Written July 26th 2016
I still remember the first time I purposely sagged my jeans. I was a sophomore in high school at Brooklyn Tech and I had a pair of jeans that were sized 34 in the waist but the length was like 29 or something. I had grown pretty much overnight and these jeans that used to fit me correctly were no longer the right length even though they fit my waist with the correct 90’s bagginess. So anyway, I liked the jeans and I wore them to school with a slight dip below the waist so that they didn’t resemble “high waters” and so no one would accuse me of having on “young” gear. Those were the negative colloquialisms we used for clothes that were too small back then.
I wasn’t trying to be cool but I did think that sagging my jeans intentionally was a bit out of my element. I recall people actually pointing out my inappropriate fashion statement as if they were helping me. Sagging was a style, but it was done mostly by people who were perceived as hoodlums, guys that just came home from jail, and rappers. When Treach said, “my pants always sag ’cause I rap my ass off…” I thought that was brilliant but it didn’t make me want to show off my boxers. When Jodeci took the stage and broadcasted their undergarments whilst going shirtless, that still didn’t influence me enough to mimic the trend. It wasn’t until I began rocking basketball shorts underneath my jeans that cinching my belt super tight around my waist became something I was cognizant of. New York weather forced me to throw shorts on almost every cold day of the winter and fall. It was almost impossible to keep the jeans tight so I let them hang a little bit. My underwear was never officially put on display but I was still considered a free-spirited rebel that got the side-eye from elders, adults, and anyone who wore their pantaloons the way they were intended to be worn.
Years later I became a hip-hop artist and watching Jay-Z and Nas parade around stages with their name brand boxer briefs being a featured part of their wardrobe probably subliminally sunk in my head and made me feel like I had to do the same. I was more conscious of the designer name adorning my waistline when I had a scheduled performance as opposed to days I did not. Fast forward to the present and I am working in education along with dabbling in music and I am around a plethora of youngsters daily that sag their jeans to an all-time low. I assumed this trend might go away one day but instead it has elevated beyond a point I could never imagine. In my days of sagging, we wore belts but they weren’t always the tightest fit. We didn’t sag with the intention of sagging, our pants were a part of our youthful ignorance and our embracing of a culture that did everything in its power to go against what society deemed as proper and grown-up. We wanted to be loud and obnoxious on the train, we made sure we went places in groups larger than four…and our clothing reflected the essence of the hard-edged, sometimes message-driven, and powerful music we loved. Read the rest of this entry »
“I wasn’t born last night,
I know these h**s ain’t right,
But you was blowing up her phone last night,
But she ain’t have her ringer or her ring on last night, oh
Ni**a that’s that nerve,
Why give a b*tch your heart
When she rather have a purse?
Why give a b*tch your inch,
When she rather have nine?
You know how the game goes,
She be mine by halftime…”
There was a time in my life when I would sing lyrics like that with pride and vigor. I would feel like these words were my life. And if it wasn’t, I would want it to be.
If you’re unfamiliar with that song, it’s called “Loyal” by Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne and the
wordsmith that deserves every dollar he’s made in the industry, Tyga. The song basically implies that a man with money can have any woman he wants. Yes, even your woman. When a rich dude wants you, and apparently the man that you have can’t really do anything for you financially…those factors result in the obvious conclusion that, “these girls ain’t loyal.” It sounds simple when they lay it out there.
- Female has a man that is broke.
- Rapper man is rich.
- No females are loyal.
- Rapper man sleeps with or takes female.
Where and when did this all start?
Was it back when Naughty by Nature made “O.P.P” or when Slick Rick declared that we should “Treat ‘Em like a Prostitute?” When did it become so popular to get at a girl that was in a relationship with another dude? I remember Big Daddy Kane saying something about releasing tales from the darkside, and separating men from their women like apartheid. I thought that line was ill. I can recall The Notorious B.I.G rhyming, “don’t leave your girl around me,” and I thought about what could make my girl leave me for Biggie. Could it be money? Would your baby-mama consider dealing with a rapper that’s on TV as an upgrade?
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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.
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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It finally happened. I wasn’t sure when it would go down, but I’m actually writing words down again. Well I am truthfully typing them into a phone and a computer but you know what I mean. I wasn’t writing blogs or music this year until now.
I think I had to take a step back from it all because I almost forgot my mission. For the last few years I had been caught up in staying relevant, showing consistency, and ultimately I became a victim of doing something so long that I needed to see some grand result for the years of effort, and for the naysayers. I don’t know what a naysayer is but I’m guessing it’s someone that says nay quite a bit.
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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.
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.