I feel you, I used to fuck with Wayne for a short window between the time he was puttin out those Sqad Up tapes and Carter 2. Now I'll somethin now and then that catches my ear, but dude is like a stencil. His verses now are basically mirror images of each other with a shallow level of wordplay. It no longer holds my attention. Now, Drake on the other hand I can actually listen to. I consider what he does just good sounding music. Plus I appreciate what appears to be his honesty. If an artist gives some of themself in their music I can feel that. Again probably why I like Mal over Push.
I don't really get that from Drake. His persona seems just as contrived as anyone else's to me. I mean, maybe he's being real, but there's something dischordant about hearing a former child star from an upper-middle class neighborhood say things like "y'all go'n fuck around and make me catch a body like that" or even likening himself to the rose that grew from concrete. Nah son. And, as whoever the truly inspired person behind the Big Ghost Chronicles
was kind enough to point out, half the time he's trying to portray himself as this lonely mobster almost. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know dude. But he just doesn't come across as particularly authentic. So yeah, as much as I liked "Headlines" as a song, I don't think I'd call it honest.
Now, that's not necessarily a knock against Drake per se. I think every rapper's persona is contrived to some extent. I'd go as far as saying that if you're not thinking about that contrivance on some conscious level, and if you're limiting yourself to talking about things you've actually experienced first hand, you're not fully doing your job as an artist.
But nah, I think Drake definitely explores a lot of the emotions surrounding fame and surrounding relationships in a way that a lot of rappers don't. One of my favorite lines in a while were actually from dude. It was off of Thank Me Later:
I heard they just moved my grandmother to a nursing home/
And I be acting like I don't know how to work a phone/
But hit redial, you'll see that I just called/
Some chick I met at the mall that I barely know at all/
That is some real fucking talk right there. And I think just about every young person that has struck it out on their own can relate to that. All that said, I really don't vibe with dudes music all that much. It's too much muffled drums and that new R&B for me.
TBH, I'm an 80's baby and never REALLY listened to KRS like that. Obviously I know the essentials and I respect dude for being an originator of sorts. He just wasnt on like that around me to appreciate him as much as I probably should. My pops would play Newcleus in the mid 80's, then Uncle L and Rakim... I think I just missed Kris somehow.
As a fellow 80s baby, this strikes me as inconceivable. But nah, while I was up on Kris' mid to late 90s work when it dropped, I think I made a point of seeking out artists like him, who were from that earlier class of MCs just because those where the guys that my older cousins and their friends lionized. To go back a ways, I started learning how to DJ when I was 15 or so. I taught mysefl some once I got my own gear but really, my cousin taught me. And in between sort of giving me lessons on technique and just letting me fuck around on his set up, he made a point of trying to properly "school me" on this hip-hop thing. And I soaked all that in on some padawon shit. I think it also helped that I didn't particularly like a lot of what was going on here on the West Coast during the mid to late 90s and so I spent a lot of time looking to the East Coast and looking backwards. Hell, those West Coast acts that I did like, the underground cats, cats like the World Famous Beat Junkies, Dilated Peoples, Defari, Hieroglyphics and everyone on Stones Throw, made a lot of nods to the past as well as to the East themselves.
The first tracks I heard from Lu were "Theme Music to a Driveby" and "Failure," my guy passed me the tape (CD) in 05 I think. The wordplay was just off the charts. What my man does with metaphors, running 2 or 3 simulataneously at times is insane to me. Andre doesnt do that, but he doesnt try to either. Then theres the times where he can go way abstract like on "Dumb it Down" or "Go To Sleep"
Yeah, my introduction was a lot different. I'm not from Chicago.
So I heard about him but didn't really hear him until he broke with "Kick, Push," which was interesting insofar as it was a rap song about skating, but which I also don't think was that great a song in the first place. (Though I did end up liking a lot of that album.) Not too long after that, I don't remember how close together these things were, there was that big hub bub after he flubbed some of the lines to some Tribe songs during one of those VH1 Hip-Hop honors things. I don't remember what he said exactly, but I just remember that when everything was said and done he came across as arrogant, unprofessional and perhaps most importantly, disrespectful to one of my favorite rap groups ever. I try to keep an open mind about things but I don't doubt that this first impression accounts for a lot of my dismissive attitude towards him now. So yeah...
And man, I went back and checked those tracks, and I'm just not hearing what I'm supposed to be amazed about. To be fair, this is the first time I'm really giving these ones a good listen and so I know I can't exactly getting deep into the lyrics. But really, I think this is kind of illuminating for me in seeing our differences in perspectives. I'm not the kind of guy that's going to be super impressed with metaphor and slick world play for their own sake in the first place. I like a good turn of phrase as much as the next guy but I tend to find most of it to be corny. (Example: I can like a pop machine? No Com. Just no.) I tend to be more impressed by things like flow, strong phrasing, both musically and verbally, and powerful delivery. I think that's why I gravitate towards cats like Nas whose flow tends to be impecable, intricate but who can also seamlessly weave chunks from Ecclesiastes into his verses on "No Idea's Original", or coin classic phrases like "I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death" on "New York State of Mind"
As for Lasers, it gets a lot of hate. But label issues did that. He tried to hit us with "Shining Down" and "Beamin" the label wanted those pop beats. But lyrically he still brought it and was able to throw some gems on there ("All Black Everything" / "Beautiful Lasers" / "Letting Go").
I don't think that in this kind of discussion, that's not a good excuse. Every artist on a label faces pressure to produce something that will hit. If we're going to hold, say, Jay responsible for seeking out pop hits then we need to do the same thing with Lupe. If anything, I'd give Jay more credit for at least owning the decision.
With respect to whether or not that album is nice lyrically, I honestly have no idea. I really can't vibe with an album if I don't like the production.
But I think I like the transition from revolutionary to the figure you described best later in your post, probably because I appreciate when the artist goes inside themselves for their material. Again probably why I like Ghost, 3K, Pac, even Drake... while guys like Nas are great at describing the world around them, the revolutionary Pac described the world around him.
Yeah, I don't think introspection is Nas' strong suit either. I think he's better when he's either speaking of himself in impersonal or prophetic terms but mostly casting his person against the larger backdrop of the world around him. On tracks like "No Idea's Original" he speaks in the first person but really, he's using himself as a kind of stand in for any one of us that grew up how he grew up. And it works. He has this ability to create this sweeping picture that just captures something that appeals to me on a really personal level. And in those pictures, his character is never unique. I think the difference between the approach of Pac and of Nas is basically proximity. Listening to Pac is like talking with a close friend. Maybe you're bullshitting with him. Maybe you're listening to him vent his frustrations. etc. Listening to Nas is more like sitting on a project park bench taking in the whole scene. You know?
Sometimes i feel like he had to die. It just doesnt seem right that he wouldve been 40 years old doing family movies like Cube after all the death talk in his music. Had he lived it wouldve made his music less authentic somehow... or maybe more paranoid than real.
I think that's actually a great comparison. Imagine, for a minute, if it had of been Cube who died in his prime. In the early 90s, Cube was every bit as revolutionary as Pac was. Imagine if he was struck down while he was in that lane. How would our perception of him be altered by that? And yeah, I think Pac would have probably settled into acting if he were still with us. Though, I think Pac had better chops than Cube and would have probably ended up in a place closer to where Will Smith is than to where Cube is. Still, the first role I think of when I think of Pac's acting career isn't any of the movies he's been in, it's his role as Jada Pinkett's ex-boyfriend in a Different World. But that's neither here nor there.
True. But in the case of Pac most (not all, and you are an exception) of his fans feel he was getting better and as you said in his prime when he died. While most Nas fans I come across feel he was at his best with Illmatic (I prefer IWW). Jay fans prefer by and large Reasonable Doubt. Common fans probably are okay up to Like Water for Chocolate. Twista (I am from Chicago) swear by Adrenaline Rush and Ressurection. Biggie fans like RTD better than LAD (I am in the minority on that one too) etc... It seems as though Pac was headed up.
Okay, but Pac released a total of what, 5 studio albums before he died?
That's impressive but to keep things in perspective, people really didn't start writing KRS off until he was something like 9 or 10 albums deep. (And, personally I liked his 6th and 7th albums best.) Rakim had 4 classic albums with Eric B. (While Paid in Full is their most celebrated, I'd argue that they got better on every album.) People loved Ultramagnetic, but Kool Keith is probably most famous for his 4th studio album when he teamed up with the Automator for Dr. Octogon. Del also worked with the Automator, and the result, Deltron Z, is I think also his most popular album. It's also his what....5th studio album, 6th if you count the group album. EPMD's third album was probably their best (though I think Strictly Business still gets the most love). To this day, people debate whether Low End Theory (Tribe's second album) was better than Midnight Marauders (their third). And really Common doesn't work as an example for you. Like Water for Chocolate was his 4th album. If his career would have been cut off at that point, people could also say that he was "headed up," even though in reality he followed that album up with Electric Circus, an album that's pretty universally (though I'd say unfairly) panned.
And then, of course, there are the Roots. Thought and them have been doing it for almost twenty years now and their most recent album, undun, their 10th album, is some of their best work. And shit, for Black Thought, it's more like his 11th album since he also had that one with his Money Making Jam Boys crew.
So yeah, Pac was great and prolific and all of that but he's also not the only one who most hip-hop fans would agree was growing as an artist over the course of their career. And to be clear, I would agree with the consensus in that I think Pac got better as he went on. (I Ain't Mad At Cha is my favorite Pac track.) I'm just saying I prefer that SFMN-era Pac overall. It's one of those times when I'd say favorite and best aren't really the same thing. You know?
Also, I think I'd half-agree with you with respect to It Was Written. I think that it's lyrically a much better album than Illmatic. Lyrically, there's nothing on Illmatic that touches Street Dreams, in my not so humble opinion. Hell, even the dreaded radio track from It Was Written was truly great. But I think as a whole project, Illmatic edges it out by being tighter (it's practically an EP) a bit more focused and much stronger and more consistent in terms of production. I think Illmatic was also a more important album in that it was a part of this wave, along with albums from cats like the Wu and Black Moon that sort of re-established that grimey East Coast sound.
On a side note, I think fans of Jay tend to prefer the Blueprint over Reasonable Doubt. Personally, I prefer the In My Lifetime albums. So yeah....
Damn it's good talking with you fam. It's great to see another hip-hop head on one of these atheist boards.