Sometime in the early 1970s, Gary Grice's younger cousin did something incredibly foolish and potentially fatal: He stuck a pair of metal tweezers into an electrical outlet, which violently shocked him, burnt his hand and blackened the wall around the outlet. A doctor later told Grice's aunt her son would have died if it weren't for the rubber sneakers he was wearing. Hearing about this strange turn of events intrigued a 7-year-old Grice. "How can rubber have saved him?" the now 48-year-old says. "Why does electricity travel through some things and not through others?"
That boy would grow up to be GZA (a.k.a. the Genius), one of the original members of Wu-Tang Clan, the iconic Staten Island rap clique. After Wu-Tang forced their way into hip-hop prominence with 1993's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), its members began to fire off solo albums. GZA's Liquid Swords (1995) quickly emerged as one of the best of the pack, owing to its gritty, barbed beats; inventive rhymes; and sordid, minutiae-heavy tales of crime and power. It was as close as we'll ever get to The Wire of hip-hop.More »