First Impressions: The 50 Best Album-Opening Songs in Rap History

13. GZA "Liquid Swords" (1995)

Producer: RZA
Album: Liquid Swords
Label: Geffen/MCA


In the great Wu trifecta of 1995, Ol Dirty's Return To the 36 Chambers represents emotion and freedom and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx represents elevated fashion. That leaves Liquid Swords, an emblem of the organization's keen intellect and verbal precision. By far the most cerebral of any album in the Wu-Tang family tree, the album begins with its title song, one of the few instances in which a song can legitimately be referred to with the hoary critical shorthand "tightly coiled." Is the incessant ticking within the beat the sound of a silver pocket watch or a time bomb? You decide. The tense opener is reminiscient of the shark theme from Jaws, an analogy that GZA might appreciate given his penchant for the imagery of blood and biting. Liquid Swords is a compendium of priceless criminal metaphors but the best line in its title song is a stunning visualization of GZA's art: "It's a whole different sound / It's a wide entrance, small exit like a funnel / So deep it's picked up on radios in tunnels." —Sam Sweet

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