Poor Nas..admit it, you had to be disappointed when you first listened to “It Was Written”. Why? think about it, will there ever be another “Illmatic“….I sure hope so, but I doubt it. I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that the Nas hating actually began shortly after the release of “It Was Written” including a fair dose from yours truly. The Trackmasters were hot, coming off the rejuvenating production for LL’s reincarnation “Mr. Smith”, so Nas scooped up Poke & Tone with hopes of equalling or possibly surpassing the success he attained with “Illmatic“. Let’s be real here, if you were anything like me you hated the commercialization of “If I Ruled The World” featuring Mrs. Marley errrr…Lauryn Hill (who was also “hot” at the moment). Worse yet, the R. Kelly assisted “Street Dreams” was just another thorn in my side as I tried to cope with losing the raw, visual, metaphoric Nas that captivated my eardrums on “Illmatic“. OOOH, and has Dr. Dre ever let you down more with his lame production on “Nas Is Coming”? (damn, who generic was the hook on that joint?) and keep in mind this was following Dre’s debacle “Presents The Aftermath”. Arrrrgghhhhh! I thought after the first few listens to “It Was Written”. How could Nas do this to me?
So where do I stand with “It Was Written” today? Why is this record in my “Top 100″? I’ll tell you plain and simple, take away the three aforementioned tracks (admittedly, “If I Ruled The World” has grown on me a bit over the years)and it’s a CLASSIC in my eyes. I figure, “Okay Nas, I get it! You accomplished your initial intent, C’mon kid you sold 3 million copies worldwide! Although, “Illmatic” deserved to far exceed those numbers….face it, it ain’t happening (BTW, what has “Illmatic” done in numbers thus far?). As mad I was at the Trackmasters for turnin‘ Nas‘ beats out, I couldn’t resist the subtle chords of “The Message”. Look at the vividness of “I Gave You Power”…Nas + Primo, need I say more? (although, Nas may have listened to O.K.’s “Stray Bullet” a time or two before it was time for the final cut of “It Was Written”). “The Set Up” along with “Live Ni**a Rap” finds Havoc lacing Nas with typical Mobb Deep-like, haunting production while “Suspect” is just a pure creeper…it actually makes me want to throw on my Carhartt hoodie, lace up my suede timbs slide into the Jeep and do a driveby. Too bad I’m sittin‘ here in my suit minus the jacket and my daughter is winding down for the evening, watchin‘ an episode of “Baby Einstein” or I swear…..ha, ha. My favorite cut still from “It Was Written” remains to be the posse cut “Affirmative Action” featuring the Firm minus Cormega. So as much as this album frustrated me in 1995, I’ve grown to appreciate it that much more as time has passed. Of course, when you are subjected to “Nastradamus” and Nas‘ most recent opus “Hip Hop Is Dead” (which should have appropriately titled “Nas Is Dead”…you owe us for that sh*t Nas, C’mon Man!) you sure do come to appreciate things a hell of alot more. You don’t know what you got till’ it’s gone!…-Eric
Jesus, tell me the Lost Boyz and Uptown Records didn’t know how to pick a banger. First off, they hit us with the scoop on “Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous” and I may be talking out the side of my mouth here but, wasn’t “Jeeps, Lex Coupes, Bimaz & The Benz” the B-Side of “Lifestyles….”? Talk about hittin‘ you with a double dose of bangers! Then, you had the follow-up single “Renee” which found Mr. Cheeks recollecting tales of a love lost (can someone please hook me up with the remix to
that joint?) over ill production from Mr. Sexx. And of course you had the Pete Rock produced banger, which was also featured on the “America Is Dying Slowly” soundtrack…”The Yearn”. Lately, this album has been getting a lot of play from me and it’s made me realize just who cohesive and well executed “Legal Drug Money” really was. After hearing much of the Easy Mo Bee production featured on “Lifestyles..”, “Jeeps…” and the party jumper “Is This Da Part” you’ll be left asking yourself “Why in the hell is Easy Mo Bee still not dropping heat today? A few weeks ago, I featured “Da Game” as part of my Sample Appreciation post for it’s excellent usage of Barry White’s “babymaker” “Playing Your Game, Baby”, before that I always skipped that track. Now, I see and hear it in a much different light as the buttery slick production featured on “Da Game” has made it my favorite cut on “Legal Drug Money”. Now, we all know that Mr. Cheeks has declined (to be generous) lyrically over the last five years or so and he was never in my Top 50….but, Mr. Cheeks…well, he’s efficent(ahh, that’s the word I’m looking for!) The only problem that I remember with “Legal Drug Money” is that it was released entirely a year too late. Even though it debuted at #1 on the Rap/R&B charts, Uptown should have capitalized on the success of their first single or two and for lack of better words “dropped it while it’s hot”. Still, a very dope album from The Lost Boyz errr…..Mr. Cheeks & Freaky Tah(R.I.P.)….Damn, tell me you wouldn’t want to have had Pretty Lou’s job back in the day. Imagine if they actually had to “cut the cake four ways”. Damn, that would suck being Mr. Cheeks!…-Eric
You know, K-Def & Larry O (Real Live) are probably most remembered for a line that was featured on their biggest hit “Real Live Sh*t” and hell…..it wasn’t even their’s! Of course, if you have the smallest tidbit of Hip Hop knowledge you’ll know that what I’m referring to is the Nas sample perfectly inserted on “Real Live Sh*t”..”I’ll Leave Em’ Froze Like…”. While K Def & Larry O fancied themselves as “real-live” East Coast players on their 1996 debut on Big Beat Records, Larry-O’s lyrics did become somewhat monotonous and boring after a few listens. Larry O was very capable of holding down the fort on the mic, but let’s face it….he wasn’t carrying the skills of say….Biggie or as boisterous and unpredictable as say..ummm, Ghostface. So what makes this album work? To be quite blunt….K-Def along with a helping hand from Marley Marl! If there was an instrumental album released for “The Turnaround”, please send a copy my way! I’ve always loved the majority of K Def & Marley’s (with the exception of the KRS One collabo…Get Well Marley!) work and on “The Turnaround” he does anything but dissapoint. I’m sure that “Real Live Sh*t” along with it’s sister remix are two tracks that most everyone associates with this album as well as they should be, but there’s so much more to love on “The Turnaround” especially on tracks like the Biggie sampled “Pop The Trunk”. Oddly enough, the same case that was made with the later release date on “Legal Drug Money” can also be said for “The Turnaround” as they where both released as the hype surrounding their debut singles began to wear off…-Eric