On this day in 1967, Gary Grice, better known as the GZA or Genius, was born in Brooklyn. The veteran rapper is one of the founding members of the illustrious hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan and is considered the group’s Svengali of the Wu members. The GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is regarded as a classic and a great example of his lyrical wizardry. A 2017 study found that GZA's has the second largest vocabulary in popular rap music.
But GZA’s rap career actually started before he became a Wu-Tang member. In the early ‘90s, he was signed to Cold Chillin' Records under the rap alias The Genius. In 1991, he released his debut album, Words from the Genius, which was produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee. Interestingly, at that same time, GZA’s cousin and Wu abbott the RZA (then known as Prince Rakeem) released his solo project Ooh, I Love You, Rakeem on Tommy Boy Records, which was also co-produced by Eazy Mo Bee. Small world, isn’t it?
After both of their albums sold poorly in the marketplace, they broke free of their respective record labels, and decided to form the Wu-Tang Clan. The rest, as they say, is hip-hop history.
Currently, the GZA is an Associate Professor in Columbia University’s Teachers College Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology where he created a science-and-rap-themed outreach program called Science Genius.
He has also lectured at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and TEDx talk. The GZA teaching science combined with his successful rap career has been a win-win for both himself and his Wu fans. "I think it’s a good transition for me," he told Complex in 2016. "You know, I’m getting older. I think it would be cool to do lectures for the next 10 years. It wasn’t anything that I planned, but it just happened."