Words by Drew Ricketts
I want to commend hip hop for growing more mature in the last few months even as its crybabies ruled the airwaves with one beef stewing after another. Only a few months back, before HHID dropped, many of us openly questioned if the older generation of emcees were imperiled and outdated. Kingdom Come was a grown man’s album in a young man’s world. The same could be said about Hip Hop Is Dead, especially when all of those with stake in its current life starting bitching loudly about the proclamation of King Nasir. I say king here because he thrives on respect and admiration. 50 Cent is sort of the CEO of Hip Hop or the affirmative action grand dream realized. His riches have caused him to lose touch but he’s not at all fazed by it. Jay too is caught up in the mogul-guru splendor somewhat. Nas storms back into the scene like a bruised dictator steadily demanding more loyalty from the people he seeks to govern.
He dropped three remixes that not only age him, but also show the value of his newfound maturity. He’s fully embraced the visionary status that once troubled him by deferring to his roots. On the “Where Are They Now?” remixes, it seems he’s intent on showing just as much where he is now and the features here serve as happy footnotes in his now illustrious career. Because, face it what other live emcee has the respect of both his peers and his precursors?
This joint came off for me because the beat suits a deliberate 80’s flow better than all else. Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee have changed their style sparingly or not at all. But, we don’t mind because they achieve a pace that any scansion scholar would be mesmerized by. Dana Dane and Pebblee Poo are straight-up catching the beat when they can but it speaks to the infatuation they have with matching any music line for line.
Standouts: Caz, MC Shan, Just Ice
I may have had the most trouble with this interpretation because Dres (Black Sheep) recently dropped an album, so I don’t know if his nostalgic value is really intact. Monie Love may have gotten in the mix to address some of her own resentment toward the current state of the form. This was more of a milkbox 90’s emcee parade rather than the homage it could have been. Let’s see Ghostface, RZA, Jay, Scarface, Andre 3000, Q-Tip, Cormega, Common, Black Thought and Redman make the actual nineties tribute and see how that one compares. There’s something unsettling about hearing Rob Base talk about his royalty numbers over the “It Takes Two” beat. I’m not sure if any of these artists are circumspect enough to talk about their careers at this point in time. All in all, I applaud the effort but we all know these are the 90’s All-Stars or even the reserves. That would be like Penny, Tim Hardaway, J.R. Rider, Chris Jackson and Derrick Coleman repping for the entire era of the 90’s while Karl Malone, MJ and Barkley laid back in the cut.
Standouts: Positive K, Mike G
The West Coast has the best studio albums. There it is. It’s been said. Must be something fundamentally relaxing about being on the Left Coast that enables its artists to smooth out any song. Of the three mixes, this was by far the best listen. Breeze introduces the track with slick pimp talk that’s eventually mirrored by King Tee and Ice-T. I also give props to Ice for feeling brave enough to come out from behind his bunny-rabbit white girl and VH1 show long enough to spit a verse. Again, Snoop and Cube are glaringly absent from this joint but their counterparts do just fine. I’m glad the beat wasn’t re-tread for this song because it wouldn’t have captured the spirit of California sun with the original.
Standouts: Breeze, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Ice-T
HAWK feat. Lil Keke & Big Pokey – Cold in the Game
Freeway – Shootouts
Big Kuntry Young Dro & Slick Pulla – Porsche It Out
Cam’Ron – Dead The Funeral
Purple Ribbion Ft. Big Boi – Whats That Smell Remix
Ne-Yo Feat. AC – Because Of You (Remix)
Slum Village – Bootleggin’ My Shit produced by Black Milk
Original Sin ft. Freeway-Razor’s Edge
Remo da rapstar – Listen To My Gun
Baby Cham – Rudeboy Pledge (Doc Rok Remix)