There was once a time I was determined to be the king of rap, hip-hop, or whatever you want to call it. I studied Jay-Z’s advancement, I used moves that 50 Cent perfected, and I worked diligently to make up for my deferred basketball dream. I believed that mainstream success was the only kind of success. After flirting with the rap star life, that flirt turned into a dissatisfying tease and I began floating around the independent world of hip-hop trying to find my way as my dude Torae hipped me to the gold mine that existed when you control your own content. One day I caught wind of an interview with Duck Down records legend Sean Price who basically said that if he had to stop rapping and work at Costco because of his financial obligations, he would be still be Sean Price…just working at Costco. I’m paraphrasing, but the whole point of his statement was that his family was worth more than his rep or his image. I had never experienced a love like that at the time. I was chasing fame more than anything.
The first time I saw the “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka” video I was an instant fan of OGC and Heltah Skeltah.I had heard Ruck and Rock on the “Cession at da Doghillee” and I eagerly anticipated their album.
But seeing Ruck’s charisma, his hilarious dance moves and effortless flow, he became a standout member of the collective. Even when Rock threw the fake Biggie off the stage in OGC’s “No Fear” video and B.I.G came at them on the early version of “Long Kiss Goodnight,” I didn’t stop wishing that my brethren from BK would leap into the same ocean of stardom that Bad Boy was swimming in.
It seemed destined for Duck Down to take a similar meteoric rise that the other labels like Roc-A-Fella and Deathrow were experiencing. Ruck and Rock’s first album was a stellar collection of hard beats, barbaric verses and a feel that was all its own. They were poised for greatness, and I was a witness. The whole crew came to perform at my college, Delaware State University and while we rapped in a cipher outside near their tour bus, Rock and Ruck jumped in and torched us all. I was hoping they would want to sign one of us, but it was a thrill to see them join in without flinching. Just the mere fact that they rapped with us without asking displayed humility and hunger. They were getting paid to grace a stage but they still had the desire to come spit with some students. I will never forget that. While my crew and I waved our Bucktown flags in school assured that Black Moon, Smif n Wessun, Heltah Skeltah and OGC were “next up,” something happened that we didn’t foresee. Read the rest of this entry »
A few years ago, I found myself at church on a Sunday morning. I remember this because I have been playing ball Sunday mornings for a couple of years now and my church experiences have recently been online. Impact Church in Atlanta, which is probably my favorite place of worship I’ve been to out here, is a breath of fresh air. The lead pastor Olu Brown always has a powerful message that he delivers in a way that isn’t too preachy. He infuses some comedy, spirituality and a whole heap of passion in his sermons. The particular Sunday I am writing about, I recall him mentioning and bringing a plastic covered couch on stage.
We’ve all seen the couches with the plastic covers on them. Most of us had them in our households or our grandparents’ households growing up. I never thought much of them. I just figured that if you had a nice couch and you had kids or pets, it made sense to cover it up.
I’m not sure who started this trend or if furniture stores recommended keeping the plastic on for a few years, but Olu pointed out an interesting observation in relation to his sermon. He correlated the couch to our blessings. He stated that by covering up this possibly expensive piece of furniture, it was like concealing its beauty for the act or preservation. It wasn’t a cloth cover; it was a transparent shield that allowed visibility of the patterns and design, without actual contact with the material. It meant that this sole couch or chair, or whatever it was, was going to have to last for some time. It may have to last forever.
Well that’s what the plastic signified. The cover meant that there was a lack of faith that if this couch got stained, ripped or turned blue from too many pairs of denim jeans on it, The Creator would not bless you with another one. It was a symbol that this blessing was one that you had to hold on to, because there was no clue leading to when there would be another gift. It was the customer’s message to the universe that they gratefully accept all offerings and will protect them from unforeseen disaster and human error.
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Verb (used with object), forgave, forgiven, forgiving.
- To grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
- To give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
What does it mean to forgive someone? Granting a pardon doesn’t mention anything about how one should feel.
- Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.
In this Wikipedia definition there is an offender and a victim. That’s very interesting that in order to forgive someone, you would have to acknowledge yourself as a victim. The process is also described as intentional and voluntary. That would suggest that forgiveness takes a conscious effort and only happens when one takes that leap knowingly. But how do we know when we’ve truly forgiven someone? Sure you can let go of vengefulness and wish your offender well, but what if you’re not the victim?
If you are a Cleveland Cavalier fan mildly affected by LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami years ago, is it called forgiveness when you welcomed him back?
Has LeBron forgiven the team’s owner for his hateful letter, or the fans that burned his jerseys? There was probably no real forgiveness going on because both the fans and LeBron’s emotional investment is based on an outcome over anything else. A championship is what most fans and players desire. Winning cures all is the catch phrase.
Does that count in relationships when a parent and adult child no longer see eye to eye? Does winning matter when two grownup siblings have a falling out that can’t be easily resolved? There is no championship to win. When two people decide that their own point and opinion on a certain matter is grander than being understanding of another person’s view, they get stuck at a crossroad. Forgiveness most likely cannot exist when both offenders feel as though they are victims. Isn’t that what happens in courtrooms everyday? A plaintiff sues a defendant and sometimes the defendant counter sues or they simply have their opposing argument ready that says they are not guilty.
What happens when you forgive, but you don’t forget? If you’ve had a supposedly committed lover step out on you and you ended the relationship…but then you got back with that person, have you forgotten what happened? It is possible that you didn’t. Or it’s highly likely that you were both offenders in different ways. Someone’s neglect or disinterest led to another scenario that called for action, and all of a sudden pain ensued for all parties involved. There is the pain that comes from a broken heart and there is also a non-physical torment that can inhabit one’s soul.
When I received the news that a man walked into a prayer meeting at a church and sat with men and women for over an hour before killing them, I was sorrowful. I thought about the families of these people, about my own family and their safety when going into a place of worship, and I thought about the offender. The offender here is clear. Read the rest of this entry »
One interesting fact about me is that I write rhymes, blogs, and scripts in my sleep. I guess that means figuratively because “writing” is actually replaced by typing in my phone, and I don’t do it while I’m unconscious. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “compose.” I don’t know how rare that is, or if it makes sense to people, but the process always tripped me out. I’ve been doing it since my collegiate days. If I had a song or concept I was working on, I would simply think about it as I was close to falling asleep and start to put words together.
Whenever it worked, I imagine that I must have had a dream about the song, and amidst dozens of dreams involving everything under the sun, somehow whatever I was trying to compose would sneak in and take form. When I would wake up, which was usually in the middle of the night, there would be whole verses and compositions already written. And my mission was to remember them. So if you’ve ever heard a song from me, or read one of these rambles, 82% of the time that I came up with them, it was in between 3 and 6AM and I was literally trying to recall lines and phrases that seemingly already existed.
Earlier this week, I got the news that a homie, colleague, and I hate to throw the word “friend” around but I’ve known Pumpkinhead aka Robert Diaz for so long that we weren’t just rap buddies…I learned that he passed away suddenly.
He wasn’t a victim of police brutality or some random shooting, or a car crash, or anything wild that can cause his friends to aim their frustration about his passing at one specific place. It was apparently a pain in his stomach that led to a hospital visit that would be his last.
Just the thought of him being a few years older than me, with a child on the way, and leaving the earth without warning is instantly frightening. It’s alarming because it wakes most of us up to focus more on our health, our family, and the importance of our impact while we’re here. Well that’s what it does for me.
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Have you ever watched a Popeye’s commercial and suddenly had a craving for fried chicken? Once in a while, I must admit that a fast food ad persuades me to desire food…fast. Sometimes a seemingly piping hot pizza pops up on my screen, or an enlarged fake burger, or those guys from the Sonic commercial that sit in their car talking about slushies spit their believable rants and it makes me want the product.
Marketing companies know this method works. So the more and more humans refer to themselves as brands, people have a clear understanding of how to market themselves. Women, for example are used daily in advertising as bait for everything from lingerie ads to alcohol. And now that the average female has caught wind of the fact that their attractive frames can become major attractions with minimal work, there is a new revolution sweeping the globe.
There was a time when being a “stripper” was the primary occupation that held “thickness” in a higher regard than other qualities…but now there is an innovative brand of gigs for ladies with model figures that do not happen to be models. She can film herself twerking in her living room and post it, she can willingly flirt with rappers and basketball players on social media with the hopes that she can land one, she can audition for a reality show and use her looks and personality to gain temporary fame…or she can take pictures of herself exposing her goods religiously and gain a following of thirsty dudes.
I don’t know if Mark Zuckerberg and his team designed an algorithm to determine who lurks on women’s pages to match them with profile pictures containing cleavage so that those women would then become “People You May Know” but if so, they did a great job (I hear). Facebook has officially joined the thirst trap party.
I need to know if these people that I may know are random people that I share friends with, or is this social network smart enough to figure out that I’m a male and photos with breasts and curves will interrupt my browsing session?
When I am scrolling through the valley of the shadows of the net I must be aware and beware of the evil that can be described as an ambush, an allurement, an entanglement, a quagmire, or simply a pun-intended “booby trap.”
The traps that appeal to your lack of hydration for the day and automatically spark a parched feeling that Kool-Aid, lemonade or Powerade won’t fix. Males know exactly what I’m talking about for we have all fallen victim to the thirst trap. Fellas, how many times are you just checking out your timeline and all of a sudden T&A make a guest appearance and change the trajectory of your whole day?
Some women are shaking their heads right now saying, “Just unfollow anyone that shows too much skin,” or “You can just pass a picture you don’t like,” or “There’s no such thing as a trap, people put up pictures and express themselves the way they want to, it’s your fault if you’re a pervert.”
It sounds so easy doesn’t it?
If you walk into a room and you don’t like what you see, just leave the room. But if you’re a single man, how bad could a thirst trap be? I’ll tell you how bad; it can cause you to look at someone you know in a sexual manner…although you had no prior thoughts of them in that way. It can cause you to send a “hey” text out of nowhere. It may even spark you to double tap, make you click the thumb or worst of all…leave a comment. A comment my G. That’s a global declaration of H2O deficiency for the world to see. Just because a co-worker flaunts her back tattoo and bikini picture doesn’t mean you have to tell her that you notice she’s been working out. You want your subtle comment to trump all the other dudes offering to drink her bath water, cook her meals, and father her children. You’re not slick. Anything you say in a comment section, can and will be used against you. You think a direct message is better don’t you? You’re wrong.
There’s already 338 likes on the picture. No need to add yours with words that live forever online. It’s a trap. Who’s the camera person for this photo she took? Did you even think of that? Is her butt poked out at the right angle for a reason? How come her cleavage looks exceptionally shiny? What’s the pouty face for? It’s for you isn’t it? It’s not for you. Well it is for you in a way. It’s so you get trapped. It’s so you thirst after her. It’s a way to reel you in with a thumbnail picture that’s really no bigger than the palm of your hand. The same hand that she hopes you use to calm yourself down with thoughts of seeing what’s under the scantily clad garment she’s donning.
I admire thirst traps. I’ve done my own version of the solo shot where I thought I looked halfway decent and decided to post it. I wasn’t bareback or wearing some muscle shirt, but I guess in hindsight I assumed the shot wasn’t my worst look. I wasn’t fishing for likes and comments either, but my point is that I can imagine if I were a female with measurements, I’m pretty sure I would flaunt my goods any chance I got (pause).
And let me clarify that thirst traps do not apply to IG pages with names like @makehimhard or @shesgotadonk or @azzfordaze.
If you follow those names, you know what you’re getting. I’m still trying to unfollow @officialshesaproblem and @cherokeedass on Instagram but it just hasn’t happened for me yet. I know it will though. If you simply follow an ex-girlfriend, or a single mother that has a kid who’s a friend of your kid, or your girl’s homegirl who isn’t really her bestie…and you see unnecessary flesh exposure, or suggestive sexual poses, or form fitting clothing…that could be a trap set for you to fall. And when you see it, you have the option to ignore it, keep sliding as if it didn’t exist, or choose to never see such things again when you block her.
But there are times when you pause, sneak a gander or two and then click on their name to see if there’s any more. Then all of a sudden they receive a notification that you liked a picture that was posted 17 weeks ago. How far did you scroll down? How many pictures did you really go through? The further back you went, the thirstier you appear.
You have been trapped my friend. You went as far to like the picture with the backside showing and you skipped the one where her face was highlighted. It happens. You were just looking at photos and there were some that you liked, no big deal right? Well it isn’t really a problem but it is a victory for her. She won. With every “like” she accumulates, with every follower she locks in, for every time some dude snaps a screenshot to share on a group chat with his boys, or that he just keeps for his own personal collection, she racks up points on her way to making the thirst trap all-star squad.
And as I write this almost chauvinistic, one-sided rant, I realize that somewhere in the world there are ladies, grown women and sophisticated females with no thot characteristics perusing social media and following dudes that habitually show flesh. Those same women who may or may not be in loving relationships get Facebook friend suggestions that contain snapshots of shirtless dudes and acquaintances from high school, college, and old workplaces that appear to be more attractive than they were in the past. It just hit me that women have to deal with thirst traps as well. As you skim this post there are adult females in a group chat right now commenting on a screenshot of a non-celebrity crush. The world is not safe ladies and gentlemen. Sex sells, and it is all around us. So next time you’re on your timeline and you happen to see someone that you know wearing less garments than usual and featuring parts of their anatomy that you may not have noticed before…stop, take a deep breath, acknowledge the trap that lies ahead and ask yourself why…Why are they doing this? Why does it work so flawlessly? And most of all; why do you care?
The answer is as clear as the reason you can probably name at least 5 Basketball Wives…it’s why the Twerk Team has more followers than Cornel West…it’s why Kim Kardashian is a household name. Thirst is real.
Complex posted an article breaking down the best rapper of each year since 1979. It was a very interesting and no pun intended, complex piece. The reason I’m mentioning this is because we all have our favorite emcees and guys that resonate with us personally. When we talk about the GOAT, the arguments are slightly different. So yes there will be advocates for Ghostface, Big L, Big Pun, MF Doom, Joey Badass or whoever you believe is at the top of the game. But, “The GOAT discussion is reserved for the chosen few; no rookies or new jacks qualify. It’s strictly for the catalog artists, people who have shifted the culture in previously unmovable ways, artists whose music has permeated and resonated over an extended period of time.”
I feel like they handled a lot of my rebuttal to the hip-hop heads that put Redman and Black Thought above Biggie and Jay. This post isn’t really about the most lyrical lyricist because we would have to try to include everyone from Kool G. Rap to Lupe Fiasco.
With that said, do you include the guys with the strong track records and years in the game? Where do we place T.I., Kanye West, Rick Ross, 50 Cent, Cam’ron, Young Jeezy, Scarface, Jadakiss, DMX and Lil Wayne? Is my generation holding on to the 90s legends?
The new hall of fame class will include Drake, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar. But at what point can any of these men wear the imaginary crown?
Well we have to be honest and consistent when it comes to criteria. Album sales matter, public opinions are a factor, classics under the belt count for something, but most of all when an artist is running the game there is a feeling that we all have. We anticipate their release and when it happens, it is the most talked about project. It comes up in barbershops and ball courts. The question isn’t, “Have you heard Get Rich or Die Trying?”
The question becomes: “Do you think College Dropout is a classic?”
There are certain LPs that you can’t shun or disrespect. You can try and break down Illmatic if you want to. You can argue that there were only 9 songs and two were released early. You can make the case that some of the lyrics in 3 songs are interchangeable. But there is a feeling that you can’t deny when you listen to the album. Maybe it speaks to the youthful rap fan that witnessed a transition from rigid categories like gangsta rap, conscious rap or party rap to introspective street rhymes that were not only narratives, but they were placed in front of a variety of noteworthy producers. Nas was a pioneer in his own right. Just like Scarface was for his sound in Houston. These guys had their moments in time where they commanded the national spotlight. 50 Cent made a valiant case for being top canine but although cases can be made for the guys I listed lets simply cross them off the list.
The first rap I ever wrote won a talent show in summer camp when I was 10 years old. The song was called “We’re Fresh” and it was pretty horrible. Or maybe it was just really elementary. My cousin Dre Knight and I sang the repetitive chorus on stage rocking Hawaiian shirts on our way to victory. We beat a team of older dudes with better bars and flows…later on I found out that they borrowed some of their raps from Big Daddy Kane’s “Just Rhymin’ With Biz.”
At the time we didn’t know where their verses came from so when I heard a young kid spit, “If rap was a game I’d be MVP, most valuable poet on the m-i-c…” I figured we were cooked.
But as fate would have it, originality and the Hawaiian theme must have won over the judges. When we got back to school Dre bragged to everyone about how nice I was at rap.
Unfortunately I had not written another verse after that win, but the rep I had led to me being on the school bus one day with my classmates prompting me to rhyme. This was a very long time ago before a rap song entitled, “The Symphony” hit the mainstream. I don’t even know if it was released yet because my brother was working with Masta Ace and he may have given him an early copy which I dubbed and listened to everyday.
Maybe it was something subconscious in my mind that told me that those guys we beat in that talent show had the right idea. Maybe I felt like it was all about impressing people first, then working on your craft later. That indecision and improvisation inspired me to borrow 8 bars from Big Daddy Kane’s killer closing verse from the aforementioned classic Juice Crew anthem,
“Setting it off, letting it off, beginning,
rough to the ending, you never been in
to move the groove with the smooth rap lord:
like a bottle of juice, rhymes are being poured
down your ear, crisp and clear, as I prepare,
to wear, tear and smear, then I’m outta here…”
The bus went crazy, I was considered great and my legend grew. That night I went home feeling the pressure and decided to write my own rhymes. The only positive thing that came from my thievery was that I actually believed I was good and my only hurdle was that I just hadn’t taken time to write. My first rap won a contest for God’s sake, it’s not like I needed to steal Kane’s verse. That was how I rationalized what I did. It didn’t make sense but it did set off my music career.
Fast forward many years later and I am in the latter part of an independent music journey that started out mainstream and probably has one more undefined chapter left. Recently it came to my attention that a rap artist out of Sacramento took some of my lines and reused them as his own. I had never heard of the guy until it was brought to my attention on Twitter and my response to the news was simple: Not again?!
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 »