental sounds like a poor attempt at a dance joint, but regardless, the Gza isn’t distracted by it and picks up where he left off on the previous song.
Phony As You Wanna Be – Gary calls out the fake/wack emcees. Our host once again turns in a stellar performance as he apes this funky Moe Bee backdrop. I sound like a broken record, but he is really that good.
Stop The Nonsense – This kind of works as a companion piece to “Life Of A Drug Dealer”, only this time the Gza calls out the selfish acts of a street pharmacist and the lives his actions effect. Decent song.
Superfreak – Gza spins two hilariously raunchy tales about of couple of episodes he had with a few gardening tools. Patrick Harvey’s instrumental has a zany feel that perfectly fits the amusing subject matter. This one would even make Too Short blush.
Stay Out Of Bars – The Gza picks up where he left off on “Superfreak” and continues to amuse with two more hilarious bar stories, that are sure to make you laugh out loud. I can’t remember the last time I laughed at consecutive hip-hop songs, that were actually intended to make me laugh.
True Fresh M.C. – Agreed.
Feel The Pain – Both our host and Easy Moe Bee saved their best output of the evening for last, as this is hands down the best song on Words From The Genius. Unfortunately, if you bought the cassette version of the original release, you missed out on this one, as it was only included on the cd release.
Words From The Genius might be the best hip-hop album from that I ever completely missed upon its original release. It’s rare when an artist makes me hit the rewind button to marvel at his or her rhymes, but I found myself doing that several times during the course of Words From The Genius, which is even more impressive considering it was released over 20 years ago. For the most part, Easy Moe Bee (who I think is severely underrated) provides consistently potent backdrops for The Genius to run bananas over. There are a few mediocre moments on Words From The Genius, but the potent tracks far out way the weak ones. I have a lot more albums in my collection to listen to for the first time or revisit after several years, but Words From The Genius is going to be hard to top. I have to listen to this shit again.