Archive for Illmatic

Reaction Editorial: Did Jay Electronica Ghostwrite for Nasty Nas?

Posted in News, Opinion Editorial with tags , , , , , , on Monday, August 20, 2012 by Tim Althaus

Obviously, I’m a little late with this post because this whole whirlwind of speculations started last week. According to most of the articles that I’ve read, Jay Electronica was supposedly responsible for ghostwriting duties on Nas’s Untitled album; even more revealing, renowned Hip-Hop journalist Dream Hampton claims that Mr. Elec-Hanukkah could be responsible for more than meets the eye – at least 6 tracks. Of course, Mr. Elec-Yarmulke came out and publicly admitted (via Twitter) that the accusations were absolutely false, and Stic Man of Dead Prez followed suit. It’s hard to be clear if the rumor is true or not, but it definitely raises some valid questions in the Hip-Hop community.

The whole Hip-Hop universe seemed to be in a daze from dismay, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the news. Believe it or not, ghostwriting is a fairly common practice in Hip-Hop, and it really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Artists like Royce Da 5’9″ and Skillz have been writing for other rappers like P-Diddy and Dr. Dre for years. It had even been rumored that Gillie Da Kid wrote the vast majority of Lil’ Wayne’s hit album, Tha Carter

With that being said, let me pose this question: Why are people making a such a big deal of this particular issue?

The reasons – at least to me – are pretty clear.

Rappers that use ghostwriters aren’t usually considered by many as great lyricists. We all know that Dr. Dre, P-Diddy & Lil’ Wayne have sold millions of records worldwide, but the word “lyricist” doesn’t come to mind when thinking about their talents – performer is more applicable. If anything, ghost writers made their music more tolerable.

Nas is credited for writing one of Hip-Hop’s most magnificent manifestos – Illmatic. Even though the ghostwriting accusations don’t stem from Illmatic, it rubs me the wrong way to think that Nasty Nas had another emcee write his rhymes. Imagine if the scientific community found out that someone else wrote part of Aristotle’s work: all hell would break loose, and pandemonium would ensue. Nas is considered one of the foremost founders in the East Coast Hip-Hop scene, so this rumor holds a great deal of significance. Any way that you look at it, this whole issue is just a hard thought to stomach.

Nas is an artist that has withstood the test of time; even though a lot of people would consider some of his releases sub-par compared to Illmatic, he’s still considered one of the greatest lyricists of all-time – without question. If the ghostwriting rumors are true about Untitled, I can’t help but wonder if ghostwriting was prevalent in his previous releases. This whole controversy could end up becoming a slippery slope with no foreseeable end.

Even though Jay Elec’s good friend FWMJ verified that Jay wrote on Untitled, I still don’t know what to believe. This is what it all boils down to in my eyes: Back in 2006, Nas was bold enough to name his album Hip Hop is Dead; if he is guilty of using ghostwritten rhymes, then he might also be guilty of killing the very art form that personified his career.

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Joey Bada$$: A Return to East Coast Lineage & The Wonders of Adolescence

Posted in Album Review, Music Discovery, Music Reviews with tags , , , , , on Sunday, August 5, 2012 by Tim Althaus

Article by Chris Deline

If web-hype were any indication of talent or potential, Brooklyn youngster Joey Bada$$ might well be one of rap’s hottest names right now. The typical talking points seem standard across the board: Despite being only 17 he has a “sophisticated” and “confident” flow, reps hard for his Progressive Era crew (“a collective of 18 rappers, producers, graphic designers and studio engineers“), exhibits a distinct and refreshing ’90s hip-hop vibe (reviews have been tireless with Nas references), and for having just released his first mixtape with 1999, he already has everyone from Mac Miller to MTV backing his cause. In the month that’s passed since 1999 dropped for free online, the mixtape has already racked up nearly 400k combined views between DatPiff and Live Mixtapes alone. Astounding results for a kid who has yet to enter his senior year of high school. But does web-hype really equate talent?

Of course not.

But it does accurately reflect Bada$$’s potential.

Part of 1999‘s immediate appeal comes with its obvious resemblance to what real “hip-hop heads” are either already familiar with, or are desperately seeking. Take for example one of the set’s most acclaimed cuts, “Survival Tactics,” which utilizes Styles of Beyond’s eponymous track from the group’s 1998 debut. Although it isn’t exactly a showstopper as far as musical references go, it shows that he’s actively looking back — digging, if you will — while moving forward. The same goes for when he leans on Dilla and Statik Selektah. “World Domination” goes a little deeper with sample of DOOM’s “Poo-Putt Platter,” which in turn sampled a tune from the Fat Albert Halloween episode: this is the kind of incestuous keeping-it-realness that back in tha day trumpeters kill for! “Funky Hos” and “Snakes” would each sound at home on Midnight Marauders tribute LP, but it’s “World Domination” that especially speaks to where the kid’s at musically: He’s most comfortable within the previous generation’s ideal of what an old-school flow was supposed to sound like. 1999 is the scrapbook of a kid whose parents listened to Biggie, attends the same high school as Adam Yauch once did, and who discovered Gangstarr through video games.

Most of the release finds him spitting about girls — what would you rap about if you were 17 again? — but even there he maintains a strange lyrical mixture, balancing macho posturing with emotions: “Word to my mother/Two things I never do is leave the crib without some rubbers or tell a funky ho I love her/These broads be trying to get a brother caught up in a sticky situation, missing menstruation” (from the Steve Miller Band-sampling “Funky Hos”) follows “So tell me what the fuck I’m supposed to do/You know it ain’t too easy getting over you/I sent the postcards so you know it’s true/I promise that I wouldn’t get emotional” (Bada$$ doing his best DOOM in “Pennyroyal”). But 1999 isn’t empty in terms of showing his dexterity as an MC either: peep 3:43 to about 4:30 of “Hardknocks” where his rapid fire delivery really takes off, “This is for my niggas, killas, hundred dolla billas/On the block in the rock spot glock cocked watchin’ out for cops/All about they cheddar young girls know nothin’ that’s better…”

Speaking with Pitchfork, Pro Era producer Chuck Strangers explained his process in developing the handful of tracks he contributed to the release, “Joey had a very specific vision for 1999. I was playing him all these other kinds of beats and he’d be like, ‘These are ill, but not what I’m going for.’ So I sat and I listened to Joey Bada$$ music. People ask me, ‘Did you listen to a lot of Wu-Tang and Illmatic when you made these beats?’ I know those shits because I’m from Brooklyn and I love ’em, but to make Joey Bada$$’ tape, I listened to Joey Bada$$.” Growing up on hip-hop is a great starting point, but the ability to be so selectively focused of what it is he’s trying to do at such a young age is what might actually separate Bada$$ from the crowd. 1999 is no Illmatic, but it is a skillfully constructed tape by a minor-leaguer who’s playing at a pro-ball level. Whether you’re boom-bap’d out halfway through the mixtape or not, what you should take away from 1999 is its what-ifs: the what-ifs that have inspired the web-hype and the what-ifs that suggest his future to be bulging at the seems with “potential.” The reason it’s important to keep his age in mind isn’t simply because it’s remarkable that Joey Bada$$ appears so “sophisticated” and “confident” at only 17, but because he seems to already be better at constructing a consistent album than many who’ve been doing it since back before he was even born. Oh, the potential…

[Guest contributor Chris DeLine is a freelance writer living in Nashville, TN. Follow him or Twitter or friend him on Facebook.]

Elzhi Gets Ellmatic With “The Genesis”

Posted in Downloads, Media with tags , , , on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 by Tim Althaus

elzhi3 I was very excited yesterday, I got news about Black Milk and then I found this gem over at 2Dopeboyz. This is a snippet from the track “The Genesis” which will be on Elzhi’s upcoming project Ellmatic. This project will feature El flowing over Nas classics from Illmatic. Let me tell you, from what I hear, this project is going to be ridiculous. Elzhi is one of the best emcees in the game right now, and this just proves it. He is taking the task of recreating a Hip-Hop classic, and if there is anyone in the game right now that can do it, it’s most definitely him.

In the short 42 seconds of this snippet he absolutely demolishes the beat, “…You barely throw jabs with your vocabulary/My punchlines knock niggas the fuck out/Still earn block figgas’, cop triggas’ and duck droughts”. This project is going to be amazing and I can’t wait until he puts it out. This track showcases some of the best rhymes in the game, don’t sleep on it. I’ll make sure I get the full version up when it’s out.

Download: Elzhi, “The Genesis” (Snippet)