The homie Khadj told me yesterday that my rapping lacks aggression and that I sound too relaxed on the mic. Almost to a point where the listener may not care enough about what they’re hearing to delve any deeper into my material or personality. Well it’s obvious that he hasn’t seen the video for “Be Right”.
At first, I was moved to write him off and tell him that he’s making loose judgements off of a loose listen to my first mixtape, The Crazy 8′s – which is full of rhymes that I put together in 2003. That’s an 8 year old gauge. But then I remembered that The Crazy 8′s has always been the tape that I tell people to refer to first in order to get an idea of the kind of artist that I am. And then I remembered that the song “Be Right” was one the only one that I wrote in 2005/2006, and that the accompanying video was my very first ever. Khadj had remarked that after seeing my Appearance on BET‘s Rap City, he gathered that I’m a good performer who can probably convey that rawness and expressiveness better on that plane than on track. He commented how a video would also capture that. So as I had prepared this month’s Hot 16…Or More…entry at the end of January, I considered talking about the whole experience of my first video being a milestone moment for me. How It rode the wave of successful timing and momentum that I had gathered ever since that fateful airing on Rap City. How I linked up with 2 creative and hungry young videographers from my city who offered to usher me into the world of music video for free, before it even became the norm for unsigned rappers to make their own, starting both of our grinds. Now his comments have just prompted me to present this song and video as a study in delivery and performance.
As the only song on The Crazy 8′s with original production (albeit sampled), there’s a real organic quality to it. The thing that I’ve always said about me as a rapper, is that as a listener, you either like my voice, or you hate it. I’m not going to yell on track, or do that stupid snarly thing that Kanye does. There’s something not-so-smooth about my tone. It’s not velvety. It’s also not the most commanding. What I do instead, is command the words. I give them life. Never too wordy, never too empty. There’s a slickness and a youthful nuance present in how I bend certain words and emphasize, and of course, you can pick up traces of my sarcasm and wit from these things. Especially in how I set up my punchlines…Lots of movie and pop-culture references. But also, lots of allusions to historic people and events, old parables and idioms, random knowledge that only someone who deals with vocabulary regularly finds themselves doing. Basically, you can tell I was the Black kid paying attention in all those extra English classes back in school.
This kind of approach would lead some to call me “lyrical” for lack of a better word. People are quick to assign that label to anyone who has a penchant for using a lot of syllables. But as a rapper, you can say a whole lot of nothing with a lot of words. Talib Kweli can exemplify that on his less conscious songs. You don’t hear anyone but other rappers praising Scarface for being lyrical. It’s not the first word that comes to mind when people consider his slow flow and poetic prose. At the same time, no one ever calls Bone Thugs N Harmony and Busta Rhymes lyrical – and they used more syllables than most. That all stems from the fact that they are hard to decipher. Yet, if you strike that balance between being multi-syllabistic and understandable, then you’re automatically thrown in lyrical water…strapped in with peers such as Pharaohe, Black Thought, Canibus, Lupe and whoever else was a backpacker’s wet dream on the cusp of the 90′s and the new millenium.
When I was deciding how I wanted to do this song, I knew I wanted to come off as one of those lyrical dudes, but with a jabbing element to it. My brand of lyrical is rarely from an angle where I want to boggle minds. I just want to come off as hungry, and taunting with an I’m-better-than-you smirk that’s apparent between the lines. I knew this had to be and feel dynamic. I heard the beat when I used to visit J.Libre‘s crib, the producer of it, and founder of my crew – The Balance. I was visiting his recording setup there weekly, and this beat spoke to me. It’s a sample from Isaac Hayes‘ rendition of “If Loving You Is Wrong…” I was recording what I thought was going to be my version of Jay-Z‘s …Volume 1 at the time, so I just put that beat aside for future reference. When that idea began dwindling however, I re-listened to this beat again and felt inspired to murder it. I was still unheard of. My Rap City appearance had not aired yet and I needed a credo. I also why I wanted at least 1 original song.
The beat is so triumphant sounding. The statement was waiting to be made. The words in the sample are clear; “I don’t wanna be right”. Even my talking at the beginning and end was meaningful. As the young new guy trying to make a name for himself and coming on the scene with his brand of lyrical and cocky, I felt that was perfect! If I didn’t fit in with what was going on at the time, or if I couldn’t be categorized or if I was making tracks that went longer than the 1 minute, 16-bar format, then I didn’t want to be right. The soulfulness of it stands out from the other tracks on the mixtape, but the pace of it falls right in with them. Where “My, Name’s Malik; I’mma Blow!!!” was my introductory declaration, This track is my mission statement. The video only adds to the overall intent and feeling of it, by playing up the training/boxing visual to make it Rocky-like. Now tell me I’m too relaxed now…
“I’mma keep this short man,
cause you don’t John or Lee Malvo to show you what an M-16 do from Long range.
I write just like a sniper – take your pen off the page,
ricochet off your face,
make it spin off your braids.
Until there’s really shells at the end of your cornrows…
Lookin’ like Da Brat
Now look at that!
Bow Wow and Omarion,
No I’m not Omarion,
but you can get ‘Touched’, like the body on
a model off the show UnCut,
-but that was only for mature audiences,
so that’s Take 1 – cut!!
Now tell your bodyguard keep his gun tucked,
before I have to put ‘em in the air – just to show the boy what’s UP!
Don’t speak – Shut Up!
Ask you how’s the weather’s up there…
Uh-Unh! – that was a test, you just flunked!
Don’t make me have to dearly depart you…
Leave you broke-up…
Oschino and Emilio Sparks you…
You wanna play Casino – this is really the part where you – Blow up;
the bomb is in the seat of your car duke.
And yes he’s, like Pesci cause I’ll kill you with a pen,
-in a bar!
Especially if you’re stealing from my friend
-ain’t no borrowing…
That’s called ‘biting’…
Your arms too short to box – forget it!
-I see why you biting.
You must’ve took your cues from Tyson,
but don’t mess with Liky iight!
You’ll get a leaky eye.
I’ll have one eye closed, til you can’t use both, at the same time;
Your new name is ‘Winky’…right?!
I done floored ‘em with a hit, like,
and got a $40 dollar tip, off,
Cause unlike all these other kids – I admit I got a day job…
Hardest man working in business…steady gettin’.
I’m steady pimpin’…
While ya’ll are steady bending over,
cause ya’ll Undercover Brothers – I don’t mean no Eddie Griffin.
While ya’ll are boy-toys,
this boy toys around town in something foreign – steady whippin’!
I pop throttles,
and if it’s NOT foreign, then I’m like Tyra;
I’m pickin’ America’s Top Model!
Or somethin’ from that GM series…
Cause once they hear Malik spittin’, then they’re like ‘Gee, M’s serious!’
Chics need a good man,
then I G ‘em serious,
like ‘look ma – I’m straight from that GM series’!
And then they wanna know who my wife is,
I tell them that I’m married to life,
cause we all know what life is…
And now I see they’re embarrassed…
Since I’m married to Life,
and I’m their father – guess they’re meeting the parents!
But once they meet me – it’s apparent…
That they all HotShots!
No way that they can take on my spot!
So who’s first on the bus?
Cause I teach these kids grammar like Hammer – yeah I stay on “Proper”!
But they ain’t in my circle of trust…
You wanna know why?
Cause they all, some Gaylord Fockers!!
No sick days off pa,
cause I’m so Ill;
everyday’s a sick day – now call doctors!
And tell ‘em Lik writes, what’s prescribed,
as bringin’ pain like Meth,
I’m “movin’ on your left!’
Cause I don’t wanna Be Right….”
Hope you learned something…
Click the image of the Cover to the mixtape below to download and hear this song.