I just have to say that all 80s kids out there must be in our feelings right now. Is it just me?!
All, well many, of our coming of age artists have dropped albums this year -- Jay & Bey, Lil' Wayne, NAS!!, Lauryn Hill on Tour!!, now TI hits us with a new album. All we really need is for Outkast to get back together, do a reunion album and Bad Boy to drop some posthumous Biggie tracks and life is complete.
There have been mixed reviews about all of the above albums except for maybe The Carters. I personally LOVE Nas' new album. And although Ye is not the most popular man on the planet - as a lover of beats/hooks in addition to lyrics, Nas + Ye is what I've been waiting for my whole life.
We all know there's the hesitant pop sensation vs the conscious rapper Nas has bordered on most of his career. Jay put it best, "Is it Oochie Wally Wally or is it One Mic? Is it Black Girl Lost of shorty owe you for ice?" Nas has been very public in his inner struggle in defining Black Masculinity, art vs fame, impact vs money as we've watched him come of age.
The point - conscious Nas hasn't really had the dopes beats. Bravehearts and Nas was a beat, arguably a hit. It was one of his crossover songs, peaking at 26 on the Billboard 100. I was a student at Howard when it dropped and it rocked and I was personally conflicted as the beat was dope, the voice was Nas, but the lyrics were like, Nah...
All this to say, conscious Nas with some dope beats had me in my feelings. Also a bit conflicted. Like on the Cops Shot the Kid, when the autotune drops, it's reminiscent of straight booty shaking music but can you really shake your ass to a hook like that?
Can I just take a second to talk about Lauryn Hill? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill literally dropped Freshman Week. Like Miseducation was the soundtrack to our first taste of freedom, my first club experiences at freshly minted 17 - I literally had to use my meal card to get into clubs. That Thing! Ex-Factor! <-- I was infamous for blasting this song over and over, as I healed from my high school sweet heart. It's crazy to think back on the things that were so obviously good news but felt like the end of the world at the time. I digress.
It's interesting to watch the different seasons of our favorite rappers. They're 'Come to Jesus' moments, their personal evolution, their love of fame and money and susbsequent deep appreciation of the non-material - family, God, community.
"Thank God. Fuck Fame." ~ Lil Wayne
I will say there is this theme of Excellence which arguably Diddy and Jay kicked off last Summer. TI's album kicked off with Dave Chapelle saying, "All my life all I wanted to do was be great." And of course, on Jefe, which dropped as a harbinger to the album with Wraith back in September - Chapelle, proclaims...
"No more apologizing for being excellent. From now on man, fuck it, I'm just going to be dope. And not apologize for it. " ~ Dave Chapelle
Don't get it twisted the Trap King is staying true to the Trap - wiith the album titled, Dime Trap. There are just, as some may argue per usual, some serious moments of vulnerability and mostly what seems to be an exclamation of knowledge of self, personal power, and excellence with a different vibration of the typical bragadocious emcee we've come to know.
Then we have Wayne. <3 <3 <3 Tha Carter V, dropped with 23 songs 4 years after its intended release date. 4 years! I wonder just how much of the album was recorded then vs now.
Da Carter V is a bit trap, a bit motivational, a bit crazy ass Wayne all mixed into one. I like it a lot, I missed Wayne, and feel he offers something to hip hop that no one else has yet to.
Excellence + Greatness
Back to this theme of excellence. I feel like there is a coming of age and even a mindset shift occurring where those that used to inadvertently downplay their brilliance, their greatness, largely as it was shunned, exploited, and taken advantage of by 'others' are drawing the line.
It is pretty symbolic that Dave Chapelle, the first one to draw the metaphorical line in the sand is the narrator to TI's album. I don't think the timing of any of it is by chance, even the hold up of Da Carter V.
Even if it is, there is a growing story being told if you listen and watch closely. There are definitley some curveballs in the mix, to add to all of the fun.
It seems our favorite rappers have entered a new season of their life, artistry. and along with that are offering some clues along the way.
Either way, there is a very strong message that is speaking to the souls of those destined to hear it. A call to action, a confirmation, a signal - be what it may.
Maybe it's Mama Maya, goddess of the Poets, sitting on top working her magic. I could get with that.
If you know, you know. ~ Pusha T