Blue Note New York
Blue Note Presents GZA with Kota The Friend & DJ Russell Peters w/ live band The Phunky Nomads performing the music of Liquid Swords

    • GZA

      GZA, aka the Genius, was the most cerebral MC in the Wu-Tang Clan , as well as perhaps the most acclaimed. His cool, precise flow and intricate, literate rhymes weren’t as theatrical as Method Man or Ol’ Dirty Bastard , the two biggest commercial stars to spring from the collective. But among hip-hop aficionados, GZA was revered for his flawless technique and lyrical dexterity, and was considered by many to be the best pure rapper in the entire Clan. GZA was born Gary Grice on August 22, 1966, on Staten Island, New York, and shuttled between several other New York boroughs with various relatives during his childhood. He started learning rhymes by the earliest hip-hop MCs while spending time in the Bronx, and returned to Staten Island to share them with his cousins, who later became known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the RZA . In fact, the three of them first teamed up in the early ’80s as part of an obscure group called All in Together Now. Time passed, and GZA landed a recording contract with Cold Chillin’ which unfortunately, was nearing the end of its brilliant run. In 1991, he became the only future Wu-Tang member to release a solo album prior to the Clan ‘s formation, with Words from the Genius. Produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee , the album flopped badly and, creatively, did little to hint at GZA’s future standing. Conflicts with the label sent him packing, and he reteamed with a similarly disenchanted RZA (fresh off a failed stint with Tommy Boy ) and Ol’ Dirty Bastard to co-found the Wu-Tang Clan . Adding six other friends and associates, the group became an underground sensation and took the rap world by storm with its 1993 debut, Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers). Wu Tang’s innovative contract allowed each member to sign a solo deal with whatever label they chose, and GZA wound up on Geffen. In 1994, his first post- Wu solo track, “I Gotcha Back,” appeared on the soundtrack of the film Fresh. His second solo album, Liquid Swords, followed in 1995 and was hailed as a hip-hop classic thanks to its coolly understated menace. While it didn’t make him a star on the level of Method Man , the album did sell well, reaching the Top Ten of the Billboard 200 and falling one spot short of the top of the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. There were no big mainstream hits, but the title cut, “Cold World,” and “Shadowboxin'” all did well on the rap chart. Following the Clan ‘s 1997 sophomore set, Wu-Tang Forever, GZA returned to the solo arena with 1999’s Beneath the Surface. While critics didn’t praise it quite as lavishly as Liquid Swords, it was another well-received effort (especially compared to some of the lackluster follow-ups elsewhere in the Wu-Tang camp), and it topped the Hip-Hop/R&B album chart. After reconvening with the Wu for 2000’s The W and 2001’s Iron Flag, GZA dropped his fourth solo effort, Legend of the Liquid Sword, in late 2002, consolidating his reputation as one of the most skillful rappers around. Grandmasters, a collaborative project between himself and Cypress Hill DJ Muggs , was released in 2005, followed the next year by an instrumental version and then a remix version in 2007. A year later GZA released the solo album Pro Tools on the indie label Babygrande . It featured guest shots from Wu affiliates RZA , Masta Killa , and producer Mathematics. GZA lectured at several universities, including Harvard and Oxford, and applied his academic connections and deep interest in science to develop a science-meets-hip-hop program dedicated to engaging New York City high school students. Additionally, he worked toward another solo album, Dark Matter, with electronic music pioneer Vangelis among his collaborators.
    • Kota The Friend

      The Friend is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Kota most recently released his 5th Lyrics to Go album, titled ‘Lyrics to Go Volume 5’, on January 25, 2024 with two songs featuring Hit Boy, the grammy winning producer who recently produced an entire project for Nas. Kota currently lives in Brooklyn, is married and has two children. Kota is a trained musician, with the trumpet as his main instrument. However, he has been extremely successful as an independent hip hop artist. Kota the Friend release his debut mixtape, Palm Tree Liquor in 2016, followed by his second mixtape Paloma Beach in 2017. In 2018, he released his third mixtape, the lengthier Anything, with 2019 marking the release of his first independent studio album, FOTO, followed by the Lyrics to GO, Vol. 1 compilation in January 2020 and then his second studio album, EVERYTHING, in late May of the same year. Kota then went on to release Lyrics to GO, Vol.2 in January 2021 and the collaborative project To Kill A Sunrise with Statik Selektah later in March. Lyrics to GO, Vol.3 was surprise-released in January 2022, with Kota's third studio album, MEMO, following in July of that year. Kota has remained an independent artist throughout his career—turning down 3 major record labels; instead, creating his own label and apparel store FLTBYS. He frequently cites a do-it-yourself mentality, such as filming his own music videos, recording within a home setup, and producing most of his discography. His mentality was fueled by a desire for freedom and to avoid the sense of musical confinement. At the end of 2023 Kota went on a US Tour, in 20 cities, selling over 18,000 tickets. He’s known for engaging with his fans before, during and after the show. His fan base spans the globe and continue to show their loyalty through merch, music and ticket sales, globally, from Brooklyn to Beirut. Kota the Friend cited Jay-Z, Nas, Kid Cudi, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Pharrell as some of his influences in music.
    • DJ Russell Peters

    • The Phunky Nomads

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