Thursday, November 09, 2006

Five Fingers of Miscellanea

Black Stacey (remix)
At Nas' 2004 Central Park concert, slam poet Saul Williams helped open the show. In return, when it came time for a remix to Williams' Black Stacey single, Nas was happy to accommodate. The song is aimed at those, particularly blacks, who wear a public mask to cover up their insecurities, i.e. that front many put on to pretend they're something not, simply because it may be expected of them. This then is specifically tied to a criticism of rappers, as Williams recites, "share your essence with us, 'cause everything about you couldn't be rugged and rough." For the remix, Nas answers that call appropriately. His verse is still filled with the palm trees, Dom Perignon, and platinum lifestyle that Black Stacey seems to rally against, but as his rap tells the story of being discriminated upon by a black flight attendant, two points are made: 1) if your skin is one color and your money another, the stack still isn't going to get you accepted by everyone; 2) by puckering up to his boss and refusing a brother, the flight attendant himself is wearing a mask of great consequence.

The Cross (9th Wonder remix)
Part of the marketing strategy for Jay-Z's The Black Album was to make the LP's acapellas widely available and then encourage everyone from five-figure beatmakers to Soundclick producers to remix the entire thing. With these new renditions pouring in for nearly two years, TBA was able to stay a successful topic of conversation well beyond its initial release. However, it wasn't as if the ROC brain trust was doing anything too revolutionary, for, just one year prior, Nas' God's Son had been given much the same treatment. (Nas himself wasn't first either, but he certainly seemed to revitalize the idea.) One of the most notable of these remix projects was helmed by Little Brother's 9th Wonder, whose sample-heavy production was a prayer answered for those disgruntled with Nas' increasingly mundane beat selection. While the end result in some instances was too soft, 9th's makeover of the formerly-clunky The Cross, for example, was a perfect blend of soul and head nod.

Everyday Thing
Even if Lost Tapes 2 or 3 or 4 . . . ever do come out, chances are there will still be a decent amount of unreleased Nas material lying around, simply because not everything would be feasible to put out. Some songs may be caught by sampling issues, others may have featured guests that could hold up the process, while even more could just be too "minor" to fuss over. One such lost track that most likely will never see the light of a record store is Everyday Thing. Produced by Dr. Dre, who calls upon a gorgeous Minnie Ripperton sample (Inside My Love), it also features a rap from the legendary producer. Joining him then are Nas and Nature, the two unfortunately sporting recycled verses. Because of all of this, we know Everyday Thing is a Firm-era outtake that's probably destined to be no more than that.

If I Ruled The World (live)
When Nas took to the Radio City Music Hall stage earlier this year, he was backed by the Roots; after the show, he told MTV, "I never had a band behind me before, so working with the Roots on that show was a first for me on a concert level." Well, blame it on being caught in the moment or a decade's worth of weed, but this was actually not the first time Nas had worked a concert with a live band. Back in 1996, with his If I Ruled The World quickly moving its way to classic status and The Fugees also enjoying their own sophomore album success, Nas was invited by Lauryn Hill and the gang for a performance at Germany's New Pop Festival. Beyond being the actual first Nas + band experience, listening to this live version of If I Ruled The World also points to a time when the rapper's on-stage breath control hadn't become so blunted by reality.

Soundtrack to the Streets
If you know your history, you know that in the early days of Hip-Hop the DJ was the star and the MC was no more than a mere hypeman. While that has definitely changed in the many years since, the DJ remains an integral part of the culture. In a sense, as a choice spin or a notable mixtape cut can change a career in a minute, they are the gatekeepers of the music. One such prestigious DJ, Kid Capri, was even able to exert his influence everywhere from early block parties to the mixtape circuit (52 Beats, 10/9/89) and still remain relevant in the 90's; subsequently, he pulled some of rap's biggest names together (Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Big Pun, The Lox, etc.) for a 1998 compilation album, Soundtrack to the Streets. Here Nas was given the title track duties:

Spit -- cartridges at so-called hard ni-ggas
You get -- sparked and hit, held as hostages
You know how the mobsters is from the heart of the Bridge
We just started getting dough, yo, pardon the kid
The Firm: Everyday Thing
Kid Capri f/ Nas: Soundtrack to the Streets
Nas: The Cross (9th Wonder remix)
Nas f/ Refugee Camp: If I Ruled The World (live)
Saul Williams f/ Nas: Black Stacey (remix)


Anonymous understanding said...

Yeah man ... I've had that 9th Wonder REMIX 4 a minute now and its one of my favorite NAS joints. I also love 9th Wonder's version of THUGZ MANSION w/ Tupac. Dude 9th Wonder is ill. He reminds me of a modern day Pete Rock 4 real.

November 09, 2006 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That everyday thing track is VINTAGE....

Nas verse was stellar; especially mood fitting for that track.

November 10, 2006 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

Interesting that you bring up Nas' "mundane" beat selection on God's Son, because I thought That 9th Wonder remix album was just terrible. The beats are virtually interchangeable, and are far more mundane than the originals. I'll take the original beats to basically every single song without question. I'd hesitate with "The Cross", but that's it. "Book of Rhymes" is the only other one I still listen to from the 9th version, but the original is still better. And then there's the "Ether" remix that has a nice beat, it just doesn't fit the mood of a diss track at all.

Thanks for that "Soundtrack to the Streets", didn't have that.

November 10, 2006 10:40 PM  
Blogger Game Theory said...

"Warrior Song" at one point was completely unlistenable for me, until I heard the 9th Wonder version. Then it immediately became one of my favorite tracks on the album.

November 11, 2006 12:29 PM  

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