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 »
Dear Lil Wayne’s Jeggings,
I watched you perform on stage a few weeks ago at the Video Music Awards and I wanted to reach out right away, but I knew my email would get lost in the barrage of letters you were going to receive directly after the show since you got a Twitter page so fast.
You don’t know me and I have no place bothering you on this Monday but I’ve been following your owner/partner/pal for a minute now.
Let me back up a bit. I’ve flip-flopped back and forth for years about your guy. At times, I’ve heard people call him the heir to the throne, the best rapper alive, and the leader of the hottest crew out.
Then I’ve also been around when the word came back to me that he was graded on a curve because he got a whole lot better after a shaky start, that he could never be the king of hip-hop because his subject matter isn’t diverse enough and some folks just said that when it comes to Carters, Dwayne will always be number 2.
How do I feel? I’ve been listening since “Bling Bling,” my ears perked up on Biggie’s Born Again and when Wayne decided that rap was a serious tool on the first Carter LP I was there telling dudes, “you know who can spit?”
But so what? There’s no award for thinking someone had potential, he gradually took over where Busta Rhymes and Ludacris left off and featured on everything moving. Then Weezy decided that he was going to spank anyone that got next to him on a track and made Swizz’s “It’s Me Bitchez” and DJ Khaled’s “We Takin’ Over” his coming out party for anyone that didn’t know Tha Carter II was about him trying to prove he was the Best Rapper Alive.
Then the mixtapes began to make noise, talks of Young Money got louder, New York began to embrace him and all of a sudden, “A Milli” became the foreshadowing record that would catapult Lil Wayne into a superstar that was also an emcee.
It’s not an easy task to be on top of the game while critics praise your pen. Jay-Z sat comfortably on top for years selling records and winning arguments about who was the best to do it. Sure Big and Pac will always have a mention, Nas may get shouted out, 50 definitely had a moment and Eminem will forever be regarded as one of the greatest to ever do it.
But your dude is from the slums of New Orleans, he has fashion dreads, gold teeth, tattoos everywhere, we knew him since he was a baggy T-shirt-wearing adolescent, he was accused of stealing Gillie the Kid’s style and flows and he kissed the Birdman in the beak.
The odds seemed to be stacked against him, but for some reason he prevailed. He signed Jae Millz and we were perplexed a little, signing Nicki Minaj seemed like it could work out, but putting her and Drake out and making them exist on their own was bold and it worked. He put two stars under his umbrella and didn’t let the Kanye-directed (sabotage attempt) “Best I Ever Had” video hurt Drizzy.
He made sure Nicki deflected the Kim comparisons and jabs and remain who she is and voila. Young Money is an army, better yet a navy. So there were some holes in the ship when he showed up to an award show singing about how he wanted to have sex with every girl in the world while his daughter pranced around the stage.
It didn’t matter much that he didn’t really rap on “Lollipop,” became so obsessed with autotunes that he created a T-Wayne moniker, and tried his hands at a rock album. Tha Carter III did a million in a week and not many rappers can say that for themselves. Not many can say they saw it coming either.
And with all that said, there I was telling people again that Wayne was a real contender for the crown. I got Watch The Throne and told folks that it was solid but I expected more.
The jail time and the sobriety were supposed to slow him down but it didn’t. “How To Love” is a good record, “How To Hate” is even better.
Wayne jabbed Jay-Z in a polite way and even let people know it was coming. “She Will” is one of my favorite songs of the year. So why am I writing this letter? I saw the VMAs and every argument I had that hinted to the fact that his latest LP was better than those that came out weeks before, got destroyed after he hit the stage and brought you out.
The autotuned mic was bearable, the off beat live rendition of “John” without Rick Ross and the shirt coming off revealing his boxers was bothersome. But when I saw you with your leopard print all tight and shiny, it just deflated my fanship. It’s not your fault, some stylist grabbed you off a women’s clothing rack and you got a free trip to an award show. I would have gone too.
Every time I see your boy on a major stage shirtless with sagging tight pants jumping around displaying his gold Baby-slobbing teeth, I cringe.
When he goes on sports shows and I have to see that earring in his face and excessive facial tattoos I don’t know why it bugs me that he sounds twisted and he speaks slow in order to sound knowledgeable and it almost works. I want him to win deep down inside. But I can’t help what I feel about looking at him as opposed to hearing his music.
It makes me sad to be a rap artist; I’m almost bothered to belong to the same race. And this isn’t hate…this isn’t even on purpose. It’s like thinking of your mother having sex with your boy. I make that face you just made when I see him take the stage sometimes.
Wait you don’t have a mother, or a face, but you know what I mean Mr. Jeggings. You’re a combination of two things, (jeans and leggings) and I don’t think you should have to be subjected to being with a man, but what can you do? I just wanted to let you know that you helped me decide that Lil Wayne is not my favorite rapper, nor is he the King of the game.
His sales are impressive, his music is strong, his punchlines hit every six out of ten times, it’s cool how he personifies life, death, has sex with the world repeatedly and I love his passion. But like Kreayshawn’s popularity, I just don’t get it sometimes. I don’t know what’s hot and I don’t pretend to anymore.
Jeggings may infiltrate my generation, men may begin to sag their suit pants in corporate offices, but for me I’m bowing out here. So again, Mr. Jeggings, thank you for showing up on my TV screen in non-HD on that Sunday evening, I was starting to lose my way but now I hath found it.
For the 2nd week in a row I’m putting up my ramble on Tuesday. Primarily because I partied Sunday night and got a late start and secondly I couldn’t decide if I wanted to promote our radio show on online dating tonight or talk about the most popular topic taking over barber shops, radio shows, basketball courts and chat rooms; the mystery of Mister Cee.
I don’t have an opinion on this hot topic just yet so as I’m writing this maybe I’ll enlighten myself and reach some sort of point for even bringing it up.
Well people ask what I think about the situation all the time and I’ve said everything from “I feel bad for him” to “I think he wanted to get caught.”
I met Mister Cee a long time ago when I was a pre-teen and he was the road manager for Masta Ace. My brother was a part of Ace’s crew and producer for Biggie and I was fortunate enough to go to the studio and quietly hang around folks like Big Daddy Kane, Craig G and a few times there was Calvin Lebrun.
He was cool, humorous and most of all, he was down to earth.
Years later I ran into the world famous DJ here and there and we spoke about music.
He didn’t remember me but of course he acknowledged my brother, my grind and offered to help me out with my struggles to be heard.
One time at Hot 97 we spoke about the starving artists wanting their songs played at parties while the DJ is focused on keeping the party popping. I understood that point.
Another time at a video shoot, I eavesdropped on a convo he was having about New York rappers always rapping about the industry they don’t get love in, while Southern artists were having fun on records. I got that one too.
What does any of this have to do with his recent scenario?
It brings me to the moment in time where I heard Cee was arrested for being in a car exposed with a man. And I wasn’t surprised. Not that I saw him do anything like that but because I heard stories about him waiting outside of gay clubs and his prior arrests.
I brushed off these tales like I do most of the homosexual stories I hear about industry folks even though I figured anything was possible.
But once the police report was confirmed, plenty of questions arose. Will he confess? Will he continue to DJ? Who will hire him? And most importantly why is it an issue? The industry of music is one where there are plenty of men behind the scenes that secretly sleep with men in order to get further in their careers or because they simply like to.
This same business publicly condemns those who like the same sex and that fact is highlighted by our use of “pause” and “no homo” when we use phrases that double as statements with gay undertone.
So is the hip-hop legendary DJ wrong for his indiscretion or for his public show or is he under scrutiny for not addressing his supporters with a statement?
I say the latter, sure it’s your personal life and yeah you don’t owe anyone an explanation but if you’ve ever said “pause,” or alluded to the fact that “gay” was negative, and then you get caught receiving oral sex from a man, then I think it misleads people. As a public figure, one might feel he should let people know if the accusations are true, especially after his colleague Funkmaster Flex has boldly defended him.
As the line between personal lives and business cross, the listeners are continuing to tune into Hot 97 FM and they may even get a broader audience that’s waiting for a confession.
But what happens with Calvin? Will this just go away like Wayne’s smooch with Baby? Cee can’t put out a hot album and make us forget, similar to what Rick Ross did to his correction officer employment fiasco. R. Kelly was able to sing his way back in our hearts after we watched him urinate on a young woman.
But it was a woman, Ross had a job and Wayne kissed his…father? Oh well, this wasn’t on camera and Mister Cee doesn’t necessarily need record sales to survive.
But let’s think about the next step in this situation. Cee may choose silence, keep his job, endure the jokes and rapper punchlines that will suggest that he’s a man-lover and cleverly include “the finisher” and “going in” (especially in battle raps), but then one day he’ll most likely get disc jockey work again.
He may continue to deny the charges and claim he was alone in the vehicle, that the hip-hop cops are framing him and that the accusations made by Wendy Williams in 2007 were false.
Or things might change.
Maybe Mister Cee could admit that he is indeed attracted to men that dress like women or simply men that are men. Lil B’s ass-raping threats may become acceptable, homo rappers might surface and others will gradually come out, execs will defend him, he’ll DJ for Lady Gaga, gay people will start saying “play” instead of “pause” and homosexuality will really become what “Black” was during the Civil Rights movement.
Charlamagne said, “The hip-hop community, and black culture in general, is homophobic for no good reason; and this wouldn’t even be an issue if he could be who he was, comfortably, without people judging him.”
Some of us appreciate the homophobia that keeps artists’ lives personal and fear that curtain opening. Some of us would probably retire if gay became ok in the hood and behind the mic. But this is an ever-changing world we are in and in this moment, the hip-hop community could change with one arrest of one DJ and allegedly one young man. Stay tuned to see if The Finisher is finished or if he started a revolution.
What do you think he should do?