Recap: GZA at Altar Bar 9/17/2012

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GZA, founding Wu-Tang member, solo artist and financial guru (“Diversify y’all bonds”), took the stage at Altar Bar last night for a tour through his 1995 hip-hop classic Liquid Swords. Support came in the form of Wu Lords, Bear Hands and Killer Mike. The night offered 8-12 highlights so here are ten of them, pleasingly itemized, in order of memory, but not likely the order they occurred:

1. A band called Bear Hands (Brooklyn indie, a solid showing) thanks the audience for supporting what they called an “admittedly strange bill” then engages in some totally genuine Wu-hyping with “Who’s ready for some Real hip hop?”

2. Real hip-hop emerges as the event’s premiere talking point. “Ain’t no skinny jeans or auto-tune up in here,” from the very large, very imposing, Grammy Award Winning and totally charming Killer Mike. “This is Real hip hop,” he says.

3. Said Grammy-winner performs his Grammy-winning verses from Outkast’s “The Whole World,” which brings a noted upswing in energy to the crowd of late 20-somethings including myself. “Catch the beat running like Randy Moss,” I chime.

4. The under-21 crowd, though quite literally marginalized at side-stage, is incredibly energetic and replete in Wu-merch. Killer Mike seems to like this quite a bit, continuously offering thanks, appreciation and advice (“Don’t smoke weed, you can smoke all the weed you want in college”).

5. Killer Mike performs “Never Scared” and you can sense a weird uncertainty in the crowd, wondering “Wait, does he sing that?” (He does not. “Never Scared” features Killer Mike, but Bone Crusher is the credited author.)

6. Wu Lords, a trio of very young rappers, take the stage. It’s unclear how old they are or what affiliation, if any, they have with Wu Tang Clan aside from their shared presence on the admittedly strange bill. The first, or possibly last, moment of their short performance features the youngest Lord storming through the early verses of Wu’s “Killer Beez” anthem (which is actually called “Triumph”). This wins the crowd over. Video:

7. GZA enters to the terribly creepy dialogue that opens “Duel Of The Iron Mic,” originally sampled from the film ‘Shogun Assassin’ and sprinkled throughout the tracks on Liquid Swords. (Side note: earlier this week Westbound Records announced a lawsuit filed against Raekwon, Ghostface Killa, Method Man and RZA for illegally sampling “I’ve Changed” by The Magictones. Had I more time to write this, I’d write a good “Suing Wu-Tang for sample infringement is like ...” line but I’ll just leave it to the linked article).

8. There’s a cloudiness to Liquid Swords that makes it tough to keep track as the show goes on. It’s unclear if GZA performs all the tracks, or if they’re performed in order, but once he takes to Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” it’s clear we’ve moved on.

9. GZA brings back Wu Lords and Killer Mike (no sign of Bear Hands) for a grand finale rendition of “Killer Beez” that reminds us all how long that song truly is. I find it virtually impossible to not think of the “Killer Beez” music video, which is really one of the better concept-videos out there. Link!

10. Closing arguments for Real hip hop are made and we all agree that it's good.

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