GZA AKA GENIUS, SMOKE DZA & PETE ROCK, U-GOD OF WU-TANG, YOUNG RODDY, TRADEMARK
GZA aka Genius
The Genius, aka the GZA, 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, the Genius was revered for his flawless technique and lyrical dexterity, and was considered by many to be the best pure rapper in the entire Clan. The Genius was born Gary Grice on August 22, 1966, in Staten Island, NY, 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 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 the Genius landed a recording contract with Cold Chillin’, which, unfortunately, was nearing the end of its brilliant run.
Smoke DZA was born February 8, 1984 at Harlem Hospital in New York City and has lived in New York all his life. The son of two Guyanese immigrants, Smoke was exposed to music at home by his father and fell in love with hip hop at a young age. He grew up listening to and emulating fellow New Yorkers Jay-Z and Notorious BIG. After dropping out of high school to pursue his music career, DZA began battle rapping and has battled fellow Harlem MC J.R.Writer. He was discovered by Jonny Shipes of Cinematic Music Group in 2002 and went on to ghostwrite for numerous rappers, including Hi-Tek.
Smoke cites fellow New York natives Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G. as his main influences. As an adolescent he would use their songs and write his own lyrics, helping him learn rhyming patterns.”I used to re-write Biggie. It started with “Mo Money Mo Problems.” I would switch up the words, make it my own. He has also cited fellow Harlem rappers like Mase, Big L and Dipset as influences and inspiration. Though he is often mistakenly classified as a weed rapper, Smoke considers himself a lifestyle rapper and prefers not to be confined to one genre of rap.
Pete Rock is among the most beloved music men in hip hop. He is loved like a brother by the world’s best-known producers. All the hitmakers who flex competitive muscle in rap’s arena all acknowledge that when it comes to Pete, there is no competition. Pete is equally lauded by musicians and recording artists. Pete was brought into the rap game by the late great Heavy D, his cousin. His bond with CL Smooth gave the world three classic albums: All Souled Out, Mecca & The Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient. He has joined musical forces and toured with legends as different from one another as Roy Ayers and DJ Premier. As producer, he has recorded several albums that expand and deepen the mosaic of hip hop music, confirming him as an artist in his own right. Solidifying him as a global treasure to lovers of modern Black music worldwide.