Archive | August, 2016

The Most Perfect Rap Song Ever Written

30 Aug

 

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I can’t front like I was one of the first wave of people to hear “Illmatic” when it became a Source instant classic. The first Nas album I copped was “It was Written”.  Later in the year I bought “Illmatic” but I didn’t really give it much listen til about 1998.  I first discovered Nas my junior year in high school watching Rap City.

It is easy to say that “Illmatic” was a far superior product (fairly or unfairly, this remains his best album), but there is no telling how long it would have been until I discovered “Nasty: Nas had it not been for his sophomore album, and his hit single, If I ruled The World.

Even though the song is 20 years old, it resonates for me even stronger today than when I first heard it. In my opinion, this is the rap equivalent to Prince’s “Take Me With U” as far as constructing the perfect song.

What makes this song so perfect?

Well, the nods to old heads like Whodini and Kurtis Blow, with the Friends sample and Lauryn Hill sung chorus help, but if the lyrics were wack, then it would all be for naught. The lyrics to this song evoke a modern day Langston Hughes, idealistic and inspirational. Only a young man could write a song so idealistic and not have it met with sarcasm or cynicism.

Before he even goes in on the beat, Nas says “Life, I wonder  will it take me under? I don’t know.”

Verse 1 [Imagine smoking weed in the streets without cops harassin’
Imagine going to court with no trial
Lifestyle cruising blue Bahama waters
No welfare supporters
More conscious of the way we raise our daughters

Days are shorter, nights are colder
Feeling like life is over, these snakes strike like a cobra
The world’s hot my son got knocked, evidently
It’s elementary, they want us all gone eventually
Trooping out of state for a plate of knowledge
If coke was cooked without the garbage
We’d all have the top dollars

Imagine everybody flashin’, fashion, designer clothes
Lacing your clique up with diamond Roles
Your people holding dough, no parole, no rubbers
Go in raw,
imagine law with no undercovers
Just some thoughts for the mind
I take a glimpse into time

Watch the blimp read “The World Is Mine” ]

If the first verse were the only rap in the song, it would read a lot like your average 21 yr old rapper’s daydreams. Legal weed, uncut coke, nice cars, designer threads, and a shout out to Brian DePalma’s hood classic, Scarface are interlaced throughout it. Nas is just warming the listener up. The first verse is reserved for the more hedonist fantasies, court with no trial, lots of money and being able to have unlimited unprotected sex was my dream from the ages of 18-21. I can see where he was coming from there.

Verse 2 [The way to be, paradise like relaxin’
Black, Latino and Anglo-Saxon

Armani Exchange deranged
Cash, Lost Tribe of Shabazz, free at last
Brand new whips to crash, then we laugh in the iller path
The Villa house is for the crew, how we do
Trees for breakfast, dime sexes and Benz stretches
So many years of depression make me vision
The better livin’, type of place to raise kids in

Open they eyes to the lies history’s told foul
But I’m as wise as the old owl
, plus the Gold Child
Seeing things like I was controllin’
, click rollin’
Tricking six digits on kicks and still holdin’
Trips to Paris, I civilized every savage
Give me one shot, I turn trife life to lavish
Political prisoner set free, stress free
No work release, purple M3’s and jet skis
Feel the wind breeze in West Indies
I make Coretta Scott-King mayor the cities
And reverse fiends to Willies

It sounds foul, but every girl I meet’d go downtown
I’d open every cell in Attica, send ’em to Africa]

Nas dots the rhyme scheme of verse 2 with more images of good weed in the morning, hot chicks and Benz stretch limos. He even manages to throw a little shade at chicks who don’t perform fellatio. Nas was kinda low key savage.

The bridge of the song, sung by Lauryn Hill,  is an interpolation of the Delfonics’ Walk Right Up To The Sun. It creates a beautiful apex in the song that is almost becomes gospel. Getting Lauyrn Hill on to sing the hook in this track was a genius move. This would be a much different kind of song altogether if Nate Dogg were singing instead–of course no disrespect to Nate. #GodBlessTheDead

Nas goes in on verse 3 though:

[You’d love to hear the story how the thugs live in worry
Duck down in car seats, heat’s mandatory
Running from Jake, getting chased, hunger for papes
These are the breaks, many mistakes go down out of state

Wait, I had to let it marinate, we carry weight
Trying to get laced, flip the ace, stack the safe

Millionaire plan to keep the gat with the cocked hammer
Making moves in Atlanta, back-and-forth scrambler
‘Cause you could have all the chips, be poor or rich
Still nobody want a nigga having shit

If I ruled the world and everything in it, sky’s the limit
I push a Q-45 Infinit(i)
It wouldn’t be no such thing as jealousies or B Felonies
Strictly living longevity to the destiny
I thought I’d never see, but reality struck
Better find out before your time’s out, what the fuck?
]

By this point he has the listener sucked in. He goes #fullsass by describing the downsides of living the hustler lifestyle. Nas is saying that there is alternative to this life and he was fortunate enough to see it crystallize for himself. This is like some John Lennon shit for the hood. Nas is rapping for those dreamers caught up in the neighborhood struggles. This song illustrates to all the folks in his neighborhood that there is another reality, and he knows because he is living it.

 

The video to the song, full of images of everyday hood folk, is a contrast to the lofty fantasy scenarios Nas is rapping about. The only hint of the materialism that Nas aspires for is the lighting during the city shots at night. By filming Nas atop the roof of a limo, its almost if Nas is saying “Yea I made it, but I’m still a man of my people.”

Much like the song, the video has balance. It balances the everyday people from his neighborhood with the newfound things he is privy to with his (then) recent fame. The song itself balances materialism with the everyday desires of people from the working class. Sex and money are great, but so is being able to get through the day with as little unnecessary hassles as possible.

When you come from places like the area Nas grew up, there is an overwhelming abundance of people who want to fuck with you (drug dealers, stick-up kids, the police, even the system itself). Sometimes being able to smoke weed in peace is as good of a moment a person can achieve for the day. The video has elements of empathy sprinkled in with moments of flashiness. Neither tactic is over the top however.

There used to be a balance in the hip-hop world, and funnily enough, 1996 was beginning of the end to that. By 1998, materialism  or “bling rap” would almost completely take over the airwaves; taking Nas’ career with it (though he would come back to the side of the proletariat with later music). Before anyone could “hate Nas now” because of his exclusionary rap lyrics, he wanted to take his people along for the ride. If I Ruled The World was an attempt to uplift its listeners not taunt them. I would be hard pressed to think of another hip-hop song to achieve this without coming off as corny or naive. I’ll take this song over “Ether” any day of the week.

 

BM

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

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Capin’ for Kaepernick

29 Aug

 

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Full disclosure: Sometimes I arrive to sporting events late on purpose just so I can avoid the National Anthem. I stand during it because it is easier than having  to address each person about my reason for not standing for not doing so. Nevertheless, my face intuitively becomes a scowl as I stand still with my hands behind my back. Normally I just think of every black person ever treated unjustly in the name of the American flag.

I don’t celebrate the 4th of July. If I can help it, I leave the country as to not be inundated with all the patriotism that can’t  be faked on my end. In fact, I find it odd that any black person celebrates this day as a holiday, because blacks were not free citizens on the 4th of July, 1776. I also secretly root against the United States during the World Cup, cheering instead for the African countries–especially the Ghana, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast teams.

During the 2 years that I taught social studies in Oklahoma, I was pretty conflicted upon having to needle my students out of their desks in order to “Pledge to the Flag.” I could understand a student not wanting to stand, but I also expressed to them that it was a “matter of respect.” And besides that, it kept the higher ups off my ass, in case I was being observed for the day. The last thing I needed was a controversy like that on my teacher evaluation. It was hard enough being the only black in my social studies department. In my mind I was picking my battles.

I remember the first debate I had with white people about the National Anthem issue. It was 1996. I was a junior on my high school varsity baseball team. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had just taken a lot of flak for doing the very same thing Colin Kaepernick is getting shit for. The only difference is Abdul-Rauf had not been observing the anthem for quite some time. Someone from the media finally noticed it and it became this huge shit storm–even for back then.

Even then my white teammates were railing against this kind of action, and me being 1 of 3 blacks on the team, was the only one to be a contrarian. I spent the whole bus ride to Waco, Texas, arguing with these guys about why anyone of color would feel “oppressed” or marginalized. The irony is that these same teammates were known to make “jokes” about me giving up a front bus seat to the white players, or calling my attention to any passing cotton field we may have driven by.

We got off the bus and got our asses waxed, and a few of the seniors blamed me for causing a distraction from the approaching game. I may or may not have taken delight in getting that L. I can say that it was the first time that I’d had the thought that maybe baseball wasn’t as important to me as I’d originally thought.

Any time a dissenter expresses their displeasure at the rampant injustices that occur in this country, the same miseducated scholars give the same canned responses. The obvious one is that “men and women gave up their lives so that you can have the freedom to show your displeasure.” To which I want to say , “Word? Then why are you so bent out of shape about it then?” It almost seems a slap in their faces to not invoke this freedom that they so dearly fought for. The other canned response tends to be along the lines of “America. Like it or leave it.” I find this to be an irrational reaction at best, at worst, an insane one.

Do you know how crazy this sounds? The majority of blacks in this country did not ask to be here. Racist whites who say “If you don’t like it here, then leave.” are akin to kidnappers who after 20 years, go down into their basement and say to their victims, “Well I know I took you away from your home and loved ones, but I just realized that I’ve done something horrible. Your presence in my basement is nothing but a reminder of the bad deeds I have done, and because of that, I need you to leave my house. No. I’m not going to give you a ride back to your house. Your family probably has already given up on you being alive. Yeah I have the obituary clipping in my scrapbook. Wanna see it? I doubt they even live in the same neighborhood I snatched you from. Sorry. It is time for you to pull yourself by the bootstraps like I did, and make something of yourself. Good luck out there. The world is a terribly unfair place.”

First of all, do you know how difficult it is to emigrate to another country? Half the problems in the world are due to tensions stemming from peoples of other nations seeking asylum in safer parts of the world. Even if they manage to get through all the paperwork, if they have children, it is almost impossible to make it happen without a lot of money.

Secondly, blacks and other “minorities” helped build this nation and took the proverbial hometown discount. Why should WE leave? How about all you bigots pull a Joseph Smith and go live in a deserted part of the world where you are free to be homophobic, racists and sexists? Have at it. You can start your own Bigotopia. Need money to do this? Start a Kickstarter in the same fervent manner that you do for cops who kill citizens and lose their jobs.

I absolutely love controversies like these because it becomes a nice filter to smoke out all the closeted bigots. They lose their shit when they find out that people don’t think the United States is the greatest country in the world. They trip over themselves to express their anger at these dissatisfied ingrates. I find it hilarious. My white friend base on Facebook has been cut in half, and its a glorious feeling. At least once a week, I find myself saying out loud , “Tell me what you really think Devin from Duncanville, TX. I always knew you were racist!”

The worst part of all this is that I now have to stick up for Colin “fricking” Kaepernick. This guy went from being one of my favorite football players to watch, to stinking up the joint, to becoming one of my modern day heroes. I don’t care if he plays another down in the NFL (and he may not), what this man has done is beyond brave. This young “spoiled” millionaire has put his earning power on the line to express his displeasure at what flies in the face of common decency. This is no time to be on the fence about this. It is impossible for me to understand how someone can look themselves in the mirror and not stand up against the unjust and immoral killings of American “citizens”.

The only rationalization for this is that blacks really were not meant to be part of the system, and that the abolition of slavery threw a kink into the way this country was supposed to run. Maybe blacks should just embrace the fact that the rules were not meant for us to thrive and prosper. Maybe blacks should consider the legal speak of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery and indebted servitude “except as punishment for crime.” Perhaps it is time for blacks to consider why blacks are only 12 % of the U.S. population, but account for over 60 % of the prison population.

Enough of the double speak. Either this country is trying to live up to its original ideals, or those ideals aren’t really for everyone. Either way, let’s be honest and transparent about what you white Americans want. I can deal with xenophobia, racism, and prejudice. It is the hypocrisy that grinds my  gears. If you don’t want us around just say so, and we can figure it out from there. But white America can’t keep asking why black Americans why they feel oppressed if  they are not going to at least try to create a better America. It is dishonest and an insult to black people’s intelligence.

BM

Love is Free, But Sex Will Cost You $$$

11 Aug

 

Being single in Oklahoma felt akin to shopping in the frozen food section at Walmart. The choices in that state are somewhat limited. Most of the normal women there have pursued a path so different in life that dating was unrealistic, while the rest of the lot were either too entitled, or too damaged to get involved with.

I realized this early on upon my return from summer vacation last August, and gave up with dating altogether. To which its no surprise to wake up a year later and realize its been about 14 months since my last full on sexual encounter. The first 3 months were purely by accident, but then I decided to just lean into it.

When someone finds out I’ve been “celibate”, they look me like I’m A.C. Green. Then they ask how can I go that long without sex. My only answer is a practical one. I lived in a place that was a bad dating pool. When you come across a polluted stream, you don’t drink from it, you don’t fish from it, and you certainly don’t bathe in it. I chose to spend what little time I had in Tulsa with the people who I knew cared about me.

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Its been so long now that I’m almost afraid to break my streak. Suddenly my next sexual experience is weighted differently than my last. Choosing a woman to achieve coitus with brings the scrutiny and anxiety of losing one’s virginity. Having sex with a woman now is almost the last thing I want to do with someone I am romantically interested

Number one would be talking and watching or even playing basketball. Then (in no particular order) maybe chess, watching a movie, getting high and listening to music, and cooking and eating dinner together, and THEN working up to making out on the couch and grinding until the zippers on our jeans caught fire .

As much as I miss sex, I miss good massages even more. Something that made my first serious relationship different from so many others was that we’d do weird shit like meditate in my dimly lit studio, then give each other full body massages. Now that kind of stuff is way more rare (and intimate) than a random hook-up.

I actually enjoy and appreciate a legitimate conversation with the opposite sex even more than I did when I was younger. It is something that I took for granted back in college. That and cuddling. For an average looking good dude who has managed to squander most of every penny I ever earned, my swagger bewilders women. What do I regular ass dude have to offer that they can’t get from the next Joe Blow?

My confidence comes from the fact that I’m an excellent cuddler, and I give great conversation. Dirty talk now sounds like “yeah gurl, you like this good conversation I’m giving you? Told you it was gonna to be good to you. Came here to give you some of that GREAT conversation. You aint neva had conversation like this have you? You LOVE this conversation don’t you?

 

BM