Tag Archives: rap/hip-hop

The Ave Podcast – Raptors, NBA Playoffs, & DAMN.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 21: Raptors, NBA Playoffs, & DAMN. 

Today of The Ave Podcast, I invite friends of the Podcast DJ Chris Nice & Headley, as we discuss the Raptors playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Game 6 predictions, as well our favorite moments from the rest of the NBA Playoff landscape.

Towards the end of the Podcast, Shawn Adonis (past contributor to South Shore Ave) joins me to break down Kendrick Lamar’s new album “DAMN”. We also break down where it ranks among his other albums, how it affects the Hip Hop culture, Drake vs. Kendrick comparisons, plus more.  

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below. Today’s podcast is available for streaming and download. Please enjoy. *** 

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 21

 

To download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

https://app.box.com/s/030bu1xoxl56wbst096soa267dlht3yr

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button, and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed. Very special thanks to DJ Chris Nice, Headley, and Shawn Adonis for their guest appearances on this podcast.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee – The 20th Anniversary of Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt

Welcome once again to The Ave Podcast. In the spirit of #FlashbackFriday, we take you back to the musical Golden Era of 90’s music to celebrate one of the Greatest albums in Hip Hop history. Twenty years ago tomorrow (June 25, 1996), smack in the middle of a East Coast – West Coast Beef led by Bad Boy and Death Row Records, Shawn Carter otherwise known as Jay-Z, dropped his debut album “Reasonable Doubt”. At the time, it was highly viewed as a critically acclaimed album. As time went along, it’s now regarded as a masterpiece and one of the best Hip Hop Albums that has even been made.

Today we welcome back our guest & past contributor to South Shore Ave Shawn Adonis (The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die, Episode 3 of The Ave), as we discuss our favorite songs from the album (what’s said about one song in particular may shock you), if this truly qualifies as Jay-Z’s greatest album, and how it ranks among our all-time Hip Hop albums.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download. ***

Roc-A-Fella y’all, Ha Haaa……

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 6

 

To download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

https://app.box.com/s/yx8oeupgp9b9txy4hsnc3kupl4n5bni4

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address. Very special thanks to Shawn Adonis for his guest appearance on this podcast.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee – The Playoffs & The Trap

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 3: The Playoffs & The Trap

Welcome once again to The Ave Podcast. For Part I, we welcome O’Niel Kamaka (St. Mary’s College alumnist, Northen Kings AAU Basketball Coach), as we discuss our thoughts on the players who has both impressed & disappointed us from the 1st round of the NBA playoffs; recap our thoughts from the Pacers-Raptors series; & if San Antonio becomes the favorite to win it all with Steph Curry’s injuries mounting.

For Part II, we welcome our guest and past contributor Shawn Adonis (The Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die , Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx….., and a #FlashbackFriday Video discussion on Kardinal Offishall’s “Bakardi Slang”), as we discuss the phenomenon of Desiigner’s Panda, the dominance of Trap music, how the internet era has altered the balance of today’s Hip Hop music.

As always, thanks for tuning in. For you newcomers, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below….

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 3 – PART I “The Playoffs”

 

PART II “The Trap”

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address. Very special thanks to O’Niel Kamaka & Shawn Adonis for their guest appearances on this podcast.

Why Drake Releasing A New Album For NBA All Star Weekend Is A Great Idea

In a couple of weeks from now, Toronto will be hosting the largest (if not one of the largest) sporting events in this city’s history. Sorry CFL fans & Grey Cup Guzzlers, it’s the truth. The NBA All Star Game & Weekend is finally coming across the border. I personally have been waiting for this since the NBA announced that Toronto & Vancouver were getting NBA Franchises back in the early 90s. I assumed once the Raptors got settled in (much like Miami, Charlotte, Orlando, & Minnesota a few short years after getting an expansion team), they would get to host an All Star game. Nope. Instead we had to wait 20 years for the NBA to finally deem Toronto worthy. Now that it’s almost showtime, many people are extremely excited for the opportunity to see what all the hype is all about. Almost as big as the event itself, everyone’s wondering what Drake is going to do for that weekend.

The only things that’s been confirmed so far is that he will be coaching one of the teams in the Celebrity Game against Kevin Hart, & that he’s releasing his OVO Jordans the same weekend. Outside of that, no one knows what else he has planned just yet. It could be everything, it could be nothing. He could do concerts across the city, he could perform in front of Maple Leaf Square; or at Dundas Square; or take a heated flatbed down Yonge St & perform all his songs Carnival-style like Kendrick Lamar did in L.A. last summer; or he could just attend all the parties like everyone else (doubtful, but technically an option). No one knows for sure.* If I’m Drake though, none of the above listed items will have as much impact as him releasing “Views From The 6” during All Star weekend…. you know, IF that’s what he chooses to do. It would be the smartest of moves if he pulls that off again like he did for last year’s All Star Weekend. To recap, here’s what happened last February & the impact it had once If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late came out:

The Unexpected Album Drop. In today’s music climate, it has become hard to generate a healthy buzz for your album, and unless you’re a major superstar artist, it’s even harder to make that flip towards large amounts of sales. The music game has changed greatly in the last ten years as you know (think about it: when was the last time you bought a CD off the shelf? Or in a store for that fact?) Unless your album is filled with classic material & that fact is being promoted all throughout the music industry before your album release, generating an album release buzz is much more difficult than it used to be. You know what works in our social media/digital age instead? Unexpected Album Drops! (Let’s refer to it as “UAD” for the remainder of the article). Nothing sets social media on fire more than your favorite artist dropping a new album on you without warning. Not only does it create major news & help that artist trend everywhere, it’s also protection from the album being leaked earlier than its scheduled release date. In a way, it puts the power back into the artist hands. A few artists have done it prior to “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (ie. Beyonce’s last album), but when Drake did it last winter, it set Twitter on fire. By the next morning, customized “If You’re Reading This…” memes & gifs were already on heavy rotation before you even heard a track. A lead-off single, or a pre-album write up in XXL wasn’t needed. The public literally determined what was hot from the album, & within a few weeks, 14 songs from the album made it on the Billboard charts, something only the Beatles accomplished in music history (until Justin Bieber beat that record with his Purpose album). Let’s take it a bit further…..

He Sent a Shot to His Competition. We all remember the whole Drake vs Diddy episode, so I won’t rehash it here. What was underrated about the UAD was its timing. At Madison Square Garden last All Star Thursday, Diddy had his first concert to kick off the All Star Weekend, as well as his 20th Anniversary of Bad Boy Records, his first concert in years. It had many, many big names from Snoop, to Nas, to Dr. Dre, to entire former Bad Boy Family + countless surprise guests performing on stage. Looked like an awesome time to be honest. On top of that, whoever couldn’t attend was able to stream the concert on their devices. Around midnight, while the concert was in full swing, Drake does a UAD on the masses. Within the hour, the streaming numbers took a bit of a hit, and even people at the concert took their attention off the stage for a few moments to check their phones respecting the breaking news. It was a chess move. By the time the concert was over, everyone focused their attention to digesting the album for the remainder of the weekend, therefore, putting the spotlight squarely back on Drake. What a time to have it on him because…..

His Album Dropped during “Black Super Bowl” Weekend. Shout out to Bill Simmons for being the first person to publicly coin that term as the “aka” for the NBA All Star Weekend. Since the mid-80s, that weekend has been known for when all the biggest black celebrities in the world get together to take part in the festivities and parties. The All Star Game & festivities take over wherever the host city it’s in like Bigfoot. So naturally, when Drake’s UAD happened, all the celebrities & athletes devoured it like everyone else that weekend, sharing their favorite songs & slangs from the album all over social media. Of course, this is all being re-tweeted & liked by their own followers hundreds of thousands of times, basically making the buzz now turn into The Hulk. You couldn’t possibly pay for better promotion that this.

His Album Dropped on Family Day Weekend. For those that don’t live in Ontario, starting in 2008, an extra long weekend was added to the calendar & was no longer to be the only province in the country with the lowest long weekend totals every year. The great part about Family Day Weekend is that every year it falls on All Star Weekend, so for you hoop junkies (myself included), this is a great weekend to kick back & watch all the festivities and old All Star Game marathons on NBA TV…… as well as spend quality time with family of course (coving my ass here folks). For Torontonians, Drake’s UAD became the official soundtrack for the weekend. Everyone riding around the city in the -45 degree climate to hit up clubs, get-togethers &/or house parties was bumping Drake’s most Toronto-centric album he’s made. I mentioned this to some friends after listening to it the first time. Anyone who was born & raised in Toronto basically stuck out their chests here. Pretty soon, the world would start implementing some of Toronto’s ebonics into their slang venacular. If Drake was the unofficial King of the City, this album added a couple of more rubles to his crown.

He Completed his Contract with Young Money/Cash Money? In one of the smarter moves around, with this particular UAD, Drake would have fulfilled his album obligations with Young Money/Cash Money. With the Cash Money empire in major flux, he may have jumped out the window of a burning house to free himself up towards his own OVO Sound Record Label. Although it keeps being called a Mixtape, it was sold on iTunes with YMCMB attached to it, and also scanned as one of the few platinum albums in the music business for 2015, therefore fulfilling his 4-album contract with his label in the process. If this is actually the case here, these strategies are almost Sun Tzu-like. (Here’s something that needs to be asked: Considering he put out an album that had no marketing or promotion of any kind, yet he still went platinum & broke records on the charts, does he really need to be signed to a record label with anybody at all? Do you really even need a distribution deal from a record label when you’re at his level, if his albums are being bought online & streamed exclusively? It’s an interesting thought.)

We can all admit now whether you love him or hate him, Drake is having an unbelievable 12 months. From winning rap battles, releasing another “Mixtape” with Future, dropping “Hotline Bling” which has taken off on the music charts, Serena, the Apple Deal, launching apps, & continuing to make OVO into one of the hottest brands in Hip Hop.

However, if he repeats the method & release an album’s worth of new material in a couple of weeks, it will further cement his legacy in Toronto. It’s one thing to do what he did in New York City, but putting out Views From The 6 when the spotlight will already be shining on Toronto (especially if the album is nice) will take it to another level. It could be an added event that nobody in the city ever forgets, especially for the ones that share his generational demographic. The Drake Brand can post another win locally and worldwide.

Here’s an underrated reason that’s potentially being glossed over…..

I for one, have always believed that Drake’s role as Global Ambassador of the Toronto Raptors was an underrated move by the Raptors. Just for the simple fact that he is either friends with a lot of major superstar players, or the ones that don’t know him personally (especially the younger players) revere him. In other words, because of who he is, he can put himself in places the average NBA GM cannot, simply due to his lifestyle. Please don’t get it twisted, some of your favorite basketball players love hanging out in this city for quite some time, & you can see a lot of them roaming the city during Caribana Weekend when Drake has his annual OVO Fest.

It lends itself to what Tim Lieweke & Masai Ujiri started in 2013, which is changing the narrative & perception to how NBA players feel about playing in Toronto. At the very least, you want to be respected enough to have the good Free Agents listen to your phone call to get you in the room to take a meeting. 2016 has been deemed as an important year for the Raptors for quite some time now in terms of being seen as a world class city (which is already established), a world class basketball organization, & as major players in the NBA. The Raps have the All-Star game, the new practice facility (which is supposed to be amazing by all accounts) that will be ready shortly, & will be pulling all the stops to show the world what kind of organization this is. Drake’s role on the team whether you believe in it or not, has helped in some ways with raising the awareness about the city with other basketball players & pro athletes. IF Drake does a UAD, the momentum of the aftershocks of that might play a part in how some of these athletes feel about playing for this city in a few months. You might laugh at that & say that’s ridiculous, but a couple of years ago, would you ever think you’d see Kevin Durant wearing a David Price Blue Jays jersey at a concert in Toronto either? I want to make this clear. This is not about believing that Drake can sign players. It’s about changing the perception about how people view a franchise to the point that you’re respected enough for Free Agents to listen to your pitch. That’s all that matters in these cases, that you get a chance to get your foot in the door & make a pitch.

As long as he’s affiliated to the Raptors, doing things like dropping UADs on All-Star weekend to help alter the environment for Player X’s enjoyment for example, helps market the Raptors down the line. It’s almost like dining at an upscale restaurant. You go there for the main course, but if the side dishes are incredible, the wine is aged just right & the service is top notch, you’re going to remember that restaurant experience once it’s time to decide where to dine out again, right? While I’m not relegating Drake’s UAD potential to a side dish, in the case of the Raptors place in the NBA Landscape, experiencing that on a weekend such as this could be placed in a future Free Agent’s memory bank, whether he’s there or hears about it from his peers.

It could be an interesting time in a couple of weeks in Toronto IF this album drops that weekend, going along with all the all-star festivities. Stay tuned…..

* I’m also hearing rumors courtesy of Jacky Jasper that the City of Toronto is banning Drake from headlining any after parties during All Star Weekend due to the aftermath of the shootings from the OVO Fest After Parties at Muzik nightclub last summer. You can read about it here, more as this develops of course.

SIDELINE NOTES

– Everyone keeps making fun of LeBron’s hairline issues & begging for him to cut his hair off. So, you guys are just gonna keep ragging on LBJ, but let Marcus Thornton walk these streets freely huh? That’s actually going to happen?

– If the over/under for Half American/Half Canadian babies being born in late November that were conceived in Toronto is 100, I’m taking the over. I’ll also bet about 8-10 of those babies will come with annual six-figure attachments by way of the Child Support Express…..

– The narrative of LeBron being totally unaware about David Blatt being fired like the rest of society……I don’t want to call someone an outright liar or anything, but I also have no frigging idea how to finish this sentence so…..

– If a condom company was smart, they’d have a kiosk planted at every major hotel across Toronto in about two weeks……

– Do I have to apologize for liking Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” song? I mean, I don’t have to hold onto that secret any longer, right? Ok, cool. Phew!!….

– After watching Steph Curry dismantle the Spurs on Monday, is there any way that the NBA could just announce the regular season MVP award to Curry during the All Star weekend? There really isn’t any point of waiting until May to officially give it to him….

– You’ve seen Josh Smith & Lance Stephenson slapboxing on the bench during OT of that Clippers game a couple weeks ago, right? #KnuckNation

– Speaking of the Knucklehead Awards, did Blake Griffin submit his registration forms too late for this year, or was he getting an early jump on next year’s awards? How do you do that to your boy (Assistant Equipment manager of the Clippers), & what the hell could have been said that you punch him (at a packed restaurant apparently), then follow him out the restaurant to punch him again, repeatedly? Did he sleep with your woman? Stole money from you?? Wore your underwear??? What’s the story here?!?!

– As far as David Blatt is concerned, his major problem was that he wasn’t meant to coach this team. He signed on to coach a rebuilding team with young players headlined by Kyrie Irving & Andrew Wiggins being the faces of the franchise. Then LeBron decided to come home & changed everything. They went from “let’s hope to make the playoffs in the next couple of years” to “championship or bust” by the time training camp started. It’s asking a lot out of most coaches, much less Blatt to coach that kind of team, especially when you have never coached in the NBA before. Once LeBron started treating Blatt like someone who showered every 5th day but always wants to hug it out, everyone else followed suit, including Tyronne Lue who used to call timeouts behind his back.

Unlike Miami’s situation a few years ago, Blatt did not have the backing from management & ownership to stand firm with LeBron. So it was only a matter of time. On top of that, personally, he always seemed a little pompous to me, always reminding people in interviews that he won a million championships in Israel, as if he had to continually validate himself to the public that he was a good coach and not Lebron’s wash cloth. He may have been doomed to fail from the start, but between that, and what Brendan Haywood had to say about the situation, it’s not as if he exactly helped himself either.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Golden Era: Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx… (20th Anniversary-Ish)

We here at South Shore Ave are gassing up the DeLorean & taking you back to the musical Golden Era of 90’s music to celebrate one of the Greatest albums in Hip Hop history. While this isn’t quite the Twentieth anniversary date of Raekwon’s solo album “Only Built For Cuban Linx…” (initial release date was Aug 1, 1995), we simply couldn’t let 2015 pass us by without discussing one of the greatest Hip Hop Albums of the Golden Age era. So without further ado, me & my friend Shawn Adonis, break down four tracks off the legendary album. The Ice Cream Man is coming…..

**DISCLAIMER — this is not a Top 4 list. You could make an argument for 10 songs from this album being in the Top 4. This is strictly a review, a collection of songs from the album.** 

 

Ice Cream

Yo honey dip / summertime fine, jewelry dripping / Seen you on Pickens with a bunch of chickens how you’re clicking / I keep shooting strong notes as we got close / She rocked rope, honey throat smelling like impulse.”  – Ghostface Killah

Cee: Lemme give you my personal experience of this Ice Cream track, one that still stings somewhat years later. Twenty years ago, right after Labor Day weekend, I went down to New York City to visit my family for about a week or so in the Bronx. While listening to Hot 97, they announced that they’d be shooting the Ice Cream video in Staten Island that day, & get this…… EVERYONE and ANYONE were invited. They gave the address to the area where they’d be shooting the video and everything. Now, considering at the time that I damn near had this song & the album on repeat for weeks on end, this might have been the best thing I had ever heard in my life at that moment. What are the chances I’d be in New York City, the same time they’d be filming this video that I could actually be a part of??? Now, one thing about New York that I’ve come to realize over the years, a lot of people don’t know much outside of their borough. For example, you could live in Brooklyn your whole life, & have absolutely no idea how to get to or around the Bronx, or Queens, or sadly, even parts of Brooklyn. This brings me to my cousin Rob…

Now I shouldn’t knock him because he usually has a good sense of where he’s going for the most part when it comes to navigating through those NY streets. However, when I suggested to him that we should go down to Staten Island to check out the video, dude had no idea how to get there. I was so confused & annoyed at the same time. I was basically like, “What the f*** you mean you don’t know how to get to Staten Island?!?!?” I’m sure it was a logical choice to him, but to me, I wasn’t happy at all. Now mind you, I never expected to be in the video. I did not think I’d be on top of the Ice Cream truck swinging a cane alongside Meth, or scooping up the Butter Pecan Ricans, or trying to cop gold fronts at the swap meet where Ghostface was trying to get at the thick chick. I just wanted to experience the hype around it live and in person. So seeing that video for the first time & seeing how hype it was, maaaan……….. it still stings. To make matters worse, there’s Cappadonna popping up in the video with a Canadiens jersey on. The road colors & everything. I’m not gonna lie, it felt like he sent a subliminal shot towards me for not attending the shoot.

With that said, this song/video always represented the absolute peak of Wu-Tang’s powers to me. They already changed the game by staying as a group while each individual was allowed to put out solo albums. As a unit, they were on fire, but this was one of the hypest videos that ever came out of the Wu camp. Method Man by this time was almost like a fu**ing superhero. So much so that when he dropped that legendary hook (that became legendary the second it came out by the way)….

“Watch these rap ni**as get all up in your guts / French Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Chocolate Deluxe….”

……. I’m not entirely sure people remember what anyone else said. It didn’t matter if Ghost’s verse stole the show, or that Rae & Cappadonna kept the level high. This was a perfect storm for Wu: right production from The Rza, right characters to rhyme over the beat, right rapper with the right flow/delivery to make the hook incredibly memorable, and then capped off with the right video to marry the song. Even if this was Raekwon’s song, this was the Wu’s version of perfection. 

Shawn: If it makes you feel any better Cee, Robert’s inability to navigate beyond his own neighborhood might not have ruined such a potentially “epic moment” in your youth as you may think.  Did you miss the opportunity to be in the vicinity of a video shoot for one of hip hop’s most legendary groups at the height of their careers?? Quite frankly, yes.  But you know who I’ll bet didn’t miss it?  Every other young New York hip hop head sporting clothing with the signature Wu Tang “W”, with hopes and dreams of making a cameo appearance in the video. Which would of course in their minds, launch their own rap careers….. only to realize once they got to the video shoot that their lack of having a vagina & a pair of breasts made them pretty much irrelevant, watching from a distance where they could see no Wu member, French Vanilla, Butter Pecan Rican, or Chocolate Deluxe shaking their ice cream scoops.  So you’d be in NY in the mid-90s era, surrounded by a pack of angry & disappointed dudes, just looking for someone to take their frustrations out on.  So, you and good ol’ Rob might have ended up in the remix as the newest ice cream flavor…. Blood Pudding.

Now, allow me to take a walk down memory lane of my youth.  I was a certified Wu fanatic around the time the purple tape came out. So much so, that I convinced myself that anything affiliated with the Wu was automatically great (ie. Killa Army, Sons of Man, and Gravediggaz, all groups that I can now admit fell somewhere between garbage and mediocre in the talent spectrum).  So while listening to Rae’s first solo project, I was pretty much in a state of euphoria by the time Ice Cream came on.  After the beat dropped, I decided 3 seconds into the song that this was probably going to be my favorite track on the album.  By the time Method Man came in with the hook, I was looking around for a brown paper bag to breathe into so that I wouldn’t pass out before the song was over.  To this day, I’m pretty sure that respectable women everywhere fell into a trance with an uncontrollable urge to let dudes get “all up in their guts” whenever this song was played.  I can just imagine a business woman in the board room meeting hearing the hypnotic hook from a car stereo playing it outside, suddenly ripping open her blouse, hiking up her skirt, and daring her colleagues to take turns in them “guts”, until the car drives away, and she suddenly realizes what’s happening, and runs out the room screaming in shame straight toward HR.

Wu-Gambinos

“Who come to get you, none, they want guns / I be the first to set off shit, last to run / Wu roll together as one / I call my brother ‘Son’ cause he shine like one….” – Chorus by Method Man

Cee: Remember that time in hip hop when every rapper was adopting the persona that they were part of an Italian crime family? Well, you can thank this song for being the originators of that era. Back in 1993, Wu-Tang was able to change the slang culture with C.R.E.A.M., five percenter philosophies, martial arts teachings and sound bites. This time, they went all in with the Gambino a.k.a’s. Or should I say Rae, because it’s known that he was the one that made sure all members of the Wu had an alias similar to the movie “Once Upon A Time in America”, in order to be a part of this album. Something that I’m sure was a small detail at the time, ended up not only being one of the sickest records, but changed the way artists presented themselves to the public.

After that album came out & particularly this song, some of the biggest artists in hip hop changed their style up. Nas went from Nasty Nas to Nas Escobar off of his 2nd album, “It Was Written”. You remember the pink suit off the Casino-inspired “Street Dreams” video, right? Mobb Deep flipped up their style a bit & became more menacing on their “Hell on Earth” album. I used to have their poster where their whole team was sitting at the big table with coke residue on some of the crew member’s noses, as well as a big pile of coke laid out on the table (can you imagine the shitstorm that would hover over Havoc & Prodigy if that poster was handed to kids today??? Twitter alone would lose its collective minds). The Notorious B.I.G added the Frank White alias to his name (borrowed from the character of the King of New York flick + also using alias to subliminally declare himself as the King of New York Hip-Hop wise), & played the part of a crime boss until he was murdered in 1997. Even Tupac had the Makaveli name added to his brand, even creating a whole album around that character right before he lost his life. Check out Jay-Z’s debut album. For those that actually have his album & not the bootlegged version, check out the photos in the packaging. Hov, Dame Dash, and Kareem Biggs all looked like either they were part of a Mobster conglomerate, or they were headed to an Al Capone-themed Wine & Dine function right after the photo shoot. What about AZ? That Doe or Die album was not only dope, but was presented in a big boss way too.

The record played a major part in how East Coast rappers portrayed themselves, pretty much everyone from the ones I mentioned to Kool G Rap (Fast Life) & others acted as if they were in Goodfellas. Everyone was touching their inner Scarface. Pretty soon, it morphed into the whole Versace/Named brand clothing; which was championed by Biggie & Junior Mafia; which then graduated to the shiny suit era that Puffy led with his chest out. Even Hov did a video with the shiny threads on & the fish-eye-lens-supported “My Sunshine” record.

Moral of the rant: Blame Raekwon for the Shiny Suit era.

Shawn: Ok, can we start by agreeing that the intro to this song was entirely too long & uninteresting to have been eating up an entire minute and 10 seconds of my yellow Sony Sport Walkman’s fast forwarding time? Back when I used to have to damned near beg, borrow or steal to find a pair of mismatched AA batteries to be able to use my Walkman in the first place.  I think we need to file a class action lawsuit against Rae to get some of that battery money back, I’m sure there were many out there that shares my plight.

You bring up a good point though Cee, about Wu being the alias trailblazers, it never occurred to me but you’re right.  Before Wu, every rapper and crew had one name, it was pretty simple.  But after Wu, everyone had aliases, alter egos, different personas, crew nicknames, hell even country singer Garth Brooks caught the bug and became a darker “Chris Gaines” for a minute (which he abandoned with the quickness, I don’t think country fans were ready for the small taste of hip hop).  But can we take a moment to make note of the fact that other than Tony Starks, Johnny Blaze, and Lou Diamonds, that every other Wu Gambino name was pretty much garbage?  With the worst being Master Killa’s confusingly bizarre alias: Noodles (Rollie Fingers gets an honorable mention for sounding pretty uncool as well).

As for the song itself, is it me, or does the beat start to get a bit redundant after a while?  The track starts strong, Meth and Rae both captivated you as they did in every track back then, but I could have done without RZA or Masta Killah’s submissions, and jumped right to Ghost’s verse to close it out.  Speaking of Masta Killah, was he an official member of the Wu or not? Sometimes he’d be around, but most of the time he was nowhere to be found.  I never missed him mind you, because he was consistently boring, but where the hell was he? Did he have better things to do at the time then to be part of hip hop’s biggest super group? Did he have another job that he just couldn’t get the time off from? Were there not enough sick days?  That never made much sense to me; he was the allusive mysterious Wu member that always seemed to be away doing other things.  I mean, U-God probably had 3 verses over the entire Wu Tang reign (for good reason), but at least he was around for the ride.  I’m not sure Masta Killah made enough of an impact that he is even recognizable to the casual hip hop fan, then or now.

Incarcerated Scarfaces

“Thug related style attract millions / Fans, they understand my plan / Who’s the kid up in the green Land? / Me and the RZA connect, blow a fuse, you lose / Half-ass crews get demolished and bruised”

Cee: There are some pros and cons to the argument about Raekwon’s stake of the mythical King of New York crown back in the mid-90s. Did he have some say in that title with Cuban Linx? Absolutely! For those that don’t remember, that album played in every car, house, Walkman, CD Discman (if you could afford one back then), anything that had a speaker or earphones connected to it. That trip I made to New York that I was telling you about earlier? I’m not lying when I say almost every car in New York was blasting some album cut of Cuban Linx. It was almost like a unified understanding. The knock on his stake is that you can’t be called “King of…” anything when you have so many guest appearances. Outside of two songs, every song featured Ghostface (who played more co-pilot than sidekick to Rae) or a Wu member. Even with that said, out of those two, Incarcerated Scarfaces was a certified classic.

Keeping with the grimy, drug game theme of the overall project, Raekwon takes you through to the life of being a big star, the “Avon Barksdale” of the block. At least I think that’s what it’s about. Let’s face it, as much as I love Rae & his swagger, style, and slang……. his slang even for me was over my head sometimes. There were times I needed that Wu-Tang Manual to decipher some of those lyrics because it was so rich in slang and double entendres that you couldn’t possibly keep up with everything. Much like Biggie & Nas, you may have rewinded this track over and over. Unlike those two, it was less him spitting bars that made your head spin and more of his ability of making anything he says make complete & total sense over RZA’s production. It’s a little low key compared to some of the other records (i.e. Guillotine, Glaciers of Ice), but it’s probably the cleanest/smoothest song that veers a little left from the rugged style of the songs.

As for the video now, it seems like the budget wasn’t a whole lot, and why would it be? Take a look at the above paragraphs. You know this was shot in Staten Island or some sort of hood equivalent, which is completely fine. It goes perfect with the song itself, from the slam dancing and rapping behind the fences, to the rooftop shots, etc. But of course Shawn, I have a couple of questions about the video:

1) Seeing that they were in the hood recording the video, do you really think that they had “that white” blurred on the table? I mean, why do that if it isn’t, right?

2) Was Dave Chappelle right after all in saying that Slo-Mo really does make everything cooler?

3) What was that girl really doing underneath that couch cushion while sitting alongside Ghostface?

Your thoughts…..

Shawn: Very good questions you ask there Calvin mi hermano (which means “my brother” in Spanish). I’ve been binge watching that Netflix show Narcos, which is a series documenting the life of the notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar, so you’re going to have to deal with me acting like I’m a member of the Medellin Cartel for the next little while.  Anyhow, here’s my take on your questions:

Question #1: If that was really La Cocaina that they were blurring out on the table?  

After a heated back and forth debate in my own mind, that may or may not have ended in violence, I’ve concluded that it’s not really that “white girl” (I had to throw in a bit of present day slang, to fool any young readers into thinking that I’m…..how do kids say “cool” these days? Turned? Lit? I can’t keep track anymore).

Let me elaborate.  I was torn about this until I realized at what point in Rae’s career this video was shot in.  If this video was shot during the 36 Chambers album, when the Wu were still a bunch a grimy, hood Staten Island boys, to the point that Ghostface used to wear a mask in videos and public appearances because he had warrants and didn’t want to jeopardize his freedom; not only would I have said that would have definitely been coke on the table, but also that there were most probably numerous fire-arms tucked in waist bands across the room, ready to be pulled out on the video director & crew if the coke wasn’t all accounted for by the end of the video shoot. But seeing that by the time Cuban Linx dropped, a shitload of money had been made, and the Wu members were a bit (and I stress the word “bit”) more refined at this point, I’m assuming it was a video director’s attempt to make an edgy hood video with a pile of baking soda on the table.

Question# 2: Does slow motion make everything look cooler?

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Si (the Narco effect continues).

I’ll be honest, before I saw this video, I pretty much slept on this song, and I would only listen to it long enough to allow my hand to press fast forward.  Then “Rainy Days” would come on and I would start “the wave” with my left hand and finish the dance off by pressing fast forward with my right, until I got to Guillotine (where Inspectah Deck absolutely bodied that sickening beat with his “Poisonous paragraphs / smash the phonograph in half / it be the Inspectah Deck on the warpath” intro, at which point I was trembling due to sensory overload, but I digress.  Back to me sleeping on Incarcerated Scarfaces, this stopped happening as soon as I saw the video, and a large part of my new found appreciation for the track had to do with the slo-mo scenes.  Between Rae walking through the hood, looking around and grilling dudes he had no business grilling (they were pretty intimidating figures), to the large mob of brothas hurtling the project fences in unison (what were they running from, you didn’t know and you didn’t care, cause they were doing it with visually pleasing slow motion wizardry). Every time I heard this song, I was inspired to stop whatever I was doing in normal speed, and switch to slow motion, which probably made me look mentally ill, but it made me feel cool, so it was worth the sacrifice.

Question# 3: What was that chick doing with her hand under the couch cushion?

The reasonable and mature person in me thinks that after a long day of shooting, she was pretty much just sitting there bored simply resting her hand on her thigh, & therefore incidentally creating a coincidental illusion there was some hanky-panky going on under there.  But the dreamer in me that would like to believe porno story-lines are in some way possible, and that one day I’ll order a pizza, and a sexy half naked delivery girl will feel compelled to “teach me a lesson” for giving her a bad tip (providing me with pleasure as punishment while chastising & belittling me may not make sense in the real world, but in the land of porn it makes perfect sense), likes to imagine that the young lady in the video didn’t mind the fact that there was a room full of brothas, and just had to treat her vagina like a turntable.  So, let’s just agree for my perverted mind, that she was being an amazingly filthy, naughty girl, who couldn’t fight the urge to defile herself in a room full of dudes, with only a pillow to cover her shameful act.  A pillow that some dude undoubtedly sniffed as soon as she left the room.

Verbal Intercourse

“It’s like a cycle, ni**as come home, some’ll go in / Do a bullet, come back, do the same shit again / From the womb to the tomb, presume the unpredictable / Guns salute life rapidly, that’s the ritual”. – Nas

“Perhaps bullets bust ni**as discuss mad money / True lies and White guys, we can see it through the eyes”. – Raekwon

Cee: Now before Cuban Linx, no Wu-Tang group or member ever featured an artist outside of their world. You can’t really blame them. When you’re one of the biggest entities in the genre altogether that go nine deep, and are also helping to change the landscape of hip hop, do you really need to? You want a banger of a beat? Call RZA. You want someone to wild out & act crazy on your track? Speed dial Old Dirty Bastard. You want a guest feature that will swing your song through the radio & the streets with the same impact of a bulldozer? Tap Method Man on his shoulder. You want your guest to slang & swag out our record? Hit up Raekwon and Ghostface easily. The list goes on & on. Wu Tang was like going to that friend’s house that had all the best toys & video games, and their fridge & cupboard was always stocked with everything. Right down to the different kinds of cereals, from Fruit Loops to Cocoa Puffs. You never needed to leave the house for anything. Which was why opening the doors for Nas to appear on a Wu-affiliated album was such a major deal at the time.

All Nas did once he entered the doors and took off his shoes was spit out one of the greatest lyrics he may have ever recorded. It was beyond being “Rewind-worthy” & it set the tone for the rest of the song. Both Rae & Ghost followed suit to destroy the record bar after bar. It remains the most underrated and overlooked song on this album, which seems crazy when you listen to this song again. You made a good point Shawn, on the Ready To Die profile, guest features between superstar artists were almost unprecedented, & when it actually happened, you couldn’t wait to hear it. So the fact that this song doesn’t get put on the same level as, “The What” for example, is almost blasphemous. I think only real hip hop heads with a great memory really appreciate this song for what it is.

Imagine if the three of them came together a few months after this album dropped and before It Was Written was released, and dropped a mixtape that was done by DJ Clue at the time. How seismic would that have been?

Shawn: No doubt Cee, a Nas, Rae & Ghost mixtape wouldn’t only have been ground breaking; it would’ve completely obliterated the rules of that era.  We’ve grown to get used to the collaborative albums from major artists to the point that we hardly bat an eyelash anymore; from the most recent merging of the two super powers Drake & Future, to R-Kelly & Jay, Hov & Kanye, the Lil Wayne & Juelz Santana mixtape, and the trailblazers Red and Meth, we pretty much meet these types of collaborative albums with a shrug. Although some of them are dope, others feel like a cash grab meant to capitalize off of two major fan bases that would want to purchase the same album.  But a Nas, Rae & Ghost album would have had hip hop purists at the time thinking the apocalypse was upon us. It would have sparked mass hysteria, looting, governments overthrown and national anthems being replaced by tracks from the album, it wouldn’t have been pretty. With all that said, I have to admit something that may affect our relationship my dear sir.  I have to plead guilty to being one of those dudes that you mentioned that slept on this track when listening to this album.  But it wasn’t one of those accidental “sleeps” where you doze off on the couch watching TV after a long day; it was more like as soon as I heard the song start playing, I downed an entire bottle of sleeping pills intentionally.  Now, I know what I’m about to say is going to be considered blasphemous and incredibly unpopular, and if I were to say this in certain barbershops it would earn me a punch square in my freshly lined up face.  But, how can I put this as delicately as possible; I kinda sorta find Nas……. boring.

Now before you start sharpening your cutlass, and setting your Google maps app for my address, hear me out.  I can fully appreciate that Nas is one of, if not the dopest lyricist we’ve ever heard, I get that.  But after I listen to a Nas track once, and take in the dope intricacies of his lyrics, I’m pretty much satisfied, forever.  I don’t really have the urge to hear it again.  I just feel satisfied that I’ve heard his verse that one time.  I’ll kind of compare him to Tim Duncan, or even the entire Spurs organization, you know they’re great, but I have more fun watching those teams lose than I do watching them dismantle their competition.  It’s like, my brain knows I should be excited, and I try Calvin, I really do. I try to fit in whenever I find myself in one of those best rappers alive convos, but I’m tired of the lies Calvin, they’re weighing heavy on my soul.  So there you go, the cat’s out the bag, I find Nas boring.  I said it.  This is why I never really appreciated this song.  Mind you, Rae dropped his usual bars filled with cool words, and the way Ghost broke down prison life in a few short bars was better than some dudes that dedicate whole albums to it.  But unfortunately, this track does not rank as one of my favorites on the album. I hope we can still be friends Cee.

Cee: I…….. I don’t even know what to say. Actually, what did you say??? Seeing that 2015 is drawing to a close, I’ll express myself the way pop culture dictates me to: Through gifs & memes….

I feel so disillusioned, so misled, so hoodwinked by what you just said. I feel like Steve Austin after he teamed up with The Rock to beat up the villain wrestlers together, and while raising my fists & middle fingers in the air towards the crowd in my trademark fashion, you hit me across the back of my head with a 2 X 4, leaving me unconscious in a fake pool of blood. I don’t even know if I should sever our friendship, or if I should just pay some goons to run at your house Sosa-style, crash through your kitchen, tie you down & force you to listen to all 10 of Nas’ albums. Even the Lost Tapes. You bastard.

If there’s a lasting memory regarding this album, it was the hype leading up to it. I’ve discussed the theory before of the pre-promotion of albums in the 90s that made each major album release from your favorite artists feel like it descended down from the skies. The example I have of this theory and how well it works is almost specific to this album. Prior to its ’95 summer release, with some of the songs that we heard from the album, it was getting major, major buzz, “5 Mics in The Source” buzz. Hip hop fans were foaming at the mouth for this album, myself and my crew of friends included. The day the album was released, was an event. My friends and I headed downtown about ten deep to the one record store that were selling copies of the album. Of course, out of the ten, only about 3-4 of us bought it, and the rest was armed with blank 90 min Maxwell tapes ready to dub the albums off. If you’re wondering, wonder no more…….. I was in the “Blank Tape” group. You got to understand, I was fresh off of finishing high school in Montreal, with no money. Basically, I never purchased a CD unless it came with 10 more CDs for a penny, and it came from a Columbia House purchase list. I’m not ashamed…. I’m not…. I swear?

Anyway, we went back to our friend’s house & basically digested everything about the album, from the beats & lyrics, to the linear notes & thank you shout outs. It’s the only time in my life I ever went to a store with all my friends, & then bought watch them buy (& dub off) an album….but it was 110% worth it. Within a few months it was a solidified classic that you played for about a year straight before you could put it down. Looking back now, it remains the greatest solo album ever released by The Wu, one of the best Hip Hop moments ever from the Golden Era, and it’s not debatable. For you Wu heads, the only solo Wu albums that come close to it was GZA’s Liquid Swords (which was GREAT), and Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele (his greatest album personally), both classics…… and yet still, it was a tier down from Cuban Linx. It changed the game as much as the aforementioned Golden Era albums that I wrote about. It was dark, gritty, and cinematic, it changed slang vocabulary, it was completely swagged out (the makers of Clark’s Wallabee’s are forever thankful). The RZA was like a cross between Charles Barkley & Wilt Chamberlain on the boards, and it represented the absolute peak of the Wu Era musically. When Nas re-released his Illmatic album last year & celebrated the anniversary like nothing we’ve even seen, I was a little surprised Raekwon didn’t go down the same route this year. There should have been concerts across the world celebrating the anniversary of this album. Here’s to hoping Rae does a delayed go-round with this album like we did this post.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button. Very special thanks to Shawn Adonis for his contributions to this posting, as usual.

#FlashbackFridayVideos: Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”

Ok, here’s the thing…..

……each and every last Friday of each month, we were supposed to be posting #FlashbackFridayVideos, a segment focusing on classic music videos, classic sports games and general signature pop culture moments from back in the day. While the spirit is there, I’ve changed the parameters a little. We will post at least one of these segments, once a month instead of the 4th Friday of each month. So in case the spirit hits me (or us when I tag-team the segment with someone), I don’t want to have to wait until the end of each month to post it. We’ll still have quick rundowns and explore all the angles that come to our minds on each video when it comes to sports moments and videos, cool? Cool. Phew! Now that we got that out the way, let’s walk with Jesus….

Before the spazzing-out episodes about getting deeper into the clothing industry, before the paparrazzi, before the Kardashians, the Yeezy kicks, the Adidas deal, even before Katrina, we had “College Dropout” Kanye. This version of Kanye used his first album to bring out some of the fallacies and pressures of college life, which was completely different from anything that was heard from Roc-A-Fella Records. He sounded different, looked different, dressed different, and acted different. This was a dude that would show up on the scene in a pink polo shirt, a blazer, and a backpack (usually Louis Vitton-affiliated, but still). He was as “clean cut” a rapper, as you were going to get out of the Roc. Kanye didn’t have a drug dealing background like Jay-Z, wasn’t from the Marcy projects like Memphis Bleek, wasn’t a Broad St. Bully like Beanie Sigal (who was the first rapper to use Kanye’s production), wasn’t about the grimy life like Freeway, and wasn’t hustling until the sun came up like State Property’s persona. For all intended purposes, Kanye seemed like a regular (if not cocky) guy that happened to be able to rap and produce. He had insecurities, flaws, & even if he loved to floss, he wasn’t afraid to deal with his issues in his raps. Then on the production side of things, he was building a catalogue that was helping to change the landscape of Hip Hop. Between him and Just Blaze, their production helped to extend the life of the Roc and even Hov in particular, in the early 2000’s.

Once Kanye stepped out, started rapping not with his labelmates, but with guys like Talib Kweli, Yaasin Bay (forever known as Mos Def), Common and Twista, & they co-signed his rhyming skills, he started to become official. He put out the videos to, Through the Wire” & All Falls Down”, but had a song bubbling on the low that was going to change everything in his career up to that point……

“Jesus Walks”, even at that time, was not only one of the most original songs that Roc-A-Fella ever put out, but was one of the more original records that we ever heard from an artist. We never saw someone talk about Jesus as blatantly as Kanye did in Hip Hop. It was thought-provoking, it sounded dope, it shed light on his relationship with the Lord without sounding preachy, it sounded dope, it was hella-artistic, and again, it sounded dope. A Hip Hop record speaking about religious beliefs doesn’t work unless it aces the test sonically. Let’s face it, people may love the Lord, but the masses don’t want to hear about it in 16 bars or more over a boom-bap beat. If that was the case, the Christian rap game would be huge right now. It’s probably one of the reasons why we haven’t heard a song like this since. With that said, this song & video represented the best examples of Kanye as an artist & where he was headed. In the video, he touches on many different kinds of people in different scenarios struggling through their lot in life. The white supremacist/clan member cutting down a tree to carve out a cross; the prisoners in a chain gang; the drug dealers fleeing from the feds with the stripper in the backseat; and the disenfranchised youth skipping, all share the common denominator that the Lord walks with them through thick & thin.

He represented all different facets, while showing his greatest strength, which is to never fear the opportunity to veer left when everyone is heading right. He wasn’t afraid to promote his message (he put out THREE different videos for Jesus Walks for goodness sakes!), wasn’t fearful of challenging the status quo (“So here go my single dog, radio needs this / they say you can rap about anything except for Jesus / That means guns, sex, lies, videotape / But If I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?”), & it was expensive as hell (1st & 2nd versions costs $1.5M combined). No one in Hip Hop would have dared tried to make this song, much less his labelmates. They might have tried to sautée their Roc-A-Fella chains, & eat it with some pasta before they’d cut a record like this.

It’s a shame though, because personally, I miss “College Dropout” Yeezy. Someone who made his own soulful beats, shared his experiences of his college days & his desires of making it big (even if he was already at the time), & also shockingly holding his own with some of the heavyweight rappers that guest appeared on his album. This album dropped around the time my friends & I were still in University ourselves, so for a lot of us, this album was our personal soundtrack. Shit, one of my boys even had a customized Jesus Walks Blazer back when wearing a Blazer &/or Button-up with a fitted cap was the way to go. Like many of us that have moved on and matured from those days, Kanye has graduated from his talents back then, to be one of the biggest superstars the genre has seen to this day. So much so, that outside of Jesus Walks, he barely performs any of the tracks off the College Dropout in concerts or other live events. Considering some of the controversies that we’ve seen from him since this song dropped (his mom’s passing, fighting the ‘razzi, “Imma let you finish”, etc.), maybe this song was a prophetic affirmation that HE would continue to walk with him through all his trials & tribulations (self-inflicted or not). I mean, how else do you explain the fact that he still remains so hot to the masses, with all of his public missteps and large portions of the public hating his guts because of it? He still hasn’t cracked yet, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Maybe in some way, this song is the one from his debut album that is still relative to his life nowadays, who knows really. All we know is that a song about God sent him on his way. Considering how dark Hip Hop can sometimes get, that’s probably an underrated blessing in itself.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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#FlashbackFridayVideos: Kardinal Offishall’s “Bakardi Slang”

Each and every last Friday of each month, we here at South Shore Ave will be releasing  #FlashbackFridayVideos, a segment focusing on music videos from back in the day, to something semi-recent (like a few months ago), & every once in a while, we might review a classic game or sports moment. We’ll have quick overall rundown on what was hot about them, how it helped moved its culture along, the ridiculousness of the videos, and everything else in between.

In our first monthly installment of #FlashbackFridayVideos, Shawn Adonis and I, will take you back to a pre-Drake Toronto where one of the signature artists from the T.Dot educated us on the city’s slang.

Cee: Before Drake & the OVO Team, there was The Circle led by Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, and Saukrates. These guys (along with help from The Rascalz) changed hip hop in Canada, taking it to higher level of respectability, and let’s face it, put out some good quality music (Northern Touch anyone?). When Kardinal dropped “Bakardi Slang“, at the time, it was one of the biggest Canadian hip hop tracks to hit the market & actually gain notoriety outside of this country. This song became Toronto’s version of Big L’s “Ebonics“, giving everyone outside of the Toronto a peek into the West Indian cultural pot that’s been simmering in this city for decades.

For me, as a Canadian who lived & breathed hip hop, I kinda wish this song came out a few years before, when I just moved to Toronto. Believe me when I tell you Shawn, when I moved here, I couldn’t really understand what anyone was saying. They may as well have been speaking Mandarin. You know when someone’s speaking to you in a different language & all you do is smile and nod? That was me the first two years here. In fact, I used to come home from school & with my cousin Brian, we used to try to break down what we learned in T-Dot ebonics like a periodics table. The only thing we were missing was the lab coats & the goggles around our necks. If this song dropped 3-4 years beforehand, I could have at least printed it out & kept the shit in my pocket anytime someone started speaking to me. I could have referred to it like a thesarus. How didn’t I get jacked for my lunch money more often?

Shawn: I hear you Cal, that T Dot slang did leave me scratching my head on a few occasions. When you’d be talking to one of the “gyal dem”, and you’d feel like a total square for not being able to participate in the slang-extravaganza.  The most I could offer to the conversation was a strategical placed “Guy” every few sentences (which Kardinal conveniently left out of the song. Go figure…), as I’d think, “She must think I’m cool, she’s clearly a girl and I’m calling her ‘Guy’. My act of deception is working perfectly”.

You know, thinking about it now, it’s a shame that Kardi didn’t come out with this song in today’s day and age.  He could have packaged the song with a “Bakardi Slang Translator App”, and gotten the honorable mayor Rob Ford to endorse it at the height of his infamous late night drunken patois rants.  You couldn’t dream of better promotion than that, it would be flying out the App Store. Think of how much easier this would make the lives of old white sugar daddies dying to spend their money to get a lil’ taste of chocolate,  and how ground breaking this would be for young gold digging sisters, no?

Cee: That translator app would be awesome. You think the commercial for the app would look as professional as the Game of War App game with Kate Upton in it, or would the quality be more cheesy like the Shamwow guy?

Speaking of “Guy”*, here’s another word he left out: Arms. This was the most confusing word I ever heard by far. It’s basically the equivalent of saying, “That’s messed up”. However, no one ever said that. They’d always say, “That’s arms!” or “That’s arms house!” (which always sounded like “Arms-Zus”) or simply “Arms!!”. During that period when I’d basically black out & start depending on my smile & nod defense mechanisms, in my head, I would have a mental interrogation about what that word meant. I’d be like, “Arms? Arms?? That’s arms??? Who’s arms?????……. ***thinking*** ….. My arms???? The fu**?!?!” If someone took a good look at me at that moment, you could probably see the faint smoke coming out of my ears trying to hold it all together. I even had to bring in my brother-in-law (who’s Jamaican) in on the case & the most he came up with was that it’s supposed to mean “House of Arms (Guns & ammo)”, but was still confused as to why it was used this way. That word still gives me a twitch to this day.

We forget now, but that song back then was huge in Toronto, and Canada overall. I remember it being on heavy rotation, you literally heard it everywhere. The video back then represented Toronto properly, showing off the requisite local stars, the Circle crew (ie. Saukrates), took you through some of the popular areas and streets, Kardi basically checked off a lot of boxes here. In the era where rappers were still proud to sound different from one another, he made a regional song that helped The North get even more awareness to the masses, similar to what the south was doing (especially in New Orleans. See No Limit & Cash Money records). Choclair was the first from The Circle to cross over to the Stateside, now Kardi was next in line. You were rooting for them to make it & put Canada on the map in hip hop just like Vince Carter did for basketball. The buzz from this song eventually made it across the border, & next thing you know 106 & Park was going to launch the video. This was the official “N**** We Made it!!” moment……

…….until AJ & Free stomped out the buzz by calling Kardinal “The Canadian Puffy” after they played the video. It was like hearing fingernails being dragged across a blackboard, but if the fingernails were connected to a microphone & was being scratched over a loud speaker. Listen, Puffy is a GREAT businessman. You may want to be compared to Puffy in a lot of ways. As an executive, an owner, a spokesperson, a marketer, a tastemaker, a baller…..but never a rapper. Not especially if you’re a legitimate one. It’s not like we got our hip hop knowledge from AJ & Free anyway, they weren’t exactly The Source or XXL. Nevertheless, they still had a huge platform, & to be more or less categorized with a guy who would tell you firsthand he’s not a rapper….. I mean, I can’t say for certain if it hurt his record sales in the States, but I’m sure it didn’t help. The only reason why there wasn’t more flack about this (at least from me) was…..well, Free wasn’t exactly hard on the eyes, and I enjoyed watching her, um, host the show (yeah, that’s it) on a daily basis. So for that they got a pass as a whole. But it still wasn’t the greatest of looks in Kardi’s sake.

Shawn: You know, they say that the true measure of a man is his ability to admit when he has made a mistake (According to an inspirational quote I read on a Facebook page, where the profile pic was a chick wearing just enough clothing so that her page doesn’t get shut down….. so basically a very reliable source).  With that said, Cal my good man, it pains me to admit that I may have not been giving the T-Dot slang innovators the full credit they deserve. I’ve said for years that young black Torontonians simply sprinkled bits and pieces of Jamaican patois into their conversations, and tried to pass off as their own lingo, like nobody would notice (which I think is still true 90% of the time).  But this whole use of the word “arms” has me completely flabbergasted.  You and your brother-in-law already spent enough time drinking coffee and chain smoking while you exchange theories, so I’m not gonna spend any more energy on it, that mystery is unsolvable.

After all this time has passed, and the members of the Circle have fallen from the limelight (Did I say fallen? I meant skydived, hit the ground, then put on a wet suit & oxygen mask to continue to descend to the bottom of the sea. Basically as far from the limelight as humanly possible), it’s easy to forget what kind of impact these guys, especially Kardi, had on Canadian hip hop fans as a whole.  Let’s be honest Cee, Canadian rap fans are generally US hip hop dick riders.  A club could be packed with dancing party goers until the DJ threw on some Canadian hip hop, and the crowd would suddenly look like they were waiting in line at the license bureau.  But with Kardi, it was different.  Dudes would drive down the block with the window rolled down and bump tunes from him and The Circle with pride.  I even copped Kardi’s first album (which was the first & last Canadian hip hop album I’ve ever bought. Sorry Drake, I’m a fan but thanks to the internet I can be one for free).  But that Kardi album was legit, that shit was certifiably & undeniably dope.  Call me a product of my “self hip hop hating” environment, but nothing would have made me happier than to say that slang translating rapper was trash…. but the dude was really talented, and forced you to enjoy the music for what it was.  Like you mentioned Cal, the fact that the Americans embraced it actually made us feel like we all made it. Of course to show our gratitude, we turned our backs on him as soon as he became lukewarm, in true Canadian fashion.

Cee: Man….. tell us how you really feel. I feel like I should send you a Hugagram, but upgrade it to the premium package where people group hug you for like 15-20 minutes straight while humming gospel hymns and everyone in the room fights back tears. Like Luscious said to his son in Empire this week (I’m paraphrasing here), it’s your music that’ll live on forever above all else….. & this song/video was evidence of the path that Kardi was taking towards making his mark on Canadian Hip Hop history. The song was innovative, and it shed light on the talent that Toronto (& this country for that matter) has. Bacardi Slang made an impact, otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this #FlashbackFriday moment…..still.

*“Guy” Translation: It’s like using “Yo” at the beginning of the sentence in slang speak. For example, “Guy, you won’t believe what happened to Mikey today”. Or you can use it as a statement if or when someone says something that you agree with. For example: “Did you see that game last night? Yo that shit was crazy!” Then all you have to say is, “GUUUY!” & everything’s understood. I’ve also added the lyrical meanings of this song off of Rap Genius here, so you should be at least 80% more educated on Toronto slang. I hope.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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