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].”