Proceed With Caution

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GZA/Genius doesn’t appear in public very much. He seldom interviews, and laces the liner notes of his albums with one-liners that thank all and none simultaneously. His concern has always been the spoken word and how to make it cut to the artery.

You won’t dance to GZA’s second album, Beyond the Surface. You won’t throw up Ws, and you won’t be inclined to shout out your side of town as though you just saw it crossing the street. You’ll raise an eyebrow and listen to Beyond, because it’s that type of disc. It requires time, energy and patience to understand. Remember how Prince’s follow-up to Purple Rain, Around the World in A Day, was much more intriguing but much less well-received? That’s what Beyond is to GZA’s first album. It’s a student’s album, and most rap fans ain’t real students.

But if you are, boy, is this the album for you.

"I teach but still hold heat/’cause some muthafuckas are broke beyond reach."

GZA’s arrangements seem to follow the patterns of a chess match. He rarely uses a phrase twice on one album. On cuts such as "Publicity," he delves into the shadier sides of music industry hype machines, while rhyming in covert metaphors that require a strong ear. He also opens the door to many of Wu-Tang Clan’s upstart producers, amounting to a totally different sound than his debut.

GZA’s sophomore project is a calculated triumph. If you listen and like it, you know the time. Each one teach one.

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