Friday, Oct. 6, I woke up to a text asking if I could cover an event.
Two words stood out – GZA and Mohawk.
Any opportunity to see this hip-hop legend in an intimate environment like the Mohawk was just fine by me. This would be the first live show I would cover since I began writing for Austin Fusion Magazine. Without hesitation, I responded, “I would be glad to.” And my evening was officially planned.
The night began with local DJ Notion spinning breaks and old school hip hop. The mood was set and the crowd began to settle in. Floods of people quickly surrounded the bar then committed to a location with a promising view.
The vibe quickly changed as Bear Hands, an alternative rock band from Brooklyn, hit the stage. They opened with a song where each member of the band had their own set of drumsticks and contributed to a beat on one drum set. This fun and quirky band has also been seen on tour opening for The XX.
Seeing them open for Wu Tang Clan’s Genius (GZA) officially made this a variety show, which I can always appreciate. They are reminiscent of The Talking Heads with a splash of Weezer. Yeah, they’re that good. I highly recommend this band. “High Society” is definitely one of my favorite tracks.
The DJ shifted the show back to hip hop for a quick intermission. I returned from inside with a beer in hand to see Killer Mike was warming up the crowd. This Atlanta Rapper is not a small guy, nor is his energy. “Never Scared” and “The Whole World” had the crowd in a frenzy.
Killer Mike is well known for his high-energy beats and catchy hooks but he is no stranger to getting political or philosophical. He engaged the audience and brought attention to the growth of private prisons in the U.S. He ended his set with “Burn,” a very political number that expresses his discontent for society, government, politics, economics and religion.
I can appreciate rappers like Killer Mike. He can do “ghetto fabulous” like nobody’s business and keep you on your feet dancing; but he is also wordsmith. His play on words are very clever and his songs often contain a social message. Rappers like him are the reason I love hip hop. Amazing performance.
Genius: (n.) Extraordinary intellectual and creative power.
And now for The GZA. Where do I begin? First off, can I go on record and say this guy looks great? The rapper, 46, hasn’t appeared to age from his almost two decades in the industry. I think he’s back to the future… or like now from the past? I’m not sure how that works, but you know what I mean.
For this show, the living legend used Austin’s own Grupo Fantasma to provide drums, bass, horns, guitar, keys and breaks as he performed his legendary album “Liquid Swords” in it’s entirety. He educated the audience with cool facts about the Wu Tang Clan including details about himself and RZA forming the hip hop group and how they got their names. Apparently GZA was the sound made when Genius, his original alias, was scratched on a record by a DJ. Also did you know Liquid Swords is a euphemism for a “sharp tongue”? Which he claims is necessary for a battle. I totally agree. But my education did not end there. That night I learned what a mosh pit at a hip hop show looked like. And I have to say.. pretty hardcore stuff.
GZA gave shout outs to all the other members of WU TANG including the late O.D.B. (Ol’ Dirty Bastard- pour some drank out now if you have it) and with each name dropped the crowd grew louder. The entire floor held their hands in the air, thumbs together, making the traditional “W” for Wu Tang.
The performance was stellar! GZA’s voice and energy were on point. It’s safe to say he brought his A-game. The title track of his album “Liquid Swords” performed with the band was an experience in itself. It included lots of storytelling and was accompanied perfectly with the electric guitar and drums. I could appreciate how he didn’t hold back on his vocals too. It actually got pretty rock n roll for a hot minute.
You can expect to see a new album from GZA in 2013 titled “Dark Matter” and there’s talk of shows being booked for SXSW 2013 with RZA. So, yeah, count me in. Also, next year marks the 20th anniversary of The WU TANG CLAN, which makes me feel kinda old. But this only goes to show great music can stand the test of time regardless of genre or content fools. Wu Tang is still one of the best hip hop groups ever to walk the face of the earth. I am hoping this 20th Anniversary will lead to a new album and a tour with all the remaining members. Well, here’s to wishful thinking.
I want to thank you guys for reading my first contribution to Austin Fusion Magazine and remember, like always,“WU TANG CLAN AIN’T NOTHIN’ TO FUCK WITH!”
Written by Wesley Smoot
Photos by Glen Brown
Special Thanks to Transmission Events