Mic check: Wu-Tang Clan's GZA draws motley crew at The Westcott

Review: The founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan rolled out the classics at Westcott Theatre on Friday.

“Keep it loud as f-ck. At least let me get some feedback.”

GZA’s duel over the iron mic with the inept sound engineer was a reoccurring theme throughout the night. The lack of response from the sound booth, though, was compensated with an electric human feedback comprised of a circuitry of hands forming the renowned Wu-symbol, hammering heads and feet pulsating to the rhythms of the hits of the night: Duel of The Iron Mic, 4th Chamber, Protect Ya Neck, and Reunited.

Photo: Michael Lu

Doors opened at 7:30 p.m. on Friday April 5 at Westcott Theatre, but The Genius did not take stage until 11 p.m., adding anticipation to the already anxious audience. GZA, along with show-openers Eyenine and Ratking, are on their first of three stops in The Empire State, with Rochester and Ithaca next on their list.

Underground hip-hop artist Eyenine from New Hampshire galvanized the crowd with his buoyant amphetamine-infused flow, perfectly oscillating his on-point vocals between the downbeats dropped by El Shupacabra on the turntables.

If caffeine had a voice, Eyenine’s would be it—and he has good reason to be elated. Surrounded by a table covered with his most recent album Afraid To Dream, Eyenine says he is currently under Wu-tang management and is set to be featured on the group’s 20th anniversary reunion album coming out later this year, in addition to releasing his fourth solo album.

Next up was the gritty NYC rap duo Ratking, but the impatience in the room was becoming increasingly apparent by the time they took the stage at 10 p.m. Their lamentably feeble attempts at riling people up were made all the more painfully obvious as they randomly inserted GZA’s name between verses in hopes of a positive reaction. Their efforts were in vain.

After an hour of hearing more discontent grumblings from audience members than the actual rhymes of Ratking, the official DJ for Raekwon and GZA, DJ Symphony, walked on stage: “GZAs flight was cancelled. Sorry folks.”

Realizing he wasn’t fooling anybody with his showmanship, Symphony spun two instrumentals, then disappeared backstage.

But just as the masses were inching across the line from anticipation to frustration due to a vacant stage, a familiar voice (and to GZA fans, a familiar line) encompassed the room: “Mic check, one-two, one-two.”

With a backdrop of blue beehive-shaped lights shimmering through thick blunt smoke, the Killa Beez anthem buzzed through the blaring speakers. He then stung the crowd with an a cappella tribute to Ol’ Dirty Bastard, exclaiming “Do ya’ll know who this is about?!”

DJ Symphony joined in and started a powerful “RIP ODB” chant just before laying down the most recognized song from the late artist, Shimmy Shimmy Ya. Fans attending in hopes of hearing morsels from his upcoming concept album Dark Matter were out of luck. That didn’t seem to matter, though, as Westcott Theatre shook especially hard as he performed the hit single from his 1995 solo album Liquid Swords.

One of GZAs intermittent breathers entailed schooling Syracuse on the meaning of the name "Wu-tang." “When a samurai sword slices through the air, it goes ‘wu.’ The ‘tang’ is when it makes contact with somebody’s neck.” Laughter erupted as people realized their ticket also paid for a comedy show.

The assortment of faces in the crowd was obvious to Kalisa, a local high school student: “I’m here with my friends, but I saw an old dude with gray hair and all ages between. Everyone likes Wu-tang!”

GZA's ability to draw such diverse demographics is increasingly rare in today’s age-polarizing music industry, particularly hip-hop.

Friday’s audience was a testament to the timeless tracks of the 46-year-old veteran emcee: “As Wu-tang gets older and older, the crowd gets younger and younger,” GZA proclaimed.

And so, the Legend of the Wu continues…

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