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.
There are many phrases and terms that become trendy in hip-hop. There was a time when everyone was “representing,” then they “kept it real” for a few years. For the last few years, it has been about “buzz,” then there’s the ever-popular “movement,” and we can’t forget “swagger.”
In the offices behind the artists, the words have been the same for a while now. The public is getting more and more hip to those terms: marketing, image, and branding. What the hell is a brand? Everyone will tell you that you need marketing, you should identify your target audience and demographic, and then establish your brand. It sounds like a lot more work than just writing and recording a song. Well the most successful artists in music had work put in on marketing their look. Read the rest of this entry »
When EPMD came out with “So Wha Cha Saying” and said, “We dropped the album Strictly Business and you thought we would fold/30 days later the LP went gold,” I was totally confused.
Did he say gold in 30 days? Isn’t gold a whole lot of records? I thought only country, pop and rock artists went gold. Their first two albums went to the top of the charts. LL Cool J told Kool Moe Dee, “How you like me now? I’m getting busier/I’m double platinum, I’m watching you get dizzier.”
I know record sale boasting was going on, but I wasn’t really thinking about release dates or first week sales, I didn’t even know albums came out on Tuesdays. For some reason, I never looked at A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul and wondered what amount of records they sold. I just figured a record deal meant you got paid, and then you do shows and get more money.
The EPMD line gave me insight and sparked my curiosity. However, arguments in the hood about which rapper was better, never really evolved into who sold more. Slick Rick’s jewelry was enough to let me know he had bread. Biggie was one of the first East coast emcees to compete with Deathrow and what the California artists were doing on the Billboard charts for years. And even he said he was in the crib dreaming of jets and coupes and how to sell records like Snoop. Biggie was admitting that he wanted Snoop Dogg numbers even though no one was recognizing the west coast king as a lyrical giant.
Tupac began ranting about being home from jail and dominating as the top selling label over Badboy, Laface and So So Def. But it wasn’t until I saw a poster that read, “THE STREETS HAVE SPOKEN, DMX PLATINUM 250,000 FIRST WEEK” that I noticed the record companies were using sales in their marketing strategies.
I understood that a platinum album was a million records moved out of the stores. I assumed that they hypothesized that a quarter mil sold in one week meant that the album was eventually going to go platinum.
Consumers were given a look into the world of sales just like that.
All of a sudden I was aware of first week sales, Big Pun’s posters read “LATINUM.” I was at school adding “who did what” on the charts to the “who’s nicer?” debates now.
I used to intern for this label called Roc-A-Fella records when their CEO and flagship artist Jay-Z came out with the song, “Imaginary Player.” I think around that time there were a lot of artists claiming to have money. With one record Jay separated himself, questioned the frauds and enlightened the listeners.
His single costs $4, he was rocking platinum jewelry and drinking Cristal for years, he hipped us to the difference between 4.0 Range Rovers and the infamous 4.6 ones…and if there weren’t any manicures on your flight then you weren’t real; you were imaginary. This wasn’t a slap in the face to the common folk. This was more like a wake up call to those rap dudes that were pretending they sold drugs or had a lot of paper in their rhymes. Jay was letting people know that the cars in the video, the money machine and the actual money wasn’t going back to the rental place when the cameras stopped rolling.
Because Jay would run into rappers that had fame and record sales, but couldn’t compete with him monetarily, he decided to make a record creating distinction between artists who got “rap money” and those who were in the streets obtaining paper that didn’t depend on putting words together.
It was genius…until we witnessed a retaliation that would ruffle Jay’s feathers that same year. Hov boasted, “When I see ’em in the streets, I don’t see none of that/damn playboy, fuck is the hummer at?” Mason Betha took that a tad bit personal since he wasn’t getting the same cut from his album sales that an independent artist would and he went back at Jay.
Mase had just started All Out records and released a freestyle saying, “You ask where my hummer at/I look on Billboard where your number at?”
Jay was plagued with sales that didn’t match his skill and at that time it was a major thorn in his side. Puff had him opening up the No Way Out Tour, the streets and the industry were calling him B.I.G’s successor but Mase was at three million sold and had a solid argument about who was the best in the business. Or did he? Were we to believe that Jay or Nas couldn’t be top dog in the game until they had some platinum hardware in their homes? Well Nas put out his second album, and It Was Written did what it was supposed to do to solidify him. But some say he had to get Puff Daddy and Lauryn Hill on his singles, throw on furs and big medallions and maybe stretch himself out a little too much.
So Jay was challenged about his sales, Mase was wearing shiny suits and switched his style, and Nas was doing whatever he could musically to show growth. All three of them enlisted Hype Williams to take their visuals to the next level. Hype delivered for two out of the three, Jay wasn’t too happy with his look for “Sunshine,” but as a fan of hip-hop, I sat back and witnessed everyone on a mission to not just be the best; they wanted spots on the chart.
Rakim came out with an album in ’97 and I heard die-hard hip-hop fans asking how much Ra did in his first week. Since when did we judge the God MC on his first seven days in the stores?
The time had come. The numbers were not only noted, but the audience and fans were paying attention too. And then there was Soundscan. Billboard gave us symbols for plaques and chart positions but Soundscan told exactly how many records these artists sold. So imagine a fan liking someone’s music, but not sure if they should purchase it because they want to know if other people are getting it.
Or maybe the album dropped and instead of asking someone how it sounds, you ask how much it sold. And the first week matters the most because sales typically never match those of the first days in stores.
Labels began to factor how they would move on a project considering what the sales were looking like after one week. Gone were the days of working an album with four or five videos and letting an LP gain shelf life and allow consumers to learn more about the project.
Hip-hop fans proved to have short attention spans and now they were aware of Nelly and Eminem’s release dates, and they went to the store right away. The “Bling, bling” era was not just about flash; it was about the business of music. The Cash Money Millionaires got a multi-million dollar deal because they moved units on their own. Artists were no longer satisfied with 35 cents per disc sold. And the listeners and buyers became aware.
“If you think I’m jiggy was a Puff move/it still sold 30 thousand a week, so fuck you…” –The Lox.
I don’t know what it means to get down like what or why DMX and his niggas do it but I know if you’re Caucasian and you just read that aloud you probably felt funny when you saw the word “niggas.”
And maybe when you sing a song that has that word you politely omit it in an attempt to be politically correct and not offend anyone.
But if a tree falls and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?
And if a White person sings “Jigga My Nigga” in the comfort of their own home are they racist?
I don’t think a word makes you a hater of a race. I mean if I was anything other than what people call Black I would probably not say “nigga” and I would feel awkward when the word is used.
But if my girlfriend was White, Green or Orange, would I be cool with her saying it?
It’s just a word right? What’s more important are the thoughts. How does she view me and my so-called race? Does her family think my darkness makes me a waste of sperm? Can we watch Chris Rock comfortably without wondering if his Black/White observations weren’t being over-analyzed and stamped on both of us?
Can I watch a Spike Lee movie without smacking her for no good reason? If she’s Spanish can she say “nigga” and can I say “spic” in front of company and it be all good?
If she’s Jewish can I make cheap jokes? Can I tease my Arabic shorty about suicide bombs and 7Elevens? No? I went too far?
I have been told by a few of my chalk-skinned basketball buddies that they drop the N-bomb here and there and it doesn’t mean they hate negroes.
What is racism anyway?
Isn’t it believing your race is superior?
Don’t we all think any group we belong to rules?
You big up your block, high school, country, neighborhood, fraternity, sorority, zodiac sign, gang, phone carrier, we affiliate ourselves with crews and clans all the time. We love separation. We need it. So we can point to others and say, “They’re not down with us, we’re better.”
We went from nigger to negro to colored to Black to Afro-American to African-American to nigga and it’s just like a band-aid on a gunshot trying to make a group of people feel like the furthest thing from a slave as possible.
I’m saying “we” like I’m a part of this African-American crew.
How the hell are we African and American anyway? They combined a continent of descent and the country we live in to make the name of a nationality. Really?
That’s like being European-Chinese or Asian-French or Australian-Indian.
See those aren’t as catchy but you get the drift.
The bottomline is, if you belong to a race or religion or nationality and you decide to love someone that is not of the same one, is that an issue?
When you make your list of characteristics and desires in a partner, is skin color on there?
Are you curious about the “other” side? Do you have pre-conceived notions that certain types of people have better credit while others might be stereotypically lazier?
Have you ever said to your friend, “I’m done with dating within my race, they don’t appreciate me?”
Or do you have a worldly, colorblind view that we are all humans and you ignore the fact that someone else doesn’t necessarily share your hue…or your primary language? And by doing that do you ignore the fact that others will notice and judge and pre-judge both of you?
How insane is it to be a White woman in love with a Black man but never acknowledge that the two of you are not depicted the same in America?
How much of an evolved human do you have to be to get over every prejudice, stereotype and notions that come with sharing a life with a person that is of a different origin?
Why should it matter? Love is love and if we were all blind, enlightened, or our physical appearance was so mixed up that we couldn’t pinpoint someone’s mother continent then the world be a better place.
Not really because we’d find something else to separate ourselves. Even the Smurfs had beef after awhile. Y’all let me know if dating and loving someone outside of your race even matters anymore. Will it even be an issue in 20 years? Does it matter now?
Tune in tonight April 5, 2011, listen to the archive later.