Friday, September 29, 2006

Course of Nature

There was news going around, a couple weeks back, at least on the rumor level, that the rapper Nature was shot several times in Paterson, New Jersey. While it was also reported that any injuries he suffered were not life-threatening, not much else was said, anywhere. Although Nature is not the first person ever to get shot in Paterson, that the story basically went bottoms up has to make one at least question the smoke and mirrors of fame. It's not that Nate was ever super-famous or anything, but if I was a known rapper, who did get shot, and, for example, a 50 Cent mixtape cover received ten times the amount of publicity, I'd likely to be bitter about a bit more than just bullet wounds.

Nature's been on platinum albums, was once partnered with one of the most legendary rappers, then squared off against that same rapper, and next caught some bad luck in New Jersey. Phrased this way, that's a rather disappointing bio. However, let's go back a minute, back to the mid 90's, when Nate was known for being on the right side of a mic and not the wrong side of something else entirely.

Although he was not featured on It Was Written or in the original Firm set-up, it was from the seat of this so-called super group that Nature would eventually make his name. Leading up to that point, he contributed to a series of Nas / DJ Clue freestyles, The Foulness parts 3 and 4, respectively. (Part 3 uses the Shootouts beats, while 4 opts for Watch Dem Niggas.) As both episodes demonstrate, and what often gets forgotten during this Escobar period of Nas' career, while the production might have been dressed up and the music videos might have been all gloss, lyrically, very often the mood was down, at times even as destitute as before the glitz came on the scene. For instance, on Part 3, you find Nature exposing the lose-lose layout of the streets, "This game's a death trap / I strive for deficits, bitches, and setbacks / Triple-6, camouflage and niggas rocking 'X' hats / Emotionally scarred from being left back." Likewise, Nas' verse captures a sense of claustrophobia, "Trapped in a cold world, naked and ashamed / Blunts flame, my niggas locked up under alias names." Unfortunately, this balance between bleak and boisterous, as was seen throughout It Was Written, would soon fall apart with Nas and Nature's next step, The Firm.

While IWW was full of bravado, it was also at times hesitant, untrusting, even paranoid. On the other hand, The Firm project proved bloated most of all. Lyrically, it became short-sighted and lazy, with the production often failing worse. And although Nas, Foxy, Dre, and even AZ were going to be cool no matter if the album flopped or not, Nature, acting as a replacement for Cormega, had a lot more riding on its success. Without an album yet to his credit, this was Nature's shot to steal some shine from the headliners. Unfortunately, while it does sound like Nature did most of the work and actually put some focus into his performance, because the overall group carried with them a very disarming stench, it'd be hard to say that performance was ever properly appreciated. And even in the group's big exposure moments, Nature was relegated to the work of an extra: not included on Firm Biz, in a walk-on role for Phone Tap, left to do a cheesy remake of a Whodini classic (Five Minutes to Flush). Even his picture on The Firm album cover is essentially only thumbnail size.

The following year, in 1998, according to Nature himself, his solo LP, For All Seasons, was supposed to drop. Unfortunately, a fracturing with The Trackmasters, a loss of control of the music, and general bad luck stalled the album.

Despite these problems, Nas kept Nature around, with the duo collaborating on nearly a dozen tracks. Two of the most notable from this set came in the form of a soundtrack contribution, In Too Deep, and one of the many unreleased relics of the lost I Am double album, Sometimes I Wonder. The latter was perhaps I Am's biggest loss, at least from Nature's perspective, because had it been released, it would have surely stood out. Here Nas' sobering flow meets the somber tone of the production appropriately, as he delivers two cautious verses, the second of which serves as an obituary column for his deceased friends, "Blessings be to the ones who left us / To transcend into spiritual essence / In Allah's arms, you resting." Yet, Nature's presence on the track cannot be ignored. As he recites a great series of double rhymes, he manages also to impress off of more than just his lyrical scheme. The how is satisfied with the pattern in his rhymes, complex over a series of lines, while the what is catered to in his explanation of the paper thin loyalty of street life, put so simply but effectively:

Crews advance - nothing new, just the rules of the land
You can't tell if they wolves or lamb
You could fight like a few, there's a few that ran
Or you could feed them and lose your hand
From this point however, with the audience for Sometimes I Wonder being limited to the bootleg crowd, Nature met up with a bad streak. In spite of whatever anticipation might have been there once, For All Seasons, two years past its intended target, received little notice. Even the top-billing collaborations that it might have once promised were undercut: Columbia didn't want to put up the proper coinage to secure Dr. Dre's Fist Full Of Dollars (a watered-down version was released entitled Talking That Shit), while Nas dropped by for just twenty-seconds, and not even for the video. As far as Nature's career was concerned, that was it, almost.

Maybe it's a bit of a cruel coincidence, but as Nas partnered with Nature and made him known, just as easily, when the pair's working relationship dissolved, Nature became the fallen tree in that forest no one ever visited. And then again, Nate' final flirtation with the mainstream came from Nas' exposure once more, this time on the receiving end of the Destroy & Rebuild diss. Nature responded with Nas Is Not, but as he was neither Jay-Z, Prodigy, nor Cormega, it amounted to not much more than a tangent of a battle that was already the undercard. Nature later put out 2002's Wild Gremliz, and has since worked mostly the hood circuit, guesting, for example, on a Ron Artest single and Welcome To 6 Blocks 96 Buildings, a recent Queensbridge mixtape. Although there's absolutely nothing wrong with a rapper who once had a couple worldwide years now being just a local cat, but you have to wonder if Nature wonders, "what if?"

Nas, Nature: Foulness 3
Nas, Nature: Foulness 4
Nas, Nature: In Too Deep
Nas f/ Nature: Sometimes I Wonder
Nature f/ Nas: The Ultimate High
BONUS: Nature: Nas Is Not
BONUS: Nature f/ Dr. Dre: Fist Full of Dollars
BONUS: Tragedy, Nature & Blaq Poet: Kings Of QB

8 Comments:

Anonymous chad said...

fletch,

nice post on nature, he had a couple nice song's on for all seasons - the title track and young girl were my favorites off the album.

September 29, 2006 10:23 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Yeah, Man's World, from For All Seasons as well, is another standout track. While it may rely on the overused James Brown sample, it's about 100x more effectively done than on the similarly-titled Beanie Sigel song from the same time.

Just as one more Nature point, he may have been before his time. Not that his style was anything that hadn't been done before, but had he come up in the Smack DVD era of the past four or so years, his kinda blunt punchline demeanor would have won him over a few more fans than he can probably currently claim.

September 30, 2006 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Ill E said...

another standout appearance from Nature, that I like, was on "Banned From TV" from Noreaga's album.

September 30, 2006 11:49 AM  
Blogger MiThRaZoR said...

I like Kings of QB. Ultimate High is a nice song too.

Punchline rappers don't get much shine. Big L, Masta Ace, Chino XL, and some other ones.

So I don't know if he was ahead of his time, or just like the other punchline rappers.

October 01, 2006 11:03 AM  
Blogger Aegis865 said...

Real shame if he got hit,he had serious potential.Tracks like 'Its A Man's World','Remember' and 'Time' suggested how good he was.

October 01, 2006 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wicked write up on nate.

however, leaving out "nature's shine" and "the ultimate high", which featured nas, is a severe injustice to the man's career since these tracks were HUGE on the streets in 98/99.

who knows what could have been if he received proper promo at the time.

October 02, 2006 1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paterson...Thats my birthplace.

October 02, 2006 5:30 AM  
Blogger Aegis865 said...

A little bit of news on Nature and his future:

On a real note, for the fans of Tragedy Khadafi and 25 to Life Records, I’m working on a compilation with Uprising Records, a collaboration of Queensbridge and Queens artists. I’m also putting out a new solo album through a joint venture between 25 II Life and Nature Sounds in the first quarter of 2007, and I’m working on closing some deals with Havoc and Scram Jones for the 2nd quarter. Lastly, myself,Cormega and Nature are putting a supergroup together.”

http://pyramids2projects.blogspot.com/2006/10/u-think-u-knowbut-u-have-no-idea.html

October 09, 2006 4:22 AM  

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