So once again I’m revisiting my opinionated post identifying Biggie as the greatest. My affinity for hip-hop has actually fallen off slightly so this may be a more objective analysis of these artists. I’m playing more and more D’Angelo and Sia these days and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I wanted to take a closer look at the arguments I would make for some of the guys that may challenge Biggie for the crown. Since so many of us have our “top fives,” there will never be a clear victor. But I will say that there are popular and unanimous vote-getters in the GOAT department.
Let’s start with Jay-Z.
Shawn Carter is the most iconic hip-hop artist of our time in terms of truly coming from the bottom and evolving into a wealthy entrepreneur right in front of our eyes. He is the quintessential American Dream for rap artists. While rappers like LL Cool, Ice Cube and Queen Latifah have enjoyed much success transitioning to Hollywood, Jay was always in the “best to do it” convos and he is still a relevant artist and businessman…or business, man.
Why Jay-Z is the greatest:
He did it on his own. When the labels fronted on him, he invested in himself (well maybe Kareem Burke helped) and created his own company which allowed him to spit rhymes about being able to match a triple platinum artist buck by buck with only a single going gold. He picked up where Biggie left off and infused the street life, drug talk with radio friendly hits and eventually began to sell records. Hov then became the number one trendsetter and wherever his sound went, the industry followed. Whether it was Swizz’s sample-free keys, Timbaland’s futuristic synths or the soulful backdrops provided by Kanye, Bink and Just Blaze, he led the followers year after year.
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I wrote this post almost a decade ago. It’s interesting to read where my head was back then. Recently a bunch of people have been celebrating the life of Christopher Wallace and every time his birthday or death anniversary rolls around I see the posts and specials and I think about his impact. Just seeing footage of the people outside his funeral stirs my soul.
At the age of 25 this man was a legend. With two albums under his belt, The Notorious B.I.G became an icon. But was he really the best that ever did it? Was my post premature, slightly inaccurate, or maybe just incomplete?
Has enough time passed that we can further analyze the factors that I presented and find fault in them? Or was Biggie simply just a product of his time running out before he could actually fall? I reread everything I wrote and after careful analysis I can safely say that I have evolved as a listener. The ears that didn’t mind “nigga” and “bitch” and admired the tricky use of wordplay to describe murder threats and sex acts are a bit older and more aware.
With that said I had to really take a look at my current playlists and see how many of my favorite rappers are in my rotation. And then that thought got quickly tossed out as I realized that I probably don’t even have my five top rated emcees in my phone. Although I did win some One Musicfest tickets last year by having Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” in my phone when I was out at an after work function (I deleted all of the Nas catalogue out of my phone since then). Don’t feel bad Mr. Jones, Hov got erased as well… especially that Magna Carta thing. Some new Kanye exists, along with a couple of Marshall Mathers’ songs and even Tupac’s “So Many Tears” gets some spins. So what does that say about who I believe is the greatest of all time? I still believe Biggie provided the greatest influence on this generation of rap artists. I still count all of the factors I mentioned as reasons that he ruled way beyond his passing. But I have to admit that at some point there will be a new crown holder. While Jay-Z ran the table for years, his last few efforts including the throne watching collaboration could have truly placed him in an untouchable position if those projects were outstanding.
So allow me to repost this, feel free to skim through it and in a few days I will revisit this idea and take a look at a few other candidates. Read the rest of this entry »
Monday Ramble #52 – “The One”
I wrote this post over three years ago. I think I was pondering marriage and considering being single forever at the same time. I was speaking to people about the topic, gathering information and searching for the answers to help me decide if I was going to be one of those career-driven, offspring-less, successful moguls or if I was going to be a vulnerable human sacrificing financial freedom to join forces with some woman that I believed would remain in love with me forever.
The combination of having a family and experiencing wealth is what I desired, yet it didn’t seem possible. How was I supposed to tear down my ego to let someone in, and simultaneously shed that same ego to find income and explore the true root of my passion beyond music? It’s interesting to review my old thoughts and see where I am today. I can smell the uncertainty in my written words as well as the spoken ones on songs. Who knows what I will feel like in another three or four years?
A few of my boys and I were having a conversation about love and crap like that, and one of them posed the question, “How do you know when someone is the one?”
I said, “You just know.”
That wasn’t right. Then I said, “If you sleep with a girl and you don’t want to teleport to another universe afterwards, then most likely you’ve found her.”
I didn’t really have an answer at the time, so that was the best I could come up with.
The rest of them chimed in (I’m paraphrasing) that the mission is to find a woman who you want at home to raise your kids, be your wife and your best friend initially…until the friend part goes away, the passion diminishes, and she just becomes your roommate and bill paying-partner that is the most tolerable out of any other women you’ve been with while you still do your thing on the side discreetly.
I didn’t like that scenario.
My other friend said that when you find “the one” you feel love in your soul in a way that can’t be explained in words. He said when he met his wife it was inexplicable and he knew she was “it” for him. He was confident that he had experienced his last first kiss, and that he would give up anything and do anything in the world to make her happy. He said she was not without flaws but perfect for him, and her expectations of him were just what he wanted in a relationship.
I haven’t spoken to him since their divorce but I would love to know whose fault it was and how that changed.
This elderly man told me “the one” is really you and in your life there are counterparts, companions, and partners that you meet along the path that you have connections with at certain points in your life.
He said the person you date when you’re 24 might not be a match for you when you’re 31, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t right at the time. Then there comes a time when there’s a person that you find that you would like to share your bloodline, time, thoughts, memories, family and space with. Read the rest of this entry »
Whether it’s high school basketball or cheerleading or the school play or the dance recital, there’s something scary and equally exciting about a tryout. Even the word “tryout” sparks a bit of anxiety. It’s the youthful version of the audition. It places people in a position of authority and can crush dreams, inspire greatness and introduce politics simultaneously.
Now that I am assistant coaching high school basketball I have a different appreciation for tryouts. I am on the other side of the curtain. I can respect the fear in the young players’ eyes, the worry they have about doing well and the power that the coaches have when making decisions about who makes the team.
When I flashback to my first tryout I was in 8th grade and I had just started playing basketball. I was pretty terrible but for some reason I thought I could dribble. I got cut.
And the funny thing about it is that I wasn’t upset. I was so driven to make the team and it had very little to do with basketball. All of my boys were on the team. In fact, anyone that was popular was on the team. It was like a rite of passage for any dude in Philippa Schuyler middle school with some type of social status to play on the basketball team. We only played about three games, with the student-faculty game being the biggest event of our season. Making the team was truly imperative for me.
With that said, I marched in Coach Davis’ office and demanded that I be on the team. I tried out as a forward and I told him I may be better suited to play guard. So he let me try out again and ultimately I made it. I did it. I didn’t accept no for an answer when I was probably not good enough to make it.
A year later I tried out again but this time I was a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School attempting to make the J.V team. I didn’t even imagine trying out for varsity. I played all summer in preparation for that moment, but to be honest I just didn’t know how to play. I watched guys play in the park and I emulated them but no one taught me how to shoot, I never did a dribbling drill, and I had no idea how to play defense. I was 5’7” and frail. The only people I knew that were trying out with me was my boy Kijana who lived around my way and he was much better than me. And my other boy Steve who went to junior high with me was also at the tryouts. Steve was taller and bigger than me, he was also better than I was and he didn’t seem scared at all. To make matters worse I was unsure about what to wear to the tryout. I remember Coach Davis saying that he knew Mr. Rock, the JV coach at Brooklyn Tech so maybe it made sense for me to wear my Schuyler jersey at tryouts. Nah that’s thirsty…I thought to myself. I decided to wear the t-shirt from a tournament I played in over the summer thinking that would show that I had some experience.
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I don’t remember exactly when BET launched 106 and Park but I do recall enjoying their version of MTV’s Total Request Live when it debuted. It had a video countdown and AJ and Free were pretty decent as hosts. I had hopes of making it on the show and having my video crack the countdown, and I wanted to have an in-depth interview that would reach the world via BET’s platform. Some days I would imagine the questions they would ask me, and how I might flirt with Free and laugh at AJ, I was a young adult with a dream.
That was probably a decade ago when I watched the show daily to catch up on who was hot in the game and who was next to rise. They changed hosts, switched up the format, and the audience got younger as I got older. Finally in 2009 I was able to sit on the 106 and Park stage and judge Freestyle Friday while promoting my album My Soul To Keep. My dream of being a guest on that show faded away. I am no longer interested in appealing to the youthful masses, and the only time I view the program is when my peoples like Mickey Factz, J. Cole or Skyzoo have been featured.
Anyway, I had to really take a step back and appreciate my name being called to do a verse for The Backroom, which is somewhat like “The Basement” that I used to watch on Rap City. It’s a throwback to when rappers could show their pure talent by actually putting words together without worrying about marketability, sales or downloads. This was the reason I began doing music. Without reflecting on my past, I almost missed the importance of this present moment. Yesterday my segment on BET aired. I have been on national television before but it was different yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »
A few years ago I wrote about the “pee dream” and described it as a frightening experience that creeps in during adulthood with the aim to ruin reputations. It’s the unconscious, nocturnal vision we have where we see ourselves in the bathroom and we’re ready to release urine and if we don’t wake up in time then we revert back to our adolescent days where bed-wetting was right up there with tying our shoes as the top obstacles in life.
But anyway, I bring this topic up because the dreams involving urination are becoming more and more frequent and I am not sure if I’m going to be able to keep on escaping a saturated mattress every night as I get up there in age. As for now, I am thankful that I have my wits and bladder in control.
That brings me to a thought about a dream I had the other night.
It was an interesting dream that had to fall in between the one I had about peeing in a fountain and one where I was at a urinal at a movie theater.
In the dream I was at home, but it wasn’t the home I live in now. It was a house…and it was pretty big… and it was a Saturday…and I was making pancakes. And my daughter walked in the kitchen. She was an 8-year-old daughter. At least I think she was 8. She looked around 8. Now that I think of it, she told me she was 8. She was asking when she could have her own phone so she could Snapchat with her friends. And I pretended I knew what Snapchat was and then I told her she could have one that only had a talk and text plan.
And she asked me how she was supposed to watch videos like her friends did. It opened up a conversation about what videos she had seen and what she thought about them. And since this was my first time being a parent and all of a sudden I had an 8-year-old, I thought to myself, maybe this is my stepdaughter. But she kind of looked like me, and the way she spoke to me, she seemed like flesh and blood. Read the rest of this entry »
One day I was sitting in the crib and flipping through channels and ironically I landed on a movie with a plot that surrounds a remote control. I saw it as a sign, similar to cooking meth in the kitchen and Breaking Bad comes on…you would have to check it out. Anyway, I had never watched The Adam Sandler flick entitled Click because I assumed it might be goofy and silly with predictable moments and lighthearted comedy. I like Adam in roles where he’s semi-serious like Spanglish and Funny People but I figured that a story about a remote control that pauses and plays his real life had to be juvenile. Maybe you’ve seen it since it came out way back in 2006 when I was still counting daytime minutes so you might not be too interested in what I got from it. Or maybe you haven’t seen it and reading this could possibly spoil it for you. I guess those sentences were warnings to stop you from continuing to read but I didn’t mean to discourage you. I think you should keep going since you started reading already. Now I’ve wasted time convincing you. Which brings me to my point about the film itself; time is important. Read the rest of this entry »