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 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