Friday, February 10, 2006

Young, Gifted, and Black

What do you do when giving Medusa shotguns in Hell just isn't bringing in the kind of sales you had hoped for? You draw from The Eurythmics and Kurtis Blow and take on the surname of the most notorious cocaine kingpin ever, Pablo Escobar.

It Was Written seems to keep getting pushed closer and closer to classic status every year, though older heads still balk at the notion of Nas leaving army jackets behind for pink suits. But say what you will about that change in dress, changing managers, from MC Serch to Steve Stoute, changing beatmakers, from Large Professor to the Trackmasters, and even changing video shoot locations, from snowy ghetto scenes to flatbeds in the middle of Manhattan, lyrically, It Was Written was not a 180 flip from Illmatic. The only difference was that the world that Nas was having dreams of in '94, now, in '96, he was living. Otherwise, tracks like Shootouts or Suspect or The Message still offer 5-mic rhymes, a lively cadence not yet broken down by years of blunt abuse, and success for a guy who had clearly earned it on the LP before.

However, today's featured song isn't from It Was Written at all; it's just a loose track, unreleased, but a high point of that Escobar era, The Foulness. Differentiating between parts 3 & 4 of the Foulness series, both of which guest star a hungry Nature, episodes 1 & 2, never separated and sometimes called Livin' the Life, showcase Nas dropping gram-bag wisdom and storytelling gems, all while jackin' for beats. He flows over a combination of Big Daddy Kane's Young, Gifted and Black, Biz Markie's Nobody Beats The Biz, and EPMD's You Gots To Chill. It's the kind of stuff that would make Cube proud.

Your gats don't bust, them crabs you trust
Can fuck around and pass you dust
Have you on point, then blast you up
Leaking like Henny through plastic cups
A point that I feel obliged to make is this idea of Nas' "Street Dreamin'" ("Nigga never sold aspirin, how you Escobar?"). Now, of course, if rappers didn't have a great tendency to exaggerate or just plain lie, then the suburbs wouldn't get their fill of escapism. And if everything rappers said was 100% truth, then the FBI would get evidence real easy. But even Nas here has a curious take on his rap game /crack game balance: "If you ain't sellin' weight, motherfucker, then what the fuck is you doing? But fuck that drug shit, it's all about this Hip-Hop shit right here." What do you think?

Nas: The Foulness


Blogger Fletch said...

Alright, trying to get a little coversation going, after Nas gets done with his story, he says:

"But to them legends of the ghetto
Raising them kids to be like you
Watch what you say, watch what you do
Reality comes true
Young thugs growing up to be just like you"

How do you interpret this? Is he saying be mindful of your actions because the newer kids are modeling themselves off what you influence? If so, in a time where Nas had a tendency to glamorize aspects of that "legends of the ghetto" lifestyle, how do you measure his words?

respond / react

February 10, 2006 3:58 PM  
Blogger KHALLI 88 said...

My take on it is simple, it's entertainment and I don't hold NAS to any other standard than an actor feel me? Al was gangsta in Scarface but it would be foolish to think hime or DeNario carry on in that manner off screen? so rappers pop shyt about cats who live that shyt. I will say this till infinity Nas and others are actors nothing more nothing less.

February 10, 2006 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to nitpit, but wasn't it...
"get you OFF point, then blast you up"?

the impression that i got was that the fact that you have been passed dust by folks you trust would get you OFF point, thus being susceptible to being blasted up.

February 10, 2006 4:34 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Khalli, I kinda agree with the "entertainment" rationale. But what troubles many people is that De Niro and Nas, for example, are not actors in the same perceived sense, i.e. we know De Niro's wearing someone else's shoes, there's a guy in a guild who gets credit for his dialogue, and in talks you always hear him differentiate between himself and "his character." A rapper, we're told to believe in all that he says (by the rapper himself). Rappers when asked about their album don't make the distinction that it's a "character" in the same way an actor does about a role. I mean, why did Prodigy in step shoes cause such an uproar? Because it was Jay pulling cards ("we don't believe you, you need more people") on a national stage about Shook Ones being a Hip-Hop version of Dungeons & Dragons.

In addition, I once heard a woman tell a story about her strung-out sister knowing of Dipset before ever knowing they were rappers. She was an addict in Cleveland and guess who she copped from? So in a situation like that, it's probably hard for her and her family to make that distinction between entertainment and otherwise.

So while people need to take responsibility for their own actions and not just pass the blame so quickly, rappers got words and should know Newton's Third Law of Motion still applies.

But ultimately, yeah, I don't care if my favorite rappers are lying. I don't hook up a polygraph to the system to test if it's true. If Clipse never sold a gram of coke in their life, it wouldn't negate the fact that We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2 was one of the best records released last year.

And to anonymous pt.??, I swear (and I hope) that I didn't mess up two entries in a row. I really do hear "have you on point." I take the third line listed to be an explanation of the previous line, i.e. you were on point, then, referencing before, you got passed dust, and now they'll blast you up. Plus, I don't think I've ever heard "have you off point" used ever, especially in this context.

February 10, 2006 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just can't imagine someone being "on point" after using dust. I know off point isn't a common phrase, in fact it's the first time i've heard it turned around like that but I thought that was part of the appeal of the rhyme.

February 11, 2006 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i went back and listened, i think YOU'RE right. my bad. that's what makes this shit fun though.

February 11, 2006 6:20 AM  
Blogger Fletch said...

In the midst of a conversation on Nas' flow and it changing being possible connected to blunts and such:

The Escobar flow one started to hear on tracks as early as Wake Up Show 94, IWW, of course, followed by the Street Dreams remix. Then it started to temper just a little. Escobar 97, Time, and then Phone Tap, to some degree, had it, but I really think with The Firm album Nas' rhymes got lazy and so did his flow. I've heard stories about the massive amount of drinking and smoking ($1000 in a week) that was going off at this time, which may not only point to why the album was poor but why some intensity in his cadence started to drop off.

By I Am it had started to get into a straightforward range and lose some of that fire. With notable exceptions, Nas has pretty much stayed in that gear.

I mean, I buy him lyrically and am a fan through and through, but I can't blame people who call his current scheme boring. War was maybe the only SD track where I felt like he was doing anything too special in that sense. And then looking at the 2006 Jacking For Beats freestyle that came out a couple weeks ago, some of that flow was real butchered.

So I don't know if it was the weed, but if you listen to a '95 version of On The Real and then hear him respit that verse on the Platinum Edition of Illmatic, timing's off, something's missing.

February 11, 2006 5:52 PM  

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