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The 50 Greatest Sophomore Albums in Hip-Hop History

7. GZA, Liquid Swords (1995)

Label: Geffen, MCA

Not to be discouraged by the lukewarm reaction to his Cold Chillin' debut, the Genius transformed into The GZA and wrought a bloody revenge on the industry that had tried to steer his career off the rails for his verse on "Protect Ya Neck," in a manner not unlike one of the Wu-Tang's beloved Kung Fu flicks.

By the time he began work on Liquid Swords, GZA had blazed a trail of show-stopping verses that had lyric fiends salivating for his every finely-tuned line, while The RZA was in the midst of an unstoppable run fresh off the back of completing Only Built For Cuban Linx. The result was something of near alien beauty—beats that were as much sci-fi as Shaolin backed the dense, layered narratives that demanded repeated examination, yet flowed so effortlessly.

This album is the work of two master craftsmen with no regard for pleasing their audience, but such is their expertise that an album that on paper reads as too complex for the average listener turns out to be both accessible and addictive in practice. Liquid Swords stands tall as the hip-hop embodiment of "the perfect storm."

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