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...