GZA Recalls The Origins Of The Cover Art Of "Liquid Swords"

posted Tuesday December 04 ,2012 at 05:45PM CST | 29 comments

GZA Recalls The Origins Of The Cover Art Of

GZA recalls when he first came up with the idea for the cover of his seminal "Liquid Swords" LP.

Perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of Hip Hop art comes from the comic book cover art of GZA's seminal Liquid Swords. Now, in a recent interview with the Bishop Chronicles podcast, the Genius explains the origins of the artwork.

GZA explained that the image first came to his mind while playing a heated chess series against fellow Wu-Tang Clan alum Masta Killa. He said that the two had played upwards of 30 games while smoking weed when the vision of the chess pieces coming to life and battling one another first came to him. He added that he was thinking about propositioning it for the single art for "Da Mystery of Chessboxing," but decided to save it for Liquid Swords.

"That [cover art] was something that I came up with, that was in 1992 - that was three years before the album," recalled GZA. "I was actually playing Masta Killa in a game of chess, and around that time, he used to beat up on me a lot 'cus I had just started playing again. I learned how to play when I was younger, then I didn't start playing again until around that time [in] the early days of Wu. I would play with Killa, Jeru the Damaja, Afu-Ra, and all the brothers from East New York from Killa's neighborhood. We were playing a game, and we may have played like 30 games that night, and the game was still in a checkmate position…and I was smoking weed, and you know how you smoke weed, you start really get[ting] all these thoughts and you start analyzing shit, and I started drawing the pieces how they were on the board like in that position…then I just started imagining how, 'What if this knight had a guillotine in his hand? What if this person had this sword swinging?' And I just thought of this whole war scene on the chessboard."

He added, "I actually thought about presenting it for the 'Chessboxing' [single] cover…and then I thought like it was bigger than a single, so we used it for [Liquid Swords]."

RELATED: GZA - "Crash Your Crew [Step Into The Black Series Performance]"

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Comments 29 Posts

  • Just Sayin'
    As a white boy hip hop fan, this hurt my feelings a little bit as kid back in the day. The brothers hacking up the white boys with machetes seemed a little much. I remember reading that GZA had said that the white dudes were supposed to represent the A&R's that fumbled his initial pre-Wu-tang tape Words from the Genius (which I owned-- albeit dubbed). Funny how it isn't even mentioned by anyone. Those were different times. The pro-black movement was in full swing and it was reflected in the music (think PE, X-Clan, etc.), that said I still felt like the cover was a low blow to some of the people that supported the Wu, like myself. This comment is coming from the heart and isn't meant to spark a bunch of name calling and stuff. I love rap. I love the Wu. Thought the cover crossed the line though.
  • hypestyle
    shout out to Denys Cowan, who did the art duties for the cover.
  • Wu Tang Forever
    Greatest album of all time!
  • Tommy Lux
    This reminds me, back in the early PC days (end 80s-early 90s) there was a chess game where the pieces were like real knights and when they "engaged in combat", there was a lot of slashing, hacking and blood-spraying going on. There's bound to be similar versions around nowadays, only with much nicer graphics
  • Anonymous
    Dopest cover ever!
  • insanemacbeth
    defo a classic piece of cover artwork, to match a REAL classic album.
  • The MG
    "Picture bloodbaths and elevator shafts Like these murderous rhymes tight from genuine craft Check the print, it's where veterans spark the letterings Slow moving MC's is waitin for the editin The liquid soluble that made up the chemistry A gaseous element, that burned down your ministry Herbal vapors, and biblical papers Smokin Exodus, every square yard is plush Fuck the screw-faced photo sessions facial expression leaves impressions, try to keep the sharp nigga guessin Give crazy shouts son here's the outcome Cut across the semi-gloss rhymes with floss Shit is outdated, just like neckloads of Sterlings Suede-fronts, bell-bottoms, and tri-colored Shearlings I ain't particular, I bang like vehicular homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy But money don't grown on trees and there's thievin MC's Who cut-throat to rake leaves They can't breathe, blood splash, rushin fast like runnin rivers, I be that whiskey in your liver"
  • Anonymous
    Afu-ra! .
    • wu wear
      Body of the Life Force = most slept on
  • Anonymous
  • T
    cool story tho
  • Anonymous
    yup weed could make u think of crazy shit like that
  • T
    hire me i wont make mistakes
  • T
    the single was called shadowboxing get your facts straight
    • dub_es
      tell gza that, he says "chessboxin" in the podcast dummy
    • Anonymous
      yo... its shadowboxing
    • Anonymous
      funny how his tryin to change it tho
    • Anonymous
      mystery of chessboxin is a single off enter the wu tang so get your facts straight smart ass
    • jackjohnson
      You idiot GZA's talking about the song The Mystery of Chessboxin from the Wu-Tang album, not shadowboxing
  • What
    Gza the greatest MC in Wu Tang Period
  • Anonymous
    Shut up GZA and release and album with production only from TRU, Math, Bronz and RZA.
    • Anonymous
      stop begging hoe
  • Killem Dafoe
    GZA and Inspectah are slept on greats in the WuTang...
    • Anonymous
      No Masta Killa?
  • Doublespeak
    Dopest album cover ever. Violent By Design and OB4CL... come close though.
    A genius for real
  • Daniel Beaulieu
    "Then I just started imagining how, 'What if this night had a guillotine in his hand? What if this person had this sword swinging?' And I just thought of this whole war scene on the chessboard." Night= Knight. Typical HipHopDX work. Can I get a job there? I mean, can I get a job they're?
    • Anonymous
  • 5thlion
    props too a legend i remember buying this album on tape an beeing blown away by the artwork..i think a dc comics artists brought his thoughts to life