GZA – Concorde 2, Brighton – 5th September 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

There’s a reason they call Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA the genius. Not only is he regarded as the leader of the seminal hip-hop group, but he’s a Harvard lecturer and a highly respected solo artist in his own right. The word legend is certainly overused, but GZA is an icon pure and simple. His show at Concorde 2 proved all of this and more, as he exhibited his fantastic lyrical flow, his excellent wordplay, and an incredible back-catalogue of hip-hop classics. As Brighton hip-hop shows go, especially in venues as intimate as Concorde 2, this was as fresh and exciting as it gets.

With Mr Outbreak playing hip-hop classics throughout the night, the main support came from Croydon-via-Brighton outfit, Verbz and Mr Slipz. Made up of Croydon rapper Verbz, and Brighton beat maker Mr Slipz, it was an effortless display of chilled out East Coast rap in the style of Nas, alongside eloquent hooks and lackadaisical production. This was an impressive display, with a melodic style that was perfect for Concorde 2’s lengthy venue.

Yet at times, as iconic as these songs are, GZA just doesn’t have the sheer energy that made Wu-Tang Clan so exciting, immersive, and incredibly scintillating all those years ago. There’s times when he appeared to be phoning it in, but when you can bring out an arsenal of such quintessential classics like ‘Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F**k With’ and ‘Protect Ya Neck’ it really doesn’t matter. Sung back to him with as much passion as the iconic hip-hop group create, it’s clear that Wu-Tang Clan, and GZA, are rightfully heroes of our times – and this is a perfect encapsulation of all of that.

The most exciting aspects of the night, however, and undoubtedly the highlight, comes from tracks off his iconic 1995 album Liquid Swords. Described as arguably the greatest solo record by a Wu-Tang member, it’s clearly here where GZA is more enjoying his time on stage. The likes of ‘Shadowboxin’, ‘4th Chamber’, and ‘Liquid Swords’ still sound as relevant, energetic and unique as they did 23 years ago. It’s here, too, where GZA comes to life: there’s more of a spring in his step, and a vitality to his rapping game.

Ultimately, this felt like a special occasion. A truly exceptional, distinctive and distinguished show with one of the masters of his genre. With iconic hits, an incredibly passionate crowd, and a chance to see a true master at work, this was a remarkably uplifting show and, simply, one that doesn’t come around too often.

Liam McMillen

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