Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who Is The G.O.A.T.?....Part 3: The Notorious B.I.G.

Back blogging live from the beautiful neighborhood of Crocker-Amazon to bring you guys the third installment of the G.O.A.T. series. If you missed the first one with Jay-Z, check it here. If you missed part two featuring Rakim, check it there. If you followed the first two, you will notice two different kinds of reviews. They didn't necessarily follow the same format so I'm going to be switching it up again for thus third entry. Just trying to find which writing style is the best so sorry for any confusion or any perceived lack of cohesiveness.

Now that we got that out of the way, the third person I will looking at to determine who truly is the G.O.A.T. is the one and only Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls aka Frank White aka Big Poppa aka Mr. Throw D*** to Dykes, R.I.P. He really doesn't need an introduction but I'll give one anyways just in case. Biggie was recorded two studio albums and has two classics to his name. He has one of the greatest debut albums of all time in Ready To Die. Big not only is one of the most revered MC's to come out of the great 90's era but it one of the most iconic MC's of all time. Jay-Z owes a lot of his career to Big from all the lines that he bites (just kidding, all Jay-Z fans please don't become enraged). I do feel Puffy owes a majority of his career to him though. Think about what Puffy has done recently. Not much that we see, although he does handle his business that is not in the eye of the public. But look at how he was able to even get to that level. The reason Puffy could branch out his entrepreneurial skills was because of his successful record label at Bad Boy. Bad Boy with Biggie and Craig Mack on his roster, not the one with Machine Gun Kelly, French Montana, Red Cafe, and Los aka The Mixtape Beat Jackin Whisperer. No disrespect to Craig mack but the reason why Bad Boy was as big as it was was because of star power of one Mr. Christopher Wallace. He made the dope music to make Bad Boy a legitimate record label to be reckoned with. Big is the reason Puffy even won a grammy for I'll Be Missin' You. But enough talking about Puffy. That's for another time. I feel like I'm just giving him more unnecessary shine. Let's get to talking about the great Biggie Smalls.

It's ironic that Craig Mack was the one that was supposed to blow up for Bod Boy records but then the remix to Flava In Ya Ear happened. Shout out to Easy Mo Bee for producing the track too. He played a HUGE part in making Ready To Die the classic that it is but I digress. Craig Mack was set to blow until the world heard Big's verse and all of a sudden no one really cared about Craig Mack anymore and the hype was now surrounding the husky boy whose words just seemed to fall out of his mouth. It was just a preview of the talent that Big possessed. He gave us some of what he did best which was humor and just dope bars. Spoiler alert, Big wasn't enlightening anyone with his words. He was a New York street rapper meaning how he said what he said was more important than any message he would have delivered.

If you throw the ingredients to make a successful rapper into a blender minus a social message, then Biggie Smalls is what would come out. He made up for the lack of social message by being an inspiration to those who grew up the same way that he did. Big did not make his past as a drug dealer or a crook any secret and let his listeners know that yeah, that lifestyle will bring you money and power but it won't be enough to overcome all the heartbreak and paranoia that comes along with it. On to one of Big's stronger qualities now which was storytelling. I completely underestimated that ability of his until I went back and gave him a thorough listen. It has become something of a lost art nowadays where a rapper might throw one storytelling song onto an album but Big had plenty of them and did them well. I know I'm about to say some stuff that has been said a million times but Biggie was able to paint pictures with his words and put you right there in the scene. He did so in a way that was engaging and kept you intrigued to see how each song ended. I think Biggie should be mentioned as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century but you know how this country won't give a black rapper that kind of love. Now I haven't given Slick Rick a proper listen but I believe Big can claim the title to greatest storyteller of all time. I don't know how much of it is real and how much he made up but he makes it so damn convincing that it really doesn't matter. It's weird how we blast rappers for not being authentic or what have you but we'll complain when Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't win an Oscar for playing a druggie, sleezy, Wall Street con artist. It's media. People need to sell their materials in order to put food on the table. Sometimes you have to lie to get that paper. I don't think Rick Ross really cares that people don't believe anything he says. Rick Ross would make a great WWE villain actually. There's too many examples of Big's great storytelling on two albums that I can't even go through them all, so I'll give examples of a few. Not only is the Intro on Ready To Die one of the greatest intros on any album ever but it set the stage for the album so we knew exactly where he was when Things Done Changed came on. Then he had Gimmie The Loot where he is playing different characters and Warning with possibly my favorite opening lines ever with "who the fuck is this paging me at 5:46 in the morning, crack of dawning, now I'm yawning, wipe the cold out my eye, see who's this paging me and why." Then on that same Ready To Die album he had my favorite Biggie track in Everyday Struggle, shout out to The Wackness. I thought I was going through the struggle right there with Biggie for a second. That is a beautiful piece of art right there. I haven't even gotten to Life After Death yet. But i'm going to lay off the storytelling aspect of Life After Death because that was a different animal compared to his debut and brought Biggie up from the ranks of a dope rapper to a star.

Biggie fans are just like any other fans in any genre. He dropped two albums and fans either like one or the other more. Fans who like actual rapping ability and a more cohesive project from front to back will like Ready To Die more. He had some great commercial tracks on there like Big Poppa and arguably his biggest hit in Juicy but what made him a mainstay on the radio and ensured that everyone him was the double album that was Life After Death. It was definitely more geared to radio plays while sprinkling in his street records. Big took 2pac's advice and made hits for the girls because that is how a rappers gets singles to be successful. That was what makes rappers like Biggie so appealing is the ability to craft songs that both "underground" rap fans and Top 40 fans can both enjoy. Who doesn't know his verse on Mo Money Mo Problems. Everyone can at least recite some of it off the top of their head. This ability to appeal to both the hardcore and casual rap fan is something that is a common denominator you see in the ones who are mentioned as the greatest of all time with the exception of Nas. You look at Jay, Biggie, Eminem, and you see Kanye nowadays mentioned in this conversation and they are because they have skill and know how to make hits.

The last reason why Biggie is considered one of the greatest is because he never released any bulls***. We all know that Big left us too early but that meant that he never had the chance to release sub par material. Every time his pen hit the pad, it was candy to the ears. Look at how much b.s. is released nowadays and it is amazing that Big didn't have any filler. If he was around nowadays, I doubt he would be a slave to the constant pressure of releasing new material because he would be at a status where he would have been above that. The time he took between releasing albums let us know he wasn't just trying to give the public his art as soon as he finished it, but he took his time crafting it. I understand the music industry, especially hip-hop, is in a different place today than in the mid-90's because artists don't have the luxury of time to wait multiple years between projects. They feel the need to constantly release something to keep themselves in the public eye. However, that separates the greats from the average ones. Look at Kendrick. He's got one major label album out, yet everyone is anticipating his follow up. He's kept himself relevant on features and dropped some stuff here and there but that first album was so good, and he has taken his time in crafting his next album that people are anticipating greatness when it does drop. Artists nowadays still can take their time and do the quality over quantity approach. They just have to make sure when that quality does drop, that it is some fire and not some dog shit.

Shout out to Christopher Wallace and his long lasting influence. He still looms large over hip-hop nearly 20 years after he passed away. Rappers coming up now and that were there before him refer to him as one of their favorite MC's ever. He had the respect of everyone and definitely had the talent to back up all the claims of greatness. Thanks for reading...peace.

What's On Your Mind- Eric B. and Rakim

Forever Beef- Lootpack feat. Oh No and Medaphor

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Roots: How I Got Over

I know it isn't new or anything like that but I've been listening to The Roots' excellent 2010 album, How I Got Over A LOT recently so I decided to put up a review for it. We'll file this in the classics review section for Crocs In The Amazon. It was the 9th studio album for The Roots and is my personal favorite album for the group out of Philadelphia. For those who are wondering, How I Got Over is #1 followed by Illadelph Halflife then Things Fall Apart. Anyways, on to the album...

1) A Piece Of Light- Just a little intro to set the mood. I usually just skip it but not taking anything away from it.

2) Walk Alone feat. Truck North, P.O.R.N., and Dice Raw- The theme of the album is people who start off in unfavorable situations growing up and achieving something with their lives. This track signifies the attitude that many who live that life and need to "get over" have. They feel like they are alone, no one quite understands them. This can either break the person or make them stronger. And "walking alone" does not have to be taken as a literal term for someone not having a support system.  It could also signify that people in the ghetto who do not get that support system from the government to achieve something with their lives. They have terrible public school systems, not the finest grocery stores leading to unhealthy lives, etc. Those people are alone in their endeavor for a better life.

3) Dear God 2.0 feat. Monsters of Folk- This is Black Thought speaking to God and praying for something better. It is as if God doesn't know what is going on because he is letting God know of all the problems going on in his personal life. Black Thought is living a stressed life because of work and bills, bills and work. Black Thought still has faith in God but he just wants answers as to why things are the way they are. All the natural disasters, recession, and job cuts seem to only effect the poor. Black Thought is venting to God in hope that he hears his cries for help.

4) Radio Daze feat. Blu, PORN, and Dice Raw- One of my favorite rappers, Blu, makes his first appearance on the album and does not disappoint. He said he had more tracks recorded for the album but this is one of the two that made the cut. Blu sets the tone for the track where he details how hard it is for an underground rapper like himself to get some love and shine. He knows he is doper than everyone on the radio but because he refuses to change his style up, he realizes he will always be looked over. At the same time, it isn't like he resents anyone on the radio. PORN continues Blu's theme of the radio putting a "daze" on listeners. Because of the "petty perceptions" and "window dressing for misdirection," up and coming rappers think this is the only way to make it in hip-hop. In a way, this helps those who do make it "get over" but at the same time it fails so many more who try to go the same route and fail because they spend so much time trying to eat from these rappers when all they are feeding us is empty calories.

5) Now Or Never feat. Phonte and Dice Raw- Real good motivational song. Dice Raw's hook is simple. You have to adapt in order to succeed. You must change with the times in order to progress in life. Life won't wait for you to make that jump though. It's either you do it now or you miss the boat. Another great feature this time delivered by another one of my favorite artists, my man Tigallo aka Phonte. He looks back on his past and admits his mistakes but he isn't using that as an excuse to not progress. He using those mistakes as teaching lessons because knows he can't be doing the same shit if he wants to make it in life and get over. 

6) How I Got Over feat. Dice Raw- The title track's hook quickly gets to the point. That whole "don't give a fuck" attitude is one of the dumbest things ever. You will quickly make yourself look like a fool if you live by that motto. This is the first track on the album that Black Thought is just spitting bars by himself and it is beautiful. I don't even know how many times I replayed that second verse. Black Thought isn't taking bullshit from people talking down on him or his people. He's letting them know that he has their back and wants to be the voice for them. Black Thought is the voice of reason in a culture where reason is seemingly thrown out the window.

7) Dillatude- Classy tribute to J DIlla.

8) The Day feat. Blu, Phonte, and Patty Crash- Another positive song and this time about having eternal hope. Everyday is a new day and will only be terrible if you let it. You have to wake up in the morning with a positive mind state. If not, there is no way short of winning the lotto that the day is going to be good. You gotta be like Soulja Boi every morning and turn that swag on. Solid verses all around from Blu, Black Thought, and Phonte. No quotables but that's okay because that was just a good song overall.

9) Right On feat Joanna Newsom and STS- Not feeling this track too much. The first track on the album that hit the skip button. I feel like they could have cut this one out. Or just made it an instrumental because the beat was dope.

10) Doin' It Again- Black Thought goddamn. "Unsung, underrated, underappreciated, the one the underachievers had underestimated." That's his career in a nutshell. I'm confused because I like the features that The Roots do on all their projects but when they let Black Thought loose, he goes off. So I don't know which I like more. Like Right On should have just been Black Thought spitting some raw shit.

11) Fire feat. John Legend- Once again, Black Thought is killing these solo tracks. It's some more positive, motivational bars. I don't know if the radio doesn't want to play The Roots or if The Roots don't want to be played on the radio but there is no reason this should not be on the radio. John Legend is on the damn track for god's sake. This track feels like the culmination of the album. The album started off as Black Thought being pissed at the world but now he is on top of it because he wasn't content with where he was at. He didn't wait for something to happen either. He worked his ass off along with Questlove to make The Roots a legendary group that will live in hip-hop lore forever. So he can now look at his work and all the accomplishments with a smile on his face.

I didn't review the last two tracks but whatever. I think the album should have ended on Fire so that's where I'll end the review. Black Thought was on point throughout the entire album and the features were perfect. With this album, Black Thought jumped from the rappers I thought were dope category into the My favorite rappers of all time category. He was not outshined on any of the tracks where there were features and he absolutely murdered the tracks where he was on by himself. The Roots are like the San Antonio Spurs. The band may have changing parts throughout the years but the main guys in Black Thought and Questlove have stayed the same and the band has enjoyed unparalleled success in hip-hop. They continue to drop amazing projects on a seemingly yearly basis and really have no peers at their level.

Some final thoughts on How I Got Over. This is a near perfect album for me. Like I said I wasn't feeling the last two tracks to close the album out and wasn't sold on Right On. Other then that, I have no complaints. It's a 9.5/10 album for me, an A album. It was perfect at only about 45 minutes. There were no wasted verses, the hooks were catchy and had real great messages behind them. The beats were on point. It is a project that should be played on the radio. Like I said before, I have no idea why it isn't on the radio but that's neither here nor there. If you haven't listened to it yet, please give it a listen. It will brighten up your day. Also let me know if you want me to review any album, new or old. peace

Oddisee- Own Appeal

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ab Soul- These Days

Ab Soul finally has released his major label debut album that fans have been clamoring for. These Days is following Soul's excellent 2012 Control System so expectations were high. Not only was Control System an amazing piece of work but look at the pressure Soulo is under. He has to keep the momentum going for the best label out right now in TDE. Ever since Control System dropped, Kendrick dropped Good Kid Maad City and a million features. Schoolboy Q released Oxymoron. Isaiah Rashad and Sza were both signed and released very solid projects of their own. No one can really remember the last subpar Jay Rock verse. The point is TDE has been on a roll and Soul is looking to keep that going. There is a lot of expectations for the album but did it meet them?

I'll just get to the tracks which I didn't like out of the way first. Hunnid Stax, Dub Sac, and Sapiosexual I could do without. Those songs I straight up just didn't like. When I see Schoolboy and Soulo on a track together, I'm expecting Druggys Wit Hoes, not the generic "fuck bitches, get money." If you're going for that radio hit, make that shit fun like Druggys Wit Hoes. I don't understand why rappers on the radio who do that money, hoes, drugs stuff take themselves so seriously. Make that shit fun to listen to that can make people laugh when they singing along to it because they know how stupid it is too, but I digress. And one last thing on Hunnid Stax, someone please get Mac Miller off of here. From what I hear on the internet, Mac has improved a lot since his Blue Slide Park and Kids These Days projects but shit, I haven't heard it. I haven't listened to his solo projects yet from from the features I've heard him on I just am not impressed. And if you somehow come across this Mac, I'm still going to listen to your solo stuff so I'm not saying you suck as an artist (you got bars as Larry Fisherman), I'm just saying I haven't liked the features you've been on.

A track that perfectly sums up how I feel about the album is Twact. I have no idea what that means and I love Ab-Soul's verse but please someone never let Jinx (or Short Dawg idk) near a mic again. "I stay in the lines like I'm coloring." I don't even have to say anything else about that weak ass line. I hated the song for a good three days just because of that line but I don't hold grudges so I kept listening to it and it grew on me. I love the beat, I love the hook, and I love Soulo's last verse and how he sounded on that beat. It gives me some hope that he can make it on the radio with the right feature (not that I think he cares about that). He has a chance to make it mainstream, but I don't think he can do so by himself. He needs a big name to get people's attention but the potential is there. Another example of how I think he can make it mainstream is the next song Just Have Fun. Great sequence btw since Twact is all about having fun and is some "turn-up" music, Just Have Fun's hook is "Do the Drugs don't let the drugs do you." Definitely a nice little PSA to all the ravers out there who just swallow pills and 80% of the time are lucky nothing happens to them because guarantee they have no idea what they are ingesting. My favorite line in the track was "I never paid tuition but I paid attention, that's why I gotta make it count when they pay admission." Another great message you don't hear on the radio. There's a lot of public school kids who don't pay tuition. It shows if you take advantage of a free education, people will pay you well to perform at your job whether you are on stage or sitting in a cubical as long as you take your education seriously.

Another standout from the album was Closure. A lot of people hated Closure but I liked it. I always like when artists get introspective and I appreciated this from Soulo. He is still shaken up by the loss of Alori Joh and is not even pretending that he has gotten over it. Even his rebound girl (sorry Yaris) can't help him overcome the loss. People didn't like that he was crooning the whole time but I liked the change of pace. It shows versatility.

It took me a while, but These Days has grown on me a lot. At first, I thought it was a good album but I was mad that it wasn't as good as Control System. Although I wasn't expecting it to be the same album, I was expecting some of the same content but with more radio friendly beats. After realizing how stupid I was for expecting that kind of album, I listened to it again and really couldn't believe all the hate that it as been getting so far online. This is one of the better albums of 2014 for me. It isn't at the top but it's in the top 6 or 7 for me personally. I'd give the album a B-

Check what Talib Kweli had to say about the album, pretty dope.

Also 2014 been a pretty dope year so far for Ab-Soul features, check some of the favorites.

Nitty Scott- Apex Feat Ab-Soul

Smoke DZA- Hearses feat Ab-Soul

Common- Made In Black America feat. Ab-Soul

Sunday, March 2, 2014

State of the WWE...Road To Wrestlemania

Wanted to take a break from talking about hip-hop and sports and get into some other topics...like the World Wrestling Entertainment. Wrestlemania season is right around the corner which is the most exciting time for fans of the WWE. With stories, storylines, and anticipation at a high that the company probably won't reach the rest of the year, it now seems like a good time to make a State of the Union address from a fan on the complete opposite side of the country from where the headquarters are located. If I had a show, there would be a rundown of topics I will talk about but since I don't have a show or have the knowledge to do that even if I had a show, I'll just list what I will talk about: John Cena, the Wyatts, the Shield, CM Punk, Randy Orton vs Batista, and Daniel Bryan.

The biggest draw for the WWE the last decade has undoubtedly been John Cena. I was a huge fan back in the day and how could you not be. With his Thuganomics gimmick, he was something fresh and hilarious. It seemed like everyone loved him. Then he started to win...A LOT. After that, it seemed like fans were just getting sick of Cena getting shoved down our throats week after week. With Cena being the posterboy, he was always involved in the Wrestlemania spotlight. Every John Cena Wrestlemania match since 2005 (his first actual Wrestlemania match was 2004 and he won the US Title) was for the WWE title (or Heavyweight Title). I take that back, the only match in that time period that wasn't for the title was when he faced the Rock at Wrestlemania 28 in "Once In A Lifetime" part I. Also in that time period, John Cena always faced an established superstar (I'm pretending The Miz match didn't happen). This year's event appears to be heading in a different direction. Not only is John Cena probably going to steer clear of a title match he will be facing a fresh face in Bray Wyatt (at least that is the way it appears and I hope it turns out that way), which is a perfect segue to talk about Bray Wyatt and the amazing work he has done since coming onto the scene.

Bray Wyatt and his family (Luke Harper and Eric Rowan) burst onto the scene this past summer and made their mark. Bray established himself as the cult leader and gave WWE a character they have been severely lacking for a long time. I don't know if WWE will ever again come up with characters like The Undertaker, Kane, or Goldust anymore but Bray Wyatt is probably the closest thing they will get to those kinds of characters. Bray has come in and has made that character his own. Everything about him screams creepy cult leader from the blowy shirt to the tattoos to the beard to the long hair to the mannerisms when he opens his mouth to the way he paces back and forth when speaking. He is a person fans either are afraid of or absolutely love. The night he debuted the fans chanted Husky Harris because that was the character he broke in as but I do not think anyone chants that anymore and that is a credit to the job that Bray Wyatt has done. He is the best in the business right now whenever he touches a microphone because when he speaks, he commands attention. John Cena, Triple H, and Daniel Bryan may scream and shout more but no one makes an audience hang on to his every word quite like Bray Wyatt. He is the complete opposite of what John Cena is. This is the reason that this match is going to be the most anticipated match up for Wrestlemania 30. It doesn't involve a title match, it doesn't involve John Cena in a title match but it does involve John Cena. The common hate that John Cena receives is that he is such a stale character. WWE is too scared about their ratings and think that they must have John Cena be champion in order for fans to care or for viewership to stay up. That is not the case. John Cena is still the biggest draw in the company, I'm not arguing that. There are plenty of reasons for that. But the reason this match will be so intriguing is because this is a match that the John Cena haters have been waiting for. A match against a fresh superstar who is a legitimate threat to Super Cena. No one can predict how the match will end up. Bray Wyatt has a ton of momentum right now and it would be foolish to have him lose to Cena at Wrestlemania because 1) it could be a potential career killer for Bray and 2) Cena losing does absolutely nothing to hurt his own legacy. However, WWE is known to go against logic so it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Cena pull off a miracle victory while fighting off all 3 Wyatt family members. Personally, I think Bray Wyatt will score a victory but it will be because John Cena will get distracted by Harper and Rowan at ringside.

From talking about Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family, I'll start talking about the "other" trio that has been dominating WWE for the past year and some change and that is The Shield, made up of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns. From the way things appear, it looks like the three are going to break up and have a Mexican stand off at the big show, possibly with Dean Ambrose's US Title on the line. Strange how things changed from the time this trio debuted. I still think they are a better team than the Wyatt Family (and I just watched their match from the Elimination Chamber again) because all three members of the Shield can hold their own and I am confident all three will have successful singles careers. But when they broke in, they claimed to have no leader yet it was clear that Dean Ambrose was positioned to be the breakout star. He was the best mic worker and had the US Title around his waist. Seth Rollins (known as Tyler Black in his independent days) was the acrobatic one who took all the hard falls, like a Jeff Hardy that could wrestle. Roman Reigns was the muscle, the enforcer. He didn't say too much. As time went on, Roman Reigns is the one positioned to be the breakout star of the group, with Rollins probably ending up with a Dolph Ziggler/Daniel Bryan-like career and Dean Ambrose will probably be forever chasing the Intercontinental Title and feuding with Kofi Kingston. I think they all have main event potential but whatever, that's not what I'm talking about here. The possible triple threat match is going to be exciting because as much as fans loved the Shield's dominance as a group, it had to come to an end sometime. The three guys are just too good to not go their separate ways and their break up will happen on the biggest stage. I predict Roman Reigns wins the match by pinning Ambrose and we'll see what happens from there.

One of the big stories (as of March 1) is going to be of someone who will not be in attendance. In the five weeks between now and Wrestlemania, CM Punk might come back to WWE but as of right now he is not on the roster, or as Vince McMahon would like to say...he is on a sabbatical. Punk left the night after the Royal Rumble and no one is entirely sure why. There have been different rumors and if I had to throw my two cents in, I think he left because of Batista winning the Royal Rumble match. CM Punk has voiced his displeasure in the past with people like The Rock getting to headline Wrestlemania and Batista winning did nothing to smooth out those feathers. I too disagree with part timers taking the spotlight from talented individuals like Punk and Bryan who have amazing crowd support plus bust their butts every show to not get their proper recognition as the stars of the company. Fans have been vocal at shows for their support of CM Punk but who knows if he will be back for Wrestlemania. I would hope he is but I do not know where that would leave him in the scheme of things. Does he insert himself into the Batista vs Randy Orton match, does he insert himself into the Bryan vs Triple H storyline? I don't think he will be back because there won't be a logical spot for him. Plus that would be hypocritical of him to quit on the company then come back right before Wrestlemania season and demand a main event spot at the event.

I alluded to it earlier but the Batista and Randy Orton is going to "headline" Wrestlemania. It is pretty sad that championship matches hardly are the spectacle they once were at Wrestlemania. Title matches are no longer guaranteed to close out the show and generally are not the focus of the event anymore despite that being the grandest prize in the business. The only other WWE Title match (I'm not counting the Heavyweight title matches) I can recall that has been met with a universal yawn was The Miz vs John Cena back in 2011. I don't know how anyone could possibly in their wildest dreams be excited about that match, which is funny because I don't know anyone can possibly be excited about this year's title match. I understand Vince McMahon's want of a big name draw to bring in those extra buys for Wrestlemania but I don't believe Batista to be that guy to bring those ratings in. At least The Rock was someone the fans wanted to see back in the ring and is a bonafide Hollywood star. Batista on the other is mehh to the wrestling fan. He was an integral part of business when he was a regular but when he left in 2010, no one was really longing for a Batista return. I'd rather see Ric Flair in the ring than Batista, and that statement is coming from a fellow Filipino. Notice how in this paragraph I didn't mention Randy Orton. No one even cared I didn't mention him. Although I will say that I absolutely loved the mannerisms he was pulling at the Elimination Chamber. He was playing the guy you just want to punch in the face but somehow always ends up on top. I can honestly see either guy coming out on top and neither is an appealing choice so I'll mix it up and say Daniel Bryan somehow gets into the match and wins the title.

Speaking of Daniel Bryan, he is the superstar that is on the biggest roll in the company. He has complete crowd support and he delivers on every match. Rich Homie Quan based his mixtape, I Go In On Every Song, on Daniel Bryan's wrestling style. As I just said I am praying that Bryan somehow gets involved in the title match and walks away as champion but I have been watching WWE for far too long and know that Vince McMahon would rather have his way than listen to the fans. It is ironic because Triple H keeps using the line "best for business" yet he constantly holds Bryan back when he is the hottest wrestler in the business. This long standing confrontation between the two have led to their match at Wrestlemania. I fully expect Bryan to win this match if it still proceeds but I would not put it past Triple H to have one last shining moment. I do not think that will happen though because it seems like Triple H is looking to model himself after his father-in-law. The thing that I will give Vince credit for is that whenever he showed up for a match at Wrestlemania, he made sure to get his ass kicked and then some. I don't anticipate Triple H to get a whooping but I don't believe he will steal Bryan's spotlight.

There is my way too early predictions/preview for Wrestlemania XXX in New Orleans. I hope Daniel Bryan gets his proper shine at the event. I hope each member of The Shield looks strong if they do have a triple threat match. And I hope that the Bray Wyatt and John Cena match is everything I think it could be. Can't wait to "order" it and watch Wrestlemania on TV.

Danny Brown- XXX

Friday, February 28, 2014

Who Is The G.O.A.T.?....Part 2: Rakim

I'm back for part two of the G.O.A.T. series and this one will feature the legendary, talented, amazing, trailblazing, super, God MC known as Rakim. Btw if you missed part one featuring Jay-Z, check that one here. Odds are pretty high that if your favorite rapper emerged in the 90's, there was a great chance his (or her) favorite rapper was Rakim. He influenced any rapper that has some skill on the mic. The man was revolutionary. I wasn't even alive during his reign as the best MC but that goes to show how much he meant to the game when I'm speaking of Rakim in this vain. However, because I wasn't around during Rakim's vice grip on the rap game in the late 80's and early 90's it is impossible for me to have perspective on just how much he meant to the art of rapping. I can only see what others have said about him and look at his work from my perspective. It's like when people say Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all time. You can see highlights and take other people's words for it because you weren't there, but at the same time recognize that people like Jim Brown and Rakim were also ahead of their times. So let's get down to trying to make sense of the God MC's greatness and impact on hip-hop. Btw I'm going to focus on Rakim solely during the Eric B. and Rakim days. Why? Because it's like taking a look at Michael Jordan during his Wizard days. I mean you could do that, but why would you. He was still better than 80% of everyone else but no one is going to remember that part of his career.

From what others have said about Rakim, he was the first to add complexity into his rhyming. For this alone he would be on the Mount Rushmore of rappers. People like Melle Mel was telling stories and had some weight behind what he was saying but he wasn't bending the language like how Rakim could. The Beastie Boys, Run DMC and LL Cool J mainly spoke about how fresh they were but weren't doing so in a complicated manner. What made Rakim special was that he could put messages behind his music, talk about how fresh he was, and just rap for days. If he was around today, he would be one of those guys who can lay down BARS. Also, Rakim knew how to ride a beat. For some weird reason (although probably not a coincidence) all of Eric B's instrumentals sounded like some 4th grader just starting out until Rakim jumped on the beat then they sound like the greatest thing to ever touch your ears. There is no Rakim as the God MC without Eric B and for that the DJ must get some love. That is why together they made four classic albums and once they went their separate ways, you could argue Rakim hasn't made anything on par with those first four albums...but I digress.

So what are some of the tracks that make Rakim one of the all time greats? One of my favorite hip-hop tracks of all time and one track that every rapper and rap fan no matter if you are/like a Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, or even Tyga needs to hear is I Aint No Joke. I could base my whole argument for Rakim as one of the G.O.A.T.'s based on this track alone. He made sure that every single line hit. In that 3 minutes and 55 seconds there was not one wasted breath or throwaway line. I'll just go down the list of classic lines that Rakim put out in that song:

"I hold the microphone like a grudge
 B will hold the record so the needle don't budge"

"Before you know it, you're following and fiending
waiting for the punchline to get the meaning"

"I wake and as I stare in your face you seem stunned"

"I ain't no joke, I used to let the mic smoke
now I slam when I'm done and make sure it's broke"

"When you come up to speak, don't even lie to me
you like to exaggerate, dream and imaginate
then change the rhyme around that can aggravate me
so when you see me, come up, freeze
or you'll be one of those 7 emcees"--> which is a reference to one of his other great lines in My Melody when he said...

"i take 7 emcees, put em in a line
and add 7 more brothers who think they could rhyme
it will take 7 more before i go for mine
now that's 21 emcees ate up at the same time"

Rakim had more quotables in one song then a lot of "lyrical" rappers have in their entire careers. Can anyone name me a Joe Budden line? *crickets* You know what, since I can't really say how great Rakim was because i don't feel like I would be doing him justice since I can't speak to the impact he had at the time, I'm just going to post links to my favorite tracks of his then you guys could make your own conclusions to his place in the pantheon. I have much respect for Rakim but I won't call him my favorite rapper just because I didn't grow up listening to him. That's why a lot of kids now a days don't have Michael Jordan as their favorite basketball player. We all recognize him as one of the greats no doubt, but he was a little before the kids' time which is why they love Kobe and LeBron. Nothing wrong with that, just as long as they recognize MJ and Rakim as one of the greats, I'm good and so should all the OG's. If I had to rank the two rappers I have looked at so far it would be...
1) Rakim
2) Jay-Z

Part 3 coming soon with the Notorious BIG.

Here are the links of classic Rakim songs where you can make your own judgements to his greatness.

I Know You Got Soul
Paid In Full
Casualties Of War
Know The Ledge
Don't Sweat The Technique
Follow The Leader
Lyrics Of Fury
The "R"
Let The Rhythm Hit Em
In The Ghetto 

Murs- You & I

Pink- Just Give Me A Reason

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Name Change

Attention to all 0 of my subscribers. Changing the name of the blog from slimsamurai to crocsintheamazon. It was time for a name change. New name, same great content. Hopefully you guys don't get lost.

Flatbush Zombies- 222

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Slim Pickens/XXL Freshmen Predictions

It's that time of the year again. I'm guilty of it, you're guilty of it, hip-hop fans everywhere are guilty of it. The XXL Freshmen issue is coming soon and we will all be up in arms at the choices and we act as if XXL is the holy grail when it comes to this stuff. We all know making the cover of XXL is like winning an ESPY. It really doesn't mean anything other than giving an artist publicity and there is no such thing as bad publicity. Since I will be going over the XXL cover when it comes out, let's get it on with the 2014 Slim Pickens, formerly known as the Slim Samurai Freshmen. Check out my picks from 2013 here. Let's just say it wasn't a good year for me in terms of selections. I really picked J. Pinder. I don't even remember why I picked that guy. Anyways, the way Slim Pickens works is that these are 10 rappers who I was really digging this past year (some have been buzzing for several years) who have yet to release a studio album. These guys/girls have yet to blow up and may not blow up this year, but I feel like they should get their proper recognition...as if anyone reads this blog. But if you like this blog and like the artists I will be talking about, then tell people and spread the word. I now present...the 2014 Slim Pickens

Honorable Mentions: 
Amber London- check her out here

Kevin Gates- I love his Luca Brasi mixatape but out of respect for how long he has been in the game, i couldn't say that he was a freshman. check Paper Chasers

Boldy James- He would have been on here if My First Chemistry Set wasn't an album. If I could do it over, that would have been in my top 10 albums of the year. check Moochie

Rich Homie Quan- had a big year with Type Of Way and released I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In. Probably going to be on the XXL cover.

Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire
Here we have a 2013 Slim Pickens repeat. I will continue to put eXquire on this list until he gets his proper recognition. If you read my albums of the year list, you would have noticed that Kismet was my favorite project of the year. I held eXquire in high regards before that but when that dropped and  gave it a thorough listen, he became one of those rappers that I will follow their every move. There aren't many rappers where I will look for every track they are on and listen to but he is in that VIP club. Please download Kismet if you have not. Here is a link. And eXquire almost didn't make Slim Pickens because according to his twitter rant, Kismet was supposed to be the album that he dropped for Universal but they rejected it so eXquire decided to release it for free. I don't understand why a record label like Universal would sign eXquire then expect him to be something that he's not. That is what baffles me about record companies. What is the point of signing someone and then changing them which disregards why they were signed in the first place? I still got you Mr Muthafuckin. Keep doing you.

Chance The Rapper
Nothing really needs to be said about Chance The Rapper if you followed rap in 2013. Chancellor broke out with one of the more divisive projects of the year in Acid Rap, but whether or not you liked it, he got people talking. Personally I really enjoyed it and it was on my top 10 end of the year list. I think Chance is a breath of fresh air who has already made his presence felt in the hip-hop world. If you haven't heard of him, just go download Acid Rap and make your own opinion. Just get over his voice, it isn't going away.

Vince Staples
I've already talked about Vince Staples on this blog before. I crowned him the breakout star of Earl Sweatshirt's Doris and included his collaboration mixtape, Stolen Youth, with Mac Miller in my top ten albums of the year list. Obviously I feel that the kid from Long Beach has had a very good year. His verse on Hive was one of my favorite verses, if not my favorite, of the year. There is a lot of potential in Vince as the next west coast street rapper. To me, Vince Staples is like the 2014 remix of Spice 1. If there was twitter back in the early 90's I can see Spice saying some of the same stuff that Vince spouts off and I'm not even talking about their music yet. There is a believability in Vince's voice when he speaks. If he says he just robbed someone, he sounds pretty darn convincing. He is supposed to have another project coming out this year so we'll anticipate that. In the meantime you can catch him on tour with Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad. Speaking of Isaiah Rashad...

Isaiah Rashad
This is one guy I fully expect to land on the XXL cover. He dropped an anticipated project in Cilvia Demo and he delivered on it for the most part. I couldn't say there were crazy expectations for it but at least the bar was set as to what kind of rapper the Chattanooga bred MC is. Btw, another reason I feel like he is going to be on the XXL cover other than being dope is that look at the trends of the Freshmen cover. Jay Rock was on it in 2010 (still the best class in my opinion), Kendrick was on it in 2011 (the second best class, TYBG), and Schoolboy Q and Ab Soul were on it last year. You see the pattern. XXL obviously likes having TDE on there and TDE feels comfortable putting their artists on there. It's a relationship. Anyways back to Isaiah Rashad. For some weird reason, when Cilvia Demo first came out, so many experts (aka people who post on forums) were complaining that the project was a dud and how Rashad was such a boring MC. However, once all the professional reviews started to pour in, all of a sudden the opinions changed to how Isaiah is the second best rapper in TDE behind Kendrick. Yeah, most of these opinions by internet people don't mean anything if you haven't already noticed because they will change it once they see an opinion go in the opposite direction. 2014 already started off strong for Isaiah Rashad and we'll see if he can keep that momentum rolling the rest of the year and build on it.

Fat Trel
Washington DC bred Fat Trel had a very fine 2013 for himself after releasing probably my favorite ignorant mixtape of the year in SDMG. If you don't know what that stands for, it is Sex, Drugs, Money, Guns. And I applaud Fat Trel because on that mixtape he followed that concept of SDMG very thoroughly. There wasn't any Aesop Rock lyrical dissection needed. If he said "I fucked your bitch," he meant "I fucked your bitch." That success brought him a deal with Rick Ross and MMG so i'm very interested to see if he can make an impact on the radio. Pretty much all of MMG, with the exception of Stalley and Gunplay (who ironically are considered the two best in the camp), have had their voices heard for mainstream America to hear so we'll see where Fat Trel fits into that dynamic. I'm a tad skeptical because my favorite tracks off of SDMG were No Lamez, Thots, and Bitches. Listen to those tracks and let me know if you could hear them played on your local radio station. Even the songs I like that are not on the tape don't have radio play success ingredients in them like Russian Roulette feat America's sweetheart Chief Keef and Fuk Yo Life. His Started From The Bottom jack did the beat justice though and She Fell In Love is a hilarious attempt at a love song I think. Speaking of She Fell In Love, the reason I stopped following Fat Trel on Instagram is because every ten minutes he would post a pic of him kissing a strippers bootyhole with #Shefellinlove and I don't need to be seeing that everytime I want to look at my feed. In addition to that Fat Trel is a part of the crew Slutty Boyz. Yeah, not exactly the recipe for radio but maybe Officer Ricky has something up his sleeve planned for him. Bottom line is that if you need trunk knockers, ignorance played at ignorant levels, and the police to come looking for you, then play some Fat Trel with the windows rolled down.

This trio comprised of Chris P and Ugly Frank and a producer whose name I don't know is new and was brought to attention by my homie a few weeks back but I like what they are doing. The first track I saw of them was Potty and I love the freshness of the sound they are bringing. The subject matter is nothing to bow down to but it's how they are presenting it that makes them stick out. I can't think of anyone at the moment who spits over the same beats that these two do. This is some super underground shit though that everyone is not going to like. They don't spit anything with some weight behind it though. ILLFIGHTYOU are just some young dudes talking about how dope they are so if you need to have lyrics in your life, then these aren't the guys for you. Case in point, "I'm on a mission for pussy, money, and liquor." However, if you need something to break the rhythm of lyrical overload on all those boom bap beats then these are the guys for you. Even though they are from Tacoma, Washington don't expect Macklemore to be collaborating with them anytime soon.

Azizi Gibson
Azizi is another guy that I have already mentioned on this blog before. His mixtape, Ghost In The Shell, made my top ten album of the year list. So go download that tape if you have not already. For those that don't know, Azizi Gibson is an MC signed to Brainfeeder, which is the label owned by Flying Lotus. Artists there have 100% creative control over their project so Ghost In The Shell was a complete reflection of who Azizi Gibson was as an artist. There wasn't any compromises made as to how he should have crafted that project. The only thing I'm disappointed about is that I haven't heard any music from him outside of that mixtape. On one hand I like the mysteriousness, but I want to hear some new music from him goddammit. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. The title track off of that mixtape was one of my favorite songs of the year btw. I'll keep that on repeat until I hear some new material.

The Underachievers
The Underachievers are a duo comprised of AK and Issa out of Flatbush, Brooklynand have also been featured by this blog on multiple occasions. I named their debut mixtape, Indigosm, as my second favorite project of 2013 at my end of the year list, and compared their rap success to the success that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have enjoyed. Trust me, it seemed like a good idea at the time. They dropped a second mixtape in 2013 called Lords of Flatbush which was not as good as the first mixtape but it wasn't really comparable because they were two different projects. Lords of Flatbush was more of a side project and it was just a bunch of bangers produced by Lex Luger that I didn't like at first but it eventually grew on me. Like Azizi Gibson, The Underachievers are signed to Brainfeeder so they got creative control over their projects and it shows. Along with that Brainfeeder association, they are aligned with Pro Era (Joey Badass and friends) and the Flatbush Zombies which together they form Beast Coast. UA were also featured on the new Talib Kweli album which I cannot find online for the life of me but that shows they got one of the greatest of all time in Talib in their corner. They are supposed to be dropping their studio debut this year so I'll be anticipating that and we'll see what this year has in store for the duo.

Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry is a rapper out of Florida who I jumped on the hype train pretty late. He is a part of Raider Klan which is led by Space Ghost Purp and are still salty about ASAP Mob getting shine. Curry released Nostalgic 64 in 2013 and that album caught me by surprise. When I hear Raider Klan, I did not expect Curry's album to sound anything like it did lyrically. The hooks and the production I saw coming and nothing he said through the first listen really impressed me. Once I went back to it, I realized that he had some skill and wasn't just spitting mindless/boring stuff that Space Ghost Purp is prone to do (honestly he just needs to stick to producing). He's got great flow, something to say, and an understanding of what is happening around him which is what is needed to become successful in music. Be warned though, if you're a generally happy go lucky person you might not want to venture into Denzel Curry. His material is pretty dark. But if you're a depressed person you might not want to listen to this because you just might go out and kill and rob people. So the only people that can listen to Denzel Curry are level headed people.

Finally the last spot on the coveted Slim Pickens list goes to none other than the His Coldness out of Berkeley, 100s. The project that kind of put him on the map was 2012's Ice Cold Perm. It was an underrated one yet one that if you heard it, you loved it. I don't know when it happened but he is now signed to Fools Gold, the record company founded by A-Track and home to artists such as Danny Brown, Trackademicks, and Run The Jewels (El-P and Killer Mike). 100s gained more notoriety in 2013 with appearances on the GTA V soundtrack. Players of the game might remember Life Of A Mack as one of the standout tracks of the entire game. To put it bluntly, 100s is not one of those artists you really want to listen to with your parents. It will be bound to get awkward real quick and your relationship with them may never be the same. In of the very rare interviews he gave, 100s mentioned that his next project will be on some r&b stuff and Ten Freaky Hoes could very well be a preview of what is to come from the mysterious one. When he said he was changing his sound up, I got a little scared but I'm glad to see him keeping that pimp persona that he plays so well. He really is the modern day Too Short remix. 1999 will forever be my anthem.

Now onto my predictions as to who will make the XXL Freshmen cover:

Chance The Rapper
Rich Homie Quan
Vince Staples
Jarren Benton
Fat Trel
Ty Dolla Sign
Isaiah Rashad
Troy Ave
Jon Connor (that Dr Dre cosign tho)
Young Thug

AK feat Juice- I'm High

Freddie Gibbs- Eastside Moonwalker

Monday, February 24, 2014

Schoolboy Q...Oxymoron

After what seemed like forever and then some, Schoolboy Q finally released his "debut" album, Oxymoron. It's actually Q's third album released for sale but this is his first mainstream release. Oxymoron is also the second out of a supposedly six albums that are rumored to be dropping his year by Top Dawg Entertainment, the first being Cilvia Demo by Isaiah Rashad. Check out my review for that one if you have not already. Speaking of Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad, they will be going on tour and will be joined by Vince Staples so go out and support them. Anyways, back to the main focus of this post. Q's been hyping this album ever since he let news out that this is what it was going to be called. He was calling himself the best rapper in Black Hippy and how Oxymoron was going to be better than Good Kid mAAd City but anyone who has ever seen an interview with Schoolboy Q knows he was just talking mess. If you were expecting an album on par lyrically with Kendrick Lamar's debut then you need to go listen to Setbacks and Habits & Contradictions. Q and Kendrick are two completely different rappers but from the responses I have seen so far, it seemed like people were expecting Q to do lyrical gymnastics. It's like expecting Tony Romo to be clutch in the 4th quarter. I guess it could happen in theory but it just won't. What I'm expecting out of this is an album of bangers. This is who ASAP Ferg strives to be. Someone who can knock speakers and not be complete trash while spitting in the vain of Get Rich Or Die Tryin, an album that Q has mentioned was very influential for his style. After the success of Habits & Contradictions, this album has been on everyone's most anticipated list, so we'll see if Schoolboy Q delivered.

To put it bluntly, I enjoyed this album. I still like Habits & Contradictions more and I like Setbacks more as a complete project but I like Oxymoron more for individual tracks. Obviously I was not there for the crafting of the album but it seemed to me that Q made a sacrifice searching for the big hit versus making a top notch project from front to back. He said in his interview with the Breakfast Club that he just wants that one hit to put him in that upper echelon and there were several tracks on here where that was a clear case. However, Q still did him which is being a street dude that can make the trunk bump. He's like what Tyga and French Montana hope one day they could be as rappers, which is ironic because Q wants to reach their status as club hit-makers.

Out of the 15 tracks on the album there were only 3 that I'll hit the skip for sure. One of the unholy trifecta was Los Awesome and I have no idea what in the blue hell that was supposed to be. It was also disappointing too because that was the first time in a very long time where I feel Jay Rock did not kill his verse. He has been on a roll lately after being an afterthought with TDE, but his verse on this did not do him any favors. Keep doing your thing though Jay Rock, I can't wait for that album. I also was not feeling Prescription-Oxymoron, no comment on that. The last track on the album, Fuck LA, was the last that I skip for sure. I don't like Q on that trap sound. Leave that for everyone else Q, you're better than that. The production was cool, but I preferred the beats that he had on his previous two albums. I feel like Q's pocket is better when it sounds like Habits & Contradictions but at the same time, I understand he is trying to evolve and all that good stuff. Like I said earlier, this album felt more like a collection of singles more so than an album. Q has stated that there is a theme with Oxymoron and that is he had to do bad in order to provide good for his daughter and I could see it, but it's getting a little old for me. I know rappers stick to what they do, but it seems like Q has been saying the same thing for 3 albums now. The theme for Setbacks was all the bad stuff he did set him back. The theme for Habits & Contradictions was that his habits were contradicting the positivity he was trying to inject into his life. You see the redundancy here.

With all this bashing, it seems like I didn't even like this album. As Charlie Murphy would say in regards to Rick James....WRONG. I really do like this album. If I put all that crap aside from what I just said and just listen to the album and let it be candy to my ears, it delivers. I could go on about the rest of the tracks that I like but I'll just give the ones I go out of my way to slap: Gangsta, Collard Greens, Hoover Street, Studio feat BJ the Chicago Kid, Blind Threats, Hell Of A Night, Break The Bank, and Grooveline pt 2 (Suga Free still got it). Like I said earlier, if you're expecting Q to hit you with some Kendrick bars just because he is in the same crew, then I'm just assuming you never listened to Schoolboy Q and I'll let that ignorance slide and give you a pass. Q is doing what he does on this album. The best comparison I could come up with is a more party orientated 50 Cent. Let me know if that is way off but if you're going to tell me how stupid I am for that comparison at least give me someone who he compares to.

Completely random thought, but how hard did Trinidad James fall off. He had to create some stupid ass controversy for him just to get semi-relevant again.

In conclusion, Oxymoron was a good album, but not as good as Habits & Contradictions for me at least. People will say it's disappointing because Q was hyping it up a lot, it was the first "album" release by TDE after Good Kid mAAd City, and it was delayed for the longest time. I guess I would call it disappointing too but for an album where I liked 12 out of the 15 tracks, that either says I'm a Russian judge or that was how highly I anticipated the album. I don't really know where Q goes from here. Does he continue to search for that hit that just moves units or does he do a reevaluation and try to craft a solid all around project? I hope he expands his subject matter repertoire but I'm not going to complain if he can deliver trunk bangers that don't make you feel light in the ass. Anyways, if you like this album go support Q, he's got a daughter to feed. Hopefully we get those other four TDE albums this year too. peace

Forgot to give it a grade. Its a B-. Weird because I enjoyed 12 out of 15 tracks but it still left me wanting more.

Damu The Fudgemunk feat. Raw Poetic- Hole Up


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Who Is The G.O.A.T.?....Part 1: Jay-Z

If you go onto any forum that discusses rap music, there will inevitably be several threads that ask the question, "Who Is The G.O.A.T.?" If you don't frequent forums or know what g.o.a.t. means don't trip. It's simply an acronym for Greatest Of All Time. I'm going to look at the discographies of 7 MC's who are generally considered the greatest in these forums. I'm sorry to those super underground heads who believe that Slug, GZA or Aesop Rock are the greatest MC's to ever walk the earth because they are dope but they haven't had the impact that these other dudes have had. Since breaking down all 7 into one post would be like a novel i don't want to write that up and i'm sure you guys would not want to read that all at once. I'll break it up into 7 different posts to make it a little easier on the both of us. So if you're wondering who the 7 are, i won't make you guys wait for each post. The first five are Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, and 2Pac. Now these guys might not necessarily be the 5 greatest but they are usually in some order considered the top 5 in these forums that i was talking about. Whether or not you think they're in the top 5, i don't care. If you were to take a poll of all rap fans in America these five would make up the list. So apologizes to guys like KRS-One, Kool G Rap, LL Cool J, Chuck D, Black Thought, and any other great i'm leaving out. Since i'm doing a greatest MC list it would only be right to take the opinions of rappers into consideration in addition to fanboys like myself and those who post on forums. So two other rappers who are generally considered a couple of the greatest by those in the profession are Scarface and Rakim. I'll be taking a look at their work as well and the impact they had on the hip hop community.

p.s. I'm going to throw Kanye West in there just because he has 4.5 critically acclaimed albums and another that changed hip-hop so I have to give him his due. That means this will be an 8 part series instead of 7 to determine the G.O.A.T.

So let's get it started with part 1 in this series. The first candidate I will be looking at is none other than Jay-Z aka Jay Z aka Sean Carter aka Hov aka Hova aka Jigga. Let me get this part out of the way...Jay is the most successful member of the Hip-Hop community ever. He's done so much for the culture and proved that a drug dealer from the Marcy projects could be shaking hands with the president in due time. Jay did not accomplish everything by becoming a shrewd businessman. He had to have some sort of talent when it came to spitting on the mic. There was a reason the Jigga man is considered one of the greats to ever do it. I'm not too interested in his blowy shirt phase with Jaz-O so the work of Jay's that I am going to focus on is from Reasonable Doubt on.

To me, all the great rappers have an amazing mic presence. Jay is no different. He has great flow and a great voice. He can tell stories, although he doesn't do it as much as I would like, and he knows how to pick beats. It seems like having an ear for beats should be a simple attribute to have, but to be honest not all rappers have that and that separates spitters who live in the underground to those rappers who can move a million records. Speaking of moving a million records, Jay-Z is the greatest successful commercial rapper to have walked the earth. Biggie and Pac probably could have been those dudes but we all know what happened and Jay gladly was the next man up and filled the void. I tend to stay away from record sales numbers when looking at hip-hop artists because they usually mean very little in terms of actual ability but when you sell 75 million record like Jay-Z has or have 11 number one albums like the Jigga man has had, those are numbers that even the biggest hip-hop elitist can't ignore. If you include the collaboration albums that he has done with R. Kelly and Kanye, each and every one of Jay's 15 albums have gone at least platinum. Everything he touches doesn't turn to gold, it turns to platinum (this is the corniest thing I have ever said). In this day and age with fans grabbing music for free, these are mind boggling numbers. How many rappers rappers go platinum? How many rappers release 15 albums? How many musicians in general release 15 albums? The crazy thing about this is that these 15 albums have come out in the last 17 years. The fact that he is releasing mulch-platinum albums on an almost per year basis is unheard of. I asked Questlove on twitter if there is any artist in any genre who has had the run that Jay has been on, but I'm still waiting for the answer. However, like I said earlier, I try not to put too much emphasis on album when looking at who is the greatest MC but when the numbers are as astronomical like that, Jay must be doing something right. That success in mainstream America is Jay-Z's biggest contribution to hip-hop.

Jay didn't sell 75 million records out of thin air. The dude had to have had some talent. To me, Jay's best quality was his flow and his voice. He could rap in double time, he could rap slow, he knew how to enunciate his words so they came out clearly...Jay had the oral part of rapping down. As for the other qualities that make a great MC (storytelling, subject matter, and technical lyricism), Jay was great at those qualities, but he wasn't the greatest at any of them, although he was damn near the top (if not the best) when it came to puns, or entendres. If I could use a modern day sports reference, Jay is like LeBron James. People have probably made this comparison before but the similarities are closer when you dig into it. What makes LeBron so great is that he is amazing at so many things that you need to be good at in order to be a successful basketball player. He isn't necessarily the greatest at any of them though, with the exception of one. Although I haven't been watching basketball to the point where I can use the eye test on past greats, LeBron appears to be the greatest finisher at the rim in history and that is a very underrated skill. That is why his shooting percentages are so darn high every year because he takes a volume of shots close to the basket and he converts on many of them. Other skill areas like jump shooting, 3 point shooting, passing, dribbling, basketball intelligence, rebounding, and defense are things that LeBron is great at but not necessarily the best. What makes him so lethal is that he is 6'8 and 250 pounds and can combine those skills with his body to create a force never seen before in the history of the game. You can equate that to Jay-Z. He may not be the greatest rapper at packing syllables into bars or what have you, but the fact he is so good at the things that backpack/underground rap fans love yet appeals to the commercial rap audience and pop music fans, that creates a deadly combination. That is why he is considered one of the all time greats.

Now on to his actual body of work. The only three albums I was messing with out of Jay's discography were the three obvious ones: Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, and The Black Album. To me, I would rank them 1) The Black Album 2) Reasonable Doubt and 3) The Blueprint. 
To me The Blueprint more filler tracks than the other two which is why it gets the third spot on here. I could have done without Girls and Jigga That Nigga but other than that, it was as good as it gets. Although it has been said 3 million times, but the production on there was amazing. I said earlier that one of Jay's talents is his ear for beats and he picked the right beats from Just Blaze, Kanye, and the rest of them. Plus the album gave us the term "renegade," and diss track, The Takeover. The latter was so smooth that you almost forgot it was a diss track and he was naming names.  

The Blueprint

The Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt had a more cohesive sound front to back than The Black Album (from here on out I'm abbreviating the albums), but every single track on TBA was a banger. And that's the way it should have been. At the time it was his "retirement" album, and it made sense for Jay to go out with a bang. TBA also showed me why I'm mad that Jay doesn't do more storytelling tracks. That verse in 99 Problems with the cop pulling him over taught me more about search warrants than school ever has...and they say rap is a bunch of loud nonsense. Jay also gave one of the best lines of his career in Moment of Clarity when he gave Talib Kweli and Common their props.

The Black Album

As for RD, that was a great debut. Jay was not a trend setter in terms of making music but when he did jump on trends he made sure people remembered him. In terms of mafioso rap, I still have Raekwon's Only Built For Cuban Linx as my favorite but Big's Ready To Die and RD are always jostling for that number 2 spot. The thing I like about RD is that it is the best display of Jay's technical lyricism. He was a rapper's rapper on his debut. When you listen to this album, you never would have expected this guy would be collaborating with a dude from N'Sync or rapping about going to art galleries with his wife. He was an animal on his debut, but knew he couldn't sell 75 million records by rapping like that.
Reasonable Doubt

As for the rest of his discography, I don't feel like Jay made another album like that holy trinity. He had great tracks on pretty much every album like Big Pimpin, the intro on Dynasty, plus I really like A Star Is Born (more so for J. Cole's verse) among his vast material. People will argue for American Gangster but I really wasn't feeling that one. People say it was a return to the RD Jay, but I just thought it was ehhhh. Jay honestly could have just had that Holy Trinity as his entire discography and been considered one of the all time greats. How many rappers have three of the greatest albums in the genre?

So in conclusion, is Jay one of the all time greats? God damn right he is. He didn't bring hip-hop into the mainstream but his success no doubt bridged the gap from hip-hop to mainstream America. Everybody knows who Jay-Z is. I don't know if I would carve out a spot on Mount Rushmore for him at the moment but I will just have to wait and see. The only knocks that I have about Jay-Z is that he really didn't introduce anything new to the rap game and that I can't relate to any of his music at all. I will never disagree with the assessment that Jigga is one of the best to ever do it but the reason I have never been into him is because his music doesn't touch my soul in any way...pause. Before people jump on me saying "What do you mean Jay didn't bring anything to the rap game, he gave us Kanye aka the greatest thing to ever walk the earth aka the second coming aka the man who loves gold diggers and strippers," being a mogul/head of a record label and a rapper are two completely entirely different things and because of such, I can't see one thing Jay brought to the table other than being dope as hell. If I am being ignorant and am completely wrong on this point then by all means correct me on it, because that would vault Jay damn near to the top for me.

Part 2 coming soon...Rakim 

Jay-Z feat UGK (RIP Pimp C)- Big Pimpin

Jay-Z- D'Evils

Jay-Z and Big L freestyle

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blueprint To Build a Championship Team

Florida State University, 2014 BCS Champions

With the conclusion of the National Football League season ending with the Seattle Pigeons vanquishing the record setting Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, a lot of deserved attention was heaped upon that whole team, specifically the defense. Even though I hate that Seattle team with every fiber in my body, I have to give credit where credit is due...the players on that team were amazing and every single one rose to the occasion. But if you think for one second that is the sole reason for Seattle winning the Super Bowl, then you're crazy. If you think Pete Carroll is the sole reason why Seattle took home the Lombardi, then you're crazy. As corny as it sounds, it truly takes a team effort to end the season hoisting a trophy. And this is not specific to football. This whole team effort it takes to win a championship crosses over to all sports and any industry to be honest. Let's take a look at what it takes to win a championship or be successful in any industry.

Eddie DeBartolo, the first owner to not care how much he spent

When we watch sports, we see the players performing. These people, however, are the last pieces of the puzzle. At the top of the organization is an owner. Owners are the ones that write the checks and because of that, everyone in the organization has to answer to him/her. The owners are the ones who set the culture and how the people working for him should present themselves. But another question is how to motivate employees. And it is not a complex question. Look at this past year's champions in the MLB, NFL, and the NBA: the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Pigeons, and the Miami Heat. The thing these three teams have in common is that the owners are willing to spend money. It is easier to do in baseball because there is no salary cap and John Henry of the Red Sox takes advantage of unlimited spending. Boston is annually in the upper echelon of payrolls in the MLB and the results show it. After not winning a world series in 86 years, they have won 3 in the past 10 years. Paul Allen just won his first Super Bowl as owner of Seattle. One of the biggest advantages they had was their stadium and that did not appear out of thin air. Paul Allen had to put money down to build the best home field advantage in American sports today. Obviously winning a championship is not dependent on spending more than everyone else, but you need to pull out the wallet. Look at Micky Arison, owner of the Miami Heat. When they won their first championship back in the 2006, they paid money to bring Shaq in from LA the year before. Then in the famed summer of 2010, they pulled the ultimate coup by bringing in Lebron and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade. This tandem has resulted in 2 championships in the 3 years they have been together. Speaking of bringing these guys together, this brings me to the second most important part of an organization.

Pat Riley, Mafia Don

The next step in building a championship team is having a front office that knows what it wants to do. I mentioned how the owner should be the one to set the culture for the organization and write the checks but that is all they should do. The best owners are seen and not heard. They shake hands and kiss babies but should not be involved in the building of a team. Look at Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. They are the definition of a dysfunctional team because Jerry Jones is trying to wear too many hats. He wants to be the owner, GM, and face of the franchise. There is not enough time in the day for one man to accomplish all of these things successfully. The only owner I can think of who has a large media presence yet is successful is Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. The good thing about Cuban is that he does not get involved with shaping the roster (or it appears so from the outside). He generates interest in his team, back his players no matter what, and leaves the important basketball decisions to those in charge of making those decisions, but I digress. It seems like every team has someone with a different title in charge of the front office. The titles could range from General Manager (GM), Team President, Director of Personnel, Director of Operations, etc. For the sake of simplicity I'm just going to call the person making decisions the decision maker. We could see how the owner and the decision maker work together in order to make their vision work. The owner sets the vision for his brand and the decision maker constructs it and attempts to bring it to fruition. The decision maker brings in free agents, drafts prospects, make trades for players, and decides who gets to come back to the team next year. They are in charge with shaping the team and must select someone to lead this group of athletes to accomplish a goal. That person who is chosen as the leader is known as the coach.

Pete Carroll, sleazeball

The coach and the decision maker must be on the same page in order to bring in the right type of players on to the team. If they are out of sync, then the coach is stuck with a bunch of players he does not want or do not fit the coaching scheme (see Washington Redskins). You better hire a good coach too because a team can have talented players but not get anywhere if there is an incompetent coach leading them (see San Francisco 49ers under Mike Singeltary). Now a coach is the equivalent to your boss in the workplace. There are different ways to be a boss and different ways to coach but we all generally like to have the same qualities from our coaches/bosses. We like them to 1) be knowledgeable. If the people you're supposed to be following is full of it and has no idea what he/she is doing then the workers/players are going to tune them out real quick and lose respect. Number 2 is the ability to motivate. There will be days when people aren't at their best but it is up to the coach to uplift their workers/players and get them to perform the best of their abilities. Number 3 is the ability to be cool in stressful situations. It is often said that players take on the personality of the coach and although it is not a scientific fact, I believe that to be true. If your coach is pacing up and down the sideline in a nervous wreck with two minutes left in the game, how is that supposed to motivate the team. However, if the coach can make smart decisions under stress, that instills confidence in the team to perform at their best. I said earlier that the owner sets the tone for the organization as a whole, but the coach relays that message and sets the tone everyday because he is in contact with the players and his coaching staff every single day.

David Ortiz, 2013 World Series MVP

The last part that makes a team successful is finally, the players. You can't win a championship without good players. We always root for the underdog in sports but there is a reason they are the underdog in the first place, they aren't as good as their opponents. The majority of the time, the team with more talent wins. But it isn't just the individual talent that matters, it is the talent of the team as a whole to fit the scheme that the coach and decision maker has out into place. We just saw it with Seattle that the old saying rings true, "Defense Wins Championships." Denver had a record setting offense being piloted by the greatest regular season quarterback in history but could not do anything against the attacking defense of Seattle. In my opinion, defense is what wins championship in football, basketball, and baseball. Defense always has to rise to the occasion to make a stop. Look at the Super Bowl 47. It was a high scoring game between Baltimore and the 49ers but it came down to a goal line stand (and terrible/unimaginative Greg Roman calls) by Baltimore to seal the Super Bowl. The Miami Heat has LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leading their team but what makes them go is their suffocating defense. The Indiana Pacers are considered the favorites to take home the Larry O'Brian Trophy and that is because they have the defense to stop any team. Defense is the reason why the Chicago Bulls have been in the playoff chase these past two years despite Derrick Rose barely being a part of the team. In baseball, it is easier to prevent runs from scoring than to try and light up the scoreboard. Look at the 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers had the best hitter on the planet in Miguel Cabrera and the best clean up hitter in Prince Fielder but they were stumped time and time again by the Giants pitching staff and great defense, particularly shortstop Brandon Crawford and leftfielder Gregor Blanco. The way you win in sports is by stopping the other team from scoring and that may not be the sexiest strategy but it is the most effective. Defense is the foundation then everything else comes after that. I could go on and on but I think that would be a good spin off article.

It's seems so easy to come up with a championship team that I should just become an adviser or something and lead my team to championship upon championship but you know the politics and stuff. Back to the main point of this post is that, these four groups: owner, front office, coach, and players all have to be in sync with each other in order for the organization to be successful. Look at the past champions in football, basketball, and baseball (I don't know anything about hockey) and tell me I'm not right. If there is a champion that is missing one of the four main ingredients, then there is usually a fluke reason for that. And if you didn't realize it, these four main ingredients cross over into the "normal world" too. I guarantee successful companies like Macy's, DirectTV, and Disneyland have amazing structures which is why they are constants in our society. Start your own business and follow this to become a success and I'll be expecting that 10% of all profits wired into my checking account.

Little Brother feat. Elzhi- Hiding Place

Boldy James- Moochie