MNR: Think BIG
It is imperative that I begin this blog by offering my sincere condolences to the family of Philadelphia’s finest battle rapper Tech 9, a pioneer in the esoteric culture. I’m still in shock from this morning when I found out on my Twitter. We’re gonna miss you sir, whether on stage where you performed with a surgeon’s precision combined with superb crowd control (if you are a battle rap aficionado you know how hard that is) or as a commentator on and for the culture on your Champions show with Jay Black. RIP Akeem Mickens. You’re on my mind, and I wish you a peaceful journey...
On this day 22 years ago, acclaimed east coast rapper The Notorious BIG released his sophomore effort Life After Death in posthumous fashion. He was fatally gunned down in Los Angelos sixteen days prior to its historically anticipated debut. The album, a double LP, affirmed the BIG fella’s assertion as the King of New York and the culture as a whole. The 24 track effort gave us some of BIG’s best work as he effortlessly flowed over beats from a who’s who of rap production giants. I won’t waste your time gong track for track a score and two years after the fact, I’ll merely leave you with three things to remember if you don’t know or have forgotten: there was no filler anywhere on the project (every track was A-1, he truly mastered every style), my favorite track to this day is Fuck You Tonight featuring Robert Kelly (yeah I said it...fuck you if it’s a problem), and yes — I Got a Story To Tell was in fact nonfiction (Knicks legend John Lavell Starks confirmed it and that he WAS NOT the Knick who got the clean jux). “Think BIG” was the slogan for the pre-release album promotion. I’m still haunted by that final interview he did for Rap City with Joe Claire on location in LA...it just didn’t feel right. I could go on and on about how we lost BIG way too soon, about how his ceiling had yet been established. But just know that Life After Death is one of the finest works of art in MUSIC history. Fuck a genre. Some say the X...
The more I’m on my Twitter TL, the more I’m turned off by dick riding rap Stans of both genders and their rush to label something a classic after a single listen or even before the project is released, often after hearing a one minute snippet of one measly song. Classic is something, anything that withstands the test of time. It can’t be determined the same damn day the shit is released. But you millennials and your microwave expectations and attention spans have thrown too much salt in the game with that instant label shit. Sit the fuck back and listen to some game. Even with a classic project, there’s still that track amongst all the great material that stands out from the rest. And no, it’s not always a single that was released. But it sets a tone inside of a tone that is indelible. The official term is called the SHOWSTOPPER. I’ll speak on a few classic albums and their showstoppers.
\t0.\tTLC, CrazySexyCool. Showstopper: Red Light Special. The group’s sophomore album catapulted them from R&B stars to music icons. I mean, it went diamond, damn it (that’s 10x platinum for the uncultured—-no streams or digital sales—-all physical store bought). Yes, Waterfalls got all the acclaim, deservedly so, video included. Creep was a monster. Kick Your Game had the hood house parties live then a MF. Diggin’ On You was in heavy rotation. But Red Light Special shut shit TF down. It was that much-needed, erotic slow jam on an album heavy with radio-friendly and club/dance cuts. It was, it is so sensual. If she’s playing it and you don’t get the buns, you’re pure trash. Baby, I’m yours...if you want me tonight...
\t0.\tD’Angelo, Voodoo. Showstopper: Untitled (How Does It Feel). Yes, everyone (mostly ladies) thinks of the iconic video first, and they should. My nigga hit the gym OD hard and sculpted Black magic. And then there was the rumor that he shot the video ass naked (not true). But the track itself, on THE album that defined the extraordinary Solquarians movement, was so organic, so electric, yet so simple. It drips with sensuality. It puts you in a trance. It is the epitome of a song that MUST be heard emitting from speakers, all levels up. If you listen closely, the audio level elevates naturally toward the end of the track, after the vocal crescendo. That shit is amazing. Damn it , Michael Archer. You motherfucker, you. Girl as long as you...have it your way...
\t0.\tNas, Illmatic. Showstopper: One Love. Yes, it’s probably the greatest single album in the history of the genre (It Takes A Nation... and Low End Theory notwithstanding). It was the GOAT for several reasons. Ask Fat Joe; he changed his whole format after Illmatic. Ask Hov, he spent a career trying to best it. He never came close. But of all the nine actual songs on the ten track LP, One Love stands a cut above. It haunted your soul, yet felt as vital as receiving the incarcerated homie’s phone call. Q-Tip took The Heath Bros. Smiling Billy, Suite 1 and crafted one of rap’s best samples ever. And Nas did what Nas does: delivered the news like Peter Jennings (RIP) live from the projects. The third verse flat-out may be the best in rap history. It’s an entire scene in the movie Belly. It single-handedly landed Cormega a major label deal fresh out of prison (although he earned it prior to on his own merit—-big ups to the Don Cormega). And it loops perpetually in my brain. I left a half a hundred in your commissary. You was my nigga when push came to shove...I’ve lived that line quite a few times in my life. My folk will tell you.
NOT ENOUGH TIME TO MENTION IN DEPTH: A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders. Showstopper: Electric Relaxation. OutKast, Aquemini. Showstopper: Da Art of Storytellin’, Pt. 1. The Roots, Iladelph Halflife. Showstopper: The Hypnotic. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city. Showstopper: Sing About Me. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Showstopper: Rebel Without a Pause. The list goes on and on...
MNR: Staring At the World Through My Rearview
“Sorta like The City of God, we been screaming out WE GON MAKE IT, but I pity the odds...”
Styles P, “How We Live”
It’s imperative that I begin with condolences for the 50 killed and additional 50 wounded at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand by a racist far-right wing pilgrim from Australia whose name I won’t lend additional exposure by mentioning. Just know he’s a wanton, depraved, hateful MF. And for those who don’t know, the fucker recorded his work. I watched a 45 second clip of him GTAing those innocent folk. By that I mean how GTA players know how after you body a nigga and he’s laying lifeless you can continue to shoot that MF. Yeah. Brain mineral flying and all. Bodies were piled on each other. They suffered before they died. And they’ve released pics of the departed. One was a young boy, early elementary age. You’ve got to be one heartless son of Satan to do what that man did. All in the name of Muslim hatred. And it’s not the least bit surprising that he idolized Donald Trump AND identified with Cheesy’s hate rhetoric. Trump posted a completely fake tweet of sorrow for those slain then went on to dog undocumented illegals with the same hateful terminology the shooter has used and was inspired by. This is like a bad fucking dream that won’t end. I fear for America. My fear comes from the thought of copycat acts and further perceived entitlement to commit acts of violence against minorities and Muslims in this country. Stay woke, y’all. Shits crazy outchea.
The field of 64 (+ 4) is set and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tourney is on deck to begin this week. Most view the clearcut favorite to be Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils, led by freshman icon Zion Williamson and fellow blue chip recruits RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. They’re definitely the most talented team, with many in consensus that Zion is the best player we’ve seen in a generation. I can’t disagree. The things that he’s doing are almost beyond belief. I was murdered on the Twitter by the lil homies Saturday afternoon for saying this but I remain steadfast in my belief that before he gets Freshman GOAT status, let him lead his team to a ‘ship. I think that’s only fair. Before Zion there was a gentleman from BK/Baltimore by the name of Carmelo Anthony. He took his Syracuse Orangemen all the damn way to glory (Anthony Davis & Pervis Ellison, too). Let’s let that man be great on the biggest stage. If and when he does, I’ll be right there on the proverbial front row to give him his flowers and anoint him Freshman GOAT. But first he’s got to get six wins in consecutive ahead of him. Leggo.
That new Birdman and Juve “Just Another Gangsta” track got me all in my bag (of nostalgia). Off top, that shit slaps crazy. I just read they’re dropping an album together. Soon. The game, quite frankly, could use it right about now. So I’m excited and looking forward to that. But back to the nostalgia. Ever since Twin played that collabo for me last Saturday I’ve been on my Cash Money Records retrospective. Even though they’d already released several records, the CMR breakthrough came via “Ha”, Juve’s lead single off his third solo album 400 Degreez. It wasn’t just Juve’s simple yet genius flow and delivery about Uptown Nawlins hood shit with the signature Ha to end every bar, but the video was so fucking hood that you knew these niggas were ‘bout their issue. Who could ever forget lil money jumping in a water filled pothole chest deep? MF tried to play the song and the video initially (some of our fellow up north niggas especially), but I wouldn’t have it. I knew it was the start of something big. I was 100% correct. “Back That Azz Up” flourished into an undeniable classic that has endured the test of time and gets Aunties up shaking that ass at cookouts TO THIS DAY!!! (word to the champ D. Wilder). B.G. was up next. His single “Cash Money Is An Army” off his Chopper City In The Ghetto album was CRAZY. It’s still my favorite CMR song from that era. After that was the second Hot Boyz album and the quintessential “Bling, Bling” which officially catapulted CMR to the top of the charts, the rap game, and bragging rights in NOLA, lest we not forget that there was already a record company from down there on top named No Limit Records. Ugggh!!! Big ups to all four Hot Boyz and the legendary Manny Fresh. Stunna’s money hoarding ass too. So for all the “experts” outchea who think Weezy F. Baby put CMR on the map, shut thee fuck up. He was a complementary nigga at the time. He had to mature chronologically and musically and wait his turn. Salute to Cash Money. They’re an army nigga, a navy nigga. Peace.
MNR: The Extinction Agenda
“Yes God, I’m going insane. If you can feel my pain say yes (yes!). If you can feel my pain say stress (stress!)...”
Pharaohe Monch, “Stress” (Remix)
Mental health, especially in Black culture, is still somehow the proverbial elephant in the room that few Negroes are willing to discuss openly and without trepidation. How many times have you heard these statements in your time on this God forsaken earth? “Ain’t nothing wrong with him/her”. “He/she just need their ass kicked”. “Don’t say that out loud. Folk gon think you crazy”. “I handle my problems in my own way”. Black culture IS a MF liar. The suicide rate amongst Blacks, although lower than almost every other ethnic group (second to but virtually identical to that of Asians) has been on a steady incline the last five years (statistics available @ afsp.org). The irony in this statistic ties into the mentalities I began to broach upon a few lines back. Even though our suicide rate is relatively low, I’m confident in saying that if Black America dealt with mental heath in more acceptant and less abrasive manners, the rate would decrease exponentially. But for generations the same ignorant reasoning has existed. Generally any of us in Black America, regardless of age or gender, are often labeled and even told that we are just “in our feelings” when a closer look often will at least foster a discussion of the possibility of some type of mental illness. But my question is this: is it still acceptable to use this as rationale when “being in our feelings” lasts for a season or three? Never ceases? Remember how Black folk were like GTFOH when Robin Givens said that Mike Tyson was a manic depressant (bipolar) on that infamous 20/20 interview? They ripped her reasoning apart. Sure, she was a piece of shit, but she wasn’t wrong with that point. But we casually cast it to the trash heap as rubbish. Then there’s the “I’ll be alright, just let me get over it” theory we often inflict on ourselves. We have been told for so long that we can and should just “snap out of it” that we painfully accept it as wisdom, even though deep down we know something much heavier than a “just get over it” solution is needed and is a complete fallacy. Then there’s the machismo element with our men (self included, of course). The good old “suck it up because you’re a man” mentality. The you’re a “pussy for being in your feelings” mentality. The “real men don’t go through this kind of thing” stigma. It’s all bullshit. So many Black men have been forced to suppress mental illness for so long because our culture will quickly dismiss us as weak cry-babies. The completely ignorant will call us gay for feeling a particular way (that’s a whole other can of fucking worms I’d love to discuss in-depth at some point...the way we disrespect gay culture and place all perceived shortcomings on the possibility of homosexuality). That shit truly disgusts me. But young Black boys often grow to be angry Black men who one day tragically implode because of forced suppression of feelings and underlying mental illness. Then this is my favorite (not) of them all: the ridicule for seeking and receiving mental health component. I could go on and on for days, but I’ll sum it up quickly and concisely with a piece of prudent wisdom one of my elders once posed to me in question form: if your arm is broken, wouldn’t you go to the hospital and get it repaired/mended? The exact same is true with your brain. That shrink you dread even thinking about walking through the office door to see may not only save your life, but could be the reason for your major life breakthrough. You may just find that you were the one holding yourself back from greatness. And to throw gasoline on this fire, my play Christians who admonish fellow Christians for seeking mental health, to just pray on it and don’t tell anyone about it...you are a big part of the damn problem. I’m pretty sure that God made psychiatrists and psychologists in the same mold as surgeons. So let the Good Lord lead them to a mental health specialist and get your ig’nant, backwoods, old nigger time religion the fuck outta here. The Lord has and will always empower us to do. And doing could very well mean seeking a mental health specialist. We all know the damage ignoring mental health issues leads to: depression, mental and physical abuse (self-inflicted and upon others), drug, alcohol, and sex addiction, and suicide, chiefly. We can definitely and definitively do more to avoid these calamities and tragedies. But that begins simply by doing. Seek help. Please. I could spend time talking in-depth about my own personal battles with depression or the time I was determined to kill myself. But I’d rather leave you with the affirmation of seeking mental health by telling you my discussions with my Doc has made me a better person and helped me through my depression. All praise be to God. Again, if you feel you may suffer from some form of mental illness, please seek treatment. It may save your life as well. Many blessings.
MNR: March Madness
Research me, you can see I was never playing. I’m who babies are talking to when you don’t know what they’re saying. I’m who they communicate with. The code of a nigga who don’t tell or say shit...
With each passing day and game, the reality of the LeBron James “led” Los Angeles Lakers 2019 Playoffs push seems more and more unlikely. 4.5 games back as of the release of this blog, the LAL face a very unforgiving schedule. And while nothing is impossible until mathematics says so, I can’t call it. But after a late Saturday night loss to the NBA worst (record) Phoenix Suns in the desert in the first of a crucial series of “must win” games, the likelihood of a LeBron-less 2019 NBA Playoffs is seemingly on the horizon. In all honesty, this really isn’t a surprise. This team never recovered from a critical 18 game stretch in which Bron was sidelined by injury (his first major time missed due to injury since his football days at St. Vincent St. Mary’s). Losing the oft-maligned Lonzo Ball only added injury to injury. But the flash KO came in the aftermath of an unsuccessful attempt to gut most of the young talent on the roster via a trade for the great Anthony Davis down NOLA. It has seemingly stripped the youngsters of all morale. They look like I used to when my dad would promise to come scoop me on Friday nights but NEVER showed. I just sat by the window with my lil weekend bag packed, forced to face the reality of a no-show after hours of patiently wishing on a star. That’s a fucked up feeling. But it’s easy to see that most of the young Lakers roster has never recovered from the failed trade. I wasn’t raised in this era so I’m not the type to coddle a young’n when he’s down and out deep in his feelings. Pick your dick up. You don’t sulk when that direct deposit hits twice erry month. So miss us with the Ralph Tresvant sensitivity. But I’m seeing a bigger problem. A problem we’ve all seen and recognized in the past: Bron’s attitude. I watched that man walk off the floor and into the locker room with seconds left on the clock late in the 4th. Sure, the fate of the game was already in the bag. But you NEVER leave your men in the field of play/battle/whatever. Then his postgame press conference (like many others lately) threw concise subs at his young buoys. He’s yet to accept any type responsibility. Leaders usually get the lion’s share of praise in triumph. The system is set up that way. But on the flip side, they’re also liable for the majority of the criticism when the team falls short. I’ve yet to have seen even a smidge of contrition throughout this disgusting experience. Seems like the King is either too good to accept any of the blame or two busy. I’ll ponder the latter for the blog’s sake. Bron’s got the barber shop talk show on cable, he’s been very vocal on social issues the last few years, and he’s in the process of shooting the sequel to the classic Space Jam. He’s very busy. I just wonder if his side business is affecting his play on the floor...it isn’t. It’s none of the above. I know exactly what’s wrong with King James. It’s always been present. Most of us have conveniently chosen to ignore the obvious: Bron Bron is a diva. Matter fact, he’s the new millennium prototype diva. Let us not forget how he ran Coach Blatt out of Cleveland a half season after a tough Finals loss. He made sure Blatt got gone midway through the following season, the year the Cavs and city of Cleveland won it all. Sure, Coach Lue had the ideal temperament and pedigree to deal with Bron, not to mention X’s and O’s savvy. But Blatt didn’t do anything to warrant getting kicked out on his ass. Take notes Luke Walton. You’re next. But you actually deserve it. You’re ass. Also, Bron’s alienation of teammates is also extensive. He couldn’t stand Kevin Love. He alienated him. We all know he and Kyrie didn’t get along. I’m not putting the blame solely on Bron. But with him being the established vet, with him being the one and only King James, he coulda done more to forge that bond. They would still be winning ‘ships to this day. Why wouldn’t they? They dethroned the defending champion and record-breaking 73 win Warriors in dramatic come from behind fashion. They almost had it all. But noooooo (Uncle Elroy voice). They split like Eric B. and Rakim, dead in midst a prime run. Now there’s the Lakers babies: Kuzma, Ingram, Ball, etc. they all look like a defeated crew. That’s on Bron. Sorry. Once again, Bron can galvanize this squad. Not in the press, but behind closed doors. But he’s chosen to treat them like the help. Sure, they may be the help. But you need the help to win. Trust me, this 2019 season will live to be a definitive smear on the King James legacy. Unless you ask his mighty legion of fluffers...
And oh yeah...I’m sick and tired of all you Bron Stans. Y’all worse than the Hov Stans. He can do absolutely no wrong in y’all eyes. Even when he fails y’all find a way to justify and flip the narrative. It’s disgusting. Stop defending his bullshit. And I’m sorry, but a career 3-6 Finals record is not GOAT status. Let’s not forget the colossal breakdown when Dirk sniped Miami like the Heat were a South American president of a defiant dictatorship. Or Ray Allen bailing him out versus the Spurs in that classic Finals. Or Kyrie bailing him out in the Golden State Finals. Or his epic 8 point Finals effort. 8 fucking points? MJ would never. Kareem would never. Bird would never. Isiah would never. I can keep going. But you meat glazers get the picture. He’s an amazing player. Top 10, possibly Top 5. But he’s not the GOAT. Kill that noise. Word to MC Shan.
Big ups to Bucktown’s finest, the legendary Smif-N-Wessun and their latest release The All. It’s classic SNW material, time and age appropriate. I’m loving every track but Testify, Dreamland (featuring Raekwon), Ocean Drive (featuring my nigga Musiq Soulchild and the oft slept-on Rapsody), Let Me Tell Ya (with Rozay), and Stahfallah are my standouts. BCC for life. RIP to the Ruckus, the amazing Sean Price. It’s my time y’all. Stay warm and stay paid.