Archive for the ‘Hip Hop’ Category

How Young Can You Die of Old Age?

In Hip Hop, Humor on September 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm

So you’re 49 years old and about to release yet another installment in your mix tape series. You’ve wanted to be a rapper ever since you saw Kool Moe Dee in concert in the mid 80‘s and you have been trying ever since. You feel like the 54th time is the charm and this particular mixtape, “My Prostate’s Trying to Kill Me Son” is just what the streets have been waiting for. After all, how can you go wrong with with hot lyrics like:

When I first pooped on myself I was inconsolable
now my bowels are moving like my vowels, uncontrollable
I spit and shit hot flames
I dookie stain your membrane with the shit that I be sayin
I used to walk rocking to Kane now my cane is on my rocker
at least I think that’s where I left it, I better take my beta blockers
I used to pop E, now I’m poppin’ A thru Z
from Avodart to Zoladex, all because of frequent pee

After reveling in your own lyrical wonderment, you think to call the wife to share in your excitement but remember that she left you five years ago for the audio engineer who worked on your 37th mix tape titled “My Engineer is Auto-tuning my Wife Son”. You then think to call your best friend but recall that he immediately gave his life to Jesus and disavowed hip hop after hearing your 25th mix tape, “My Best Friend Needs to Disavow Hip Hop and Give His Life to Jesus…Son”. Since all your industry contacts have passed away and no one in your immediate circle cares, who are you to share the lyrical stylings of MC Aged with?
When is it time to throw in the towel and decree “No Mas!”? For anyone pursuant of any dream, successful or not, that issue will come into question at some point in your excursion. Most have, or are still struggling with this quagmire. For those who have achieved, the issue is maintaining success while keeping your craft interesting. For those who haven’t achieved their desired level of success, the issue remains becoming successful while keeping the naysayers off your back (yourself being the primary naysayer most often). Successful or not, the common denominator for most of the decision making is typically age.

Ageism is indistinguishably ingrained in societal fabrics and polyester blends. The age yardstick supersedes letter grades, financial achievements, etc… We use it to measure virtually everything. You should be successful at a projected point in time or your matrix clearly requires a glitch correcting agent. Although age barriers are broken down time and again, we consistently view those instances as exceptions to the status quo. Has anyone ever bother to ask just how many times one can go against the quo before it should no longer be considered status?

Detractors of dream chasing are most often friends and family concerned with the financial stability of the chaser, and rightfully so. It is reasonable to expect and want financial freedoms for your loved ones, especially if they are pursuing their dreams and using your electricity to do so. Any dream chaser should always have a source of income until the dream pays off however, regardless of what stage they occupy. Do whatever is necessary to retain financial sustenance. It is unconscionable to you and those around you to place all your eggs in one mothership yet to arrive. Besides, occupation of starving artist status, although romanticized, is never a romantic affair, especially if you enjoy amenities like food, sex, heat, and argument free environments. The only desired aspect of being a starving artist is reflecting on when you were one.

As cliche as cliche’s can be (and they can be quite cliche), a sense of purpose is truly what makes, say it with me children, “life worth living”. The minute you have nothing to live for, you may probably stop living. I remember learning sonnets from some guy named Langston who babbled on about holding on to dreams, flightless handicapped birds, barren fields and things of the like. The relevance of that message was clearly lost on a fourth grader whose primary concern at that juncture was the after school cartoon lineup (“I can’t believe they moved Tom and Jerry to 3:30!”).

So when should you stop doing something that you love to do? The answer is simple; when you no longer love to do it. Chances are if you really do respect and love the craft, you would care enough to not write rhymes like those listed above or any comparable variation thereof in whatever your respected field of dreams. It would also help to clearly define what success means for you. As for your support system (spouses, family, friends, etc…), who may present more obtrusions that aqueducts at times, it is almost a certainty that those suggesting you not pursue your passion are just concerned for your well being…or they may just be stank ass hater’s . Either way, forgive them and forage on for they know not what they say. It is merely misguided concern. Rock on!

Peace and I’m outty 5000 home slice!! Rrrra

SideBar: There is no such thing as a 40 year old rapper…. until there is such a thing as a 40 year old rapper. SideBar Complete.

Reasonably Doubting Illmatic

In Hip Hop on January 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Many moons ago, my compadres and I would envision our favorite Hollywood, sports, and television heroes engaged in all sorts of mortal combat scenarios (finish him). Godzilla vs. King Kong, Freddy vs. Jason, Dr. J vs. MJ, Pam Grier vs. Halle Berry, etc . . . Any cultural icon at the height of notoriety would be eventually sentenced to a Celebrity Death Match (we never got royalties btw). Who imagined these epic struggles would materialize, let alone resolve our fabricated logistical inconsistencies? Inconsistencies such as how could Freddy Kruger possibly fight Jason Voorhees when Jason is deceased and last I checked, the dead suffered from a terrible affliction called “Death”, rendering rapid eye movement (REM) improbable? Our unsolved but phenomenally superior plot lines were immortalized and revered for years, that is until Gen X’ers garnered influence in Hollywood’s boardroom. All those “What if” scenarios debated in many a schoolyard began to actualize. The strobe light was turned off and we were granted the misfortune of viewing these cinematic robeasts first hand (yes, Voltron.) Not only did these attempts seldom live up to the hype machine that is “Childhood Imagination”, they lacked the possibility of ever actually occurring. Enter Sean Corey Carter p.k.a. Jay-Z & Nasir Jones p.k.a Nas.

For the unfamiliar, there had been underlying grumblings for years surrounding which of these two hip-hop artists was more adept as it related to lyrical skill, album sales, oozing machismo, swagger, street credibility, and basically all activities comprising a pissing contest. The drama finally culminated in a series of songs (“Takeover” for Jay-Z and “Ether” for Nas) that would allegedly determine an undisputed representative of the hip-hop delegation. Not since Ali / Frazier has there been such clamoring for one black man to whoop another black man’s ass! According to popular consensus aka “da streets”, Nas would emerge the heavily contended victor of said verbal joustmanship. Some argue that Nas’s victory was attributed solely to his ability to withstand and rebut the acrimony spewed on Jay’s offering, but then again, those presenting that argument are most likely Jay fans. There remains evidence however that although Jay stumbled, he may have retained the self professed, interim, “King of the Hill” position left vacant by his predecessor Biggie Smalls, left vacant by his predecessor Big Daddy Kane, left vacant by his predecessor Rakim da God Allah. It’s all muddy waters and extremely super ugly.

All hip-hop aficionados have undoubtedly forged allegiances to either Nas or Jay -Z at this juncture. My intent today is not to sway anyone’s preference, for I have eternally aligned myself with Jay and will not undulate (if Nas would’ve just used the track, maybe things would be different.) I am merely here to inform you that you may be ingesting hallucinogens if you believe Esco can hold a scented candle to Hov’s catalog. Come on now. Brooklyn, please brush your shoulders off and stand up (and do some jumping jacks too Brooklyn, you’re looking kinda chubby these days)! Do not be alarmed Queens (I share dual citizenship with Queens – so I am torn) for Nas may have a shot in the near future, and I mean this, man!

Most Nas fans are lyric junkies and will readily present Nas’s magnum opus, Illmatic, as living testament to his supremacy. As lyrically gifted as Nas is (and he is in fact, a monster), Illmatic is only one album and we are not judging on lyrical content alone. If Emcee or “MC” truly means move the crowd, then Jay-Z is the consummate MC’s Emcee, while Nas leaves the dance floor scene empty (I rap on weekends). Jay also has a more comprehensive catalog. Lyrical merit gets you but so far. It may be fundamentally sound but it can also be fundamentally boring. This is why we hate Duke Basketball. This is why we hate the San Antonio Spurs. If technical merit were the only requisite for entertainers then we would all have on Diana Turasi basketball jerseys. Who? Exactly.

On several albums, Nas was left screaming, “Are you not entertained?” amidst a deafeningly silent audience (and some Queensbridge crickets). Even with all that lyrical potency, delivery has always been of equal relevance in any oratory profession. To further illustrate this point, whose speech would you rather listen to, Ben Stein or Barack Obama (And I love voodoo economics)? Nas has gotten very adept however at presenting comprehensive albums as of late (Hip Hop is Dead & Untitled), which is why I say he still may have a shot. Seems he does better when he has a Main Idea (yes, Weekly Reader).

Although a fan, I approach Nas and Jay’s lyrics from a self-proclaimed producer’s point of view (this is after all hip hop, it is all self proclaimed.) Lyrics absolutely matter but staunch attention must also be levied to iambic pentameter, inflection, cadence, algorithmic composition, syncopation and a slew of other words you didn’t think a producer could spell. As I was remixing Jay’s “99 Problems” for my own amusement (jeez, get a hobby), it dawned on me that one of the reasons I am such a fan is because Jay makes my tracks sound like the shiznit, @ least to me. “What’s your opinion? We’d like to know” (yes, WPIX).

Almost Famous

In Hip Hop on October 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm

So I’m chilling in Ice Tea’s penthouse by the Westside Highway and 61st if memory serves me correctly and it looks just like you would expect a rapper’s penthouse should look. The huge poster of Al Pacino in Scarface that adorns the wall and the red leather sofas in the living room have got me thinking; “This is some real cliché shit”. I was there with my boy producing some tracks for anyone’s album potentially (Ice Tea, Smooth the Hustla, Trigga da Gambla, DV Alias Khryst, etc). This is one of the first times I was asked to produce on the fly and in front of strangers. Can you say scared to death? All I kept thinking was “they are gonna think these joints are corny”. It’s not terribly difficult to make saleable music once you understand what the artist is looking for. All you have to do is sonically cater to said artist’s emotions at that exact point in time. It’s like knowing exactly what to say in a language that has no clear boundaries. Piece of cake. Sidebar; I always used to laugh when A&R’s used to say” we need a potential single track.” What the hell does that mean? You basically want me to produce a track that sounds just like the songs on the radio now. Thanks for allowing me to express myself creatively. If you ever want freedom as an artist, do not ever attach the notion of business to said art. They are not compatible. In order to do business successfully, you must have a product that can be mass produced and replicated. This is why we can’t stand 85% of the music out now. It was created with the intent to sell so it has to contain certain elements of mass appeal. So if 1970’s soul samples are the item du jour, you better get your Harold Melvin albums out and get to sampling. Sidebar complete. We worked through the night and eventually came up with three tracks I could stand to listen to. Nothing ever came of those tracks except for some random freestyles and a mix tape I would eventually use them for. Close but no cigar. The saga continues.

So I am chilling in my cubicle one week after I accepted my employment offer from Lehman Brothers and the phone rings. It is my boy with some unbelievable news. “Nasir “Nasty Nas” Jones wants to use your track for his Def Jam debut. It could potentially be the second single for the Hip Hop is Dead album”. I’m sorry what did you just say? Needless to say, I did not believe a word of this. There are a million and one false starts in the music industry and I am not trying to get my hopes up again. Furthermore, how is it even possible that the first track I sell after trying to do so for the last six years of my life is purchased by one of the most respected emcees in hip hop? Who has that type of luck and how did this even happen? Apparently, my boy’s artist went up to Def Jam looking for a record deal. He used one of my tracks I had given him about a year ago on his demo. He plays the song for the A&R, Jay Brown. Jay does not want to sign the artist but he definitely wants the track for Nas and he wants to meet the producer who did it to hear more stuff. “Set it up for Friday”

So I am chilling in Jay Brown’s office at Def Jam and some guy named RJ has just introduced himself to me. I recognized his face from the lobby downstairs but I couldn’t figure out where I knew him from. All I knew was that his laughter was a very hearty laughter. The kind of merriment one emits when one’s driveway is littered with luxury vehicles. My boy handed him a business card earlier in the lobby and tells him if he is in need of hip hop tracks, he shouldn’t hesitate to come see us. We will get to the irony of this exchange shortly. Back to Jay Brown’s office. Jay is playing my tracks full blast and people are walking by the office and nodding their heads like my joints are hot. I am officially gassed! He stops playing my tracks when RJ enters the room and proceeds to pop in a CD just handed to him. In my mind, I am like, “who is this chubby, curly haired dude that you are taking my music out for?” This is supposed to be my meeting and this A& R is being unprofessional. He plays some song and they are all hype about it. Me personally, I thought the song was ok (the song turns out to be Sharissa’s new single). As I am seething internally about having my music cut off, Sean Corey Carter, affectionately known as Jay-Z walks into the room and graciously introduces himself to everyone. He starts with RJ. “Rodney! What up fam?” It finally dawns on me that RJ is Rodney Jerkins. My boy gave Whitney Houston and Brandy’s multi platinum selling producer a business card for all his hip hop production needs. Needless to say, Rodney never called. And in case you didn’t hear me the first time, JAY-Z JUST WALKED INTO THE BLOODCLOT ROOM! The Roc is officially in the building, and I am in there with him! Jay-Z hangs out for a couple of minutes then leaves. Now if the A&R still had my music on when Jay-Z walked in, Hova would have lost his mind at all the hot fire (insert Dylan here) he was hearing and would’ve had me produce the entire Blueprint 3 on the spot (and of course not but can you just let me live in my fantasy world for a minute please?) The A&R eventually selects 2 more tracks he feels would be good for Nas and sends us on our way. All in all, today was a good day!

I’m in!! All the hard work and sleepless nights spent in that cold ass Far Rockaway basement is about to pay off. I have received partial payment for the track and I have contracts with both Nas and Jay-Z’s signatures. I am seeing all kinds of unofficial track listings on the internet with my track on it (track 7) My lawyer is going back and forth with Nas’s lawyer and they are hammering out the details of royalty splits and percentages. Every one who is remotely involved is trying to squeeze a nickel out of me and although I know I am being raped financially, I am chalking it up to Industry Rule # 4080 (record company people are in fact, shady). I have alerted the free world that I did a track for Nas. Other labels are starting to call (Sony wanted a track for Kelly Rowland at one point, who is my illegitimate baby momma, she just doesn’t know it yet). Even my mom, who gave me hellus maximus every step of the way on my quest to becoming a producer is happy for me, in her own Nigerian, “don’t quit your day job” way. I have taken the liberty of preparing my Grammy acceptance speech for producer of the year, just in case. It went something like this; “If I ever make it back up here, I will thank everyone else who made this possible but tonight, I am gonna dedicate this award to my dad”. Then I would have dropped the mic to the floor like Randy Watson (sexual chocolate) in Coming to America and walked off the stage amidst the blaring feedback.

So why am I still chilling in my cubicle you ask? Well 2 weeks before the album comes out, Nas decides not to use the song at all. I went from top ten to not mentioned at all! “Nas is finicky” is the only explanation anyone at Def Jam could muster up. Never mind the fact that he has titled the song “White Man’s Paper” and for a black guy signed to a label run primarily by white guys, the likely hood of them releasing that song is slim to none. I only heard the song once and I really wasn’t that impressed to be honest but I wasn’t about to tell them that. It featured Damien Marley which made sense since I used a Bob Marley sample to make the track. The hook went something like this;

I get my news from that white mans’ paper
So I get my views from that white man’s paper
My people act the fool for that white man’s paper
And I don’t think it’s cool, Fuck that white man’s paper

And some more relatively inflammatory content which I really have no problem with except for the fact that a song that militant is not going to garner that much radio airplay. Although the song was favorably reviewed and my first public reference was as “some new African dude”, my main concern was that my track gets maximum exposure. My other gripe was that Nas featured Damien Marley on the song and in true Nas fashion, decided to do the hook himself. WTF son! In my humble opinion, it would have been crazier if Damien did the hook. Only my “half a sold track in his entire career” ass would have the gall to criticize Nas but I felt the way I felt (but like I said, I never said anything, I ain’t stupid). It also didn’t help that Fat Joe released a song using the same Bob Marley sample just a few weeks earlier (and the song was not hot son!) Long story short, I officially did not make the album but will forever be remembered in the annals of history as an “Unreleased or unused song” in the Wikipedia credits At least I am in good company because both Just Blaze and Kanye West also had unreleased tracks on that album. There is however a minor distinction between me and those guys; they have indentured servants writing their blogs for them and I still have to do to it myself! And oh yeah, they’re rich biotch!! Ah well. It was a growing experience and I am no longer bitter. Nope. . . not bitter one bit. . . .not at all. If any one needs me, I will be on page six of tomorrow’s Daily News. Look for the article titled “Naked Lunatic Screams Hip Hop is Dead Repeatedly as He Dives Into Oncoming Traffic”