The following is an excerpt from the book You Made It a Hot Line; The most influential lines in hip hop. The names are real. The lyrics are real. Enjoy!
Artist: P Diddy
Song Title / Album: Bad Boys for Life/ The Saga Continues
Label/Year: Bad Boy Records / Arista Records July 2001
Really Puff? Really P, Poppa Diddy, Dirty Money Pop? When Sean “P. Diddy” Combs publicly declared what many hip hop fans had known for years, it still came as a shock to the collective system. Ghost writing, a term that refers to having another writer pen your lyrics, is common practice in pop music and R&B but was always seen as the ultimate taboo in early hip hop music (and still is…sorta.) Unlike R&B and pop, where the artist is judged solely on delivery and their ability to carry a tune, one of hip hop’s unwritten rules regarding delivery is that whomsoever delivereth the message over the microphone shall also be the original author of said message.
Emcees are judged on the flow and delivery of their OWN words. The Meek may inherit the earth but they will certainly rise up and try to eat Drake’s cakes if they suspect him of plagiarism. Having another wordsmith pen your rhymes in hip hop is considered a prosecutable offense in a court of hip hop law. The esteemed judiciary committees that gathered ‘round corner stores, bodegas and park benches daily to litigate on behalf of their favorite emcee would have had all ghost written rhymes deemed inadmissible. As Justice “Supreme” Fuquan Johnson passionately argued in the trial of Rappers Delight, Gandmaster Cas v. Big Bank Hank et al; “Nah son, he ain’t even write that shit!” Ghost writing is truly an atrocity of Milii Vanilli-esque proportions. But not for Diddy.
What would have been considered a slap in the face to hip hop at one point in time was given a pass partly because of the individual who said it and partly due to hip hop’s industrialized status at that point in time. The genre had been firmly ingested by the mega corporations by 2001 and the focus was more on record sales and revenue and less on artistic merit. P. Diddy, whose career began as an A&R, was notably revered more so for his ability to R&D talent, sell water to whales and tuxedos to penguins than he was for “kicking wicked rhymes like a fortune teller.” Diddy was never considered an emcee in the truest sense of the word. Most viewed his lyrical efforts as more of an attempt to sell music than to artistically express his deepest thoughts a la Jack Handey.
What made Diddy’s brazen admission even more passable was the fact the Puffy does indeed have a love for hip hop culture and an overall understanding and recognition for talent and development. As Poppa Diddy Pop never professed to be more than he was when it came to lyrical supremacy, no harm, no foul. He has also had the wherewithal to cut a check for those most prolific at providing funky lyrical content… their OWN funky lyrical content.
It is fitting then (and oddly ironic) that the emcee most noted for calling out the transgression of ghostwriting in hip hop is not an emcee at all and was, in fact, calling himself out. Oh well. If you can’t beat ‘em… “Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Bad Boy. Come on!”
DJ PREMIER VS THE RZA
Music continues to make this unprecedented global quarantine an unexpected treat. On Easter Eve two of the grittiest producers of our generation treated us to a trip down memory lane. DJ Premier and The RZA served up a slew of timeless joints blow for blow. Every cut invoked memories of a time when the critics and fans were universally aligned in appreciating creativity.
Over 150 thousand people zoned in and listened to these legends drop over 40 tracks of pure excellence! The tracks featured the likes of The Wu-Tang Clan, Gang Starr , Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, Kanye West, Jeru the damaja, M.O.P, Big L, Mary J Blige, Christina Aguilera and many more. It was a Masters class in Hip Hop phonics and the genre’s students around the globe were all tuned in to hear it!
For the unfortunate ones that managed to miss this moment of history, here’s a visual representation of some of the subject matter presented!
Mass Appeal – Gang Starr (The ultimate drive through other people’s neighborhood joint)
Liquid Swords – GZA (This made a lot of MC’s re-evaluate their penmanship)
MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know – KRS-One (DJ’s go to record to make sure their speakers were up to the task)
Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck (If getting jumped was a record)
Nas Is Like – Nas (The record that made everyone rewind the first line like wtf did he say?!)
Brooklyn Zoo – Ol Dirty Bastard (The Brooklyn invitation to let everyone know you there)
Yes you definitely played yourself if you decided to cut instagram class tonight! The aforementioned treats were only a couple of lessons shared during this session of night school.
Shout out to the Principals (Swizz Beatz & Timberland) of battles in enhancing our quarantine curriculum by inviting these Professors of Hip Hop. Not only did they raise the bar in competition and quality but they surely injured some necks after the evening’s engaging lecture!
This class originally began with a syllabus calling for one A at the end of the semester. But the students rightfully revolted by keeping it Hip Hop and changing the rules to award the whole subject matter an A+. So on behalf of everyone with an ounce of flavor in their blood, THANK YOU PREMIER & RZA! We appreciate you!
Janita in Love
ECR Music Group recording artist Janita releases her new single “I Do” today, apropos of Valentine’s Day, and you won’t be able to get it out of your head.
The follow-up to “Bliss I Once Had This,” “I Do” is the second single off her new album, Here Be Dragons, dropping May 1st. It’s an honest-to-goodness anthem of love, saying more with less, and building to a gorgeous frenzy upon that killer rhythm section of Justin Goldner on bass and the incomparable Miles East on drums. Damn, that bass, tho.
Is there anything you can say to someone that’s more affectionate than I see you, I got you? Isn’t that the kind of love we all dream of? In that way the song is as much about the subject as the singer, adding to its depth and beauty.
“I have a restless soul, an innate curiosity which pushes me to learn, and to change. Uncharted territory is terribly exciting for me. I often feel like I’m on the edge of something new, even with those I’ve loved for years and years. ’I Do’ is about the renewal of one’s love for someone––love being the most thrilling of all uncharted territories––and a renewal of one’s commitment to exploring all the corners of the map of that relationship.”
Both Janita and producer Blake Morgan are the rare breed of artist that continue to grow in leaps and bounds with each new record, when you wouldn’t expect things could get any better. Janita says more in a two word chorus than many musicians do in a whole song. And Blake’s production has only gotten smoother, smarter, and more focused with every release. “I Do” is another shining example of the continued thoughtful collaboration between the two.
Do you believe two artists can find the perfect partner in each other? I do.
Catch Janita’s album release on April 30th at New York’s legendary Rockwood Music Hall.
Eric’s Top 10 Records of 2019
As usual, this is a “best of” from records I actually purchased this year. If I didn’t buy it, it’s not on the list. Now get off my lawn.
Anak Ko – Jay Som
My favorite album of the year, easily. Jay Som (Melina Duterte) hides gifts in each track that reveal themselves with every listen. (more)
“I’m where I can feel it, I’m where I can feel.”
Big Thief – Two Hands
Big Thief are on fire and released two great records this year. “Not,” from their latest, is pure poetry – particularly this live performance. Seeing a band this connected is a beautiful thing.
“It’s not the meat of your thigh, nor your spine tattoo, nor your shimmery eye, nor the wet of the dew.”
Jaime – Brittany Howard
Brittany Howard’s first record outside of Alabama Shakes is full of magic – from the classic soul of “Stay High” to the funkadelic “History Repeats.” It may be physically impossible to stand still during the last minute and a half of this song.
“I just don’t want to be back in this place again.”
Self Titled – Better Oblivion Community Center
Skillful collab between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers is some honest-to-goodness songwriting. “Dylan Thomas” is a pure pop nugget I listened to more than my doctor this year.
“I’m strapped into a corset, climbed into your corvette, thirsty for another drink.”
Beneath the Eyrie – Pixies
The new record is as cohesive as their early work, yet nothing like it. Bassist Paz Lenchantin plays the Nancy Sinatra role in “Ready for Love.” (more)
“I’m succeeding as a failer.”
Lux Prima – Karen O & Danger Mouse
Producer Danger Mouse teamed up with Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a collection of sprawling space rock. Think Air’s Moon Safari for a new age.
“I’m nowhere, I’m no one, I’m nobody… there’s nobody but you.”
Old LP – That Dog
“Don’t bother to say goodbye, just walk away.”
Itekoma Hits – Otoboke Beaver
My go-to record when feeling aggressive this year was by Japanese punk rockers Otoboke Beaver. These ladies are magically unhinged.
Lets Rock – The Black Keys
The Black Keys made a quick and dirty record this year in search of the next “Louie Louie.”
“Tell me lies, la-la-la-la-la-la-lies.”
Means to Me – Long Beard
Leslie Bear’s jangly dream-pop would be a treat for any Harriet Wheeler fan.
“Only you can make me feel like I need something more to do.”
- King of the Dudes (EP) – Sunflower Bean
- Abbey Road Anniversary Deluxe – The Beatles
- South Of Reality – The Claypool Lennon Delirium
- Groove Denied – Stephen Malkmus
- My Finest Work Yet – Andrew Bird
- Then I Try Some More – Johanna Steinberg
- Nostalgia Kills – Jill Sobule
- Years To Burn – Calexico & Iron & Wine
- Fool – Joe Jackson
- Help Us Stranger – The Raconteurs
- Anima – Thom Yorke
- Minidisc [Hacks] – Radiohead
- The Center Won’t Hold – Sleater Kinney
- Sunshine Rock – Bob Mould
- Planet England (EP) – Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge
- Hyperspace – Beck