16 Reasons Why I’m The Greatest Rapper You Never Heard! Or 16 Reasons Why I’m Better Than The Last 3 Freshman Classes!!

16. I’m relatively handsome

We can all attest that looks don’t matter half as much as the industry would have you believe. IF they matter at all. The success of some of the biggest rappers in the last 2 decades has hinged more on their personas and characters than their sex appeal. Rappers tend to find their niche and make you like the story that they create with their image. Being a physical specimen to be gawked at only works if you’re aiming to pigeonhole yourself and attract a limited demographic. But it never hurts to be a bit easy on the eyes. If you can spit, and attract the opposite sex to the point where you can be taken seriously when you make records about relations, it always increases how far you can reach. And as subjective as this matter may be, it’s not up for debate that I’m unattractive or have any weird or distracting features. At most, I look like a regular ol’ nigga. At Best, I’m a fly dude.

15. I’m From A Cool Place

Harlem is an ambiguous territory to hail from. It’s famous, legendary and an epicenter of trends. Yet and still, it’s produced a very short list of successful rappers. It’s a 2 way street for a rapper hailing from this hometown. I won’t necessarily be putting it on the map, but with a huge gap left between Doug E. Fresh‘s era and  Mase and Diddy’s run, to the space left since Dipset held the crown, there’s room for someone to return it to glory and take it further than it’s ever been.

14. I Can Freestyle

Tho it may not hold much weight anymore, Ask anyone about how they’ve come to know me, and they’ll mention this quality. Not mixtape freestyling. No, I mean off the top of the head, stream of consciousness. It makes for good in person spontaneous entertainment and display of ability. It also shows dexterity and demonstrates quick wit and ability to think sharp. One of my most famous YouTube videos is one where I’m freestyling over Lil Wayne‘s “Prom Queen” instrumental. It’s what got me last contract.

13. I’m Self-Sufficient

I have many affiliations, yet when you see me on stage, it’s just me. No hypeman. I may invite a bunch of my musician friends each time (as pointed out by my homegirl TDJ), but it’s still a one man operation. Since 2006 I’ve been the motor behind every aspect of my career from the sequencing of my projects, to the design of my sites. I haven’t had the luxury of having some immaculate team of pros executing my ideas for me, so I hire professional individuals to get the jobs done that I can’t and I always have a collaborative hand in the planning and final product. All this means is that I don’t wait on anyone, make excuses for myself or lean on anything. Everything you see is a reflection of my creativity. Now this may be a headache for some A&R somewhere who’s still working off of the idea that artists need to be handheld and told what to do every step of the way, but for a company looking to have less overhead and expedite their profit by banking on an all-encompassing artist…There you have it…

12. I’ve Grinded

Piggy-backing off of that last point, I’ve been pursuing this long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Both for me as a rapper and for other artists. I’ve studied this game. I’ve been a songwriter and sat in the offices with some of the heads behind some of the biggest projects. Falling and failing have given me the advantage of seeing where my appeal and approach can be strengthened, so there’s less weak spots now. I’ve hit the angles, put in the elbow grease and leg work, so I have a story to tell. It may be one of trial and error, but It’s a story nonetheless. This is no dollar and a dream.

11. I’m A Student Of The Game

I didn’t just pick up a pen and decide that I wanted to rap because it was cool to do it. I started out as a child, formed a little rap group around the time of the ABC and Kriss Kross boom and made up 10 bar raps in my head all the time. In high school, I listened to underground radio strictly for years. In college, I loved the club stuff. I’ve read the books, been a fan, been a schemer, been desperate, been jaded. But I still love the music at the end of the day. I change with the times, while staying close to the roots that got me involved and interested. All this has brought me to sense of well roundedness where I don’t lean too far to any side because I understand why each one exists and I see room for the middle. These are the elements that I’m among and which have influenced me.

10. I Have A Story

Tho it can’t be summed up in a one nuclear sentence by me. Maybe a publicist can do that. It’s undeniably there. Being from a place like Harlem and being raised in the 1980’s should already color the landscape for any listener wondering how I became the product that I am. I almost defy every stereotype there is about what is equated with my region. College educated, no drugs or alcohol, no criminal record, no fashion trends. But balance that with being a dropout, with drug dealing and using parents and a street-based belief in self preservation…Not to mention a long rap history of winning awards, honors and being the first unsigned rapper to grace the legendary booth on BET‘s RapCity. There’s plenty of story there…Just put it together.

9. I’m Not Region Specific

Some say you should have your city on your back first, but there’s millions of rappers who go elsewhere and blow before they really make it national. Again, this is another old industry standard which has been shattered. I always believe that a person should rep their area and never forget where they came from, but the point of being an artist is to reach as many people as possible. Too many rappers, and especially New York rappers, have a tendency to rap in ways that only could be relatable to people in their locality.  Because I’ve lived in Georgia and D.C. and Iam indeed a student of the game, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of sounds and patterns of speech. Most importantly, I’ve gotten to experience why certain things resonate with certain people in certain places, and what things are generally universal across the board. Without sounding contrived, this has soaked into my sound. I’m not your typical New York rapper, rapping about New York shit or using flows only New Yorkers would appreciate.

8. I’m Not Stuck In An Era, Movement or Niche Market

Yeah. I’m not trying to bring the golden era back, neither in rap nor fashion. I’d rather sound like the sum of my influences that have given birth to something new than sound like one big homage to them. I don’t want to bring back the spirit of any particular rapper and I certainly wouldn’t limit myself to having a gimmick or angle that would pigeonhole me like the whole horror-core meets hipster schtick, or the stupid weed-rap clicks, not even emo-rap. I can’t be associated with a wave. I’m not for the moment. I have no limits and no bounds. The old industry standard says that you MUST pick a route. I say that wall was broken a long time ago and that myth debunked with artists like Kanye who prove that there are rappers who can be real rappers but not be defined by one kind of subject matter or one kind of beat or guest appearance. As long as you don’t spread yourself too thin and look out of your box trying to do a little of everything like Wyclef, you can be an expansive M.C. that can’t be defined in one category. Not even Jay can be considered one kind of rap at this point.

7.  I Got a Good Voice

GURU said it in ’94. “It’s mostly the voice”. Mine sits somewhere in the best place possible. Flexible and not too light, not too deep. Once again, in the middle. Some gravelly voiced rappers sound made for hardcore anthems, but out of place on smoother records. Some whispery or buttery rappers couldn’t pull of attempts over harder beats. I don’t have either. Just a nice New York tone with southern twangs that pop up here and there. I emphasize words and here and there, and color my speech. So it’s never that flat, lifeless thing that Diddy does. But I’m also not yelling like Meek Mill or Papoose. There’s a natural melodiousness and sometimes it comes out in my cadence. As noted on my second mixtape, I’m not a singer…But I can hold a note…

6. I Actually Talk About Something

Picture that. For all of these neo movements, nobody’s really talking about anything directly. The rise of emo rap has given birth to a bunch of rappers who have no qualms about whining about themselves and their fame. The stresses of these mostly suburban cats is so immense that they have to smoke weed everyday and build superficial relationships with women. Cry me a river. On the other side of that coin, you got a bunch of other heads that think they’re talking about something because they sprinkle in some words like “Free” and “fuck the government”. I’m willing to make that the WHOLE song. AND make it just as catchy as the most ignorant song out. Remember when Dead Prez came out with “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop”, or “Jesus Walks” by Kanye?? Those songs were getting played at parties and clubs and no one stopped the record and said, ‘hey! you can’t play that cause it’s conscious’. Without coming off as a conscious rapper or beating listeners over the head with preachy content, I dare to be the guy who has as many songs about real life as I have about fly life. In my time I’ve rapped about everything from the color Black to the month of October to teenage pregnancy to suicide to over-drinking, to street life to comparing life to one big party. And I don’t mean making mention of it, no I mean whole songs dedicated to each topic. And I stay on topic. With swag!

5. I Got Flows

So many people still don’t quite understand this concept. Alot of this has to do with the fact that there are interchangeable words that get tossed around. This is also known as pattern or delivery.  The tricky thing is that delivery also has to do with vocal inflection. Luda‘s flows are only as good as the animation in his voice when he lands on certain words. But most importantly, these things are so important because you only notice them when a rapper gets stuck in a flow. Detractors of 2Pac’s number 1 critique of him is that he raps the same way and uses the same pattern on every song. Is that true? No. But he’s done it enough throughout his career that it can be a valid point. he’s known by it. Being known by a particular flow can make a name for a rapper, but it can also be their undoing. It can limit their appeal and make them the subject of easy ridicule. It’s been noted that Jadakiss‘ refusal to evolve his flow has stunted his own mass appeal. He always raps the same. Fab was in danger of this before he stepped it up years ago. Most New York and southern rappers have trouble with this after amassing enough regional fame. There’s a comfort level there. I don’t have a definite pattern. And while no one has really truly invented a new flow probably since the days of Bone, what we all are now are products of the greatest flows ever! If we haven’t absorbed those and implemented them into our repertoire in ways that sound refreshing, then what’s the point?? I rap slow, I rap fast. I use compounds, I use sing-song cadences. I rhymes lines inside of lines. I take big pauses sometimes. Timing is the crucial element to using flows. I never want anyone to listen to more than 3 tracks of mine and say I rap the same way for a whole project.  I don’t even keep one pattern all the way thru one song. And I don’t want to make slight changes where it’s not noticeable, nor do I want to make dramatic changes where it sounds like I’m doing too much and going out of my range. You may not realize it til after you think about it, but you appreciate that fact about me. I made a whole track about using other people’s flows. Just to show that I understand why It’s important. It’s  over 7 minutes long, and the only reason why people listen until the end, is because the switch in flows keeps their attention.

4. I Know How To Make Songs

Which brings me to this point. What good is being the nicest rapper with all these wordy and ridiculous bars if you can’t condense them into a song format that  makes people want to listen?!  Any true fan of yours is going to try to vouch for you. But not enough people will reinforce that sentiment if you just don’t have the knack or make the music to show and prove. I use Saigon as an example of this once again. People love him. But not enough. Just Blaze is considered one of the best producers ever. You have him at your disposal and STILL couldn’t deliver songs that stuck with anyone. Song construction is the biggest test that I throw at any rapper. What good are all of your mixtape freestyles or viral cyphers if you sound wack in 16 bar format? The even bigger challenge is making a song with mass appeal. Do you know what kind of beats get reactions from people? What instruments go well together and what sounds cheesy? Do you pay attention to PEOPLE enough to know what THEY like as opposed to giving them what you THINK they’ll like?? Or having your head so far up your ass that you think they’re just going to gravitate to you with your self-indulgent abstract shit?? There’s a crowd for everything. And anyone can get a group of followers and supporters who like them even to tolerate that. Even Charles Hamilton has devoted stans. But does that translate to sold out shows or longevity? probably not. I guess the question becomes, how far do you want to go in rap?? See, someone like me cares about what girls like as much as I care about what the niggas on my corner like, and any corner in the world at that, as much as I care about what my family can respond to. So I make my music with that in mind, following music theory methods which have been tried and true. Taking cues from successful songs in rap’s history. Taking cues from artists who got respect for killing mixtapes and battles as well as radio. I tell stories that are linear, I make memorable hooks, I don’t use abstract shit that can isolate a whole cluster of people.

3. I know The Difference Between Punchlines With Similes And Metaphors And Other Rhetorical Devices…And I Use Them!

I’m a product of lots of special english courses. I know what hyperbole and alliteration are. I make good use of such things and place them where they need to go. I use metaphors as metaphors. Sometimes my whole song is a metaphor. I know similies and I make sure they’re not lazy ones (i.e. “rush like Limbaugh” – wack!). Ever since I learned the importance of using punchlines as a teenager after getting demolished in a battle, I’ve built up my strength with them. A rap song doesn’t really feel good without these clever things. Wit is respected by every rap crowd, in every locale. I use it all the time. I put punchlines in my deeper songs, I put them in my songs about girls, and I kill them in my braggadocious rhymes! I use every instrument of wordplay in the arsenal. My favorite is the double entendre. The phonetic homophone-based ones can be tricky, but again, timing makes everything right. Now put that together with the fact that I use different flows and make catchy songs. It’s not an easy feat.

2. I’m Charismatic And Compelling

None of the above things that I mentioned are worth a damn if this isn’t in place. Perhaps this arises from coming from a cool place, having a story and being  student of the game, but I have character. Not a character. But character. And it comes out in my songs. Without this, my club songs would not come off as believable. My stories wouldn’t grip anyone and make them want to listen to the end to hear the climax. My boasts would seem empty. You wouldn’t take my girl songs seriously if you think I don’t get girls. Some of this is very subjective, but for the most part, My voice is not full of pain like some rappers, but there’s a charm and sincerity that comes with how I say things. I’m also honest to a fault. I don’t make any reservations about sharing my highs and lows, lamenting on my mistakes and failures, or poking fun at my shortcomings. I don’t rap about anything that someone can comeback to me and say I haven’t or wouldn’t do. Sure, there’s plenty of exaggeration in Hip-Hop, but I don’t go overboard or glorify, or lie. I’m me all day in my recordings. I can sleep comfortably knowing I gave the world my truth. The way my projects are sequenced and all of the means I’ve executed to get my point across should have you feeling like I’m a pretty cool and interesting dude afterwards. Basically, listening to my rap should make you at least somewhat intrigued to meet me in person. If you don’t care about a rapper as you listen, then they haven’t made you care from their music. Anybody can rap, it’s the soul and the passion of the person rapping that make you want to go back again and again to hear what they have to say.

1. I’m A Dope Performer

Last and certainly not least, since we’re talking about wanting to see an artist in person, A performance is one of the greatest ways to do so. it’s the final frontier for anyone who wants to do this for real. A true performer gives you a great look at their personality during a performance. You hear them talk, see their facial expressions. See their crew and supporters and how much they rely on them. As someone who’s so used to doing most things alone, and being involved in every aspect, you can be sure that I polly with the people behind the music at a show and get my arrangements right. I don’t mob the stage with my crew, I don’t stand in one place, I also don’t say corny things like “Make noise”. Yet what I do is take into account what kinds of crowds I’m performing for, I survey them, get a feel, and always try to get them involved. I make small talk with them, I joke, I get them interacting in my call and response hooks in ways that may relate to them. I walk off stage with the mic. I act out my words. I wear eye-catching stuff based on the song I’m performing. I freestyle. I ‘ve performed with bands and with djs. I’m comfortable with both. I have breath control and you can hear every word I say, even when I rap fast. And most importantly, I know how to hold the fuckin mic properly!

(18) Classic Sounds…

Like…

My big sister Veen‘s greatest contribution to my life besides my nephews is the enhancement of my music knowledge. She is single-handedly responsible for me knowing artists, songs and albums by name, as well as learning what a single is, who belonged to what click back in the early 90’s and how to learn song lyrics by not just hearing the radio, but listening to it.

As she got older, she branched out and started her family and the music notes and convo scaled down considerably, but what did happen as an effect of her dating the man who became the father of my 2 nephews and who I just dedicated an R.I.P. post to 2 months ago, was a music matrimony. Her love of R&B and Hip-Hop paired with his being in the business meant a whole compact disc library for young adolescent me to get lost in. Especially in the era of Columbia House CD ordering catalogues and the like. I learned about Prince from them, as well as a slew of all the contemporary urban music. If I’m not mistaken, this is where I first listened to Reasonable Doubt, reading the liner notes of every disc they had. I used to absolutely love going to their place! Not only because it had the most homely and lush decorative touches that I had seen in a small apartment (suede orange walls and deluxe carpeting throughout with a huge tv – before flatscreens took over), but mostly because of the snacks and entertainment. I fashioned my idea of adult apartment living to be like that.

My sister would throw on the cd’s from the Playstation or the Dreamcast (throwback right?) and let the default screen make spacey images on the tv while she cleaned up. One of these cd’s was the debut album of one of the most distinctive female rappers in history and one of the most unique rappers period. I remembered her ironically from watching videos with Veen a year and a half before and seeing her appear on a cut called “Da Ladies In The House” with a then burgeoning Lauryn Hill. Safe to say, I was intrigued.

After being in the habit of reading the liner notes and seeing that her album shared production credits from all the producers I loved and respected at the time from all the albums that I loved and respected, I was more than intrigued. Kollage is an honest attempt at just that; it’s more of a very concise effort to balance out 3 recurring elements than a collage of eclectic sounds, influences or moods. As a listener, you’ll see the pattern easily if you pay attention. The 3 modes are those provided by the 3 main revolving producers here (4 if you separate Gangstarr into the separate production entities of GURU and Premier), and they fluctuate from light and atmospheric experimental sounds to jazzy, funk guitar-laden grooves and the era-appropriate 90’s east coast hardcore sound. Although this is highly due to the chosen production styles of the men behind the boards, this is also a compliment to Bahamadia’s two different tones.

Assuming you know your contemporary Philly music history, then you know about the scene that spawned the famous Black Lily gatherings, shepherded by The Roots and giving rise to spoken word artists and neo-soul trailblazers in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It would be safe to assume that this has been an aspect of Philly’s music scene for a long time now. It would also be safe to assume that like half of all female rappers, Bahamadia probably started as a poet. This is usually easy to infer from her spoken word cadence that vacillates from stacatto to continuous and overlapping. Something that matches up perfectly with her voice which carries a moistness and quiet matter-of-factness to it. Yet she sounds right at home on the harder tracks and picks up the energy and force to attack the tracks and owns them. It’s on the brightest moments on the album where she finds the happy medium between the super laid-back and the energetic.

Those moments are those like on the intro “Wordplay” and the album’s main singles like “Uknowhowwedu” &  “3 The Hardway”  On the former, Bahamadia makes her intro and thesis statement by giving a synopsis of what to expect from her debut over a minimalist GURU beat that bounces on stuttering drums, and is buffered by horns and dominated by a funky bassline. Like his other contribution to the album, the harder edged “Total Wreck”, it’s clear that GURU was still very much in the vibe of his second Jazzmatazz installment. “Total Wreck” is another stripped down beat – probably the most purely boom-bap on the album, so naturally it sees Bahamadia on her more boisterous kick. In my opinion, neither of these songs are special, but they’re also not wack and don’t serve as agents of interruption to the flow of the LP.

She hits the mark and evokes more response on the other hardcore outing, the Dj Premier produced “Rugged Ruff”. On a signature Premo 90’s beat that sounds like it should have been on one of Gangstarr’s classic albums, Bahamadia makes you wonder why she didn’t just let Premo produce 90% of the album. As a matter of fact, he’s the soundsmith behind all of the best songs on the LP. She enters  like a God-send, taking those who have been listening thus far for a loop by raping Kool G Rap‘s rapid fire non-pause flow with super vocab and lines like “Scriptures glitters like diamonds or sparkle like magnesium/Premium equates the medium which blows me up like helium…pumped up more jams than technotronic/Find it more toxic than hydrocarbon…” 

The Poet-influenced mode is more dominant on this album however, providing all of the sleepy moments on the album when coupled with lackluster production. The experimental and spacey but dark “Innovation” produced by the Beatminerz seems to be the weaker of the twins from the two beats that they provide. Bahamadia sounds like spoken word legend Jessica Care-Moore or like Lauryn Hill after hiatus as she basically talks(not raps) off beat in a choppy style. It’s on the 2 efforts by N.O. Joe however, where the album has it’s saccharin heights. It gets downright cheesy on the requisite album love song “I Confess”. It sounds like something from a smooth jazz radio station with it’s horrible interpolation of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and doesn’t sound quite sexy coming from Bahamadia, although I do remember hearing it get a good amount of play on Philly radio. The other sapfest is on the album’s closing track “Biggest Part Of Me”, with yet another singing chorus which seems to be what everyone believed was necessary for a smooth or heartfelt song back then. Although the overall feel is corny, this is a great moment in Hip-Hop where you get the rare perspective of parenthood, especially from a mother’s angle. And what Bahamadia says in this song is actually really dope. It’s her testament to her children that’s forever cemented in audio history. It’s these 2 tracks produced by N.O. Joe that sound like they could have worked so much better if they were produced by The Roots because they incorporate similar elements in instrumentation. Ironically, it’s on the only song that features The Roots and is produced by them that her poet style doesn’t seem so snoozy.  On “Da Jawn” (which is Philly slang for everything practically – like “Joint” in New York slang) Black Thought and Malik B.‘s flows bolster the otherwise weak Roots offering and make Bahamadia’s mellow delivery seem right in pocket. The track where she shines the most in her poet syle tho, is the other Beatminerz contribution “Spontaneity”. Using the same sample they used for Heltah Skeltah‘s “Lefluar Leflah Eshkoshka”, the production duo strike gold this time around with the hypnotic and chimey track that allows Bahamadia to capitalize on her quiet storm by explaining her quirky style and whispering the hook. 

As a member of the Gangstarr foundation, Bahamadia had one of the most important co-signs of the 90’s. The extended embrace from The Roots added to that and made her one of the most significant female entrances into the game ever. More significantly, years later, she is the only major female rapper (sorry, QueenPen doesn’t count – even tho she has bigger hits), let alone rapper in general, who I have heard blatantly admit to bisexuality in song. It was on a mixtape by Outcasted female spitters Lady Luck, Babs and the Lady of Rage that featured Bahamadia on a track rhyming “last decade had a harem of dime women friends/bi on the sly/done a guy every now and then”. That’s balls. And maybe she’s at that point in her life where she no longer cares what people think. Maybe that’s also why this has been her only real full length album and has been followed by a few sporadic EP’s and side projects. Her signature beehive afro helped that heavily backed introduction with a style that was as unique as her rap presence, and tho she’s switched it up over the years and become rather obscure, her mark was definitely made. Call her sleepy if you want. But don’t sleep.

With that, I’m sure it’s become quite obvious after reading this review that my favorite tracks on this album are “Rugged Ruff”, “Spontaneity” and the singles “3 The Hardway”, and the super Dope ode to Philly hip-hop “Uknowhowwedu” . But the crown jewel of this whole album is “True Honey Buns”, a tale where she cleverly and slickly describes how going out with a friend who becomes loose in the midst of male attention speaks volumes to the challenges facing the female agenda collectively. Complex simplicity. You almost feel like you’re out at the club with them. 

And with that, this album gets 12 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

(It’s more like a 10)

No Homo?…Hip-Hop is Gayer than you think…

Let me just begin by pointing out that as much as I respect Russell Simmons, he really annoys me when it comes to his Hip-Hop culture commentary, for reasons that I’ll point out later. In the meantime, just as I recently wrote a post about the objectification of women in media, this class has also got me tripping on the definitions of gender identification and sexuality. Homosexuality in particular has been a hot button topic recently, with all the New York hype surrounding gay marriage and this past month’s focus on it by Hip-Hop media. It all points to a larger theme of acceptance and a changing world.

But has the world really changed? Or has it moreso come full circle? Well, that depends on how biblical you are. Some of you may feel that this all just means that people and lifestyles are just blending more and sooner or later, differences won’t be discriminatory agents. Some of you feel like this is just a return to Soddom & Gammora – like times and is a sign of Revelations that Jesus is indeed coming. I’m more concerned with what it all means for Hip-Hop, and how I’ve played a part or been affected.

This is no doubt a business dominated by and heavily influenced by homosexual males, be they closeted or out, be it in the executive aspect or through the fashion aspect that creates the trends and signifies status. Anyone on the outside can just look and see how rappers have spent ages idealizing and romanticizing the designs of famous gay European fashionistas to be indicative of wealth and coolness. It’s even more significant to be able to say that you rub elbows with said designers. You can also look and see the evolution of style that has occurred from the baggy look to the hipster movement and see tangents of culture blending. And anyone on the inside who has spent enough time in the offices and on sets can tell you that a good majority of the decision-makers in this industry are at the very least, questionable. let us not forget the ever-looming speculation concerning rappers themselves.

The question then becomes, why should we care? Or why do we care? Perhaps it matters because this, like most challenges to the normal and historical social order of Hip-Hop is disruptive to what we’re used to and forces us to have to adjust. Just like any other minority as in when women began to become more prominent, or when Eminem made us have to embrace White rappers the same way as the brown faces that we’re used to, homosexuality presents a new challenge. The thing with homosexuality is however, that in this male arena, it kind of stands as the antithesis of the culture itself. Created from the improvisation inspired by poverty shared by young kids in the Bronx, Hip-Hop developed as the voice of a generation in the aftermath of the aggressive Black Power movement and the wild disco era. There were pieces of both of those coming together expressing a mutual sentiment against inequality and a desire to just be indulgent and free. This was fueled by male braggadocio and the self-esteem issues prominent in minority life. Of course this movement was taking place around the same time as gay rights pushes and the rise of drag and flamboyant subcultures. Yet the 2 worlds, tho often next door to each other, seldom intertwined.

And that brings up another issue; for so long, and mostly due to gays themselves, the idea that flamboyancy is one in the same with being homosexual has been the way gayness has been characterized for males. This threat to the traditional male behavior and gender role is a direct threat to the very hetero machismo that Hip-Hop culture was built on. Why would there have been reason for the 2 worlds to cooperate harmoniously?

I read the latest issue of XXL magazine where this was being covered, and was surprised that they took a more sociological look at the whole thing. Besides the Beanie Sigel quotes, which were the most humorous and honest parts of the article, I found this quote by a professor to be the most poignant “For Hip-Hop, it’s not really an actual conversation about same sex, and it’s always these rhetorical tropes or some sort of public posturing or progressive support for same-sex marriage”. This is super true. The so-called evolution that rap has experienced is more of a political correctness when asked about it, but not in the music itself.

And this is based on the point made by the professor that as long as it’s not a conversation about sex or sexuality, then gays are more of a thing to be accepted than a group of people. But if it was truly a matter of what goes on in someone’s bedroom, as NORE tried to narrow it down to, then there would be a lot less homophobia in the world. We all know that with that presence of flamboyancy, it’s always  more than just a private matter. The lifestyles and stereotypical socialization of gays, particularly gay males, kind of puts their sexuality in everyone’s faces.

There’s so much surface posturing in Hip-Hop when it comes to this, like Russell Simmons (Who’s been accused of being one of those closeted execs time and time again) who says stuff like homophobia is exaggerated in Hip-Hop because Hip-Hop is more accepting than any other culture and that poets have always been the most tolerant. This is utter bullshit and just good talk. It’s waaaaay too early for that kind of statement. Rap hasn’t changed that much to the point where you can make bold statements like that. Not with all the anti-gay punchlines and derogatory language on the radio. And when you’re being hit with that kind of suggestion that hard from a consistent source, it’s never just words. Sure, there may be a larger sense of coolness with lesbian and bisexual female activity, but certainly NOT for gay dudes.

As somebody who’s never used the word faggot and knows plenty of gay folk, I understand how the performance versus real life aspect takes place. Then again, you have to wonder why it’s okay for me to be cool and friendly with gay people in my regular day-to-day life, but when it comes to my raps, there’s a good amount of lines that point at being a gay dude as the worst thing that one can be. Naturally, this arises from that conflict that I mentioned earlier of the macho hetero basis of Hip-Hop with the effeminate basis of stereotypical male homosexuality. In a competitive field such as rap the natural thing to do is to strip a competitor of their status. You belittle them of those things which they value the most…This includes wealth, skill, and most strikingly, manhood. And if a man who acts feminine represents a loss of manhood, then implying that someone is gay is a severe offense. The other thing is that within the urban community, there’s the damaging rise of the down-low epidemic. And for it’s very dishonest nature and contribution to mistrust between males and females and breaking of families, it garners serious contempt. As it should.

There’s a lot of stuff about gay culture that I just don’t get and can’t rock with, such as the adopting of opposite gender identity and characteristics. I also have little respect for those who don’t just come out and pretend to be straight.

None of this is an excuse tho. And if my otherwise evolved mind is able to understand homosexuality in real life (even tho, I don’t fully understand it per se), it should reflect a bit more in my songs. I’ve come quite far in the last few years, I think there’s room for growth. Evaluate me after these next 2 projects of mine drop.

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”.

1 commercial I Love, 1 Commercial I Hate! – McDonald’s strikes again with Fuckery, Pharell pushes make-up

Hello,

we’ve met before. I thought I told you how much I HATE McDonald’s attempts to capitalize off of Hip-Hop and urban culture with these uber-corny ass ads. This time, they didn’t even put any thought into it. Who’s 3rd grade nephew or 45 year old ‘expert’ did they consult with for this lame spot?? Slap some headphones around someone’s neck and put a mic in somone’s hand and have them recite the most cliche and dusty phrase of all Hip-Hop lore and Voila! Does McDonald’s even have to market to niggas anyway? Not like they don’t know it exists and have the menu memorized at the same time they learn the alphabet.

Womp!

On the flip, this ad might come off a little corny as well, but the fact of who’s in it is what overrides that. It’s almost weird. But it’s also Dope. How did this happen? Who was in charge of the marketing here?? 2 of my favorite celebs, Pharell & the gorgeous Jessica Biel, one of my Caucasian Persuasion crushes. Kinda makes sense…They’re both into fashion heavy. But Revlon? And a man as the main focus of that? Interesting indeed.

(15) Classic Sounds

Like…

Do you even remember what you were doing in 1991?? I was 8 going on 9. And whatever I was doing, I was certainly doing a variation of the wop and reciting parts of “Hip-Hop Junkies” that I did not understand. I didn’t even know that this was the same group that made the other song that I liked, “Funky For You” a year before that. I just knew that I was now a fan of Nice & Smooth. Welcome to the year that I became an active music listener.

I remember my boy Eric, who was one of my best friends in High School always talking about this album. I didn’t fully respect it until he went out and re-bought it on CD and made me listen to it when I was in summer school my Junior year. I saw what he meant. When you hear jaded older hip-hop heads going on about what rap used to be, this is what they’re talking about. It’s that combination of real and street relevant and relative, while care-free and light hearted…Not taking itself too seriously to have fun and party and be rhythmic. Nice & Smooth have always represented balance, down to their monikers – which they embody and live up to the tee!

Nowhere is this more evident than on this album, which is hands down their most memorable and most successful. Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed is the LP that made these guys a top-tier rap act in the early to mid 90’s. Especially when you consider that right at the height of this album’s buzz and dominance, the group appeared on the perfectly timed and instantly classic “DWYCK” with Gangstarr (that song will never get old). Spawning the most singles, this album really played up the duo’s individual strengths. The selection of releases also showed their versatility, with some tracks being whole r&bish ditties, to others being lyrical rap rides and some evening out as rap/harmonized hybrids.

Speaking of “Harmonize”, the album starts off with a hyped up track of the same name with the duo doing just that. One of their standards and part of their calling card, they don’t really sing in 2 part harmony as much as they just synch their very different voices to deliver rap chants ala The Cold Crush Brothers or T.J. Swan from the Biz Markie era. Granted, Smooth B can hold a note and he exhibits this plentifully throughout the album with bridges and breaks in rhyme scheme, but crooners these 2 are not. And I don’t think they were trying to be or even cared. It more or less seems to be truly the natural way that the group chose to express another facet of their creative process. The fact that this happens over some of the most irresistibly catchy and most clever uses of samples from popular breakbeats and funk songs into midtempo rap grooves only makes it feel more free-spirited and authentic.

“Cake & Eat It Too” is a prime example of this. The single that loosely tells a story of an unsatisfied girl is a full-out song in the conventional sense of the word. It’s so early 90’s that it’s not even New Jack Swing. It’s just Smooth B singing off-key while Greg Nice delivers the rap verses over one of the few original beats on the album, but what comes off more like a track you’d hear on a demo. It’s almost not full enough to sound done because it’s not the cleanest vocalizing and the beat consists of a 3 note piano bass melody. Yet it thrives in its simplicity.  It’s one of those songs that was so memorable because it was sooo different from what was going on at the time. Rap was going through a sort of puberty at the time…Discovering that it had a multitude of avenues that it could choose. It was still rolling off of it’s afrocentric phase, reveling in it’s house and jazz experimentation that contrasted mellow, more heady rhymes coupled with more subdued deliveries against the booming uptempo dance scene littered with big pants, big hair and polka dots. And the lure of gangster rap was fresh on the rise, about to make everyone drop a hardcore album in the following 3 years…Including this group. But for this exact period when this song was a hit, it was perfect. A summer song that broke the rules by being more of a sing-songy sap fest, yet reflected the overall tone in hip-hop. The 2 guys were so confident in what they were doing that you had to respect it. Plus, by the time they dropped this, they had already given you more than enough hits to not have their credibility as rappers in question.

If Balance was the group’s main theme, then songs like “How To Flow” showcased this impeccably and made it clear as to why they could get away with joints like “Cake & Eat It Too”. One of the more hardcore tracks on the album, and yet another great single (my second favorite track off the album from back in the day), it actually starts out with a melodious riff by the 2 going back and forth in an old school cadence. Immediately after that, Greg Nice – who usually sets all the songs off, rips into the bass guitar lead track as it thumps with lines like “Massive meltdown, bring the red tape/bag up victims who caught the vapes”.

The real bread and butter here is on their more straightforward rap tracks tho. Songs like “One, Two And One More Makes Three”. As well as the requisite posse cut (which was mandatory back then), “Down The Line” where the first bond with Gangstarr was made as Premo reinterpreted the same “Night In Tunisia” sample that he used on Gangstarr’s debut single “I Manifest”, and Guru lent a verse. Nothing is more Killer than on “Pump It Up” where the 2 show just why they each were a force to be reckoned with then. On both solo verses, both rappers ride the same beat that would go on to become famous as Biggie‘s “One More Chance Remix”. Yet this beat is delivered in fashion with that of the whole album, as it breaks down on the chorus to a lighter, chimey sample, only to go back into the pounding and scratching. Both bring their A game, and their individuality attacks in a way that reinforces their solidarity as a duo. It’s like seeing something split apart to strike from 2 different angles just to join back together and enjoy the victory. Listen as Smooth B drops lines like “my brain contains memory info…/Protons, Neutrons, cells and membranes/molecules are the tools that I in-frame/so you can get a vision – a visual picture/1,2,3, a consecutive mixture/Solids, liquids, gas creates matter/you bite my rhymes, well I’m flattered………………..bite-able cause even the best did/but you can’t check me, cause this ain’t Chess kid!/”.

This beat, this cohesion and distinction at the same time, are explicitly what the group is made of. The juxtaposition of hard parts next to soft sample breaks in the beats was the backdrop for you to take in the matching of Greg Nice’s high energy, simplistic, call-and-response flow with Smooth B’s paced, soft-spoken encyclopedia-laden (sometimes made-up) wordy flow. Despite these conflicting energies, they work cooperatively and never change the vibe or tempo of the songs themselves. Both rappers use their differences to marry whatever beat their on top of and not collide with one another, but simply compliment. The party part of party songs never mellows out just because a guy named Smooth B rhymes after a guy named Greg Nice who practically just finished yelling his verse.

And the party songs are there. While every song is pretty much a party song because Nice & Smooth are from that class of rappers that were out to entertain primarily, some are more deliberate in their mission. Those songs, like “Medley; Step By Step”,  “Sex, Sex, Sex” and their claim to fame, “Hip-Hop Junkies” are littered at different points of the album, but unless you’re doing a critical review of the album like Iam here, you probably won’t notice the difference, because like I said, every song has a catchy vibe to it that can rock in some kind of party.

Even on the melancholy and topical “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow”. It’s just the breed of rapper these guys are. They understood that even a song with semi-heavy subject matter shouldn’t kill the jam. Over a sped up sample of folk star Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car”, the group plays off of the title and makes it a poetic one of their own, having nothing to do with the actual conversation in the verses. This song is however, their second most popular single. Another song that became memorable because once again, it was so different from everything else out there. There were alot of different styles of music being sampled in Hip-Hop at the time, but nothing resulting in something so unapologetically as non-hip-hop as this. And it worked. It was also a nice deviation in the album sequence from the funk and thump. 

And that’s the group in a nutshell. This album was the 2 Bronx Golden Era rap legends at their best; Not under or over doing it. They were truly just being themselves and you could hear them having fun. Even the bragging seemed realistic and from a thought out point of view. It was less about demeaning others or making outlandish claims. It also helps that the 2 have some of the most distinctive voices in Hip-Hop history. Greg Nice may well be one of the best performance style rappers. Smooth B was one of the best who attempted the I’m-gonna-use-big-words style. Besides the unnecessary “Billy Gene” skit and the wack and unfocused “Paranoia”, every track on here is great and serves it’s purpose.

Having that said, my favorite songs are “Pump It Up”, “How To Flow”, “Down The Line” and of course, “Hip-Hop Junkies”. 

This album gets 12 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

It’s more like a 10, but you know…

Wait, so now COMMON is a cop-killer & a “Gangsta Rapper”??!

Fuckin insanity! As a redirect for their inherent racist processing, the conservatives have struck again, this time pulling out psuedo-ethical bazookas on the most non-aggressive, veggie-eating M.C. to ever become a household name. Clearly the name Common is not common at all in the cornfed households of Tea Party America.

The former Crocheted-pants wearer became the target of political crossfire when an invite was extended to him by First Lady Michelle Obama to join for an evening of Poetry at the White House. This was immediately met with opposition from republican pundits and contributing bloggers on newsfeeds.

The total removal from the rest of the metropolitan and pop-culture aware world is evident from jump as made painfully obvious from titles of articles addressing Common as a “gangsta rapper”. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8043601/first_lady_michelle_obama_invites_common.html?cat=9 Not only was it clear that these folks were not privy to the fact that Common is damn near the poster child for socially conscious rap, but it also seems that they have been living under a rock to not recognize him as a familiar face on the big screen in several Blockbuster films. It was a total isolation from anything relatively urban.

The way the writers have manipulated the angles to present their view is ugly. It’s also scary when you think of the reality that this is really all it takes to incite other like-minded folk who are not in the know and haven’t the slightest idea who this rap artist is and can be swayed to categorize him as a threat. It’s easy to stir up shit amongst the uninformed whose minds are already halfway made-up.

The main argument stemming from the opposing factions centers around an excerpt from Common’s appearance on the early 2000’s original HBO program Def Poetry Jam. In the vivid spoken word piece about police brutality and institutional racial profiling, Common recites poetic language that is retaliatory in nature, but alludes to striking back at the president and crooked cops with equal violent measures. His words were extracted and highlighted in a literal context to illustrate the writer’s sensationalized claims that Common is an advocate of cop-killing and presidential assassination. They go as far as to delve into how the president can lose backing from police forces due to this appearance. Read a full example of this argument here http://dailycaller.com/2011/05/10/liberals-support-conservatives-attack-rappers-white-house-invite/

Of course to us who have grown up in these melting pots under the wave of Hip-Hop influence and witnessed the maturation of the artist formerly known as Common Sense from animated B-Boy backpacker to sensitive Pro-Black voice for struggle and universal peace, this is ass backwards on all accounts. But you can see how, as one who has never heard of him, receiving this description of him as a first impression and reading the transcription of these lyrics (especially when misled to believe these are lyrics from his songs as a rapper instead of from a poetry piece intended to be incendiary and representative of a frustrated and oppressed group), how this can be severely alarming and damaging.

The White House defended their invite, citing that Common’s greater efforts have trumped any of his more questionable ones (Which was made clear that the President doesn’t condone). Yet from the comments on those articles that have slandered the rapper – who still showed up and thanked the First couple for backing their decision, it is easy to see how effective the word choice of the conservative writers was. It’s this mob mentality that gives people like Bill O’ Reilly movement and helps lump rappers all into one monolith that would see Will.I.Am in the same box as a 50 Cent. It’s all just nigger music to them and it has no business in the influential realms outside of niggerdom. Even tho it has proven to be the most influential force of unison in the freeworld today.

The day that Common is threat to society and national security, then the world truly is going to end on May 21st

(14) Classic Sounds…

Like

“Here’s an oldie but Goodie!”

That opening line from “Treat ‘Em Like A Prostitute”, the first track off of Slick Rick’s Magnum Opus is so appropriate at this time.

This classic LP  is the source of so many references, borrowed lines, borrowed swag, and is apart of that top ten of Golden Era releases whose songs litter the sound scape of 80’s themed stuff from movies to parties. You’ll be hard-pressed to find much pertaining to the urban lifestyle in the 1980’s without some Slick Rick song playing in the background or being mentioned. And it would more than likely be from this particular album.

Reason being is that Slick is of that oh-so-rare cluster of artists who only made 1 memorable album. However, that’s all that he ever had to do. This one album made an indelible and irreversible impact on the culture and music history period, to the point that it’s hit songs still get played in the contemporary party scene today…Re-looping it’s lifespan for each generation since it’s inception. It helped revolutionize and redefine Hip-Hop with new slang, new approaches to social situations, and a new voice most importantly.

This debut had been highly anticipated since the great alley-oop introduction lent to him by his partner in rhyme and then mega rap star Doug E. Fresh. His guest features and solo spotlights on the eternal hits, “La Di Da Di” and “The Show” helped cement him as a force to be reckoned with, but no one could have anticipated the bomb that he was about to drop.

As an outsider in more than one way, it almost appears as tho Rick’s immigrant status as a Brit and unmistakable King’s English has always been overlooked. When I was growing up in the 80’s I don’t ever recall hearing anyone trip off the fact that this guy was str8 up London rapping like he’d been in Brooklyn his whole life. As if he didn’t sound like a cartoon character. There was no masking his speech. Unlike other English performers – even fellow British rappers like Monie Love, his accent didn’t fade and slip out as he recited. It was here to stay. Now add to that a penchant for breaking out into random melodious riffs and interpolations of other popular songs, and Slick Rick was never intended to be the norm. He was far from conventional, but he wasn’t weird. He was just giving the Hip-Hop audience something that they didn’t hear before. And not because he was trying. But this was genuinely his interpretation of bragging, establishing identity and being stylish. This was his vision of cool. And we knew it was. Maybe the foreign thing played a huge part in his confidence, or maybe I was just too young to remember, but everything this guy did was accepted. Eye-patch and all.

This may explain his brazenness as well. Although many a rapper had dedicated their fair share of time to odes about the opposite sex and being the best, Slick took things from a different angle and delved more into situational relations. He demeaned his competition by not aggressively denouncing them, but by using witty jabs and sharp comparisons. Listening to him amongst his peers now can be likened to being in school and seeing how the other kids would settle conflicts with fist fights and then seeing that one kid who was the best snapper and would send other kids away in tears just with his words. This is also the case for how he approached female scenarios. Noted in rap as quite possibly the best storyteller, this was Rick’s chosen approach. It was always linear, yet easily digestible chronicling, full of characterizations and punch lines. Everything was and is a story for him. Yet what made him so bold was that at the time, the only rappers painting such vivid depictions of day-to-day life were the “gangsta” rappers. Slick was so appealing because he brought elements from each existing field of Hip-Hop at the time. He was topical, creative, a known party rapper with a talent for crafting the most compelling parts in a song to sing and rap along with, but he dealt with mostly street based issues and spoke about them like the hardcore rappers would. A good amount of curse words, which was not too prominent in the average rap recordings of the time. Even Rakim would use like 1 swear word per album. Around then, only Rick and maybe Big Daddy Kane were mixing that playboy image with the raw delivery and bravado, while still making time to speak on social issues.

Apart of that playboy image would be addressing male-female situations. And that boldness that Rick exudes is present from the moment the aforementioned “Treat Her Like A Prostitute” comes on. Just the idea to title the song in such a way, and furthermore, to start his debut album off with, speaks volumes to the balls this man had. And balls this man had indeed. So much so that he taunted his competitors to “lick” them on the closing track. The titles of his introductory and ending songs let you know the manner of hubris you are dealing with. Yet there’s a humble undertone in Slick’s ‘I-just-like-being-fly’ ethos, so consider these 2 songs to be the bread of a sandwich full of adventure and humor. On the former, Slick provides a cynical commentary on female infidelity based on crude accounts from stories that sound like something out of a Richard Pryor routine. On the Latter, Rick proves my point about his brash nature on this late 80’s braggadocio fest “Lick The Balls” with crazy sentences like “act trife, I’ll let my dog cold fuck your wife!”

Of course this was in the scope of a story. The tale being Slick at a show along with some less than comparable comp. This is also one of the only straightforward songs on here. In a similar but way more creative and intricate plot, on the song “KIT What’s The Scoop”, Rick and co. find themselves on the trail of a group of imitating rappers. Enlisting the aid of the high-tech talking sports car from the 80’s hit series Knight Rider, Rick catches the biters in the act, confronts and reprimands them, recapturing his style just in time to rock a show. This is rap as art to the highest level. The dialogue between he and the car (K.I.T.) is pure genius. 

Another interesting point in the Slick Rick profile is that he voices different characters in his rhymes. Most of the times this simply means that he softens his cadence to indicate that it’s another speaker or another pattern of thought, but sometimes this extends to include full on different personalities – even in adlibs. This is exhibited in songs like “The Moment I feared”, that finds him in a series of unfortunate mishaps where Murphy’s Law takes the wheel.  It’s when he characterizes female characters however, like on the über classic party hit “Mona Lisa”, or “Indian Girl” that he has gained the most notoriety. Where most males are unwilling to portray a woman or less than masculine roles, Slick presents full on conversational exchanges between his assumed characters. On “Indian Girl”, Rick uses all of the gross Native American stereotypes to tell an “adult story” that’s set to be a crassly humorous cautionary tale. Yet it’s exactly this kind of unabashed bluntness that separated him from the other rappers at the time. Only the super underground street rappers were reciting lines about having sex until “the pussy started yawning”, but by the same token this was a song that at its underlying core was about safe sex.

Blame it on the Libra balance, but Slick hits all of the angles on this album. He even willingly lets his cooler-than-thou guard down at times to play the victim in his stories. He also plays the grown man, but not the preacher on “Hey Young World”. For all of his finger waving and commentary, the song avoids that cheesy quality that lots of rappers like say a Run-DMC would display when speaking on social issues. It seemed to come from a place of experience and warning. Yet what set him apart from being a one-note rapper is that his songs with deeper content became as popular as his party songs. So much so that they get played in the same space. Anyone who knows the Slick Rick catalogue or anyone who has breathed air within the last 3 decades knows that “Children’s Story” is as popular as “Mona Lisa”. “Children’s Story” is hands down a lesson in Hip-Hop that I’m surprised not too many other rappers have taken a cue from. It’s an example from the Golden Era that was set early on for the rap generation of the future to learn that any song with any kind of subject matter can be made into a banger. It meant that you could be conscious and dance too. You would think this would catch on, but alas, we’ve had to endure 2 subsequent decades of deep-sounding, soul sample laden and gothic slow songs to get our thought-provoking rap fix. It wasn’t until “Jesus Walks” that another rap song tackling such hefty material got the same regard as a club hit and even still, that doesn’t get party play like “Children’s Story” does. By all accounts, it broke the rules. This is a song with no chorus, about a kid who sticks innocent people up, goes on the run from the police, has a shootout with them using an assortment of firearms (one borrowed from a dope-fiend), commits grand theft auto, grabs a pregnant woman as a hostage and ultimately ends up in prison by the end of the song at the age of 17. It’s dark and against 80’s format, but it worked because it was perfectly coupled with a thumping beat. It was the ultimate marriage of concise storytelling and great instrumentation. 

Speaking of beats, this LP encapsulated the entire 1980’s Hip-Hop sound. Using the popular synths and drums of that age, everything hits where it’s intended to. The party songs hit like party songs designed to rock any house jam. And the more subtle tracks are melodious. Just as the rhymes are evenly varied, so are the beat selections. So on a 12 track LP, this has the effect of a diverse spread of sounds, albeit of the Casio variety, but diverse nevertheless. From the twinkling on “HeyYoung World”, to the Blaring horns on “The Ruler’s Back” and constant scratches from the DJ all throughout, every song has its own lead sound, but nothing deviates too far to stand out-of-place.

With the exception of the sub par “Let’s Get Crazy”, which sounds like a song that was meant for somebody else, all the songs here are tightly knit. And even that is forgivable, because lyrically Rick doesn’t necessarily falter. This is a classic album that serves as both a great debut and a pivot piece for a new wave of rap styling. It’s well-rounded and crisp, full of wit and creativity. The most important thing about it being that it has proved to stand the test of time as a bona fide classic.

My favorite songs on here are “The Ruler’s Back” , “Hey Young World” and the ever-so-Dope “Teenage Love”

One of my favorite rap songs and videos of all time.

Overall, The Great Adventures Of… gets 16 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

(13) Classic Sounds…

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Somewhere I got it horribly wrong. I reviewed Salt N Pepa‘s classic album Very Necessary in January. It’s officially Women’s History Month, and somehow I’m reviewing the most misogynistic and exaggerated piece of crap in the history of classic Hip-Hop.

Nevertheless, a classic album it is. And it’s undeniably Hip-Hop. So we rate it and review it, because that’s what we do here.

This album is super significant because of its place in the N.W.A. timeline. It marks the solidification and full bloom of the group as an indelible and influential force in Hip-Hop, but it also marks their demise. As their second full length studio album, following the EP 100 Miles And Runnin’, the group already suffered internal setbacks and aimed at reforming themselves and affirming their position. While it didn’t produce as many memorable individual songs and singles as their first album, this is where they step up musically and lyrically. Dr Dre‘s production here introduced us to what would become his signature sound and define west-coast hip-hop and g-funk. The bombastic kicks and rich drum patterns and bass lines mixed with clever 70’s funk samples and dj scratches make gangsta rap wet dreams.

My first time hearing this album was in 2006 when I ran thru my brother’s stash of cassettes and figured I ‘d see what it sounded like since I’d already heard Straight Outta Compton. It couldn’t have happened at a better time in my opinion because I felt better equipped to understand the evil genius of Eric Eazy E Wright after being exposed to such controversy-mongers as the 50 Cent‘s of my generation. Everything down to the title of this album is a reflection of Eazy’s strategy and a study in pushing the envelope.

As most of us with knowledge within the Hip-Hop world have come to discover after all this time, none of the members of N.W.A. have any significant documented criminal history and their backgrounds are actually quite tame in comparison to the lure surrounding their rap personas. That makes it all the more interesting how Eazy manipulated this wave of California streetlife- based rap and took it to crazy proportions. Back in the early 90’s, you would’ve sworn N.W.A. was a gang.

The affirmation begins with “Prelude” where the group decidedly approaches from the rap group angle, ironically taking shots at lesser groups who fall off and fail to show staying power.  From there, it becomes all about them being simply “Niggas”.

Hearing this album in later years for the first time also has the effect of holding more weight musically due to the ability to point out how much of it has been sampled by more recent rap songs, and by the same token how much of it actually consists of samples. Dj Yella incorporates cuts from famous comedy albums from the Soul era as well as pivotal spoken word excerpts from the likes of The last Poets. All of the incendiary vocal snippets add to the fervor of the songs and the underlying theme of anarchist niggerhood. Coupled with Dre’s dissecting of notorious parts of classic funk jams and splicing them together in menacing arrangements, the production is perhaps the most clever part of this album.

Yet and still, it suffers from 2 things that I absolutely hate in sequencing. It’s clear that with bringing in the 90’s, the group fully embraced the rising trend of incorporating skits, which makes the album longer and more reckless. The skits, full of moments of extreme sociopathic humor and hyperbole including shooting prostitutes and cameramen, serve to contrast the otherwise dark sonicbed that the songs provide. However, this ridiculous comedic element adds to the overall tragic reality that this album takes no responsibility for. The other horrible move in the track listing is the bunching of all of the songs dealing with female-related subject matter. Between the “To Kill A Hooker” skit to Eazy E’s obnoxious solo “I’d Rather Fuck You”, there’s 4 other tracks that do more damage to the depiction of women in rap than Hip-Hop has done in the last 15 years collectively. To hear these songs back to back is like hearing all of those Mel Gibson recorded phone arguments with his ex-wife.

Unfortunately, besides the silly parody song “Automobile”, (that laid the groundwork for hardcore rappers to allow themselves to break character and let loose a la Biggie in “Playa Hata”, and may have actually been funny in 1991) most of these songs sound Dope! These songs are detestable, but the raps go over so smoothly between the pairings of Eazy’s voice with Dre and MC Ren’s deep, creepy snarls with the beats that lend themselves to trunk rattling fullness on the choruses and open allure for storytelling during the verses. I particularly wrastle with myself over the song “She Swallowed It”, which has one of the best beats in rap history and catchy parts that you might find yourself singing if you don’t use your personal filter. I remember hearing kids singing this song when I was a preteen, knowing it was super inappropriate. Hearing it takes me back to that time in my head, almost making me want to cover my ears due to the abrasive nature. As an adult however, I understand the comedy in it, tho I can’t get around how extreme it is. 

The other 2 songs “Findum Fuckem and Flee” and “One Less Bitch” are the ones that make me want to go back in time and join the Rev. Calvin Butts in steamrolling over those gangsta raps CDs in the street. Shit like this was all designed to live up to the hype the group first created by being sought after the FBI for their breakout songs like “Fuck Tha Police”. They chose to direct their shock value towards the female angle this time around by going as far as they possibly could. If you listen with scrutinizing ears, you can hear that literally almost every other word is a curse word with the intent to sensationalize the impact of what’s being said. If you don’t think this was apart of their M.O. purposely, then you must also believe that punch lines are coincidental. On “Findum…” although its pass-the-mic ethos is clever, you get a barrage of sentences like “…there ain’t no joking, when the pussyholes are open/Ready to fuck until my dick is raw/yo, the muthafuckin’ Devil’s son-in-law/ (Peter-Peter, the pussy eater)/ no it’s the E, the muthafuckin’ pussy beater/ and I’m the quicker picker upper – quick ta pick up a bitch/ so come here bitch!, and lick up the – lick up the – lick up the dick!”. And on the loathsome “One Less Bitch” with a deplorable plot about killing women to avoid drama, everyone’s favorite west coast legend – Dr. Dre, goes too far with rhymes forever sealed in recorded history about rape.

But it’s not like Dre wrote any of this stuff anyway. With Ren and ghostwriter The D.O.C. penning most of the bars on this album, the stepping up of Ren and Dre to the forefront of the group compares boldly to the first LP where Eazy and Ice Cube were the dominant presence and Cube was the man with the magic words. Cube’s overly publicized departure from the group was yet another focal point for the group to eschew their controversial stance and ruffle feathers. Where they had already made their point clear about having no love for Cube on 100 Miles and Runnin’, as a group with limited subject matter, they felt the need to rub this sentiment in. Once again they harped on this topic for several tracks, and of course, lumped them together back to back. So from the single “Alwayz Into Somethin” to the skit “Message to B.A. (Benedict Arnold)” and the revisit of “Real Niggaz”, they spend an adequate amount of time dedicated to berating their one-time lead man and what some consider to be the heart of the group. 

What makes this album an album, however, and not just a collection of tracks is the strength of it’s first 2 real songs and it’s last 2 real songs. This is the only part of the album where you will receive any semblance of depth from the group. The heaviness and rebelliousness of what they speak of on these tracks is memorable enough that where reflection and contemplation is not present, so much can be taken from their words alone and used as food for thought. Their social commentary came from an inwards-out perspective, whereas most other artists make statements about the world around them and their place in it. Songs like “Real Niggaz Don’t Die” and “Approach To Danger” precede yet predict the atmosphere of L.A. life both during and soon after the infamous riots that would happen a year after this album dropped. 

In a way, N.W.A. had to exist. If they were truly an outfit designed to alert the rest of the world to how crazy life was on the inner-city streets of Los Angeles and represent a microcosm of what poverty was really doing to young Black Men around America, then mission accomplished. I just wish that their arrival didn’t also signify the start of the glorification of that very violence that they were making everyone aware of. Perhaps it’s only poetic justice that the group fell apart after this record and they were meant to exist for only that short time and leave one hell of an impression.

A contrived group with contrived tactics that succeeded somehow in bringing us some of the realest shit ever. Although I cannot tolerate too many of the songs and I NEVER play or will give this album any other play, I always judge music objectively first. Especially when Iam reviewing it. Therefore, my favorite songs on this LP are “Real Niggaz Don’t Die”  and “Niggaz 4 Life”  both for their social relevance and politically incorrect credos that are evidently timeless. I like the latter so much so, that I remade it for my West-Coast themed mixtape, Westside Til I Die with a more in-depth and conscious spin. My other favorites (and I hesitate to say favorites) include the eerie “Approach To Danger” and “The Dayz of Wayback”.

Overall, against my personal opinion and better judgement, this album gets 8 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

My alternate rating for this album is 1 fucking Candle but you know…

 

Pharoahe Monch declares “W.A.R.” – Listening party & album review

I’ve been to my fair share of listening parties, but nothing as interactive as yesterday’s Pharoahe Monch event for his new album slated to drop this month, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

Sitting in NYU‘s Cantor Film Center amongst a slew of Hip-Hop’s apparent neo taste – makers, the revolutionary sounds from the acclaimed lyricist’s third solo album thumped with enough force to fill out the auditorium space and keep heads nodding throughout.

The album, being released through the legendary underground indie label, Duck Down, is Monch’s third (due to his claims of being “a slow writer”) and most focused effort. Showcasing the full range of skills that he’s displayed here and there on his previous albums, he goes into different pockets and zones while maintaining a consistent tone that falls in line with his overall message of bucking the system…Whatever you interpret that system to be through the loosely conceptual trip that he takes you on as you listen to W.A.R.

With Pharoahe and his manager taking turns on stage explaining the recording and thought process behind each song and the project as a whole,  we get a peek into the mind of the artist following a viewing of an overly dramatic commercial spot for the album. I look behind me, and find that I’m sitting in front of Duck Down records head Dru Ha, and I FINALLY get to see Jean Grae in person (worth it!). I look to the side, and see a bunch of familiar faces. Those of my peers. I look in front, and see the man of the hour himself. He looks a little nervous, like the few other times I’ve seen him, but at the same time he looks confident…Like he’ll die for the words he put on every track of this album. As he should be.

The commercial was actually the intro for the actual album, featuring a voice-over from Idris Elba. It leads us to the introductory song, “Calculated Amalgamation” that is equally dramatic and futuristic sounding. It’s clamorous and dark, reminiscent of Monch’s work as one half of Organized Konfusion back in the 90’s. But what makes this project so crispy and refreshing is the inclusion of live instrumentation, mainly at the endings of each track. Instrumentalists from groups such as Soulive and the legendary In Living Colour join in to accomplish that. This aides in tying together the songs and keeping a cohesive feel despite the varying musical influences and sounds. The fluctuation is also balanced out by the sequencing that establishes moods juxtaposed in ways that help the linear movement. The early part of the album is boisterous and aggressive. It smooths out in the middle, allowing subtler themes of revolution to take the lead before growing loud and harder once again towards the end.

By the time we reach the incendiary first single “Clap”, it becomes understood why it needed to be accompanied by a video which doubles as a mini-movie starring who most of you may know as “Chris”, the emotionless hitman for “Marlo” of The Wire fame. The message is striking, still creative, but this is the beginning of the midpoint of the album where the boom meets an air of soulfulness.

Pharoahe is at his wordsmith best, marrying punchlines with political pointing and poignant sentiments about social norms and ills. Highlights include “The Hitman”, where he metaphorically takes on the industry Status Quo, “Black Hand Side” feat. Styles P and Phonte, and the electric revival of  “Let My People Go”.

There were plenty of messages thru the course of the night. The most important; Support true artistry and spread the word. Most importantly..Don’t bootleg his shit!! Hence no clips of the videos or songs in this post. But the album officially drops on March 22nd and the mini-movie will be included with every purchase. If you are a pharoahe fan or even if you aren’t and this post has piqued your interest in some way, I say it’s going to be one of the most memorable releases of the year! This is what Hip-Hop is about. As someone who’s always been a passive Pharoahe listener, I can say that I’ve been put on to the movement.