Nas Is The Greatest Storyteller of All Time! – 10 reasons why

A few years ago, I took it upon myself to write a list in the makeshift studio setup that my crew, The Balance, used to operate out of. This list broke down all of the qualities that define a great rapper by most popular definitions into categories like flow, personality/charisma, lyrical depth, etc. I felt it important because most of us Hip-Hop listeners never think critically about why we like the rappers that we like. Sometimes, we just like folk simply because we do and for no deeper reason than that. Yet it’s more common and logical to deduce that we like who we consider our favorites and “bests” because they excel in a certain category. It’s super rare for a rapper to encompass exceptional talent in a multitude of these categories all at the same time, and for those who do, we should recognize what a feat that is and give it more respect. More often, we can’t separate who we like from our opinions on their technical skills. That in mind, I’ll start with an example that expresses the art of doing so perfectly.

My opinion of Mr. Jones may be steeped in scrutiny and indicative of a complex love-hate listener relationship. And though I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, he was absolutely right on “Ether” when he said “name a rapper that, I ain’t influence” (one of the few truisms in that overhyped song). This includes me.

Slick Rick may have reinvented the wheel, and Biggie might be everyone’s favorite, but the Storytelling ethic of Nasir Jones is unrivaled and unparalleled. He perfected and owned it. He’s tackled Story-based rap from so many conceivable angles that it would be futile for another rapper to try to keep up. Effortlessly playing with characters, personification, linear dimensions, flow, pacing, conceit and metaphor, with a crazy attention to detail, this is why he’s a legend. He may be the most contradictory rap artist in history, and he may be deficient when it comes to making commercial bangers or bragging raps or even staying on topic when he’s not telling stories, but this is where you can truly see Nas’ genius. Here are some of the best examples.

10. ONE LOVE

A cult classic. Tho most of Nas’ stories revolve around violence and street fare, this is the seminal track that planted his flag as the new hood novelist. It resonated with so many street dudes and people with folks locked up. And it was just sooooo New York.

9.  BLAZE A 50

An unreleased track that many Nas fans consider a gem and one of his most action-packed escapades where he actually restarts the tale towards the end.

8. PUSSY KILLS

Not many are familiar with this one, but that’s exactly what Nas did flawlessly here; made you feel familiar with characters he introduced in a likely situation about a very understandable topic. All while making a larger philosophical point. Pussy does indeed kill…

7. GETTING MARRIED

Speaking of which…this vivid and candid story takes on a whole new significance in light of how this matrimony unfolded. Not his best ending either – lyrically or literally.

6. SEKOU STORY/LIVE NOW

This 2-part saga reflects on Nas’ allegiance to a hustler he befriended who’s wife seeks his help after his murder and then offers advice as the plot takes an unexpected turn as Nas reflects on his own life.

5. FETUS (Belly Button Window)

Say what you will, but not too many cats out there can rap about their own prenatal existence and birth.

4. FRIED CHICKEN

The Nigger raps about fried Chicken as if it were a lady, while telling a loose history of it’s love affair with the American Negro. With an assist by Busta. Who’s doing shit like this??! Nobody else.

3. REWIND

For the simple fact that he pays enough attention to the cohesion and theme of the story that he actually says words backwards, this conversation and list should be done right here! The fact that the beat borrows from a 80’s rap classic only heightens the fact and adds poetic justice.

2. UNDYING LOVE

This is my favorite Nas story. It’s so cinematic that you would swear you were his accomplice. My only gripe is that he says he prays to “Muhammad and Allah” at the end. Uhh..Hey guy with the Islamic name, you should know that Muhammad is the prophet and Allah is God. Lots of Muslims would be trying to put your head on the chopping block after hearing that part. Especially because right after that you follow it with a suicide

1. WHO KILLED IT?

It doesn’t get anymore creative than this. Give him his props for switching up the flow (Which he rarely does, but kills it whenever he puts effort in) and fully diving into a character and maintaining it for the whole song. On top of that, he incorporated double entendres, dialect and dropped food for thought. Aha!

And just for the Hell of it, because this is the standard that all post 90’s rappers modeled their creative and conceptual rhymes from and because it really does stand in a class by itself for redfining the story rhyme, Here you go…It can’t even be put on a list.

If you remember the album, It Was Written, then you remember that the song before this “Street Dreams” kept ending in a gunshot sound after every break, so after the final break a short skit ensued where people were running from that gunshot as it was depicted as a club shooting where the gunman tossed the weapon away and then Nas begins his monologue. It was true album artistry. He just set the stage for this song to feel important. And it was. indelibly so…Sure, Common did it before him with “I Used To Love H.E.R.”, and Pharoahe Monch and Organized Konfusion did the gun/bullet thing first, but Nas made the world pay attention. Even 2Pac had to try to 1up him after hearing that.

And there’s alot of songs that I could’ve added here, like “Poppa Was A Player”, “Drunk By Myself”, “2nd Childhood”, because his arsenal of stories is so immense and colorful, but you’ll find it hard to debate with me on any of this here. Give him the crown. “It’s one life, one love so there can only be one king”.

The Top Female Rappers Bringing Hope & Female Rapper dedication wrap – up

Well…

It’s over. I’ve dedicated a good amount of time on my examination of the female rapper species. I’ve dug in the crates, relived some memories I’d like to forget, and re-aquainted myself with some lost favorites in my journey. I rated the game’s biggest female flops, failures, false starts and unsung Heroines. I can only hope that in the process, I’ve enlightened you or at the very least, Made you say “Oh Snap! I remember that!

True enough, from the feedback I’ve been getting,  and as I mentioned before, there are plenty of women-folk who I didn’t make note of in my lists. Sure, I could have said something about Sylk E. Fyne, or Marvaless, Jacki-O or Mutha Superior in my forgotten or fail posts. And yes I could have made mention of NonChalant, or Heather B. or E-40‘s little sister, Suga T. I could’ve even taken it a step further and called out that chic Eco from that song “I’ll Call Before I Come” off Stankonia, or Lola Damone, Dutchess, Or 2Pac‘s one and only female Outlaw, Storm, or Outkast‘s other failed female guest rapper from the horrrendous “Mamacita” song on Aquemeni. But that’s what you’re here for. You keep me on my toes.

I already shared my feelings on the delicacies of being a woman in hip-hop and the art of handling just the right balance to surpass expectations. Having that said, I just wanted to end this whole adventure in ladyland by giving you something bright. Yes, some HOPE.

I’ll give you a quick list of my favorite female rappers of all time, and then give you my votes for the New Hope of women using Hip-Hop as their preferred voice of expression who stand a ghost of a chance.

My favorites have always been;

Bahamadia

Angie Martinez

Ladybug Mecca

Monie Love

Mc Lyte

Da Brat

Lauryn Hill (A.K.A. one of the best rappers/musicians Ever. period)

And now for…

The Top 10 Female Rappers bringing Hope

Honorable Mentions

* P-Star *

Don’t sleep. I’ve seen this kid do her thing at age 6! Now she’s so cultivated that her flow is just second nature and she’s getting more and more polished every year. She may be chasing that kiddie paper, but her back story is serious and there’s no childs-play about her. There’s even a documentary coming out about her. She may very well be that chic when she’s all grown up. Catch up on her on http://www.pstarrising.com/pstar-blog

*Farrah Burns*

One of those who are naturally nice and has talent just seeping out of her pores, you’d be more familiar if she put more damn work in! her seductive voice coupled with an effortless delivery but slick wit is a match that the game’s been waiting to hear from a chic. If she didn’t hate me so much right now, I ‘d be so about pushing her.

* Mae Day*

She’s Just dope. But we’ll wait to hear more.

10. NeMiss

This petite self-proclaimed “Bombshell” from Chicago is a vocalist and rapstress with style and heart. You don’t know what to expect until she opens up on stage and gets in full mode. She fully embraces her femininity and uses that to her advantage by creating powerful anthems and empowering rhymes without being in-your-face or aggressively beating her point into the listeners head. It’s just like the right dose of awareness you need without waving the “hear me roar” flag. Visit http://www.oz-d.com/Nemiss/bio.htm

9. Nikki Lynette

This name must just be popular amongst women who decide to rap. It sounds right off of the tongue. But sooner or later, this will probably be the only Nikki who’s name will be in your mouth anyway. Another Chicago Syren, She’s brillaint. That is all…

Learn more at http://www.nikkilynette.com/

8. Nina B

Who else has been the most visible female rapper hitting the internets in the last 3 years? Nobody better than Ms. B! That’s really all I have to say. No reason why you shouldn’t know her name at this point. Ask Kay Slay. Get familiar with her on http://remembermeninab.ning.com/

7. Brittany Street

My favorite of the Female rappers bubbling under and about to make a name, this chic is the definition of cool. Like most female rappers, she dabbles a little into the vocals, but her cleverness and quirkiness is what makes her stand out. What defines it tho, and what makes it star-worthy, is that she wraps it up in a laid-back package. So as much as she claims to be a “Martian”,  she always sounds down to Earth. Fly in her stratosphere on http://www.brittanystreet.com/blog/

6. Eternia

The dopest female performer I’ve seen if not one of the best performers I’ve seen period. She’s leading the underground circuit heavy right now and making Toronto look like a hotbed for the best rap talent in a long time. Nevermind being worried about white chics taking over, be worried about Canadians about to run the game! keep doing your thing E!

5. Jasmine Solano

Another super-dope performer and an all around Triple Threat. I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Solano last summer for my first ever Janet Jackson vs. Madonna party. She’s the definition of a grinder and is somewhat of a celebrity and a rising industry tastemaker. So don’t be surpised if you see her rapping, singing or DJing at your favorite somebody’s favorite big event. She’s only gonna keep going up!

4. Diamond/Rasheeda

The best thing about Crime Mob and the only pretty thing that ATL rap has given us to listen to have been putting it down locally for a minute. So much so, that it’s only a matter of time before one of them hits that national level of exposure with a nice radio smash. Diamond’s touched it a couple times, but never on her own. And Rasheeda has the flair, she just has to deliver. Either way, in the words of Andre “the south got somethin’ to say!“.

3. Kid Sister

She does that electro-retro, pop, bubbly, colorful dance stuff alot, but when you listen, She’s mastered her craft. She can speed it up, slow it down, sing… Alot of chics haven’t exhibited that kind of versatility or control, even if they can do it. She’s apart of the new revolution of creative women who you can’t just squeeze in a box. She’s doing what she wants, having fun doing it, and looking good all at the same time. What a concept!

2. Lil Mama

Yeah, yeah, she might be a little extra, but shorty CAN spit. You may only think of her as the “Lip Gloss” chic who ran up on stage during Jay and Alicia’s MTV awards set, but Youtube her and you’ll find some bars. It’s been a long time since you heard that kind of flexibility with the flow, and having already had commercial succes, albeit short-lived, she’s still ahead of the curve. Now she’s tenacious enough to have parlayed her brief fame into extended fame by becoming an MTV mainstay as a judge on it’s America’s Best Dance Crew show, let’s see if she can parlay that into more music success. We’ll see. In the meantime, peep her old rap over the “A Milli” beat.

1. Bran ‘Nu

Say what you wanna say, but Brandy‘s alter ego is going to see the light of day. And how many of you went and checked for her on Timbaland‘s album after watching her and Ray Jj’s reality show on VH1?? Once you listen, you see it’s clear that she actually has a dope rap voice, a believable rap flow, and she writes her own lyrics. And I personally think it’s dope how she incorporates her singing into her rap verses.  And with her lean towards introspection, which is something that only like 2 female rappers have really  done, she may be the breath of fresh air needed or at least a well rounded rapper who takes time to be human and not the flyest, baddest, illest or rawest. I think if she does her next album like a hybrid of both worlds, we may have the closest thing to another Miseducation…dare I say? Maybe I’m bias because I like Brandy, the singer alot. But I’m just saying, the void is freakin’ HUGE, and she has natural talent.

*Zoloft Files Edition* Hot 16…Or More…10 YEAR REUNION

On this Day 16 of my whole Zoloft Files mixtape series, which marks the FINAL day, I just wanted to show love to the person who’s idea this whole day by day thing was in the first place. Shout out to the girl Naima for encouraging me to make a movement and a spectacle of this project which was intended to be really exclusive, personal and underground. She told me that I should use this as content for the blog after I told her that the tape would only be put out to promote it.

This is also poetic in it’s own way…

This is me presenting you with an ending and a beginning. This is the last day of me covering my 16 day adventure of who I know and who’s heard what.  Me letting you into my life both visually and sonically. Me giving you my words so you can have a better idea of what I intended for you to hear, and what I was thinking when I wrote them. This is also me introducing you to my team: the duo who is poised to take me to the next place you may see the kid pop up. They asked to be down for the ride. So here you go. Watch what happens…

Let’s end this correctly. You all remember those awkward moments right? Those parts of your younger life that you’d like to leave behind or omit? How important are those wonder years to you? Well, whether you’ve already had yours or you’re anticipating it coming up, here’s a fictional glimpse into the worst possible outcome of mine – which should be popping up soon.

I always thought about how this would go down, way before the reality of it was in the view, so it was only right that I squeeze it on this project and round out the somber with a little humor.

For some reason, once again – I’m using a Kanye beat.

I know you can relate.

“This is a bootleg loop,

the cafeteria just fed us bootleg soup.

And now they relocating us,

to the 2nd floor in the gym – or as Oscar like to say it – the gynasium.

What up Oscar?

Aren’t you glad?

That you’re a 2002 grad, and not a 2000?

The new Millenium class,

Here we go again – let it scratch, and did I mention?

This is a bootleg loop,

we wonderin’ why we all went to this bootleg school.

And the name ain’t sayin much…

Only school in Manhattan that had to explain to others where the location was.

So sorry we’re not La Guardia,

wasn’t Fine Arts – but promise I was Avant Garde enough!

For everyone…

Hello everyone,

welcome to the 10 Year Reunion, thank you very much.

For reminding me,

of the shy Malik,

-the Mr. ugliest yearbook picture of all time Malik – Why Malik??

Don’t be so hard on yourself,

how was college? tell me now, are you a doctor as well?

…No I’m a dropout, dumbbell..

I was feeling like shit when I came in – now I feel like Hell!

(Thanks)

I’d like to drop a dumbbell…

On your Prada shoes – but I gotta move, I’m not doing well.

So on my way to the bathroom,

I see ol’ boy from Math 2…

Who liked to laugh – do jokes up in back 2 rows,

-that dude!

Yep,

…Clown of the classroom…

After a couple cracks about my height,

he take a couple stabs at how my life,

ain’t exactly how I…

imagined it’d be,

he said my braces probably be platinum before me, whatever that means.

Asked me why I ain’t on T.V.,

pat me on the back as if the jokes weren’t all on me,

and yeah I’m laughing back politely saying “calm down, just breathe’,

fighting the urge to slap his happy ass,

and shellack the floor with his teeth!

But then I thought, ‘hold up…

this dude was foolish,

and class clowns always turn out to be losers!’

Come to find out,

he owns computer labs

-designed a troubleshooter program – now who can use the math?!”

Hope you learned something…

Click the picture of the mixtape cover to download it.