DJ Muggs vs. GZA: "General Principles"


By Chet Betz | 9 January 2008

Given that Genius is Genius, the level of a head's excitement for the GZA and Muggs full-length dropping on October 25th might depend a lot on how much that particular head respects the work of Mr. Muggerud with Cypress Hill and House of Pain and ignores the par-Vulnerable trip-hop of his 2003 album Dust. It's difficult to judge the potential from past GZA/Muggs collabos; first chapter Soul Assassins cut "Third World" is a solid enough example of imitation Wu, but "Luminal" off GZA's Legend of the Liquid Sword (2002) shoulda took a lesson from El-P and damaged those cheap synths before playing. A companion rogue track off the Grandmasters LP, "Advanced Pawns (Royal)," sounds like DR Period: not exactly inspiring, you understand.

It'll be interesting to hear in the context of the album, though, because the synth trumps of "Pawns" drop right after the gleaming guitar chop and thick, stormy break of "General Principles," privileged bars punctuated by a gonging cathedral bell and a dislocated vocal warble. And then there was GZA.

G hasn't sounded this hungry since, well, okay, since his verse on Masta Killa's "Silverbacks" last year, but still. While more straightforward than any of RZA's Liquid Swords work, the Muggs beat creates the same kind of wind-howling-in-the-dark rush, and GZA's flow matchingly barrels down, unraveling labyrinthine thought with the same forceful, controlled gusts that characterize his most intense verses. His words bear an oracle of career martyrdom; he outlines his "general principles" while implicitly, bitterly noting that one who's principled and one who's sacrificial are individuals synonymous. Things start to get real gloomily inciting around the point that GZA stop-starts his way through, "Name the crew that can stop the force that I strike with / Let alone try to hold the pen that I write with / You can even chop off my fingers I type with / Those I hold the mic with / Thinkin' I might quit." When GZA closes the song with "This is hip-hop," it feels like a matter-of-fact declaration that razes Bow Wow's castle and hangs Diddy by his wristwatch.

Get those W's up in the air.