Tag Archives: brooklyn

Confession of a Nas fan: “Ether” vs “Takeover”

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Off rip, I need to  offer a disclaimer: in my debatable opinion, Nas is the G.O.A.T, almost divine from my point of view. His sophmore album, “It Was Written” may be my favorite album of all time. His second effort was laced with cuts like “Take it in blood”, “Shootouts” and “The Message”, which showed an elevation in his artistry in comparison to his immortal debut “Illmatic”. From Nas’ fashion sense, to his writing ability, all the way down to his mystique when dealing with some of the baddest women on the planet, the “only one Sade dated” has been an inspirtation to me in more ways than one. However, my admiration for Nas and opinion on the Jay/Nas feud creates quite the juxtaposition. With that said, I digress…

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In the darker years of Nas legendary career, circa 1998 to 2000, Jay-Z’s career really started to take off after going platinum 5 times over with his “Hard Knock Life” album. Up to this point, Nas was undoubtedly the  city’s golden pen, but the ink was running dry for Esco and the support seemed to shift in the direction of Hov. There was silent tension since the inception of Jay’s career, and escalated after the departure of B.I.G because it gave way to the King-Of-New-York conversation. Some will say Nas threw the first dart all the way back in 1996 on “The Message” when he said “Lex with tv sets the minimum”, after Jay was seen driving a lex, with tv sets, in a few of his early videos. That’s neither here, nor there. Some will also say it all started because of a proceeding subliminal exchange between Nas and Jay’s shooter, Memphis bleek, in 1999. 

“Ima ball til I fall what you think of that?”-Memphis Bleek (“What you think of that?”)

Re: “you wanna ball til you fall? I could help you with that”- Nas (“Nastradamus”)

Re: “ya lifestyle written, who you tryna be? Play your position” – Memphis Bleek (“Mind Right”)

Once again, that’s neither here, nor there. All the subs, resentments and tension would have it’s cover blown with one subtle line on that Hot 97 Summer Jam stage, in 2001. Hov used the platform to debut, what was really a Mobb Deep diss: “Takeover”. However, what caught the ears of the city wasn’t his jabs about Prodigy’s credibility or height, it was the line that ended the song: “Y’all niggas don’t want it with Hov, ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov”. It is said that Nas was reluctant to respond because, despite Jay’s success, he didn’t believe the Brooklynite was on his level. Thankfully, Nas had some honest people around him, who put him on game and said in so many words “regardless what you believe, this is the dude right now, if you don’t respond, it’s over”.

jay bleek

Nas initial response was “H to the omo” or the “stillmatic freestyle”. This was a flex in lyrical superiority over the break-beat from Dennis Edward’s “Don’t look any further”, popularized in the hip hop world by Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid in full” . Nas threw more than a few not-so-subliminal lines towards Hov, even calling him the rapper version of Sisqo, which un-intentionally made the Dru-hill singer the standard for soft in the rap world. The response was enough to make Hov go back to the lab to add an additional verse to “Takeover” solely aimed for Nas dome piece like Jerome’s niece coming from Jones Beach.

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The additional verse was all types of disrespectful and attacked Nas from every angle. Jay picked at his artistic and street credibility, and ended the verse by subliminally referencing that he fucked Nas baby mother, Carmen Bryan, who later used it to her advantage and made a tell-all book about it. It seemed quiet for Nas after that. Lo and behold, 6 months later, Nas drops “Ether” which is almost seen as the awakening of the beast, the resurrection and a far cry from records like “You owe me”. Nas also took it to record levels of disrespect and mockery, referencing him swagger-jacking Biggies style, his Hawaiian sophie days and made room to call him a “tae-bo hoe”.

jay soph

 

With everyone waiting for a response from Jay, he dropped a sub-par diss track “Super ugly” which just seemed like he was trying to be more disrespectful than creative. Nas’ biggest advantage, at this point, was representing the underdog . The game almost-unanimously labeled Nas the victor in this match of the titans. But here’s where the confession comes in, even as a Nas stan, I feel Jay won.

jay laugh

There are a number of reasons why a lot of people feel that Jay lost. One, they didn’t expect anything from Nas at that point in his career, but he came out like a bear from hibernation. Two, Jay responded with  “super-ugly”, which gave room for general perception to compare a weaker response to “Ether”, rather than pinning it against “Takeover”. Three, “Ether” became a verb for shitting on people after Nas dropped it. However, outside of the moment and in retrospect, Jay came with more fact and “Ether” seemed more like a game of dozens.  Nas clowned Jay, attacking his physical misfortune, homosexual references, unrealistic threats. Nas also criticized him for taking from Big, which could also be considered Jay paying homage to a fallen friend. What could be the most potent and transcending critique in “Ether” was about Eminem “murdering” Hov on “Renegade”, which gave birth to barbershop analysts everywhere debating verses on any track which featured two or more prominent spitters. In contrast: Jay, being sharp in the art of war, played on the collective’s opinion of Nas at the time. Though a Nas fan such as myself doesn’t agree that he never lived up to the potential of “Illmatic”, there is a large amount of hip hop fans who feel that way. Jay also pointed out instances like the questionable “Karl Kani” ads and “oochie wally” appearances. Hov shot at Nas with facts, for the most part he avoided joking and bullshit threats. Here are some of the jabs Hov dropped that Nas should’ve addressed:

  1. He attacked “oochie wally”: Another questionable move on Nas behalf and is almost cringe worthy to listen to Nas stretch for fame in that fashion until this day.
  2. “I showed you your first tec, on tour with Large Professor, then I heard your album about the tec on the dresser”: this line would just be another aimless jab of credibility from Jay, but Large Professor spoke on this as well.
  3. “So yeah I sampled your voice…you ain’t get a coin, nigga, you was gettin fucked then/ I know who I paid, God- Serchlite publishing”: attacking Nas on a business-level and him getting duked out of money by bad contractual terms. Serch did say that there was some fact to this on “The Champs” podcast, though that wasn’t the name of his publishing company at the time.
  4. “You’ve been in this 10, I been in it 5- smarten up, Nas”: From a level of progression, Nas was not where he was supposed to be with the sub-par “Nastradamus” and the good (but not IWW/Illmatic level) “I AM”, he wasn’t where most would’ve thought judging from how the queensbridge emcee shot out the gate. In the meantime, Jay was going no-where but up.
  5. “Because you know who-did you know what-with you know who”: Jay referencing the more-than-alleged sexual encounter with the mother of Nas first born. Super disrespectful and confirmed.

So yeah, as a fan of fact-based personal attack, I feel Jay took this battle. Regardless of what your opinion is, we can all agree: this is one of the best back-and-forths hip hop as ever seen. The kings clashed and kept it on wax. They provided pure entertainment and classic material, that we still talk about nearly 15 years later.

As I stated in my disclaimer, Nas is still my favorite emcee of all time. He was 2 top 5 albums for me (IWW & Illmatic), while Jay only has one (Reasonable Doubt). As he stated on “Ether” he did influence a whole generation of rappers and reigned as the cream of the crop, in an era of hip hop when your pen had to be sharp to survive. Though Nas has had his inconsistencies, he’s always managed to bounce back and he proved that with his 2012 album “Life Is Good”, the moet-drinking-marajuana-smoking- street dweller can still do it, regardless of where he’s at in life.

jay nas

Sidebar: The beat to “Ether” was awful.

Sidebar II: If you say Jay won, on the basis of Nas signing to Def Jam, you’re a corn.

 

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Get Over It: The New, New York City (Part 2): No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn

TroyAve

Name: Troy Ave

Stomping Grounds: Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Breakout year: 2012

Standout Project: “New York City:The Album” (2013)

NewYorkCityTheAlbum

“Rubber grip or the plastic feel
This that Brooklyn shit, this is nothing new
This that safety off with that engine on
Mercedes Benz, good watch, scene above them all
How he got money when he ain’t have a job in so long?
This that hustler shit, that independent grind
That nautical sweat suit and white ones gold shine” (Troy Ave – “Classic Feel”)

Troy Ave got his name courtesy of the street in Crown Heights, Troy Avenue. Most recently you may have heard the Brooknam native on the hook of Vado’s “R.N.S.” off his latest installment of the Slime Flu mixtapes, or even on Fabolous’ “Only life I know” from the “Soul Tape II”. Troy Ave is known for chronicling his tales of a hustler, the only way a Brooklyn spitter could do, but he may also harmonize a little on his hooks. However, he’s not harmonizing in a “Marvin’s Room” type of way (Shout out to Drake though), he’s harmonizing in a 50 cent, early 2000’s mixtape type of way. In the mixtape circuit, he’s most known for his “Bricks In My Backpack” trilogy. The 3 mixtapes, showcased his potential more than anything else. The first two seemed like an artist who was just trying to find himself, and his lane. He caught some flack for the title of the second installment of “Bricks In My Backpack”, entitled “Powder to the people”. Certain figures in New York radio felt he was taking an empowering slogan “Power to the people”, and then turning it around to what destroyed so many communities. But what else do you expect from a young hustler from Brooklyn who dubbed himself “Harry  Powder”?.  It’s tough trying to be a successful rapper who attacks the game from the angle of being a hustler, because the image has been portrayed so much and you have to be innovative or just get wrote off as another “over-the-top street rapper”. But that’s what the man came from, and by the time the third installment of the series came about, the crown heights representative seemed to find his groove. Mid-Way through 2012, “Bricks In My Backpack 3: The Harry Powder Trilogy” found its way on to Complex’s “50 greatest albums of 2012 (so far)”, landing at number 40.

troy-ave

Troy Ave Embodies the fly guy, 1980’s New York Hustler in his rhymes. The Alpos’, the Rich Porters’, The Fat Cats’ , with the jewels and the slick talk. You can tell that from the cover of his studio album debut “New York City: The Album”. He’s sporting the Jesus Piece, with a couple other chains I couldn’t afford, in front of a black Jeep Wrangler, giving off a “New Jack City” feel. On the cover, and almost everywhere you see Troy Ave, he’s endorsing Adidas in Run DMC fashion, with his soccer jerseys, T-Shirts and shell toes. Along with just speaking of being a hustler, he hustles in the industry as well. Troy Ave is on his independent grind, on his label “BSB Records”, and is building a brand of his own. He’s one of the only, who still gives a feeling of authenticity in his music. Anything he talks about having, and the lifestyle he talks about living, are both documented on his Instagram, to prove he’s not just rapping. Aside from separating himself from the fakes, he’s also stated his opposition towards today’s “weirdo” rappers (directly targeting Kanye West & Kendrick Lamar) and claims that the hip hop audience and artists alike, now-a-day’s glorifies the user, more than they celebrate the dealer, and even targets his fellow Brooklnites, The Flatbush Zombies as “weirdos” making music for drug abusers (Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn Way). He’s made it clear that his music is not for the wrist twisting that you could spot at the drop of any Young Chop or Mike Will Made it joint, and he’s not going to Future for the hottest hooks, not out of spite, but because he’s keeping it all the way New York, making a lane for his own city without eating off anyone else’s plate.

troy-ave-hot-box-freestyle(Troy Ave rocking the signature Soccer jersey)

His style really represents a New, New York sound, far from any type of “backpack” rap, though he does seem to get support from that crowd, as well. Troy Ave’s voice sounds like he’s always joking about something, but he’s doing anything but that. He has evolved from the less narrative, more simplistic punchlines of the “Bricks In My Backpack” series, to a full blown story teller from a past decorated in all the elements of the street life. He’s able to show his depth on tracks like “Regretful”, which may give you another look at the Brooklyn rapper, from the standpoint of emotional pain, without being sappy. He’s also capable of making records like “Hot Out”, to drop the windows or put the top back too during the New York City summers (Please come back). Just as diverse as his music, are the artist’s he’s jumped on tracks with. He’s collaborated with everyone from Pusha T, To 2 Chainz, to Nore. He get’s widespread respect from his piers of the current generation and before his time. He’s got mainstream appeal, with a smooth talking, New York City hustler feel, he’s definitely someone to look out for.

images (1)(Run DMC reminiscent)

Honorable Mention (From Brooklyn): Uncle Murda (or UM)

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Gentrification: A Plague To The Culture.

bodega-brooklyn

If someone who walked the streets of Do-Or-Die Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, or 125th in Harlem, happened to move away somewhere around 1995, and decided to come back without much knowledge of the city now, they would question if they were even in New York City. The buildings may look a little nicer, rent may cost a little more, and crime may be down a bit,  in part due to gentrification. For those who aren’t exactly sure, and just hear it a lot, gentrification is just an inner city area being turned over to wealthier residents or new businesses and increasing property value. Though you look at one side of Gentrification and you see better school districts, less drug dealing on the avenues, and less run down looking buildings and homes, you may think “Well, this is great”. But there’s always two sides to a coin and more than one side of a story.

brooklyn gent

The natives of these neighborhoods, that were once crime infested and run down are being pushed out, instead of reaping the benefits of gentrification after all the bullshit they dealt with in the neighborhood. Their children don’t get to go to the better schools, they don’t get to live in the safer version of their neighborhood, because its coming at their expense. People who have been in these parts of the city for years are struggling to pay rent due to all these improvements in the neighborhood. Gentrification is a plague to the city’s culture. Where there was once ethnic, hole in the wall, African, Soul Food, Italian, Chinese and Spanish spots to eat, there are now organic whole food places, or fast food franchises which took a lot of their places. Bodegas are a dying breed, due to 7-11’s and companies of that nature taking over. I always loved my city because of the diversity, because you can have so many different experiences, depending on which neighborhoods you go to. If you go The Bronx, or Spanish Harlem, you can get some Puerto Rican food at a Cuchifrito, if you go to parts of Brooklyn, you can get some banging West Indian food, or go to Howard Beach and get some real Italian food, you get the point. Instead, we’re in the beginning of an era where the last of the culture is still around, but you’re starting to see the same thing in every part of the city. Not that I have a problem with the city changing or the city improving, because that’s inevitable and positive, but at the same time, let the natives of that neighborhood be a part of it as well. Why does it take people of a higher tax bracket coming into a neighborhood, for the city officials to really make sure it’s a safer place to live? or to really put an effort into bettering the schools?, why wasn’t there just as much of a push for improvement when a lot of these neighborhoods were drug and crime ridden, with statistically the worst schools, from the 70s through the early 90s?. It take’s a couple of people from a different social class to take interest in the neighborhood, to really put fire under the city’s ass to clean it up.

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Gentrification is usually in its first stages, when a daring group of young, mostly white, counter culture “Hipsters” move into a neighborhood. They are usually individual thinkers, who are on the cutting edge and like to go wherever the rents cheap and cultures rich. There’s a great concentration of them in parts of Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg, as well as The Lower East Side of Manhattan, which has also transformed. When they start to move into these neighborhoods, they don’t do it for the purpose of gentrification, but the fact that they are mostly Caucasian, it helps wealthier people feel more comfortable with seeing the potential and the overall feel of the neighborhood. When Blacks and Hispanics began moving into white neighborhoods, around the 60’s and 70’s, a lot of the white natives of the area moved out, being dubbed the “white flight”. Now a lot of wealthier (of all colors) people are moving into areas that were predominantly built up of working class minorities, and the natives just get pushed out, with a lack of options.  There should really be some native appreciation, but in Christopher Columbus fashion, there isn’t. Gentrification, isn’t only something going on in the apple, but throughout the nation. The fact that homes are being lost because of changes in rent and taxes due to better school districts, etc, and legendary inner city neighborhoods are being stripped of their identity and culture, this is not going to happen without a huge consequence of tension among the victims of gentrification. But unfortunately, here in America, money talks louder than anything, and there isn’t a real understanding of the consequences until its too late. Sidebar: The New York City Culture also took a big shot when building owners who plan to put luxurious apartments up, whited out all of 5 pointz, the mecca of graffiti, in Long Island City, Queens. This is just the beginning.

5(Rest in Power)

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