“And to tell you fools the truth, I don’t feel this is where I’m destined/ You can call it Hell, but I just say, bruh, I’m below the heavens.”
Listen — Blu & Exile – “The World Is”
Among the freshman of the XXL class of 2009 there was one who stood out from the rest, but for many of the wrong reasons. He barely spoke in the interview and he fell back during the video shoot. He lacked all the get-up of a Mickey Factz, all the excessive confidence of an Ace Hood, all the college cockiness of an Asher Roth. On the other hand, he also stood out because he already had an album that was considered by many to be an instant classic– something many career rappers never attain. And he has a breadth of talent wide enough to take the throne that Nas leaves more open with every passing year.
Back in Los Angeles, a crowd of folks were salivating at the thought of this MC filling Hip-Hop’s hunger, yet his aura became clouded with a wave of insecurities as palpable as swirled smoke. Each new record he released was just as banging as the last, but walked so far on the edge of sonic progression that his sound nearly fell off. His toes dangled over the side. Pebbles of verses and beats released themselves into the great precipice and divide between internet and industry. He turned back to the stans and fans who begged him to stay and give them more music. To save this music. Breathe life back into this music — their music. And as quickly as he arrived–
As vapor from a kettle of water at its boiling point.
“And if they could, then they probably would/ They come close, but it’s no cigar. Welcome to my world.”
Listen — Jay Electronica – “My World (Nas Salute)”
Among the men slated for greatness around the same time as our freshman, there was another who gave the world exhibits A, B and C in defense of his forthcoming supremacy. The courtroom hushed and then filled with neck-snaps and stank-faces as the judge and jury decried “We’re ready.”
He became the father– for the future expectations of Hip-Hop and also of a living, breathing child. A man in every sense of the word. King to the Queen who has dominated and created a world of her own. And he fell in with her unflinchingly. His music flourished and he kicked the beat out from under anybody listening with even half an ear to the ground.
But surrounding this self-fulfilling prophet of life and rhyme were the constant rumors that this man, this myth, this legend, was harder to get a hold of than someone with no phone. Smoke signals were sent, telegraphs were tapped, and carrier pigeons flew to this man who was more absent than the minds of those who lost it when they first heard him spit. Fables and limericks and tall tales could be written about his enigma. This virtual unknown we all waited, and waited, and waited for, until we were left alone, and Hip-Hop was left–
Left with an unwritten history staring back from a blank page.
“And I’m amped up, they locked the champ up, even my brain’s in handcuffs.” — Nas
Heavy is the crown, I know. And Nas could write a book about that very thing. But if you take-on and link yourself through song with Nas, you had better try at least as seriously as he did to bear that crown.
If we never see or hear again from these two mighty MCs, I’ll be salty forever. I will always bring them up in conversations about “The Greatest Lyricists,” but I’ll no longer hold my breath and let my face turn red with anticipation. My stereo is now unfamiliar with the constant playback of their content. I summarily dismiss them because I have no other choice.
Shame on them for letting their drive pale in comparison to their ability. Shame on me for being bamboozled by their ability over their drive.
Whose world is this? Not yours.
But it could have been.