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London Ladbroke Grove Subterania

Although a few years shy of his 30th birthday, the [B]GZA[/B] is already the Staten Island family's guru, who guides, instructs and dispenses hard-worn knowledge to lost people in the Western world an

London Ladbroke Grove Subterania

Physical violence is conspicuous by its absence tonight. A [a]Genius/GZA[/a] show, scheduled only a few days after [a]Mobb Deep[/a]'s return to these shores was aborted due to death threats and security issues, could have been trouble waiting to happen. But the self-styled 'Master' of the Wu-Tang Clan knows his responsibilities towards a hip-hop audience and isn't about to shirk 'em. Although a few years shy of his 30th birthday, the GZA is already the Staten Island family's guru, who guides, instructs and dispenses hard-worn knowledge to lost people in the Western world and beyond. Verbal violence, however, is very much on the cards. Not juvenile mantras about gunplay, murder and strife in America's projects, but an intelligent overview of a drastic situation that uses visual lyricism to take the listener deep into the heart of the situations described. And the relentlessness of GZA's verbal attack conveys an atmosphere of violence even when there isn't even any being described. Flanked by auxiliary rappers Dreddy Kruger and Prodigal Sun, GZA keeps a low profile onstage and leaves the others in the limelight. He's barely seen but definitely heard. As he opines that the vibes remind him of Brooklyn clubs, it's clear GZA has come to bring the darkness to London. Songs are chopped up, swiftly truncated and segued as his two recent albums, and other Wu-Tang selections, are literally chewed up, compressed and spat back out. Gathering shadows of deep sadness and defiant survivalism come from the crisp programmed beats and melancholic musical shadings, as well as from the realistic subject matter. During 'Victim', GZA asks an almost rhetorical question, [I]"What do you know about this shit?/Hard times saga"[/I], as if to state that only people who have lived through what he describes could possibly understand. And yes, few people could explain why the victim in question, illiterate and with a worldview that covers a one-block radius, gets shot. Surely that's partially why he's here telling the tale, though. Earlier, after an energised 'Shame On A Nuh', Dreddy Kruger was moved to say, "I hate fucking crackers", changing the vibes in the room, and sending some people out of the door. Yet, even he should know that what plays in Brooklyn doesn't necessarily play in London. It's just impolite. A stormy night ends with a freestyle session, in which GZA again shows the power of his pen by delivering lines from Ghostface Killah's 'Wu-Banger', word perfect. And it has been a triumph of sorts, albeit a bittersweet one.

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