October 11, 2017 // The Fox Theater
Article By: Max Rothstein
Seeing any member of the legendary hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan perform live is a once in a lifetime experience. Members of the iconic hip hop group that can be credited for the revival of East Coast hip hop, paving the way for artists like Nas, The Notorious B.I.G, and Jay-Z; artists rarely performing these days. So, seeing GZA was an opportunity that was nearly impossible to pass up. And the second he took the stage, in front of a packed house of fans decked out in Wu Tang gear, he proved why.
Aside from being one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA is best known as one of the greatest lyricists in hip hop. Data scientist Matt Daniels, once did a study to find who had the largest vocabulary in rap music. He compared the first 35,000 words of 85 artists, and found GZA had the second largest vocabulary at 6,426 unique words (Shakespeare had 5,170 throughout the first 35,000 words of his plays).
When the artist opened, there was something foreign at first about his stage presence-- he didn’t move. Today’s rap, powered by bass heavy beats, animates MCs in a way that seems like a full workout. But GZA just stood there and let his words free. His hands flowed alongside his words, but his body stood almost completely still. Regardless, his fans went absolutely nuts. His words didn’t need a firecracker-like presence to entice the crowd. Every lyric he uttered was pure poetry, as anticipated from someone with the second largest vocabulary in hip hop.
GZA performed songs from his years in Wu-Tang, as well as songs from his solo work. But the best moments of the show, were the moments when the needle was taken off the turntable and he freestyled. The bars that he performed right off the top of his head were more impactful than 90% of the lyrics from some of this year’s hottest rap albums. At one point, a woman in the front asked if she could add to what he was preaching and delivered verses that cause a synchronized jaw-drop from everyone in the house, including the legendary MC.
GZA proved last night why he’s one of the best rappers in the history of the genre in a kind of performance that is hard to come by these days.