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Baker's Dozen

Origin Story: Billy Woods' Favourite Albums
Zachary Lipez , May 24th, 2023 08:25

As he releases acclaimed new album Maps alongside Kenny Segal, underground hip hop mainstay Billy Woods takes tQ through the thirteen records that have defined his life, from Goodie Mob to Ghostface Killah


GZA – Liquid Swords

I remember the first time I actually heard this album. I was in school and I came into my friend’s room – later I would rap with this kid for a while – and he must have just pressed play. The very beginning of the first skit is happening, and I'm like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Although it was Wu-Tang vibes, it's definitely different than the vibe of the beginning of Cuban Linx or 36 Chambers or the Ol’ Dirty Bastard album, or any of those. And I just was stuck in. From the very first moment, at the sound of that opening skit. I just remember my friend rapping the chorus. He'd already heard the album. When the MCs came to live out the name and to perform/ Some had to snort cocaine to act insane’. I was like, ‘This is crazy.’

The atmosphere is so consistent. Every part of it belongs. Even the way he had Killah Priest do the last song. That seemed so strange to me at the time. Then later I came to see that it's the ultimate act of the album serving its own purpose. Sublimating the ego for what's the best for the album. On ‘Hunter’ from Armand Hammer’s Paraffin, I just tried to do what was needed for the song. I’m not in competition with Elucid. I'm not in competition with anyone who's on my record. There's nothing GZA could have done to make ‘Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth’ better. Him getting on it would have just been silly. And it serves the purpose, and the structure, and the narrative, and the mood of the album so well. I think of Liquid Swords as one of the best conceived, put together and executed hip hop albums of all time. He's up there. He's definitely really dope.