2006 Revisited: Hip-Hop and Prison
By Rob Parkour
Spin back with me to Fall 2006 in hip-hop. The butts were smaller and the clothes were
baggier. Rick Ross had just released his debut album, Jay-Z was slated to release his comeback
album, and Beyonce’s fans hadn’t turned into a disturbing cult. People still bought CDs and fans
used Soundscan numbers to prove their point. This is before the days of people stalking
celebrities’ babies online. Saigon and Papoose were the next heirs to the throne and Autotune
was only used by T-Pain. Rap hadn’t become ubiquitous yet and rappers, you know, rapped.
These were better times.
In July 2006, I was arrested and charged with 2 nd degree Felony Distribution of
Cocaine charges. This happened weeks after turning 18 and graduating from Ridge High School
in suburban New Jersey. I did not have enough for bail and spent my first summer as an adult in
jail. I was the youngest person in the entire jail, and a room of black men in their mid to late
20’s took me under their wing, showed me right from wrong, and taught me the perils of jail. I
was introduced to these men by Steve, an older man who I had shared a room during the first 48
hours you spend in Medical before going to population. Steve saw I needed a group of like-
minded friends who could distract me from the years of time hanging over my head. When Steve
walked me up to a metal table where my future friends were playing Monopoly, I stood on the
outset nervously as Steve walked back to his room; he wanted me to introduce myself without
his help. These five black men were sitting on the table conversating back and forth and were
clearly the coolest guys in the entire pod. Similar to how you can walk into a high school
cafeteria and know who the popular kids are, you can tell off the bat who runs shit in jail.
I stood there anxiously waiting for my opening: sports and music are my go-to
conversation starters and the guys were talking about their respective hoods. T-Mac was talking
about Jamaica Queens, and I found my opening.
“Jamaica Queens? Like where G-Unit is from?” I was utterly obsessed with G-Unit
“Fuck that snitch, bitch ass nigga 50! Its Dipset all day!” G, the alpha of the group,
proclaimed. Just like that we started playing Monopoly and chopping it up and laughing.
The conversation continued with no lag and lasted until we were forced to go to our rooms for
dinner. The next part of the story I will copy and paste from my forthcoming memoir on my
time in the system:
Steve pushed me like a father telling a child to play, to room 3030 upstairs. That’s where
the guys lived. I nervously walked up to their room and stood in front, wondering if I should ask
to come in or just walk in. They were in a heated debate about who was to blame for the whole
Jay-Z/Dame Dash/Cam’ron beef. G was defending Cam’ron at the top of his lungs, while T-Mac
took the side of the legend Jay-Z. Country noticed me awkwardly standing, and ordered me to
come in and join the banter.
The rest of the guys were too heated in debate to acknowledge my appearance. I sat back
and listened to them go back and forth, waiting for my time to interject. “Well, it’d be one thing
if Cam’ron dissed Hov when he was hot, but he’s been puttin’ out some bullshit. I
mean Killa Season? Seriously, G? Dude fell off ever since Diplomatic Immunity 2,” I said,
putting my two cents in.
“Rob, I fuck with you already, but I can tell this is a debate that will never end. How the
fuck you gonna say Killa Season, Cam’ron’s last album, wasn’t hot?” And just like that the boys
and I embarked on a brotherhood that no man could come between. G explained to me that
rappers like 50 Cent and Jay-Z didn’t have any street cred. I was a bit perplexed by this.
“So, wait. You care more about a rapper’s street cred than the quality of their music?” I
“No, that ain’t what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that when someone’s a snitch like 50,
the hood ain’t gonna fuck with him. Would you listen to the faggot that snitched on you
if he made good music?” G said, countering with an excellent point.
“Hmmm, that’s a good point. I never thought about it like that,” I said, admitting I might
have been wrong on this one.
“Yeah, we’ve been conditioned our whole life to despise and completely distance
ourselves from anyone who snitches, and that nigga 50 is a rat, plain and simple.” This was
when I realized that I had a very different relationship with hip-hop than my new friends. I
certainly loved hip-hop. I was into the mixtape scene. I would download all the unreleased
songs, new mixtapes, and freestyles as soon as they came out.
Generally speaking, I was judging songs largely based on the swagger of the artist, the
beat, and how the rapper flowed over the beat. Everyone else in the room had a much
deeper, intimate relationship with hip-hop. They connected to the pain and the struggle that up-
and-coming artists rapped about. Hip-hop was rooted deeply in their culture. I was merely
observing their world when I listened to hip-hop. When they listened, they were hearing
observations of the world around them.
T-Mac interrupted G’s pro-Cam’ron rant to remind everyone that Jay-Z did in fact go on
record and diss Cam’ron on the remix of new artist Rick Ross’s mega-hit “Hustlin.” “We
don’t resort to violence. We resort to islands. Oh, shit!” T-Mac smiled from ear to ear,
reminiscing. “I remember bumpin’ that shit the day it came out with the windows down, wearing
the crispiest all-white outfit. Man, listen. Niggas in the street didn’t even know what to think.”
Hip-hop was so intertwined with their experiences that it served as a timeline for their lives.
The six hours between dinner and lights out that I spent with my new friends felt like six
I was pleasantly surprised the entire room embraced me with open arms. They were as
shocked by my knowledge of hip-hop mixtapes as they were by my charges that didn’t fit my
appearance. Shortly after that night, I moved into their room and the music debates never ended.
I was a fan of the glossy gangsta rap of G-Unit/Game while G and the rest of 3030 preferred the
realism of Dipset’s street raps. 50 Cent being exposed as a snitch didn’t matter to a white kid
living in Basking Ridge but held larger implications for people who had a more intimate
relationship with hip-hop.Me trying to convince G that 50 Cent was fire was like Skip Bayless
trying to convince Stephen A. Smith every morning that Tim Tebow was good.
“Man, I don’t care how good 50’s music is, he’s a snitch and in the streets and you don’t
fuck with a snitch, PERIOD.”
“But have you heard Hustler’s Ambition, yo?”
It seemed like G and I had a form of this conversation daily. Unfortunately, we were in
County Jail so we couldn’t listen to music, only debate it. This made our music debates more
interesting and passionate, but going a whole summer without any music is soul depriving. I
remember nodding my head to G singing the hook to Biggie’s “You’re Nobody ‘Till Somebody
Kills You” and being horrified that he thought BIG was a better rapper than Pac.
In the fall, to shorten my overall time, I transferred to a program that allowed slightly
more freedoms but was a much darker experience. Long gone were my mature cellmates who
had my back. Instead, I was locked up with 16-20-year-olds from the inner city that had nothing
to lose. In jail, I could sleep all day and eat food from commissary whenever I pleased. In the
program, you had to be up at 6 am, clean and stand in line on demand, eat when and what they
gave you, and could only be in your room from 10:00 PM-6AM; the rest of the day you were at
the disposal of the staff. The only good parts were that our families could send us clothes to
wear and there would be music.
Disclaimer: I am referring to all the young men in the program as kids, not as a sign of
disrespect, but because that’s what we all were at the time and it’s easier to say ‘kid’ then type
young man every time. I remember me and a young Puerto Rican kid named Alan were waiting
in the lobby on our first day, eating Tuna sandwiches and waiting to get admitted to our new
home. Alan was wearing Jean Shorts 6 sizes too big that ended right above his ankle and a 3XL
white T-Shirt that said “What’s Really Good?” in purple font with a huge Dipset logo on the
“Do you like G-Unit?”
Alan scrunched his eyebrows and shot me a cold star as if I asked for his tray. “I like the
LOX”. Alrighty then…
My first night in the program was visitation night and any kid who didn’t have any
visitors was allowed to hang out in the back room, play ping pong and listen to music. “Ten
Hut” by Sheek Louch ft. Jadakiss was the first song I heard since my freedom was stripped.
When Jadakiss rapped “the white tee is 4x cuz I be tuckin’ the gat” I felt a shot of adrenalin
similar to a junkie having his first hit in a long time.
Omavis & Timbs
For context, I’ll paint a picture of the mid 00’s for perspective of the people I shared the
next year of my life with. My unit in the program consisted of about 30 kids that ranged from
the ages of 16-20 and came from as far south as Camden to as far north as Jersey City. The
majority were from the Newark area. Kids cycled in and out and there were usually two other
white guys besides me. The other white kids didn’t share interests with the black kids so their
interactions were limited compared to mine. Insecure, scared and wanting to fit in, I tried my
best to assimilate myself with the young gangsters from Newark like I had in Jail with my OG’s.
Unlike my brothers in Jail, these kids had no interest in making me feel at home and resented me
from the first day. This is how they looked at it: “We share the same space but we were forced
into the revolving door of the system because we lacked the structure and opportunity that
you clearly wasted since you’re in no better position than us.” The fact that I was trying so hard
to fit in made me that much easier of a target: they could see the fear and desire for acceptance in
“You weren’t a drug dealer you were a cokehead! Look at your dirty kicks
and wack clothes, no way you were getting money!” In jail people looked at me like a
wunderkind who “got it”, in the program people called me a “gay, virgin cokehead.” “Gay,
Virgin Cokehead”, the latest single from Lil’ Xan!
Streetwear in the mid 00’s was more than a fashion statement. It was a status
symbol: dressing fresh meant you got money, if you didn’t dress in the latest gear you didn’t get
money, it was that simple. Back then, Omavi Jeans were the coolest jeans in the world, they were
extremely baggy, had straps and buttons that weren’t necessary and a brown tag in the back that
said “Den ‘Em Jenz”.My favorite Omavis were the lighter blue ones that faded into an even
lighter blue towards the center. It didn’t matter how skinny you were, you bought jeans that had
at least a 38-inch waist. Pepe Jeans, Savoors, Akademiks, LRG and Coogi Jeans were dope and
if you didn’t have a Miskeen Hoodie with the graffiti like print on the back you were doing it
wrong. Enyce, Ecko, Rocawear, Girbaud and Sean John were acceptable but a step down from
the aforementioned brands. All White Nike Air Force One’s were mandatory as were Timberland
Constructs in Butter or Black. Nike Shox weren’t lame, Gore Tex boots were the go-to winter
boot, Beef & Broc Timberlands were in, and wearing the current model of Jordans was still
cool. I remember my roommate from Camden, Ronny, showing me where he hid heroin in the
tongue of his Air Jordan 21’s. Retro sneakers were cool but there were less models and colors
out. OG Colorways of Bo Jacksons, Barkelys and Jordans dominated the retro sneaker scene.
If a kid had visit or a court date, he’d spend the whole morning picking out an outfit like
Kelly Kapowski on the first day of school. They would usually settle for a Black Label shirt with
skulls over a thermo, a fitted two sizes too big, Gore-Tex boots, puffy North Face jacket and very
baggy Omavi jeans.
When I lived in Atlanta from 99-02, I attended a middle school that participated in the
bussing program and my classes were half filled with kids from College Park. They
wore Fubu, Platinum Fubu, all white Reeboks, and more Fubu. The south is always years behind
New York as far as fashion and music goes. The kids I was locked up with would refer to the
Southern style of dressing as “country bandit.” I‘m unaware of the orgin of the phrase, but it’s a
great expression that I’m going to start using again.
I was completely out the loop of urban fashion from when I moved to the suburbs of New
Jersey in 2003 until Fall 2006. The kids from Newark would spend hundreds of their street
money on clothes and sneakers. That was radically different from my high school in the suburbs
of New Jersey: the idea of using your own money to buy clothes was ludicrous. My classmates
would simply tell their parents what they wanted from Hollister and their parents would buy it
for them. I lived with just my dad and we would go to the Polo or Nautica outlets a couple times
of year, spend a couple hundred dollars and those would be my clothes until the next year. In
high school, the clothes my friends wore didn’t matter, and they didn’t care or remark on the
clothes that I wore. We were always conversating but never about clothes. In high school, I loved
smoking pot more than I loved my family, so all of my money went to smoking as much weed as
possible. “You know what, let me not buy a quarter of weed and use that $100 on some
sneakers” is something my friends and I never would’ve said. The only reason I hustled drugs
was so I could smoke as much as I wanted and have enough left over to get some boneless
buffalo wings at Cluck-U Chicken.
You can’t tell the story of hip-hop in the mid-00’s without urban fashion and its impact
on the culture. If you dressed like a bum no one would respect your opinion about anything,
especially music. Nowadays, if you wear dirty sneakers and dress like a homeless person you’ll
be considered high-fashion and deep, your opinion will be valued more. In 2006, my opinion on
rap was null and void because a white kid in busted up Red Dunks couldn’t possibly be getting
money and know what’s up. Let me be clear about something before I move forward: I don’t
hold any type of grudge towards the kids for resenting me and giving me a hard time at first. In
their shoes, I would’ve treated me the same way. Those kids, who are now men, were the
coolest kids I had ever met and I wanted to be just like them. I’m grateful that they toughened
me up, I wouldn’t trade my experiences with that group of young men for anything, it made me
the man I am today. They’ll never know how much they shaped me, and it would be a thrill to
see any of them again.
Back to the music. The gray stereo our unit had was one of those early 00’s boom boxes
that had a CD, tape player and radio all in one. The stereo was only supposed to be pulled out
during visits, detailing our rooms on Saturday, holidays and special occasions. The TV had a
DVD player that we would occasionally use to play CD’s if the counselor’s overseeing us were
in a good mood. Families would bring their kids mixtapes during visits and the kids would
smuggle them back into their rooms.
Each bedroom contained three bunk beds which made a total of six juveniles in one
room. One of my roommates was a Crip from Elizabeth nicknamed Loose. Loose had the
cockiness of a prize fighter and had already been through one stretch at the program so he had
connections and walked around like he owned the place. The nighttime staff would often let him
take the radio late at night. The other kids in the room would tell war stories about their hoods
and gangs while Hot 97 played in the background. I would lay in silence and picture in my head
the stories I was hearing that seemed to come straight from the urban fiction novels I read in jail.
I remember one fun night, we snuck the radio into our room without permission and stayed up
until 5 in the morning laughing, listening to music, and shooting the shit. We woke up an hour
later feeling like complete shit. Unlike my roommates, I didn’t have the balls to come up with a
sick excuse to stay in bed so I charged ahead on one hour of sleep in one of the longest days of
Loose would crack open the door after they did head count and do whatever
the hell he did to get the stereo. In the beginning, it seemed like we had the radio every night.
They say smells ignite your memory more than anything else but I disagree. I think music can
transform you back to a time, place and feeling quicker than anything else.
The rap on the radio at the time was beginning to favor gimmicks over substance.
“It’s Goin’ Down” by Yung Joc spawned a Soulja boy-esque dance. “Snap Yo Fingers” by Lil
Jon, “LaffyTaffy” by D4L and “Walk It Out” by Unk were all equally catchy and mindless. At
least “Walk It Out” provided us with a worthwhile remix featuring Jim Jones and one of the last
great Andre 3000 verses. Jim Jones and Andre 3000 were featured on another remix together that
fall, this time combining forces on Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s” Remix, another 2006 radio
hit. The remix also features Murphy Lee, Nelly and Game who sounds incredible on it.
In late 2006, there was no shortage of finger snapping, sing-along southern rap singles.
Instead of the previous three songs, I could’ve used “A Bay Bay” by Hurricane Chris, “Chain
Hang Low” by Chibbs, “Pop, Lock & Drop It” by Huey and “Chicken Noodle Soup”
by Webstar, all of which followed a similar formula and got heavy airplay that year. “Chicken
Noodle Soup” provided America with an amazing dance that the kids would mock when the
song played on the radio. I didn’t realize until today that the guy (DJ Webstar) who made
“Chicken Noodle Soup” is the same person who made “Dancin’ On Me.” “Party Like a
Rockstar” isn’t made with the same formula but seems related to all these tracks. We all knew
some lame person who had “Party Like a Rockstar” as their ringtone in 2007.
“This Is Why I’m Hot” by Mims followed the gimmick formula and skyrocketed from
#32 on the Billboard Charts to #1 in one week, the third largest single week jump in music
history. For years Alex Rodriguez used this song as a batter box’s approach music, did anyone in
his camp tell him corny that was? I suppose part of A-Rod’s charm is his complete lack of self-
“Make it Rain” by Fat Joe featuring Lil’ Wayne was on the radio all the time which
I approved of. I love this beat which was made by our guy Scott Storch before his infamous coke
binge. Is it a coincidence that Scott Storch made full albums with Paris Hilton and Brooke Hogan
the same year his drug addiction spiraled out of control? I would love to make a movie based on
Scott Storch’s epic yearlong coke debauchery. Check out this quote from his manager: “It was
just a wonderful year, but I think it was defined by the magic month of August.” The magic
month of August? What the hell happened in August?! Seriously, who wouldn’t watch a movie
about a rap producer going through $70 million worth of coke in less than a year? Scott, contact
me and we can make “Magic Month of August: The Scott Storch Coke Binge” a hit!
Fall 2006 had many high-profile album releases and most of them disappointed. Let’s
look into them one by one.
Fall 2006 Rap Releases
September 19th – Lupe Fiasco – Food &Liquor: Lupe Fiasco got mad love from the backpack
rap community and the radio with the breakout singles “Kick Push” and “Daydreamin.” One of
the weekend staff members used to try to get the kids into this album and they’d immediately
take it out the CD player like a child throwing away his vegetables. Does anyone listen to Lupe
October 10th – Lloyd Banks – Rotten Apple: I have a personal story with this album later in the
piece. The music on this album is very disappointing. In 2006, Lloyd Banks was the boy wonder
of rap, the punchline and mixtape king that was everyone’s favorite rapper at one point. Lloyd
Banks had the most street cred of the group during a time where it was becoming less cool to like
G-Unit. Fans should have realized the album was going to be a disappointment when the first
single “Cake” failed to pick up any steam as did the follow up single “Hands Up.” Both singles
had released before I became locked up and I remember talking myself into them being decent
but deep down knowing it was a bad sign for Banks’ sophomore album. The second single
“Help” featuring a young Keri Hilson is actually really good and a good example of a 00’s R&B
featured rap single done right: hearing it come on the radio was always nice but sadly it is
one of the better tracks on the album. The feature list is very impressive and includes legends
Rakim, Prodigy, Scarface and 8Ball, as well as the usual suspects of Buck, Yayo & 50. The star-
studded supporting cast isn’t enough to overcome the lackluster production; it’s hard to believe
50, who has such a good ear for beats, approved any of these. Banks doesn’t need chipmunk
sounding, sample heavy beats necessarily but you don’t do him any favors by giving
him grimy, low energy “street” beats.
October 17th – Diddy – Press Play: Diddy’s first album in five years came out is him trying to
jack Timbaland’s sound. Seriously, listen to “Last Night” and “Tell Me” and tell me both of
those singles don’t sound like bootleg versions of Timbaland’s Keri Hilson featured single “The
Way I Are.” This album is so bad it makes Diddy’s follow-up, 2010’s Last Train to Paris,
seem great in comparison. Similar to Aerosmith’s 2001 album Just Push Play, Diddy’s Press
Play instructs you to do something no sane person would do.
October 31st – Birdman & Lil’ Wayne – Like Father, Like Son: “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy”
was all over the radio that fall and winter and has become an underrated single over the years. In
fact, this whole album is underrated. You are getting prime Lil’ Wayne and Birdman may not be
the best MC but he has a good voice, solid flow, and doesn’t take much if anything off the table.
It’s not like Birdman comes on and you want to skip the song. “You Ain’t Know” and “Leather
So Soft” are also solid singles. “Army Gunz” and the cult classic Pimp C sampled “1st Key” are
just two examples of the many great album cuts. Scott Storch removed himself from a mountain
of cocaine to produce “You Ain’t Know,” but the majority of the album is produced by former
8Ball & MJG producer T-Mix who gives the album a fun bounce that matches the subject matter.
“Neighborhood Superstar” is a bonus track and one of my favorite songs. “Wait, one of your
favorite songs is a solo Birdman song that’s on the bonus disc of a Lil’ Wayne & Birdman
collaboration album?” How many white people have had sex to “Neighborhood Superstar”?
This is getting weird, let’s just move on.
November 7th – Jim Jones – Hustler’s P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment): “We Fly High”
became a mega hit that fall that crossed over to mainstream society. G sent me a letter in the
program telling me his Giants were doing the “Fadeaway” Ballin’ dance as a sack celebration. In
the midst of his comeback/beef with Cam, Jay-Z dropped a remix where he yelled “Brooklyn!”
instead of “Ballin!” which was as cringeworthy as it sounds. I remembered lying in my bunk
hearing Juelz Santana and Jim Jones freestyle over the beat in retaliation and wondering how
many other artists were rapping over the amazing “We Fly High” beat. All these songs I talk
about spin me back to my time being locked up but “We Fly High” was everywhere at the time,
you couldn’t escape it. “Reppin’ Time” was also on the radio and was a good single but the
album cuts that don’t feature Max B are on the weak side. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that
Jim Jones was making way too much music during this time. This album is a clear drop-off from
Jim Jones debut and a step down from the previous year’s Harlem: Diary of a Summer.
November 14th – The Game – Doctor’s Advocate: This album, even more than Jay-Z’s
comeback album, was the album I was most curious to listen to. Game’s debut The
Documentary was a very important album to my friends and I. If you didn’t listen to Game
with me in 2005 then you didn’t know me back then, my friends and I listened to that album with
everyone like we were trying to get Game signed. “Have you heard ‘Church for Thugs’, yo?”
The Game’s run from ‘04-’05 is one of the most prolific in history. His flow, voice and
command were all A+’s; every single Game verse from that period was fire even if it was over a
weak beat. It was clear from his early 2006 work that he was still scarred and hurt from the G-
Unit fallout. G-Unit beef aside, Game’s flow was still tight and his single “One Blood” was a
banger, it seemed that his inevitable Sophomore slump would be small. Wrong. The album is a
big drop off from Game’s previous work. You know how you can see someone for the first time
in a while and they look and sound the same but you can just feel something is off? That’s
what Doctor’s Advocate is: from a distance it seems like the same ol’ Game but any true fan can
tell you it lacks the energy that made The Documentary irresistible. Whether you liked it or
not The Documentary went under your skin, Game made you feel his wrath. Doctor’s
Advocate comes up flat in that regard, it doesn’t make you feel anything which is a death
sentence in hip-hop. Game’s Dr. Dre complex becomes even weirder on a project named after
Dre that doesn’t feature Dr. Dre’s “protege” rapping over his beats.
“Wouldn’t Get Far” was on the radio a lot that fall but doesn’t sound nearly as
good as Game rapping over a soul sounding Kanye beat should be. The numerous “One Blood”
remixes were a better listen than the rest of the singles. “Is that Ja Rule on the One Blood
Remix?!” I said to myself lying in the bunk with my eyes closed.
It’s painfully obvious Game misses and needs 50’s songwriting skills. Doctor’s
Advocate is a textbook example of the “second novel syndrome,” which makes it that much more
confusing that the majority of music journalists, including one of the best Jeff Weiss, claim it’s a
great album that’s an improvement over The Documentary. Right, why would anyone want to
listen to actual Dr. Dre beats when you can listen to the bootleg Dre beats by people not named
November 21 st – Snoop Dogg – Tha Blue Carpet Treatment: I included this album because I
wanted to talk about “Sexual Seduction”, the catchy auto-tuned R&B style track that played on
the radio all winter. It turns out that single is from his 2008 album Ego Trippin’. I can’t find any
evidence to support my claim that this single was on the radio in winter 2006 all the time, just
take my word for it. The radio would sometimes play “I Wanna Love You” featuring Akon and
“Sexual Seduction” back to back. “Sexual Seduction” charted on Billboard in 2008 but that
doesn’t mean it wasn’t around in 2006, it’s possible Snoop Dogg had too many singles and
figured he should save one for his next album. “That’s That Shit” featuring R. Kelly which is on
this album was also on the radio a ton also but it seemed “Sexual Seduction” was on the radio
even more. I’m chalking it up to the landscape at the time: a dozen years ago you could release a
single, test it on the radio and then re-release it a year later without people noticing.
November 21st – Jay-Z – Kingdom Come: A Grammy award winning Jay-Z comeback album
produced by Just Blaze and Dr. Dre, what could go wrong? Almost everything you say? During
Sunday Night Football the Budweiser commercial where Hov pretends he’s James Bond would
come on while “Show Me What You Got” played in the background. I remember thinking “it’s
not a good sign if Budweiser thinks this Jay-Z single is good for business”.
On Kingdom Come, Jay-Z opts for “grown man raps” over his usual subject matter.
There’s a few decent tracks but the album as a whole is a dud. Jay-Z went back to basics for
the follow-up and redeemed himself on 2007’s American Gangster which proved to be his last
great album. Hov himself ranked Kingdom Come as his worst album but he also put Blueprint
3 over Dynasty and Vol. 3 so what the fuck does he know?
November 28th – Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury: I don’t remember “Mr. Me Too” being on the
radio too often and I don’t remember the kids ever talking about the duo from Virginia. I’m
including the album because critically it is the best album of all the albums released in the Fall of
2006. The sentiment online and throughout hip-hop is that this is the Clipse’s best project and
I’m here to disagree with that. This is not an indictment on Hell Hath No Fury, it speaks more to
the excellence of their debut Lord Willin’. It’s very hard to top an album that starts with “Young
Boy” and “Virginia.” Malice being better than Pusha T is another strange Clipse opinion that’s
become popular online. Malice is clearly the Havoc to Pusha T’s Prodigy, how could anyone
think differently? Am I listening to the Clipse wrong?
December 12 th – Young Jeezy – The Inspiration: It was funny to see Zay, the program’s alpha
dog and biggest Young Jeezy fan, try to talk himself into The Inspiration not being a
disappointment like I did when I heard the latest G-Unit or Game on the radio. Zay preferred
listening to the Can’t Ban the Snowman mixtape or, when he craved new Jeezy, the I Am A Street
Dream DJ Drama mixtape. The first single “I Luv It” was your typical single from the time but
played on MTV more than New York radio. The second single “Go Getta” featuring R. Kelly
was also a very mid 00’s rap single that managed to get more run on New York radio. The album
is more forgettable than bad. The fact that this album got much better reviews than Jeezy’s last
great studio album, 2008’s The Recession proves these hip-hop journalists don’t know shit.
December 19th – Nas – Hip-Hop Is Dead: Nas, always looking for new and innovate ways to
take an L, found a funny, new way to take a loss. Nas has a reputation for wasting his album
budget on god knows what and having to hit the bargain bin for beats when his advance money
dries up. This is how Salaam Remi (who’s actually not as bad as people say) ended up producing
eight songs on Nas’ previous album.
Having soon to be retired NBA Power Forward Chris Webber produce a song (“Blunt
Ashes”) on your album is a loss, regardless of how good the beat is (it’s not). I’m not sure if
having an NBA player produce a song on your album is more or
less embarrassing than Nas starting off said song by asking, “Yo, I wonder if Langston Hughes
and Alex Haley got blazed before they wrote stories.” Uh, no Nas, Langston Hughes wasn’t a
member of Dipset, he didn’t get high before creating his poetry. Before Alex Haley began
writing Roots, he spent some time in the dark interior of a ship, trying to re-create the
claustrophobic horror slaves must have experienced. It’s safe to say Alex Haley also didn’t
smoke cess before writing.
Nas doubled down on his Chris Webber bet by having him produce the only previously
unreleased track (“Surviving the Times”) on his 2007 Greatest Hits album. The beat is a lot
better on this one but imagine you’re pumped and ready to listen to a well put together mix
of Nas’ mid-90’s classics and instead of hearing “N.Y. State of Mind” when you press play, you
are treated with a song produced by a man who’s most famous for the biggest choke job
in NCAA Championship Game history. Nas could’ve had any producer in the world give him a
beat for the token new track that Greatest Hits albums had and he chose Chris Webber. I need
answers: why am I the only one who cares about Chris Webber and Nas’ artistic relationship?
The title track produced by will.i.am. was the first single of the album and was good at
the time but hasn’t aged well. It’s ironic, funny and cruel that Game rapped over a Dre beat
on Nas’ album but not on Doctor’s Advocate. “Black Republican” is okay but doesn’t come close
to living up to the hype of the first post-beef Jay-Z-Nas collaboration. Nas claiming hip-hop was
dead was a shot at Southern rappers of the time. Does this mean Nas was ahead of the time with
his claim that hip-hop died? You could say that, but rap wasn’t on life support in 2006 like it is
now. Hip-hop’s corpse is rotting as we speak but no rapper dares to speak to truly speak on it.
The best rapper alive would rather make trap albums with his 37-year-old auto-tune
using wife than make a defiant statement on the death of hip-hop. Now I’m sad.
“Be Without You” by Mary J. Blige and “Call on Me” by Janet Jackson featuring Nelly
are two great R&B singles by two legends in their late 30’s that dominated the airways that
winter. I heard “Irreplacable” by Beyonce so many times on the radio that fall and winter that I
get Vietnam like flashbacks every time it randomly comes on in public. “Deja Vu” and “Upgrade
U” by Beyonce & Jay-Z turned out to be a preview of the shitty music those two would make in
the years to come. The scary part is that those songs aren’t good but are still miles better than
any Beyonce/Jay-Z collab in the past decade. “Me & U” by Cassie & “Show Stopper”
by Danity Kane were hits by new female R&B/Pop voices that didn’t hold up to the better R&B
of the time but is much better than TheWeeknd. Female R&B singers on their second albums had
chart toppers, Ciara’s “Promise” and “When I See U” by America’s favorite functional illiterate,
If you see an R&B feature on a new rap project nowadays you know the song is going to
be some depressing, auto-tuned hook bullshit. But this wasn’t the case in the mid-00’s even with
mainstream songs. “Pullin Me Back” by Chingy featuring Tyrese isn’t as fun as “Holidae Inn”
but is still a solid single with a good beat and great hook. “You” by Lloyd featuring Lil’ Wayne
played every half an hour on Power 105: the song is a best-case scenario for having a rapper
featured on your R&B single. “You” was Lil” Wayne’s first chart topping feature and propelled
him to be featured on approximately 200 singles in the next two years. “Buy U A Drink” by T-
Pain featuring Yung Joc is an R&B version of the finger snapping Southern rap songs that were
so popular at the time. “Shortie Like Mine” by Bow Wow featuring Chris Brown is a rapper
featuring an R&B artist but it’s more R&B sounding than rap. I didn’t mind this song then and it
hasn’t aged as poorly as you would assume a Bow Wow single would. “I’m a Flirt” featuring R.
Kelly is another Bow Wow single that aged well, at the time we didn’t know the R. Kelly
featuring T.I. & T-Pain version of “I’m a Flirt” would be remembered most. “My Love” by
Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. crossed over more than any other R&B featuring Rapper single.
The best thing about “My Love” is it’s not “Sexy Back” which also played on the radio non-stop
that fall and winter. “What Goes Around” was the third single from that Justin Timberlake album
and is much better than those two singles but not good enough to take Justin Timberlake
seriously as an artist. His music isn’t offensively bad but it also isn’t good. Timberlake’s voice is
not great, Bob.
We didn’t know it at the time but R&B was about to experience an even quicker death
than rap. By 2010 there was almost no good new R&B. We grasped for anything that seemed to
have potential, people with good taste tried to convince themselves that PartyNextDoor was
good. We were ignorant of R&B’s impending death at the dawn of 2007 and it seemed that the
new king of R&B would be either Ne-Yo or Akon, two very different artists. Ne-Yo broke
through in 2006 with the mega hits “Sexy Love” and “So Sick.” It was rare for an R&B artist in
that era to be a critical and commercial success which Ne-Yo undeniably was. His biggest
competitor at the time, Akon, was a completely different artist whose music didn’t fit the molds
of traditional R&B yet wasn’t hip-hop enough to be considered Bone Thugz. “Smack That” was
a huge single that was on the radio all the time but was too gimicky to be considered good.
“I Wanna Love You” featuring Snoop Dogg was a number one hit and a very enjoyable single to
this day. I love the fact that Akon had chart toppers like Eminem and Snoop Dogg featured on
his singles but the only rapper Ne-Yo worked with for his singles was State Property’s
own Peedi Crack on “Stay.” Ne-Yo skipped right over Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Young Chris and
Neef Buck right to Peedi. Do you think Ne-Yo considered Oschino or Omillio Sparks
before settling on Peedi Crack?
Ne-Yo ended up winning the battle for the R&B crown, releasing two more modern
classics with Because of You and Year of the Gentleman which not only kill Akon’s next (and
last) album but also serve as the last great R&B albums. Sure, it’s been over ten years since a
decent R&B album but things are just fine!
I went into jail and the program knowing a lot about rap but very little about modern
R&B. I loved and grew up on Motown and all the other great Soul and R&B acts of 60’s & 70’s.
I had a healthy appreciation for 90’s R&B groups like TLC and Boyz II Men based on what I’d
heard on Atlanta Radio Stations and seen on music videos on MTV. My group of friends in High
School all had very eclectic taste in music: we were light-years ahead of everyone else we went
to school with. We listened to Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Love and the Elephant Six
Collective and knew we had better taste than the writers of Blender. You know what we didn’t
think was cool? New R&B. If I would have arrived at my friend’s house with the new Bobby
Valentino album, I would have gotten clowned just like I did in the program for
my wack wardrobe. Similar to fashion, we never even talked about new R&B.
My exposure to R&B at the program wasn’t limited to whatever single happened to play
on Hot 97 or Power 105 on nights we had the stereo. One of the kids begged one of the female
employees to bring in a copy of Usher’s album Confessions. I sat back on the couch as he
begged for an Usher album that went 10x platinum and thought, ‘Sure, you guys are way cooler
than me, dress better than me and have better taste in rap but at least I don’t beg to listen to
Usher’s sellout album!’ The female employee eventually brought in a copy of Confessions and
we listened to it while we cleaned and had a good two week stretch where the album was in
rotation as much as the rap we listened to. Listening to an R&B album was a changeup from the
usual hood mixtapes we listened to. When the Usher album played all the gangsters I was locked
up with turned soft as hell. “Yo, I remember listening to this when my chick caught me
cheating.” One of them would say shaking his head, “man, when she told me she was pregnant I
listened to this joint non-stop.” These extremely tough young men turned soft from an album I
considered a commercial sellout.
Atlanta’s 95.5 The Beat gave me my education in rap during the late 90’s and early 00’s
so I already had a healthy appreciation for Usher but assumed he sold out and crossed over in a
bad way when I saw him on MTV doing “Yeah!” with Lil’ Jon. That song was more of a joke to
my friends and I than a song. Slowly but surely Confessions started to grow on me as did the new
R&B on the radio. I began to look forward to hearing “On the Hotline” by Pretty Ricky in the
Power 105 rotation and I no longer viewed “Icebox” as a lame song by a B2K flunkie.
When you are insecure and young, you unconsciously let your peers decide what music is
cool enough to give a chance to. The fact these kids, who I looked up to and thought were cool,
liked new R&B subconsciously ‘gave me permission’ to give it a chance, open my mind and
judge new R&B on a blank slate. It turns out I do like new R&B! Obviously, Usher doesn’t have
the voice of Sam Cooke or the capability to make an important album like Rhythm Nation but
that doesn’t mean you write off his discography. As much as I love old R&B, it’s refreshing to
listen to 90’s and early 00’s R&B as a changeup in the same way it’s invigorating to listen to G-
Unit or Dipset if you’ve been listening to nothing but Rakim and KRS-One.
Streets Wanna Know
4,000+ words constitute enough foreplay, let’s get down to the real rap. Just like in jail, I
was the only G-Unit fan in the program. Zay was the program’s 19-year-old alpha dog, he was
tough, cool and smart. I heard his girlfriend give him a shoutout on “Love Lockdown” on Hot 97
during a late-night radio session, all the kids would wait to hear if their girl called into the radio
to shout them out on “Love Lockdown” but Zay’s girl was the one I heard go through.
If Zay said something was wack, it was wack. If he said something was dope, it was
dope. Zay slapped me on the chest to get my attention while “Reservoir Dogs” by Jay-Z played,
“I know pop you can’t stand us cause we cock them hammers/Run in your crib, no prisoners, pop
your grandma/Locked in the slammer?Nope, popped up in Atlanta/Crossed up in a drop, I
popped up the antenna.” Zay slapped me in the chest again to make sure I was paying attention,
“Niggas don’t know man. They really don’t know that Jay-Z invented this talking greezy shit.”
For whatever reason, I’ll never forget him saying that about Hov. Obviously Zay was aware of
other Mafioso/street rappers like Kool G Rap that influenced Jay-Z, but there’s something to
what Zay said. Jay-Z had a certain slick talk to his raps that no rapper had before. He was
murdering you but calmly and coolly, the slickest rapper ever.
Zay was the ultimate authority when it came to what was real, grimy street rap. Pause, he
always knew what was hardest. He didn’t always control the radio, but when he spoke up people
listened and put what he wanted on. His favorite rappers were Hell Rell and Young Jeezy. He
entered the program days after I did and somehow secured a burned copy of Hell
Rell’s Streets Wanna Know mixtape. Zay and I started talking about sports during our downtime
in the first week. “Put my shit on” he ordered one of the younger kids from his seat on the
wooden couch. That day was the first of the 943 times I listened to Hell Rell’s
Streets Wanna Know mixtape while locked up in the program. That mixtape was Zay’s bible and
therefore became all of our bibles. It’s too important of a mixtape/moment in my life to not do a
short Track by Track breakdown of:
“Rap Sheet” – Cam’ron’s only appearance on the tape is him telling us Hell Rell is home and
instructing Hell Rell to give us his Rap Sheet. The beat is hard as hell and abrasive like most of
Hell Rell’s beats. “Me and my man Bucks went on a string of armed robberies, then I got
knocked for them string of armed robberies/Fast forward ‘96 I’m back on the strip/It’s looking
good niggas in the hood fucking with them bricks/Copped the Tech and the .380 like who want
it?” Being locked up listening to Hell Rell rap about being locked up made his music resonate
“Shoot to Kill” – “I write rhymes and push weight, one bitch doing my nails, the other feeding
me grapes” is a great Hell Rell line that resonated with me more than I realized. In my memoir, I
use the line “women feeding me grapes” to explain a fantasy I was having. There’s a 99.9%
chance that I used that phrase because of this song.
“Die Muthafuckas” – Maybe the Hell Relliest song of the whole mixtape. The star of the track
is Freaky Zeeky who spends a minute mumbling a pep talk to Hell Rell via Clinton Correctional
Facility’s pay phone.
“On My Block” – “My nigga this Hell/Rell just got the jail cell/gun on my Pel Pel down to get
it poppin” Hell Rell raps over 50 Cent’s “In My Hood” and uses his flow better than 50 did. For
the second song in a row Rell takes a call from Clinton Correction Facility, this time from an
inmate who tries to G check Rell who tells the hater that “his pass in jail is stamp and certified”.
Did I mention this is the perfect mixtape to listen to while locked up?
“Bang Out” – More jail rhymes. “A killer with straight intentions of mashin ‘em wit
vengeance/Put me back in, go to the box, finish my sentence/I don’t wanna be around
nobody/I’m stabbin so they don’t put me around nobody.” As far as hard street rhymes there’s
not many rappers in history that can keep up with Hell Rell. Beanie Sigel and Scarface were hard
rappers that made better music but were they harder than Hell Rell? “You wanna test the rocket
launcher? Well c’mon/A hundred shots’ll go off and watch your family mourn/And one
phone call’ll make your whole family gone/Leave your family tree burnt down, y’all sittin in urns
now/Bangin out like a nigga got money on my head/Kill a hit man so he don’t collect the
bread/Bangin out like I’m in a stash house full of bricks/And it’s comin to get robbed by some
niggas with some fifths.” If your Aunt Sally heard you listening to lyrics like this she’d tell her
sister to send you to boot camp.
The song starts out with a hilarious skit. In it one of Hell Rell’s youngin’s excitingly tells
a recently released Hell Rell that he sends youngin’s to the store for dutches just like Hell Rell
used to do to him. The kid is obviously dying for Rell’s approval, Hell Rell’s response?
“Lil’ nigga, I don’t give a fuck/I just got my hand on two AR-15’s, and a pump with a
pistol grip, what’s good?” Incredible. I usually hate skits but all of Hell Rell’s skits on this tape
are amazing and good for a laugh. I would not be opposed to a Hell Rell album full of skits of
him taking phone calls from various prisons and shooting down wide-eyed teenagers searching
for his approval. Give me a Hell Rell comedy album, spoken word album, motivational speeches,
anything: I am all the way in on any form of Hell Rell recording. I would start listening to
audiobooks if they were narrated by Hell Rell.
“Shots Fired” ft. Juelz Santana – Uh oh, get the yellow tape. Hell Rell absolutely murders
Juelz Santana who seems confused on how to rap over the track. This was Juelz’s first guest
appearance since releasing Back Like Cooked Crack Pt. 2 and What The Game’s Been Missing!
Sadly, the weak verse was a sign of the fall Juelz was about to endure. Juelz still hasn’t released
the follow up to What The Game’s Been Missing!
“Y’all Don’t Want War” – The most non-descript song on the mixtape. It’s fine but
doesn’t elicit much of a response either way from me. Another funny skit exchange at the end of
the song has a woman telling Hell Rell to take care of his kids. “What kids mayne? I ain’t even
got no kids….I don’t even have kids! What the fuck are you talking about?” Could I interest you
in Hell Rell and a hoodrat from the Bronx starring in a paternity episode of Maury?
“Jesus In My Life” – The beat is low key, relying on a haunting piano and simple drum track.
Hell Rell sounds magnificent on the track but unfortunately the song’s only 85 seconds long.
Add “rappers choosing one of the best beats to be one of the shortest songs on the project” to my
growing list of hip-hop pet peeves. It’d take anyone five seconds of listening to Hell Rell float
over this track to realize he was born to rap on this type of beat, but somehow they chose to
make it the shortest song on the mixtape. There are multiple Freaky Zeeky Phone Calls from
Prison interludes that last longer than this song.
“Killa, what’s good? Why’d you take my second verse off of ‘Jesus In My Life?”
“Remember that fifth voicemail Freaky Zeeky left us last night at 2 in the morning? Yeah you
killed that shit Rell but there’s NO way I can leave that voicemail out.”
“Dreams” – Hell Rell raps over a Kanye (remember when he was an amazing producer?) beat
that was the third single on Game’s classic debut The Documentary. Hell Rell would’ve been
better served using any of The Documentary’s other singles, specifically “Higher” or “Westside
Story.” The freestyle is fine but for some reason only an edited version of this song exists. You’ll
never believe this but a Hell Rell song that skips over the curses fucks up the flow of the song.
“Ruger Rell & Writer” ft. JR Writer – The beat is underwhelming but JR Writer and Hell Rell
make up for it. JR Writer and 40 Cal are a much cleaner fit than JR and Rell. Out of all the
members of Dipset I think Hell Rell had the best chemistry with Cam’ron who didn’t appear on
this project. I suppose Cam’ron took the four Hell Rell collaborations he had and used them all
for Killa Season. Speaking of Killa Season, Hell Rell does a magnificent job as a supporting
actor in the film Killa Season which is one of America’s biggest cinematic accomplishments of
the 21 st century. It’s Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men or Hell Rell in Killa Season as the
best supporting actor roles since the 90’s.
“Monsters Pt. 2” ft. JR Writer – Now we’re talking, this is more like it! This track beats the
previous JR Writer collaboration but I have a problem with it being on the mixtape. Not to
get geeky/A&R guy on you but Monsters Pt. 1 has a better beat and is an overall better
song but it’s a loose track that has never featured on any official project. Loose Tracks Matter!
“Keep It Thoro” – Rell freestyles over the popular instrumental from Prodigy’s solo debut.
“Grand Finale” ft. 40 Cal & JR Writer – My favorite track on the mixtape. I remember
watching Zay rap Hell Rell’s verse and thinking to myself, “I had this tape but never noticed how
good the project and this particular song were.” The beat takes a sample from an unlikely source,
He-Man’s theme song. The sample only lasts two seconds but whoever produced it did a great
job of looping it and making it sound so catchy. One of the more fun things about researching
rap is finding out the origins of your favorite beats. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked
up the sample to one of my favorite beats and was in utter shock by how absurd, random or bad
some of the artists getting sampled are. Before I looked up the sample for the song, I assumed it
was from some obscure disco song or something. Hell Rell leads off the song and sounds great.
JR Writer is up next and he gives his best verse of the album and also sounds great over the beat.
40 Cal takes the body on this track, coming on to the track with the energy of a sixth man.
This is the third-best song the trio every released together behind “The Pit” and the Jay
Bezel assisted “Best Out” both of which came off of More Than Music Vol. 1. Dipset’s bench
mob of JR Writer, Hell Rell & 40 Cal had great chemistry together that rivaled the chemistry
of Dipset’s starting lineup of Cam’ron, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones. There was a time in 2007
when Dipset’s roster included: Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones, Hell Rell, 40 Cal, JR Writer,
Max B, Stack Bundles, Jay Bezel, Purple City, S.A.S. and Un Kasa. Look at that lineup, it’s like
the 1927 Yankees! That deep of a roster has only been seen in Wu-Tang Clan.
“What I’m About” – Rell had great success when he used “In My Hood” from The
Massacre earlier on the tape but this time he uses “Gunz Come Out” from The Massacre, a beat
that was blah at the time and has aged even worse. Dr. Dre produced “Gunz Come Out” and the
original “Outta Control” for The Massacre. It’s crazy how Get Rich or Die Tryin is considered a
Dre produced album despite only producing four songs off it, granted three of those songs are
“In Da Club”, “Heat” and “If I Can’t” but it seems like that number should be higher. It’s even
crazier that he only produced two songs on The Massacre and both beats suck. It wasn’t until the
Remix of “Outta Control” that Dr. Dre redeemed himself for the crappy tracks he gave 50 for his
follow up. Dr. Dre releasing every unreleased song he ever did with 50 Cent and The Game
would be a thousand times better than Detox or that crappy Compton OST. Just give me all the
loose tracks that didn’t make the cut for Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Documentary. Old
rappers and producers need to understand: us fans would rather hear the unreleased material from
your golden age then you trying to recreate that same sound during a midlife crisis.
“Hell Rell” – A great Hell Rell song where Hell Rell does Hell Rell things. It always cracks me
up that Hell Rell named a song after himself.
“Gangstas & Murders” ft. Bezel – Hell Rell is on top of his game on this track that I always
thought would’ve been a good street single. “I carry one for the beef, one for the haters and this
other chrome and black one just match my Bo Jacksons.” Rell is just cold, man.
“Ran with the best niggas, slept in the best villas, 5-star restaurants that served me the
best dinners!” is hilarious in a way I can’t properly explain. Per usual, Jay Bezel provides the
listeners with a flawless hook. If you need evidence that Jay Bezel is good listen to him catch
the body over Hell Rell, JR Writer, 40 Cal and Juelz Santana on “The Gladiators” off More Than
the Music Vol. 2.
“Uh Uh” ft. Juelz Santana – Finally Juelz Santana redeems himself for mailing in his first guest
verse. This is a great Dipset collaboration but as I said earlier the memorable Hell Rell collabs
typically involve Cam’ron. Killa Season was a staple in the program and contains four Hell Rell
verses. None more memorable than “War”. The shit talk before his verse is so memorable I can
quote it word for word without having to play it, “heard these niggas wanted war, I’m good
at those….I’m fuckin great at those.” Hell Rell doesn’t get enough credit for being funny. The
“War” beat is some hood superhero shit that suits Rell perfect, Cam’ron can only pray to keep up
with Hell Rell’s energy. “You procrastinated so I got you assassinated” was a Hell Rell line
from “War” that Zay would always say out of nowhere.
Hell Rell proves his versatility; “Something New” and “He Tried to Play Me”
from Killa Season are two light beats that have a nursery rhyme piano vibe.
Freestyle 1-3 – There are three unremarkable freestyles over forgettable beats. The songs are
so forgettable that Hell Rell doesn’t even bother giving them titles. Rather than forcing a
conversation about those three freestyles let’s talk about the three most important Hell Rell solo
records from this era.
Hell Rell’s first official appearance on a Dipset project is on “This Is What I Do,” a
banger from Diplomatic Immunity Vol. 1 that was produced by Heatmakerz. The song is very
catchy and easy to like. If you were trying to turn someone into a Hell Rell fan (a great thing to
do) I would suggest showing them this song first. So many quotables in this
song from “all my guerillas gonna come through and get you and merk off in the double nickel
the color of pickles” to “you and your mans getting it, where’s our
portion? Yo Killa, only reason they killers/When they bust in the hoes they
make em get abortions”.
Hell Rell’s second solo appearance came on Diplomatic Immunity Vol. 2 on “Wouldn’t
You Like to Be a Gangster Too.” Rell raps so filthy on the track that they couldn’t have put
anyone else on the song. “My gun bust need I say more, now I have my mom telling me I need to
pray more/ Mommy please, I don’t get on my knees that shit ain’t for G’s, I’m about to take my
ass to hell for all the triggers I squeezed”. Man, listen.
“Back in the Building” is the final solo Hell Rell track that completes the Holy Trinity.
Later that year Hell Rell finally gave us his solo mixtape.
“What You Into” ft. Ash & Sin – I refuse to comment on a song that features Ash OR Sin.
Instead let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
I’ve been out the loop of hip-hop news for the past three years. Before writing this
article, I was completely unaware of the trials and tribulations Hell Rell has faced the past year.
There’s the video of him getting jumped at a Buffet which seems like a dangerous place to fight
with all the hot food and obese people around. Then there’s the video of him laying knocked out
on the street after either getting knocked out or being so pissy drunk that he turned into a New
York City hobo. There’s the audio recording of Hell Rell arguing with some dude from Newark
over a feature and demanding he Western Union him $50 that day. The dude from Newark
proceeds to diss Hell Rell’s entire family including his daughters and recently deceased parents.
Umm, bad times for Hell Rell. Cam’ron was on some IG story radio show (when did that
become a thing?) and, in a tone as serious as Cam can get, told Hell Rell to get Karate lessons.
Joe Budden went on his podcast and jailed off it all, especially for choosing to eat at a buffet.
Maino took a dig at the videos on a Funk Flex freestyle which made Funk Flex get so excited it
sounded like he needed CPR. Hell Rell replied with a few interviews and his own IG stories
where he compares himself to President Trump, “billionaire” Jay-Z and talks with the same slick
talk straight out of 2006 that we’ve always loved him for. Usually I’m turned off when I watch a
rapper stick up for themselves in interviews after something like this happened, typically it
comes off desperate. Not Hell Rell: he’s as cool, calm and collective as ever as he debunks
anyone who thinks he’s a cardboard gangster. Hell Rell being obsessed with telling his rivals to
get life insurance is the most ridiculous and funny thing he said in all of his interviews and
Instagram posts. Someone on YouTube mashed up his Life Insurance rant
with a MetLife commercial. I think I’m responsible for over half of the 43 views the video has.
“I gotta half amillion dollar fuckin’ life insurance policy on me nigga….I can recommend a few
policies if you niggas is lookin for one. Get off a nigga dick and get some life
insurance, ya heard?” Never change Hell Rell.
His reputation has been tarnished and it’s officially not cool to like Hell Rell. Guess
what? I got Hell Rell’s back! I’m taking his word on everything because he’s one of those cats
that are so authentic you can’t help but believe him. At the very least he would make a great
debater and politician. When it comes down to it, most rappers remind me of actors but Hell Rell
reminds me of the street cats I was locked up with. After listening to over an hour of Hell Rell
interviews I am starting a petition for a Hell Rell podcast. I could listen to Hell Rell talk about
any subject. Hell Rell, if you’re reading this let’s start a podcast called “Suburbs Wanna Know”
and change the world.
Streets Wanna Know was the most indelible mixtape of my time in the program
but Dedication 2 by Lil’ Wayne was a close second. The mixtape released in May 2006, five
months after the universally approved Tha Carter II. People argue that 07-08 “mixtape Weezy”
is the best Lil Wayne era but they are wrong, 2007’s Da Drought 3 is the best Lil’ Wayne
mixtape for people not familiar with his previous work. Tha Carter 3, which marked the end of
that Lil’ Wayne guest/mixtape run, is a big dropoff from the first two entries in
the Tha Carter series.
Lil’ Wayne’s apex came during a one-month stretch at the end of 2005. On November
20 th Lil’ Wayne dropped The Suffix, his most underrated and my personal favorite mixtape of his.
On December 6 th Lil’ Wayne released Tha Carter II, which is great but I prefer Tha Carter 1 in
large part because of Mannie Fresh but it’s close. On December 13 th , a mere one week after
releasing his biggest album, Wayne drops his biggest mixtape to date, Dedication with DJ
Drama, an underrated tape that gets lost in the sauce due to all the music he dropped over the
next two years. To review: In the span of 23 days, from November 20 th to December 13 th , Lil
Wayne dropped his biggest album to that point (Carter II), his best mixtape (The Suffix) and his
most important mixtape (Dedication). Wow.
Dedication 2 reminds me of a ballyhooed athlete who has finally learned how to harness
their prodigious talents. Like LeBron in Miami, Weezy has figured it out and there’s no one that
can stop him. Lil’ Wayne called himself The Best Rapper Alive on Tha Carter
II, but it’s on Dedication 2 where you really hear him believe it. While the whole rap game was
arguing about New York based hip-hop collectives, the best rapper in the world was not so
quietly carving his lane in ravaged post-Katrina New Orleans. Wayne still had the respect of the
streets, this is before Wayne watered down his value by being featured on everyone’s project and
freestyling over every beat. Fall 2006 is long before Wayne’s embarrassing contract situation and
the even more embarrassing “rock” phase that gave the world the piece of shit known as Rebirth.
Wayne chooses “Get From Round Me” by Dipset as his first beat to freestyle over, it’s
not the most fun beat to start a tape off with but Lil’ Wayne was clearly obsessed
with Dipset back then. Remember when he was an honorary member of Dipset? Wayne was
featured on Jim Jones’, Juelz and Cam’ron’s album as well as the legendary song and video for
JR Writer’s “Byrd Call.” We think of Lil’ Wayne as the guy featured on everything but back
in 2005, he had only been on Cash Money albums and a handful of southern rappers. Dipset was
the first New York group to spotlight Wayne. Weezy returned the favor on Dedication 2 by
rapping over “Ground Zero” for the title track and having Juelz Santana featured on “Concrete
Jungle”, one of the few original tracks, and “No Other” which uses the famous Jay-Z beat from
the Intro to the Dynasty album. Side note: The Intro from the Dynasty album is the most Roc-A-
Fella beat ever, close your eyes and you can see Jay-Z and Dame Dash popping champagne
bottles while plotting on ways to stab the other in the back.
Wayne has a knack for taking commercial sounding singles and remaking them
into street songs. He does this by putting his spin on Dem Franchise Boys’ “Oh, I Think They
Like Me”, “GettinSome” by Shawna and Rick Ross’ introduction to the game “Hustlin.” His
only miss was trying “What You Know” by T.I., that song was so T.I.’s that it doesn’t seem right
to hear anyone else over it plus the beat was played out by then. Wayne sounds great over Three
Six Mafia’s “Poppin’ My Collar” but then Mack Maine comes on the track and takes a big dump.
Lil’ Wayne finally released Carter V in 2018 and to no one’s surprise Mack Maine is the one
friend from Wayne’s apex who survived the entire decade. Cockroaches, E-Coli and Mack
Maine’s guest verses are the only things that could survive a nuclear apocalypse.
The song that has the loudest echo of the mixtape is “Cannon.” The beat takes Wu-Tang
affiliate Sunz of Man song “Banksta’z” and puts it on steroids. Don Cannon and DJ Drama make
the beat come alive and scream. The ol’ “run back the song after the first minute” mixtape trick
is usually annoying but is totally necessary here. If you haven’t heard the “Cannon” beat before
you really needed the extra 90 seconds to fully prepare yourself for it. Countless times on
weekends we would come up from the lunch and a kid had already ran upstairs and started
playing “Cannon” by the time I reached the top of the stairs. The song became such a street hit
that DJ Drama put it on his first album, swapping out Detroit Red and Juice’s verses for T.I. but
this will always be the version.
My friends and I driving around Basking Ridge listening to “Georgia….Bush” is tied with
knowing all the words to Saigon’s “Impeach the President” for the whitest, fake-woke thing my
friends and I did in high school. I miss the days where fake-woke songs actually sounded good.
Lil’ Wayne has always had a great ear for beats. I heard in an interview that he listens to
a beat for ten seconds and if it doesn’t grab him, he moves on to the next beat until he finds one
that grabs his attention. That may sound simplistic for a seasoned musician like Wayne but it
forces him to rely on his intuition that happens to be great. He grabs the “Spit Your Game” beat
from the Biggie Duets album and murders it, saving the beat from dying an anonymous death.
Years before Lil’ Wayne’s protégé Drake took Phonte from Little Brother’s flow and style, Lil’
Wayne took the beat from the unheralded North Carolina Duo Little Brother and placed it smack
dab in the middle of the tape, giving the listeners a needed break from thumping beats. The most
interesting beat choice is Wayne turning back the clock on “Walk It Off” and using “Don’t U Be
Greedy,” an album cut from his mid 90’s Cash Money teammates U.N.L.V. There was beef
going at the time but the only thing that would’ve made Lil’ Wayne’s mid-00’s run better
would’ve been working with more of his old Cash Money mates like Juvenile and Mannie
Fresh. That or someone taking the lean away before Wayne developed an opiate addiction.
Sidenote: If you’re curious about Dedication 3 just know that there are
eight Gudda Gudda features on it. Good luck.
Lil’ Wayne also had an ear for up and coming rappers. The obvious examples are Drake
and Nicki Minaj, but those two had the machine behind them so it’s safe to say they would’ve
made it regardless. Lil’ Wayne aligning himself with Currensy in the mid-00’s was
genius. Gillie Da Kid gets street cred for allegedly writing Tha Carter and I’d bet
that Currensy picked up where Gillie DaKid left off and ghostwrote Tha Carter
II (included Currensy’s first guest verse). It’s easy to forget with Currensy’s oversaturation
but his pen game is very nice. Currensy is featured on three songs on the album and sounds
amazing on all of them. None better than his verse that kicks off “Ridin’ Wit’ the
AK”, Currensy’s laid back and fly Ma$e flow sounds incredible over Big Boi’s “Kyrptonite”
(another amazing beat choice). There’s an alternative world where Currensy got Wayne
to substitute lean for weed and Wayne helped propel Currensy to stardom. Currensy went on to
have a solid career without Wayne, dropping the Pilot Talk series and numerous mixtapes that
are simultaneously solid and forgettable. The fact that the entire hip-hop community got bored of
Currency at the same time is sad, he’s a cool dude that deserves better. With that said, who the
hell would get excited for a new Currency project in 2019?
Dedication 2 is regularly included in the Greatest Mixtape of All-Time debate and it
wasn’t just white kids that liked him either. Lil’ Wayne was so respected in the streets that they
all turned a blind eye to his line “I got a bitch with a mouth like that boy Ken Griffey” on
“Gettin’ Some.” Nearly a decade has passed since Lil’ Wayne’s last great project, No Ceilings,
but the New Orleans rapper’s shadow is over all of the trap/mumble/emo rap that is popular now.
Young Jeezy, T.I. and Gucci Mane rightfully get credit for creating the original form of trap
music but you could put all three of them together and their influence still wouldn’t be as large as
Wayne’s. Ask any of the pink dread rappers who their favorite rappers are and watch them
say Weezy without blinking. Wayne is their biggest influence, he’s their god, 2pac and Biggie
rolled into one. Lil’ Wayne is about as far back as they go in their hip-hop history which is
terrifying and also explains why the soul is completely drained from rap. Young Thug is a
disturbing example of Weezy’s influence. Lil Wayne’s music doesn’t necessarily sound
like what’s out now but you can hear the influence. New rap is like Rebirth era Lil’ Wayne on his
worst, drugged up day.
Max & Stack
Jim Jones Presents M.O.B. (Members of ByrdGang) is the third of the four mixtapes that
defined my time in the program. The mixtape was released in July while I was in jail so my first
time hearing it was in the program. Max B is one of my favorite rappers now but back in 2006 he
was merely known as the guy who sung the hooks on “Baby Girl” and the classic “G’s Up.” 50
Cent is the only other rapper I can think of that has even close to an understanding for rhythms
and melodies that Max does. The mixtape is supposed to be Jim Jones mixtape but Max B and
Stack Bundles steal the show and make the tape their own. Stack Bundles has talent oozing from
his pores, there’s no beat he can’t rap on and no flow he can’t tackle. Stack could do the street
rhymes but also be introspective, he had a great voice for rap and a cocky disposition that stood
out in a genre dominated by alpha males. Losing Stack Bundles isn’t remembered in hip-hop the
same way Biggie, 2pac and Big L are but there is no doubt in my mind that he would’ve had the
career of an all-time great. It’s stereotypical to say but they don’t make rappers like Stack
Stack Bundles and Max B complement each other in ways few rappers do. Their
chemistry is right up there with Ghost & Rae, Pimp C & Bun B, Jadakiss & Styles, Game & 50
Cent and all the other rapper classic combos. You have to go outside of rap to find two musicians
who complement each other so perfectly like Max and Stack do. Comparing Marvin Gaye and
Tammi Terrell to Max B and Stack Bundles may sound like a reach but their chemistry is really
that good. Like Marvin and Tammi, Max and Stack left us with albums worth of classic material
that showed how cohesive the duo was and how tragic it is that they were taken from us before
their peaks. Max B, like Marvin in the 70’s, made classic material after Stack Bundles passed but
never found the peanut butter to his jelly.
“Fucks Wit You” takes you by the collar and shakes you until you start loving it. “Can’t
judge a book by it’s cover/Comes to yay you can’t trust a brick from it’s color” is Stack Bundles
just warming up on his first verse. Max B isn’t only hooks, just when you think Stack is going to
drop a second verse Biggavelli slides through the door with 16 hard hitting bars. Jim Jones falls
very flat when you compare his verse to his two understudies. Jim Jones being outclassed on his
own mixtape by the younger Max and Stack reminds me of an older athlete coming to terms with
his athletic mortality when seeing how strong and powerful the newest hotshot rookie is.
“My Life’s Like A Movie” was one of the most played songs of my time at the program.
It’s an amazing song that should have been a street single. “My life’s like
a moooovie cuz imma keep falling in loveee, my life’s like a moooovieeee , I’m gonna keep
smoking them drugs….” was a hook that SK and all the other kids would sing to themselves
throughout the day. Jim Jones steps his game up on this one and doesn’t get murdered. The beat
sounds like a happy drunk and samples “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” which is a Billy Joel
song but sounds like the Bergman/Fellini film we never got.
Warning: there is a lot of Mel Matrix here. Mel Matrix is featured on seven songs and is
just good enough to not take away anything from the song, you’re not happy his verse is on but
you’re not upset either. In sports these average joes are called “replacement level players”, in
baseball they judge you as a player based on a stat called Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
which shows how many extra wins you’d bring to a team based in comparison to
a league average player. Mel Matrix is perfect for this exercise, if you score a 0.1 that means
you’re slightly better than Mel Matrix and are barely bringing something to the table, if
you’re a –0.1 that means you’re slightly worse than Mel Matrix and the listener would be better
off if you sat verse out. Only Mel Matrix scores a perfect0.0. We’ll call it the WAMM: Wins
Above Mel Matrix. Don’t confuse this with the Mendoza line which is the threshold for
incompetent hitting which in baseball means hitting .200. In that analogy, Group Home’s
Nutcracker would be rap’s Mario Mendoza.
A weird quirk on the features list: Hell Rell is absent from the tape but gets credited for
being on “Chalk Lined.” The singer Rell, of Roc-A-Fella fame, is on the hook, not our guy Hell
Rell. It doesn’t seem right that JR Writer and 40 Cal are on this project and not Hell Rell.
There are two guest features on here that have negative WAMM’s. Jha Jha pukes up a
terrible verse on “What It Do” that features JR Writer. “Testify” chooses a great AZ beat but Jim
Jones allows NOE on the song. For those of you who don’t know, NOE is a Jay-Z clone
that Dipset ironically brought into the fold during the height of the Dipset/Jay-Z beef. NOE
sounds like Jay-Z in the same way that Guerilla Black sounds like Biggie. The only scenario I’d
want to hear Guerilla Black or NOE is if they did an EP where they covered every Jay-Z and
Biggie collaboration. Is there such a thing as hip-hop cover bands or did I
just inadvertently make that up?
In all seriousness, this mixtape is an all-timer. Max B is at the top of his game with his
melodic sing-songy hooks, Stack Bundles kills everything moving and Jim Jones ties it all
together. “15 Minutes of Fame” is pure ecstasy. There are certain beats no one should rap over
and Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” should be one those beats. Nope, an unphased Max
B unleashes his twang on the hook and makes it his own while saying “there’s only one LeBron
in this league.” Stack Bundles comes up next and sounds like he feels bad for what he’s about to
do to the famous DJ Pooh beat. Nearly any rapper can sound good over beats like “New York,
New York”, Biggie’s career isn’t as compelling to me because he rapped over amazing Bad Boy
beats for his entire discography. What’s more interesting to me is when a rapper is so good over
a bad beat that you end up liking a song you never thought you’d like. “Dope Game, Coke
Game” is a really weak beat but Stack’s imagery and storytelling engage me and keep me locked
in. At the time of his untimely 2007 death, Stack Bundles’ career was rising at the same time all
of his peers were falling off while rap moved in a new direction. The argument that Stack
Bundles would’ve been the best MC from 2009 on is an easy one to make.
Streets Wanna Know has a very special place in my heart but M.O.B. Members
of Byrdgang is a better mixtape. Ditto for Dedication 2. M.O.B. is a tour de force starring two
of hip-hop’s most unheralded stars. It is a Top 5 All-Time mixtape. There was no better time
than 2006 for two rising Dipset disciples to release a genre bending tape for the
ages. There are certain projects in music history where the timing is perfect and everything
comes together just right, Purple Rain and What’s Goin’ On are two prime examples of the
expression ‘right time, right place.’ You are goddamn right I just compared Max B and Stack
Bundles to Prince and Marvin Gaye.
Can’t Ban the Snowman mixtape by Young Jeezy is the final of the four mixtapes that
stood out the most from my time. Zay was a huge fan of Jeezy and the driving force behind us
listening to it as often as we did. Zay didn’t have to do much convincing and besides if Zay liked
it it had to be fire. Jeezy wasn’t as agressive as Hell Rell but nonetheless put Zay in that money-
making mindset. Jeezy to Zay and the rest of the juveniles was “spend 9 hours bagging drugs and
counting money in an abandoned apartment” music. Zay was such a big Jeezy fan that he had us
listening to Boyz n da Hood.
Listen, I love Can’t Ban the Snowman but it’s the weakest of the four tapes. There is a
LOT of Slick Pulla, like a dangerous amount. There’re also unsafe amounts of Blood Raw.
Having those two scattered on the tape fucks up the flow. The instrumental for “Bonafide
Hustler” comes on and you get excited only to have that excitement drained from you after
listening to Blood Raw stumbling over himself for the entire song. Young Jeezy never shows up
but there’s plenty of Blood Raw!
There’s only two solo Jeezy songs on here that last over three minutes. The first is the
amazing 5-minute intro “I’m Back” which is the best song on the project. The second is
“Ya Dig” which is good but sounds like a song that was left on the cutting room floor during the
making of Jeezy’s debut. The biggest problem with the tape is there’s too many USDA flunkies
and not enough Jeezy.
Jeezy’s beat selection is interesting, he seems to really like G-Unit. I mentioned
“Bonafide Hustler” but he also raps over “Have a Party”, “Window Shopper” and “I Know You
Don’t Love Me.” He raps over the posthumous Biggie and Eminem track “Dead Wrong” which
was a good beat at the time but aged poorly like all things Eminem related. Jeezy also likes Jay-Z
beats, using the popular instrumentals for “U Don’t Know” and “Public Service Announcement”
but those choices aren’t the ones that impress me. I love that Jeezy choose the
“Imaginary Player” beat for “Better than Ever,” that beat and song are one of my favorites from
Jay-Z and hearing Jeezy rap over it in his prime is a treat. Choosing the “Verbal Intercourse”
beat makes for a good surprise and Slick Pulla being the only rapper on it makes for a terrible
Can’t Ban the Snowman was one of the few tapes we had in the program where we
actually had the bootleg CD case with the cover that was printed out on somebody’s color printer
in East Orange. We eventually got a copy of the Young Jeezy’s second LP The Inspiration and
the follow-up mixtape I Am the Street Dream! but Can’t Ban the Snowman was in the
rotation the most.
When I got locked up in July of 2006, G-Unit wasn’t in their 02-04 prime but they were
still consistently putting out really good projects. Just in my senior year alone G-Unit released
three very solid G-Unit group G-Unit Radio mixtapes (vol. 13-15), a guilty pleasure Ma$e G-
Unit Radio tape (vol. 16), two Mobb Deep G-Unit Radio tapes (vol. 17 & 20), a Spider Loc(!) G-
Unit Radio mixtape (vol. 18), a good Freeway G-Unit radio mixtape (vol. 19) and weeks before I
got arrested 50 released his first solo G-Unit Radio mixtape (vol. 21) tape since February 2005.
50’s G-Unit Radio Pt. 21 was especially good. It was 50’s retaliation mixtape to Game but unlike
all of Game’s G-Unot mixtapes, the G-Unit Radio Pt. 21 mixtape had disses that resembled
actual songs that you wanted to revisit. During the Fall 2005, 50 and G-Unit released the
underrated Get Rich or Dyin’ Soundtrack that you could argue aged better than The
Massacre and Beg for Mercy. If you judged the health of 50 from G-Unit Radio Pt.
21 and the Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Soundtrack, it seemed that the Queens rapper hadn’t lost a
In May 2006, Lloyd Banks released the fourth installment of his Money in the
Bank mixtape series, Vol. 4 was a small step below the first three but still very good.
Tony Yayo’s Thoughts of a Predicate Felon ended G-Unit’s streak of classic platinum debuts.
Yayo’s debut disappointed compared to Banks and Buck’s debuts but still provided us with two
classic singles (“So Seductive” & “I Know You Don’t Love Me”) and some solid album cuts
(“We Don’t Give a Fuck About You” & “It Is What It Is”). Mobb Deep’s G-Unit released
album Blood Money dropped in the Spring of 2006 and of course fails in comparison to the duo’s
90’s work but gets unjustly vilified. Blood Money provided us with one of the best singles of the
decade in “Pearly Gates.” Sure, the warning signs for a G-Unit drop-off were there but if you just
based it off production and closed one eye you could argue they were still on top.
Like G, the kids in the program did not think G-Unit was cool. When I would talk about
how much I liked them they would mock me by saying “G-G-G-G-G-Unit!!!” in the same valley
girl tone as the woman who does the “Maybach Music!” drop. In the program we had folders
that held all of our paperwork and information, the kids from the hood would draw gang stuff or
write Free such and such on their folders. Since I didn’t belong in a gang and didn’t know
anyone else locked up, I decided to own my lame G-Unit fandom and write ‘Free Yayo’ on my
folder as a homage to the Free Yayo shirts hip-hop was wearing in 2003 when the G-Unit
member was locked up. Of course, all the kids thought that was the gayest shit ever and laughed
and ridiculed me for it. My counselor at the program saw my folder and thought it was a drug
reference and wouldn’t hear my explanation of “Tony Yayo is just a rapper, he’s the Ringo of G-
Unit! He’s not actually locked up now!” In her eyes I was promoting drugs and she punished me
by putting me on “contract” which at the program is like being grounded, you have to wake up
earlier, clean even more and wear a white t-shirt tucked into your sweats. I was shocked she took
such drastic measures for a simple joke considering I hadn’t been put on contract for throwing
Fruit Punch on a guy and getting kicked out the cafeteria. Nearly starting a riot in the cafeteria?
No problem! Advocate for the worst member of a rap group to be freed years after he’s actually
free? Trouble! As I was standing in line for the ritual of getting put on contract, all the kids
started yelling the girly “G-G-G-G-G-Unit!” which had become my catcall.
Despite being made fun of for liking G-Unit, I still craved to hear what new music they
were releasing while I was locked up. I was unaware their downfall was happening in the free
world. During DJ’s late night sets on Hot 97, I would hear a Lloyd Banks or 50 Cent song here
and there that would hardly scratch my itch. “You Don’t Know” by Eminem was on the
radio and hearing 50 Cent and Banks featured on the Eminem single was better than nothing.
I would see the cool looking blue cover of Lloyd Banks sophomore album Rotten
Apple advertised in XXL and stare off into space during line time and imagine myself smoking
and listening to it. I got cool with one of the weekend staff guys and after weeks of begging I
convinced him to sneak me in a copy of Rotten Apple. The day finally came, the staff member
met me in a side room and slid me the copy of the burned CD. I begged and begged Loose to let
me borrow the stereo for 40 minutes and he let me probably because he saw the kid on
Christmas morning look in my eyes. I put on the CD and the familiar sound of a money machine
on the beginning of “Ain’t No Click” from Banks’ 2004 debut caught me off guard. Maybe he
accidently put that one song on there? Nope, I skipped through the album and realized that the
staff member burned me Lloyd Bank’s 2004 debut The Hunger For More instead of the
sophomore Lloyd Banks album I so eagerly wanted to hear. This may not seem like a big deal in
the Smartphone era where everything is at your fingertips but at the time, I felt that was my one
chance to hear the new Lloyd Banks album and it could be years before I had another chance. I
told the staff member his mistake but he gave me a look that said ‘be glad you even got that’ and
I didn’t bring it back up. The ironic part of this situation is Rotten Apple flopped commercially
and critically. Had I been free at the time, I would’ve spent days talking myself into the album
In February of 2007, back when beefs unfolded live on radio instead of social
media, Cam’ron and 50 Cent had an argument on Hot 97 about album sales, Koch vs. Major
Labels and money — it was the most mid 00’s rap argument possible with the most mid 00’s
rappers ever. It was snowing outside when I heard the interview and I stared at the snowflakes
dropping on the window sill and thought the G-Unit and Dipset beef mirrored my living
situation. 50 Cent and I were both being called fake and corny, the difference being 50 was being
dissed by Cam’ron whereas I was getting dissed by Cam’ron fans. Weeks later during a late-night
radio listening session I finally heard Cam’ron’s 50 Cent diss “Curtis” and 50
Cent’s Cam’ron diss “Funeral Music.” I enjoyed both records.
The funny thing about the kids not liking G-Unit was that they actually did like G-Unit,
they just didn’t want to be referred to as a G-Unit fan. At the very least they all appreciated the
pre-Massacre era G-Unit. They looked at G-Unit in 2006 the same way a too cool for school
basketball fan in 2019 resents the G-Rated, mainstream accessibility of Steph Curry and assume
all of his diehard fans are children who don’t know what ‘real basketball’ is. Guess what’s really
fun? Listening to peak era G-Unit. Guess what else is really fun? Watching Steph Curry launch
35 footers off the dribble. Don’t overthink it, things can be very mainstream and very good at the
When you’re young you feel like you’ll never get old and your favorite groups will never
break up. In 2006 I assumed 50 Cent would continue to make hits through 2020. It’s
upsetting that no member of Dipset or G-Unit has released a great project since I came home
from being locked up in the fall of 2007.
Remember Zay? The alpha male of the program and Hell Rell superfan? A month or so
after we listened to the Streets Wanna Know mixtape together on the couch during our first
week, I got on Zay’s bad side in a misguided attempt to stand up for myself in one of daily
jailing sessions where everyone would be in a room and make fun of each other to pass time. I
crossed a line and said something to Zay I shouldn’t have, we didn’t fight but let’s just say he put
me in my place. I didn’t dare speak a word to him during that time. When the counselors
announced during the room changes that Zay and I would be rooming together, the whole
program erupted in laughter at the thought of us sharing a room in silence. All of the other
rooms had 4-6 juveniles in them but for some reason Zay and I had a room to ourselves which
made the silence deafening.
On a Saturday night in January 2007, the weekend staff (knowing Zay and I were big
sports fans) snuck us out of our room after lights out and allowed us to watch the end of the
Seahawks vs. Cowboys Wild Card game, the infamous Tony Romo botched extra point hold
game. I remember Zay and I walking back to our room in a daze after the ridiculous ending.
“Who you think’s going to the Super Bowl?” Zay finally broke the silence and talked to
“Everybody is sleeping on the Patriots….” I responded and we ended up talking about
football for hours, the beef was over. Usually sports functions as a topic that gives men a
common ground in the beginning and serves as a launching pad to start a friendship. This was
the first time in my life that sports helped mend a relationship.
“What you know about G-Unit Radio Pt. 10?” Zay asked the next night
“Oh, that’s my shit. ‘My Downfall’, ‘Bitch What You Know About’ and ‘Gotta Get
Mine’ are all classics.” I responded rattling off some of my favorite tracks off the mixtape.
“Man, me and my boy K used to ride around listening to that shit, makin’ fetti. That was
his favorite mixtape. All he would do is put that tape on.” Zay’s tone got low and sad, “I miss
my man K, rest in peace”
I thought it was interesting that Zay and I had such different reasons for remembering the
mixtape so fondly. I was listening to it in the suburbs with my buddies as we drove around trying
to find empty parking lots to smoke in. Zay, on the other hand, had a much more intimate
relationship with the project. It was the soundtrack to his life. The lyrics ran true to him and his
culture. He was really living the lyrics, whereas I enjoyed it simply because of the sound of the
music. No matter how much rap I listened to, I would never understand the life-or-death aspect
of Zay’s life he went through every day on the streets. There were no guns in the Basking Ridge
drug trade, just a bunch of snotty-nosed preppy kids trying to rip each other off. I would never be
able to comprehend the idea of a mixtape reminding me of one of my dead friends, and I didn’t
Living Off Xperience
Every Saturday morning, we would spend two hours cleaning our rooms. That meant
moving the bunk beds and cheap wooden closets out of the room, sweeping, mopping, dusting
and all that good stuff. The weekend staff was more lenient so they would let us take the stereo
into the hallway and blast whatever we wanted to. Loose, the unofficial DJ of the program, was
always the first one to grab the stereo and Styles P was his go-to cleaning music. Cleaning your
cell to Styles P was the 00’s Crip version of black moms in the 70’s spraying Lysol in the air and
cleaning the house to Curtis Mayfield.
Style P’s official mixtapes Ghost in a Shell and Ghost in the Machine were
in rotation but an unofficial Styles P mixtape was Loose’s favorite and he would play it all the
time. It was one of those 37 track mixtapes that compiled verses, freestyles and unreleased
tracks. Styles P’s second LP released that winter but I don’t remember listening to it other than
the songs that were on the radio like “I’m Black”.
Being locked up and listening to Styles P featured on the Akon single “Locked Up” was
a compelling experience. This was the first time I listened to a rap song and could relate to the
content, I was living what Styles P was rapping about…two toothbrushes up!
We had a burned copy of the LOX’s second LP We Are the Streets which served as a 00’s
street bible. You’ll never believe this but listening to “Wild Out” made juvenile gang members
act crazy. There was an unofficial (literally every LOX mixtape from that era is ‘unofficial’)
LOX mixtape that had the group on the cover in a cartoon that made them look like the Fantastic
Four. I can’t remember the title of the tape or any songs off of it but I know it was the best
unofficial mixtape of all time. The LOX were the street kids’ version of G-Unit all the way
down to convincing themselves that J-Hood was good like my friends and I did with Hot Rod or
Any song that featured the LOX was played over and over again. We listened to DMX’s
“Niggaz Done Started Somethin’” featuring the LOX and Mase (what a
combo) approximately 396 times. The kids would mutter “So you got what you came
for…surgery with the chainsaw!!” all day and crack up every single time like it was the first time
they heard it.
“Kiss Your Ass Goodbye Remix” was played all the time. The hook was made for
juvenile gang bangers to sing along with: “You can kiss yo ass goodbye.. D-Block, D-Block, D-
Block!” Beanie Sigel catches the body on the remix. The kids were unaware of AllMusic’s
ratings for Sheek Louch’s solo albums. I admired the fact that they held Sheek Louch’s solo
albums close to their heart as if they were Plastic Ono Band.
In high school I really liked Jadakiss and had the LOX’s debut Money, Power &
Respect on my iPod but I wasn’t very familiar with Styles P or Sheek Louch’s solo work. Other
than being the most recognizable member of the LOX, part of the reason I was familiar
with Jadakiss was because he did have a popular official mixtape (The Champ Is
Here). Jadakiss is obviously more accessible than Styles or Sheek but his discography was also
easier to sort through for a white kid in the suburbs.
In high school, I acquired my music in a different way than the juveniles I was living
with. I would spend my nights high as hell listening to G-Unit, downloading freestyles
on Limewire and surfing MixUnit and DatPiff for mixtapes. This was before the torrent/file
sharing days so if you wanted to download Get Rich or Die Tryin’ you had to download every
song individually then sort the track listing on your iTunes. The street kids I was locked up with
would buy mixtapes from dudes on the block for around $5 a pop, these are the same mixtapes I
would see on DatPiff but never actually hold in my hand. On these unofficial mixtapes, DJ’s
were able to compile all of the LOX’s soundtrack songs, features and loose tracks in one place.
The LOX had hundreds of classic songs from that era and these kids knew every damn last song
despite the majority of these street classics not appearing on an official project. The LOX’s
catalog is a musical completist’s dream. Hearing Styles P and other LOX mixtapes on the stereo
so often while locked up turned me into a diehard Styles P fan. It was like being a huge Miles
Davis fan and discovering that his bandmate John Coltrane had his own music that was equally
good in a different way.
The LOX aka D-Block had (and still does) a more wholesome relationship with the
streets than G-Unit or even Dipset: they are the people’s champ. The LOX’s music resonates
with the hood in a much deeper way, if G-Unit’s music is cut with baking soda than the LOX’s
music is pure, uncut dope. Loyalty is everything in the streets and the LOX’s bond to each
other is second to none, they are the only great hip-hop group/collective to never have a public
falling out, even Wu-Tang can’t say that.
I did have one friend, SK, in the program who had my back from the get go. SK was a
17-year-old blood from Newark that looked like Lorenz Tate. SK didn’t respect the social
hierarchy of the program and disliked and fought kids with no regard for their status. SK was a
little strange and had a different sense of humor which rubbed people the wrong way but made
him and I get along very well. Here is a typical exchange between SK and I:
SK: “You said you’re German, right?
Me: “Uhhh yeah, why?”
SK: “So every time dinner is ready yo family yells ‘Supper is ready!’
Me: *squints my eyes and stares at SK in silence wondering if he’s serious before we both start
SK still had an aura of cool about him despite being different from the other gang bangers
we were locked up with. You know those people that truly don’t care what other people think of
them? That was SK, he was a teenager who had the world against him but was so secure of
himself. At the end of my time in the program, SK and I became roommates and he would find
ways to sneak the stereo into our room. Indulge with me as I relive some of my favorite SK
While rooming we would listen to JR Writer’s mixtape Writers Block Vol. 1 and every
time “Venting” would come on he would get so into it like he’d never listened to it
before. “Dipset we too much to stop, suit up with glocks/You’ll shoot up the block when I shoot
up the block.” SK would rewind it to the beginning, “Son, did you hear what he said? You’ll
shoot up the block when I shoot up the block.” SK would say shaking his head and repeating the
line as if I hadn’t been paying attention. SK also loved Jay Bezel and would play “Air ‘Em Out”
repeatedly. Whenever SK would get super into a song, he would nod his head and start moving
his arm over his head in a motion that looked like a drunk hitchiker trying to catch a ride.
Zay would also do this drunk hitchhiker thing when he really got into a song. When the kids
would get into that listening zone it was like they were having a religious experience. “Y’all high
as fuck, I’m sober on point for shooting” SK would rap while listening to the 98-second-
long song “The Return” off of Freeway’s G-Unit Radio mixtape.
SK and Zay had a bumpy relationship, SK was the only person to ever
embarrass Zay but this particular time it had nothing to do with the streets. They were in the
middle of a heated music debate and SK, who knew of Zay from the streets, called Zay out for
being an ex-Shyne fan, not even a Shyne fan, an ex-Shyne fan. “I know you aren’t talking,
weren’t you a huge Shyne fan back in the day?” SK employed his loud cackle of a laugh that
he used to further pour salt into the wound. It was the only time I saw Zay speechless and
embarrassed. The combination of Zay being ashamed for liking Shyne and trying to figure out
why liking Shyne is humiliating provided me with much comedic joy. Zay being embarrassed for
listening to Shyne in the early 00’s was the black version of one of my indie high school friends
being embarrassed for having The Decemberists on their iTunes. I am certain this is the first and
only time that Shyne and The Decemberists will ever be put in the same sentence.
The Shyne incident wasn’t the only music interaction that SK and Zay had. One Sunday
afternoon over the winter the weekend staff let us play Jim Jones’ On My Way To Church album
on the DVD player which transformed the group room into a church, the sermon delivered by
Reverend Jim Jones (no, not that one).
“This album is like a real classic like I don’t think niggas gonna realize it till later.” SK
said to Zay as “Lovely Daze” played on the TV.
“Word, like you going to be able to put this on 15-20 years from now and you still not
going to skip a track.” Zay replied, agreeing with SK’s sentiment.
There’s a lot going on there. First of all, nearly 15 years after On My Way to
Church released, I can confirm that it is still a classic, the rare 00’s album you don’t have to
press the skip button on. Second, I love that SK and Zay were talking about Jim Jones’ debut like
it was Are You Experienced or Off the Wall. Not only is the On My Way To Church a classic, it’s
also one of the most underrated albums of the 00’s. Obviously, Cam’ron is a better rapper but
there’s an argument to be made that On My Way to Church is the best Dipset solo record ever.
Come Home With Me has better singles and is Cam’ron at the height of his lyrical powers with
something to prove. Purple Haze is a sweet spot for all Dipset fans but the tracklist is clunky and
cluttered. There’s just something about On My Way to Church that speaks to the ethos
of Dipset more than those two projects, it’s a more cohesive album, you wouldn’t think Jim
Jones could shoulder the burden of an album (his debut at that) but he does. On My Way to
Church combines my favorite things of Come Home With Me (rapper in his absolute prime with
killer production and features) and Purple Haze (the most Dipset-y album of them all)
SK had hot takes before that was even a thing. I brought up Wu-Tang in conversation one
day and he gave me a weird look so I asked if he listened to them and he looked at me like I had
two heads. “Wu-Tang’s for the faggots,” SK responded with the utmost certainty. That was that,
Wu-Tang was not cool! In high school I liked Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers and Ghostface and
Raekwon’s solo work but never delved deeper, SK’s biting criticism was definitely part of the
reason I didn’t get into Wu-Tang Forever and the other members’ solo work until 2009. It wasn’t
just a SK thing, none of the other kids ever requested or put on Wu-Tang the entire time I was
there, it was like the Wu didn’t exist. For the record, I love Wu-Tang.
SK and I were chopping it up in the front group room listening to Diplomatic Immunity
2 with everyone else. “Dutty Clap” came on and SK did an incredible impression of the British
rap duo S.A.S. that was so funny he could hardly contain his laughter. I know S.A.S. is better
than The Streets despite having never listened to The Streets.
After 8 months in the program, I transferred to the halfway house and was granted a
furlough. Before I left, I asked SK if he wanted me to burn him any CD’s, he had two requests.
“Get me AWOL and Decade by AZ.” I thought, isn’t AZ the guy from the Firm that’s featured
on Illmatic? At the time, this was the only connection I had with AZ.
Eventually, I was able to listen to AWOL with SK, “Up in Nordstroms for a fresh pair to
floss ’em/Of course with footwear I be that first nigga that sport ’em/Caught ’em before the
salesmen even had time to assort ’em/Bought ’em before any celeb stylist ever saw ’em/Wore
’em soon as I copped ’em in the spot playing possum” AZ rapped on “Never Change.” I was
taken aback by SK’s reaction to the hook, he started to explain why the song was so good but got
caught up in the lyrics and starting rapping along with the hook “though we homies and we no
longer hang/You know you know me and that love still remains/So through the fame, through the
fire and the flames/I adapt to the pain, real niggas do the same/And though we homies and we no
longer hang/You know you know me and that love still remains.” It was like he was having a
conversation with all his homies on the street he hadn’t seen and didn’t know if he ever would
again. You don’t have to be from the streets to relate to the feeling of having love for a friend
that’s not in your life anymore due to whatever circumstances.
I haven’t seen or talked to SK since I left the halfway house in Fall 2007. I often think
about the times we had together and how he was my only friend in the darkest period of my
life. I get teary eyed when I listen to the hook on “Never Change” and the line on the hook “and
though we homies and we no longer hang/you still my homie and that love still remains.”
It’s corny but I feel like I’m hanging with SK anytime I listen to AWOL and especially when
“Never Change” comes up. There’s certain albums and songs that are elevated in your mind due
to your personal relationship with the album. Doe or Die is AZ’s best album but AWOL is the
most important one to me.
As a 30-year-old in 2019, part of the fun of this piece is looking back in hindsight and
evaluating the hip-hop landscape in 2006 when I was 18. Despite being locked up 10 minutes
away from Jersey City — home of the 00’s best New Jersey rapper Joe Budden who had just
released Mood Muzik 2 which is one of if not the greatest mixtape of all time — we didn’t listen
to it once. Like Wu-Tang, we didn’t even talk about Joe Budden. I had Mood Muzik 2 on my
iPod in high school and (stupidly) never gave it a real shot due to my favorite rappers beefing
with Joe Budden. “If Lloyd Banks and Game don’t like Joe Budden why should I listen to him?”
That was my lame excuse but what’s interesting to me is why didn’t any of the street cats I was
locked up with like him? We listened to a fuckin’ J-Hood solo mixtape but never listened to Joe
Budden. Part of the reason they didn’t like Budden was because of the “Pump it Up”/Def Jam
stigma but I think the bigger reason is the vulnerability of Joe Budden’s music, which is his
greatest strength, isn’t appreciated as much in their culture, especially during that era. Joe
Budden’s music wasn’t the place if you were looking street rappers who let you know their
insecurities. In 2009, Joe Budden became my one of my biggest “how the fuck did I never get
into him before?” artists I’ve ever had and is now one of my favorite all-time rappers. What
separates Joe Budden is his ability to let you into the deepest, darkest recesses of his soul but
still maintaining that edge and energy that makes records bump.
When you reached the final stage of the program (A Group) they allowed you a few extra
rights. Your parents were allowed to bring your iPod/mp3/CD player and dry food which you
were allowed to use every weekday for one hour. I had my dad bring my iPod and most the times
the kids would hijack my iPod and find an old song they hadn’t heard in years that brought them
happy memories. Zay would listen to all the Jeezy and old Dipset songs on my iPod and smack
me in the chest asking me after every song “what you know about…” SK would listen to the old
Lloyd Banks freestyles from 2002. Eric would play connect my iPod to the stereo through the
tape deck and play “Piru Love” by Bloods & Crips, all the gang members would B or C walk to
the six-minute gang-banging anthem.
Eric, the comedian of the program, was a part of one of the funniest and
most embarrassing moments I had in the program. Here’s how I described the moment in my
Eric was controlling my iPod and was flipping through the Eazy-E. In the middle of
“Real Motherfuckin’ Gs” the song suddenly stopped, and all I heard was this: “What is love?
Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me … no more—” It was blaring on the speakers.
My best friend Sam had made a playlist of ridiculous songs like that for us to listen to and laugh
at how corny yet catchy and listenable the songs were. There was nothing more Sam and I loved
than to be ridiculous, and even though he was nowhere to be found, he somehow managed to
embarrass me in front of gang members from Newark.
I was so shell-shocked that Haddaway was blaring through the speakers, that as soon as I
gathered myself I ran over to the radio like my pants were on fire and changed it, but it was too
late. Everyone had already heard it, but instead of making fun of me they all just laughed. I had
truly turned the corner with my peers.
By that time, I had been living with the kids in the program for 8 months and they’d seen
me at rock bottom and watched me fight through it. We’d spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and
Birthdays in the trenches as a makeshift family. Together we saw the Fall turn into Winter and
Winter turn into Spring. Now Summer was approaching and my time in the program was
winding down, I felt I’d finally earned the respect of the kids I’d spent every moment of the
hardest (pause) period of my life with. Along the way I became their annoying little cousin who
had somehow become a member of their crew. I think having my iPod the last month and seeing
for themselves how extensive my library of rap was solidified their respect for me. As always,
nothing brings people together like music.
My next and final stop in my journey to freedom was in the Halfway House that was in
the same building as the program. At the halfway house they try to ease you back into society by
having you get a job, giving you furloughs and allowing you basic freedoms we took for granted
like unlimited access to your iPod and CD Players. We still had to come back to the Halfway
House after work and answer to staff but after everything I went through, this final stage was a
walk in the park.
The first two weeks they make you work for the program as a form of cheap labor, I
mean as a way to give back to the program, you know, the same program that none of us wanted
to be at in the first place. My job duty was working in the kitchen which was great because I got
to eat as much food as I wanted. I tried to stay busy in the back where they kept all the state food
and I would sweep and mop that back room over and over again. There was a radio back there
and it seemed like “Lost Without You” by Robin Thicke was playing all the time. I was able to
enjoy the catchy single with my newfound appreciation for the
contemporary R&B. “Get it Shawty” by Lloyd didn’t have the same magic as 2006’s “You” but
it was a solid radio hit for the rising R&B artist. “Make Me Better” by Fabolous featuring Ne-
Yo and “Baby Don’t Go” featuring T-Pain were two R&B featured songs that played on the
radio all the time that summer.
“Brooklyn” by Fabolous featuring Jay-Z and Uncle Murda was the street single that
played on Hot 97 often. “We Takin’ Over” by DJ Khaled was popular then and provided Khaled
with a formula he’d replicate over and over, “We Takin’ Over” is basically an older, better “All I
Do Is Win.” By the way, am I the only person who thinks “Holla At Me” is still the best single
that came from any of those DJ Khaled albums? Has anyone ever figured out what DJ Khaled
contributes to these projects?
“Duffle Bag Boy” by Playaz Circle featuring Lil’ Wayne played on the radio all the time.
Little did we know it at the time but Tity Boi, one half of Playaz Circle, aka 2 Chainz was about
to ascend to superstardom. Poor Dolla Boy had to sit back in his rented apartment and watch his
groupmate reach a level neither of them thought possible. “Throw Some D’s” seems to be a
heavy influence to this song.
After my two weeks working in the cafeteria, I was granted a furlough and could finally
go home. On my furloughs I would do three things. First, I would eat a big meal until I couldn’t
move and spend time with my dad and dog catching up. Second, I would enjoy lots of porn.
The third thing, which took up the majority of my time, was going on Limewire and
downloading as much music as I could. Of course, the G-Unit and Game projects I missed out
on in the past year were the first things I downloaded and listened to. After that, I would
download stuff I heard SK, Zay or any of the other kids talk about that intrigued me. I
downloaded all the Styles P and LOX mixtapes I could get my digital hands on. New R&B is
something I didn’t know much about which made the search that much more rewarding and
exciting. When I came back from that first furlough, I had like 30 burned CD’s on top of
the iPod and CD’s I already had.
Furloughs weren’t the only time I could acquire new music. The halfway house had a PC
that was slow but still capable of burning CD’s, it would take 45 minutes but it worked. There
was this super muscular guy named Pat in the Halfway House who would stop by Best Buy after
work and buy the latest album the day of it’s release. This was great when he brought in More
Than Music Vol. 2 and I was able to finally enjoy a release at the same time as everyone else. It
wasn’t as great when I would spend over an hour of my life burning and listening to albums like
Freaky Zeeky‘s debut Book of Ezekiel.
Part of completing the halfway house was attending AA meetings. They would load up a
van with members of the Halfway House and you’d go to some grimy basement in the hood of
Jersey City and listen to a bunch of sadness. I vividly remember hearing “Umbrella” by Rihanna
and being struck by a feeling that for, better or for worse, we were stuck with Rihanna. Spoiler
alert: it was for the worse.
On a furlough later that summer, my friend Jason accidently unplugged my iPod while it
was plugged into my computer which erased and broke my iPod. The next week, I spent my
entire paycheck of $280 (40 hours at $7 an hour under the table) at Best Buy on a 64 GB iPod.
My next furlough I spent even more time building back my library. I wasn’t as mad at starting
my rap library over as I thought I would’ve been, it seemed right that I started my new chapter in
life with a slate as clean as my empty iTunes library.
SK eventually joined me in the halfway house and me and him spent many summer
nights outside chain-smoking Newports and Black & Milds while we chopped it up and stared at
the dark Summer sky. I remember making out with a Columbian co-worker one summer night
and listening to the LOX as I walked on clouds back to the Halfway House eager to tell SK over
a menthol. As you can tell, it’s impossible for me to separate a moment in time in my life from
the music I was listening to during that time. Music being intertwined with memories is one of
the coolest parts of being a fan of music. The “I don’t listen to music except when it’s on”
person is really missing out. If I didn’t hate that type of person I would feel bad for them.
I’ve been in a self-imposed golden rap era phase for over three years now and I must say
it was refreshing and invigorating to listen to the energy of the great hip-hop in the mid 00’s. In
high school, listening to The Game, G-Unit and Dipset made me feel like a confident superhero.
No other genre can make you feel as amped as high-energy rap. Hip-hop is motivation which is
why it makes the best workout/pregame music.
It’s jarring to listen to rap music from 06-07 and notice how far its fallen in just a dozen
years. The superhero rap of the mid-00’s is now replaced by generic, emotional, low-energy raps
that have no bounce or soul. I’ll save my “why rap died” points for a special article I have
One of the more fun parts of this piece was watching all the videos from 06-07 and
noticing all the fashion trends. Pharrell used to wear clothes that weren’t from
the boys’ department. It was a glorious era in which every rapper wore baggy clothes,
throwbacks, and fitted hats that didn’t fit. The biggest change I saw wasn’t from the men, it was
from the ladies.
I was watching Bubba Sparxx’s “Ms. New Booty” video and realized the female body
has evolved more in the last dozen years than the previous 300,000 years combined. The booties
that are considered big in 2006 would not even be a blip on the radar in today’s curvy era. I’ve
watched probably 100 videos from the mid-00’s to prepare for this and let me tell you it’s
ridiculous how the female body has evolved. The steroids, hormones and whatever else
they poison our food with is making women curvier than they’ve ever been. I’m a fuckin
bartender at Red Lobster and I feel like I could bag the type of chicks that are in these mid-00′;s
Never forget: women’s bodies and the NBA are the only two things that improved in the
last dozen years. Another observation: women didn’t start wearing leggings until this decade.
Observe a college campus and you’ll see over half of the women wearing leggings. Leggings
becoming the go-to pants for women is great for both sides. For women it’s comfortable and
gives them confidence because females know us guys are breaking our necks trying to see what a
woman’s working with. For guys it’s great because it hugs the butt and hips and there’s only a
thin layer of spandex separating them from being naked. It can be disorienting to be surrounded
by all these curvy women wearing tight clothes but it sure as hell beats the small booty, loose-
fitting jeans days of 2006.
To quote Johnny Gill and Stacy Lattisaw, where do we go from here? It’s easy to throw
your hands in the air and declare that rap as we knew it is dead and gone forever. Rock provides
us historical precedence for what rap is experiencing now. In the 60’s and 70’s rock experienced
one of the most prolific runs of any genre in history. Like rap, 60’s rock music was anti-
establishment music that gave us a soundtrack for the crumbling world around us. During the
80’s Glam metal aka Hair metal became the most popular form of rock. True rock fans
dismissed Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard for giving rock fans watered down, cheap
thrills that appealed to the lowest common denominator (sound familiar?). Poison was a
gaudy caricature of the bands that many rock fans grew up listening to.
Rock music was left for dead until guys like Beck and bands like Pavement came around
in the 90’s to bring the essence of rock back. Indie Rock went on a run that lasted over a decade
and provided rock with it’s best run since the early 70’s. Bands in the Elephant 6 collective
created a movement in the mid-90’s that would have seemed like a pipe dream to a cynical rock
fan in the 80’s. Indie bands in the 90’s weren’t trying to sound like The Beatles but it didn’t hurt
that they were influenced by them.
Even the worst music trends eventually come to an end. All the depressing mumble
rap that’s huge today will eventually go out of style, it‘s just how these things work. Our society
is in a much darker place now than it was in the 90‘s, so one could argue that it would be harder
to make good rap due to the times but, for a change, I’m more optimistic. Great rap was always
born out of the worst circumstances. I’ve been saying it since 2014, there is a
golden opportunity for a rapper to bring back the essence of rap and start the equivalent of the
90’s Indie Rock movement for the upcoming decade in hip-hop. That rapper will forever be
known as the savior of rap, the MC who gave rap a facelift and reminded us why we love the
genre. I believe people are thirsty for real bars and that alpha male energy that’s missing from
every rapper who’s been on the XXL Freshman cover the past 7 years. People may not even
realize they miss it. On the whole people listen to what people tell them to, but once it becomes
acceptable to like real rap again, they will realize how much they missed it.
As cynical as I am, I refuse to believe that rap is going to die in a sea of auto-tune and
tight jeans. Rap will become great again. And so will Hell Rell.