Tucked away at a Phoenix Inn Suites on the outskirts of Olympia, the GZA sits quietly with his thoughts, occasionally tapping away on his Treo, or cutting away to glance at HBO's new series Rome.

A week into the release of his new album, Grandmasters, cocreated with DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill fame, the Genius, the MC's MC, is as calm and collected as the most disciplined of Shaolin monks. With a lackluster marketing push from the label, the record has little to stand on besides its content. Even the names behind it hold little weight among the multitude of rap new jacks who know either 50 on the jiggy side, or Doseone on the backpacker side.

But on content alone, Grandmasters smites any hiphop release on the horizon as it summons a classic, eerie Wu-Tang sound circa 1993. Muggs digs deep into the Clan's aesthetic, crafting a brand new repetition—as contemplative and grimy as the creepiest of RZA tracks. The GZA (AKA Gary Grice) resurrects his intuitive metaphors and crafty storytelling on tracks like "Exploitation of Mistakes," where he surreptitiously builds a macabre murder mystery with rhymes so thick and meaty the track is over before you have time to dissect what just happened. That's the GZA's way. Like a master samurai, he'll lop your noggin off with such a clean cut you won't realize your head's gone.

Relaxing before he's due to perform at Evergreen State College, the GZA waxes poetic about his 20-plus year career, as well as the rise and fall of his cousin and fellow Clan member Ol' Dirty Bastard.

"Dirty was in a different state," GZA says, ruminating on his relative's final days as a free man. "When he came home he wasn't the same person. He didn't have anything planned."

VH1 immediately leapt on the vociferous yet loveable Big Baby Jesus, thrusting him into the exploitive reality series (Inside)Out: ODB on Parole, which shadowed Dirty as he quivered and fidgeted on the ride home from the Clinton Correctional Facility, reducing him to a mere caricature.

"I didn't see him at the time he got out," GZA says. "He was doing the VH1 thing. I didn't really think that was a good thing. I would have showed up if he actually asked me personally to come through. But I had to talk to his bullshit manager, and he wasn't thinking about Dirty's best interest."

With the memories continuing to surface, the GZA pulls from the early days of the Clan when it was just he, Dirty, and RZA, known then as All in Together Now. The trio would fieldtrip from Staten Island to the South Bronx, digesting all the sounds from the very infantile days of hiphop: KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and Eric B. and Rakim.

"All we ever wanted to do at the time was rhyme," GZA explains. "I still do it for the love of it. I mean, I make a living, but it's never been just about making money."

In regards to a new Wu-Tang album, minor conflicts over favoritism within the Clan (disagreements over certain MCs getting better beats than others) have temporarily derailed any future project with all the original players. "As years done pass, I'm pretty sure there's friction. And certain things have to be aired out, or we would have an album out right now. Why wouldn't we? Even the passing of Dirty should've been a spark to say, 'You know what, let's do something... let's put something out.' But I'm pretty sure there is (friction) because we haven't really been able to link," he says.

But just as the universe expands and contracts, so will the future of the Clan. Dotted with a few mistakes (the video game and the comic book kind of flew under the radar), but replete with gigantic triumphs as well, the Wu-Tang machine slowly churns, gathering new fans to add to its legion of loyalists. The new compilation Dreddy Kruger Presents... Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture is an excellent foray, pairing the RZA with the omnipresent MF Doom, Ras Kass with the GZA, and U-God with C-Rayz Walz, among several other successful combos. As for the GZA's solo career, Grandmasters marks a fine follow-up to Legend of the Liquid Sword, proving that he still wields a powerful weapon with a sharp blade.