On November 7, 1995 Wu-Tang Clansman GZA released his second, but most celebrated album Liquid Swords. Ripe with Kung-Fu flick samples, haunting loops and razor sharp lyrics, GZA’s crowning jewel moved approximately 980k copies and earned the Brooklyn MC hip-hop props that have lasted him over the past decade and a half.

The album’s first single “I Gotcha Back” appeared on the Fresh soundtrack in 1994, and the second “Liquid Swords” dropped a year later. While the album presented vivid street imagery (“Gold, ”“Cold World,” “Killa Hills 10304” and “Investigative Reports”), its creatively prose made Liquid Swords stand out from all the criminally minded LPs of its era.

For the past 15 years fans have celebrated the harmonic balance of the Genius’ quotable rhymes and the RZA’s murderous beats (RZA produced 12 of 13 tracks, 4th Disciple produced the Killah Priest solo bonus cut “B.I.B.L.E.”). Only time will tell if hip-hop purists will be bumping the Wu-banger for another 15, but to celebrate XXL broke down the beats, samples and lyrics that all combined in the creation of Liquid Swords. Shouts to Hip-Hop Is Read for the diggin'. — Rob Markman

[1] “Liquid Swords”

The album’s title track starts off with sampled dialogue from the 1980 film Shogun Assassin, before rolling into the bouncy track which samples “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Groovin'," both by Mississippi soul singer Willie Mitchell. Once the track kicks in the Genius strings together an array of free-associative rhyme patterns.

"The Legend of Lone Wolf"

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" by Willie Mitchell

"Groovin'" by Willie Mitchell

Notable Lyrics
“’Cause niggas styles are old like Mark 5 sneakers/Lyrics are weak, like clock radio speakers.”

“It’s a wide entrance, small exit like a funnel/So deep it’s picked up on radios in tunnels.”