Friday, November 18, 2005

Music - Prodigal Prodigy

I from where **** pull your card, and argue all day about
Who's the best MC's, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas

Where I'm from - Jay Z

So another musical Friday. Today I'm going to talk about the who's the best debate minus Biggie. That's right y'all Nas vs Jay Z. And before I start I got to say that this blog was inspired by a post I read over at MizJJ a few weeks back when Nas and Jay had just reconciled their differences.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSo lets all sit back and think about the Jay Z vs Nas thing. Not that I'm trying to start a new beef after the old one has been settled but sometimes it definitely seems like its not clear which cat is the best; the Brooklyn born Jay Z or the Queens raised Nas. I was supposed to do a bit of research on this but time hasn't permitted it so I'm going to just drop it freestyle off the dome today. Oh and this post isn't meant to be definitive or to solve the issue its just some thoughts on the issue.

I'm letting it be known from jump that I'm biased in this debate because I've been a Nas fan from the start. From his cameo Live at the Barbeque followed by his stint "waving automatic guns at nuns" with Mc Serch I thought Nas was an mc who lived up to the hype on his debut. Not many mcs can say this.

Illmatic was a classic, not only that but anytime you're talking top 10 hip hop albums ever Illmatic has got to be in that list along with BDP's Criminal Minded and PE's It takes a Nation of Million to hold us back. The other cats can fight for the other 7 spots and note I'm not rating these albums in any order or as being the top 3 I'm just saying no way you find 10 other other albums to knock them completely completely out the top 10.

To cut to the chase Nas is and has always been undeniably talented but compared to Jay Z, Nas has never been as focused. The clear inheritor of Rakim's throne, one of the big problems with Nas was that he started on the top. Illmatic was an undeniable classic! This 'likkle' baby faced yout just dropped a bonified classic straight out the box. New York state of Mind, One Love, The World is yours, Life's a .... since "that buck that bought a bottle could have struck the lotto" while he was 'drinking moets with medusa' on Halftime. The brother just took it to the top from the word GO. And of course anything he has done since has had to suffer to live up to that comparison.

Its like a kid whose big brother is a high school superstar be it in an academic or athletic arena. When that kid comes along and starts performing in the same field that big bro got acclaim in he's always compared. Look at Marcus Vick , Mike Vick's younger brother. Well so it is with It was written and all the other albums that Nas has dropped after the big brother Illmatic. They have all been solid maybe even great albums for the most part except that Nastradamus debacle but compared to Illmatic they have all paled.

Somewhere along his career it seems clear that Nas lost focus but as a young man growing up with the acclaim and the rewards that he started to garner that was bound to happen. He went from Nasty to Nas to Esco and just seemed to be trying to unsuccessfully grab the flavor of the day in order to make it big. It didn't work.

Still he seems to have rebounded quite well and his last few albums have been solid efforts. Mind you I think Street Disciple was sort of a failure not because of its lyrical content but because it was a double album. I guess that something the big three of Biggie, Nas and Jay Z have in common none of them have been able to successfully pull off a double album. Don't give me any chat about Life after Death because that could have easily been a lot better if they had made it a single lp. I guess in hip hop bigger isn't always better.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOnto that man Jay Z though. I think Jay's claim is that he stayed focused throughout his career. He started out at an older age than Nas did so maybe that helped but with Jay Z I think we saw him get better and better no lapsing as he went from album to album.

Again in all honesty though there are quite a few Jay Z albums I do not like that much. I almost gave up on the brother after In my Lifetime Vol I. Volume II was something that I threw in my cart as I bought the Aquemeni album just because since I said to myself the brother makes good singles but never carries an entire album (plus at that time I was rocking the Black Star lp 24-7 so Jay and Outkast took a back seat).

Sorry I didn't think that much of Reasonable Doubt to be honest. I know its considered a classic now but it just didn't move me considering the era in which it dropped. As much as he had a few good singles I just didn't like the way the albums Reasonable Doubt and Vol I were put together. Yea Where I'm from, Who you wid, and Dead Presidents were all dope singles from the first two lps but still, I'm looking at overall product and to me I just wasn't feeling Jay.

Volume II changed that for me but I've still had an on off relationship with the Jigga man.

Izzo has never been the great to me that he has been to many. Probably because I pride lyrical skills above all. Dude had skills but still I got the impression that he was toying with the fans giving us just enough to walk that line where he could appeal to all audiences at once. That's the talent of Jay Z, he was able to reach the masses and still get some critical acclaim. I guess that's why 'he's business, man, not a businessman' as he knew how to work the crowd but as a lover of just pure lyrical skills I felt a bit betrayed by Jay. Like he was holding back cause he thought his work would suffer if he didn't dumb it down. Which actually may be a smart move business wise but artistically annoys me.

I didn't care much for Volume III, I loved Dynasty, I disliked the Blueprints 1 and 2 but the Black album was my joint. His lyrics here were top notch and he really made me feel the emotion of that album. Jay worked the game quite successfully for his entire career which is something he has up on Nas plus this retirement business going out on the top of his game was a great move. (Now will he come back or not I have no idea)

As another thought on the Jay thing I think Jay also had the benefit of timing. As I said previously maybe that's why I wasn't feeling Reasonable Doubt back in the day. It was good but the product back then was so good it wasn't stand out. But as time went on the rap product's quality decreased in general while Jay got better. Hip hop needed a savior in the wake of a lackluster Nas and a dead Tupac and Biggie. Question to ponder. Would Jay have made it this big were Tupac and Biggie alive? If you say yes take into consideration the ego and big personalities of pac and big and get back to me.

So in conclusion (since I've gone on and on and on) I think Nas is the better lyricist. Is he the better mc? Jay Z definitely moved a bigger crowd and since m.c could stand for mic controller or move the crowd who gets the pick? As Guru said 'the question remains'. Remember I said I wasn't trying to solve that riddle.

I think Nas was the prodigy, the kid with all the talent in the world but did he live up to his potential? No. (Oh don't get me started on potential I despise that word.) Considering his debut lp he really hasn't given the world what we expected of him although his career has been better than the average mc. He lost his way like a prodigal son, making him a prodigal prodigy perhaps (Check the ill alliteration son! What!) but he came back and his career isn't over so lets see where this rap thing takes him. Jay on the other hand was the smarter dude, the hustler, the businessman more than a journeyman in terms of skills but yet not seemingly the natural that Nas was so he put in work. Overtime even to get his status up there. Now he's President of Def Jam and 'got the flyest girl in the game wearing his chain'. What more can I say!! Both of them are successes in their own right. Both of them are top notch mcs. Nas brought the poetical lyrics, Jay Z moved the masses though yet somehow didn't completely pander. Quite the skill.

So you choose Jay or Nas? I like them both and I've got to think this though a bit more.



brooklyn babe said...

I use to love me some Nas, I thought he was sooo poetic, then one day I reeeeeaaallllly listened to some of the sh_t he says. And it had me raising eyebrow, like damn dude "what were you smoking?

Jay-z. He's colorful (and cocky)my kind of negro... but even he too, got a lil to bling for my ting.

Mornin' Breadfruit pudding and Spice, get ya Cheese Cutter on.

Bk Babe

Xquizzyt1 said...

I sooooo shouldn't be commenting yet, bec. I'm doing a Brown Shuga and commenting before I've read it all... but all I'mma say is Biggie... LOL That's it. I'm done...

*going back to read*

Anonymous said...

Nas is artsy, and for an artiste that's straight & legit. Jay is artful, and for a music biz exec THAT's straight & legit. Each has his own strength, so their BEST work could come outta their collaboration--a CD of Jay building the beats & hype, and Nas on the rhyme & style. Still, Nas just FEELS better: smoother skillz, more of a 'natural', maybe less practiced--maybe more practiced, but in any case more prolific. Stay stress-free.

Mr. Righteous said...

Nas all the way, since Flow 93.5 did a feature on Jay-Z "rapper or ripper", mostly biggie lyrics thank god Biggie no longer with us

Miz JJ said...

Jay-Z is a rap star, Nas is a rapper. I love 'Illimatic' and while Jay-Z may have the more consistent career nothing he has done can ever touch that album. Just my opinion.

Lene said...

you said it all. next time someone tries to argue with me about this subject, i'm sending them to this page.

Groove said...

Nas for sure, its seems effortless with him, he has much smoother flow I real rapper.

Mad Bull said...

I don't know that much about rap, for instance, I couldn't name one song that Biggie did, and re Tupac, the most I know about him is that he starred in a movie with Janet when she was hot (as against tuff). Oh yeah, theres this song out where he says his moms a crack addict that sounds ok, but thats it. I don't know nothing more about him. Nas... What does he do? Dunno... JayZ now... well, I likes "Hos in different areas codes", but again, I don't know much about his shyte. Who da best? I really don't know....
Why did I even write this comment? After all, this is a blog post focused towards the rap loving crew.... God, he knows why I wrote it... Lemmee ask you though, what did you think of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"?

Stunner said...

Jay-Z scored big in the rap game. Hits, a company, money and Beyonce

Dr. D. said...

Can't comment here apart to say....too bad you working Saturday, but try to enjoy the weekend nevertheless.

Inside Man said...

Nas is my favorite rapper of all time so my opinion comes from a biased perspective likewise. I didn't cop Reasonable Doubt when it first come out because devoutly into Wu-Tang, Gangstarr, Nas, and Big at the time so he really didn't appeal to me at first. He wasn't on my radar until I bought "Hard Knock Life" and I was humbled by how well his flow is. He's no Nas when it comes to lyrics and subject matter but he holds his own with the best when it comes to riding a beat (i.e Nigga What, Nigga Who) and catching a hot 16 bars.

I agree that Jay-Z has rid the wave better then Nas when it comes to consistency but it doesn't mean he's a better rapper. Nas is a natural and bring quality MC'n to his music and amplifies others when he callaborates (Verbal Intercours). Despite his setbacks he has kept his integrity as remained a true MC his whole career.

obifromsouthlondon said...

dude I'll call it a straight tie. never checked Jay in the early days but his rep grew so I parlayed. revelation.

dropped a post on some guy that did an experimental mix using their voices. here's a yousendit link to two of the tracks:

- Winner's Circle
- Who's the best.


Brotha Buck said...

>>Nas has never been as focused<<

Man, I think you summed it up right there. Makes no difference how talented you are in anything, if you don't put your pedal to the metal, you ain't going no where.

Gunner Kaufman said...

MY senoir thesis was on hiphop today and the broadside press poets of yeaterday, and I found myself quoting Nas. Not Jayz. While I find Jay z a dynamite verbal player, I always believed Nas was tighter at verbla wordplay when he was focused. As for the debate as to whos the best, well, in my eyes, one album or two albums does not make the one best, as their is no body of work to gauge. Hence Biggie isnt in the running. Sadly, thats how I see it. But on the same page, do I feel Nas is one of the best? I think hes in the running, as I do jay z, just spaced far apart from each other.

BajanQueen said...

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie.....

Nuff said!!


illegitimate rhinosarous said...

This is twisted.. Nas is by far a better lyricist, although his content is a little too bogged down by bullshit (gun toting, negative stereotype nonsense). That isn't to say Jay-Z is any better, infact, Jay-Z is a step worse because back in the day (check out the song "can i get open", with original flavor) he used to be ill, rhyme about the elements, had that jazzy flow on lock, respected himself and what he was doing. Now he's a business man, he'll flow as well as he needs to, just to sell those albums and keep his empire going. On top of that, he's even more stereotypical and thoughtless than Nas has become. In the end, cause of this and because Nas is still clever as hell, I gotta say that Nas is by far the doper of the two, although Jay-Z could have been ill if he had decided to take the path of skills over bills.