Ludacris top 5 lyricist?

In a recent interview with BET.com Ludacris expressed his feelings on being an underrated emcee.

“As far as lyricism is concerned, I do feel like I’m a little underrated,” Luda stated. “I think that this album is out to prove exactly that point. I feel like that there are certain places in the top 5 or the top 10 that I need to be.”

A few things came to mind when I first read this. For one I’d never considered Luda to be one of those artists that was lyrically someone to check for like that. You have some rappers that are fan favourites and then some that are rapper’s rappers i.e that other emcees look up to and respect highly. For instance while he may not have many records “poppin in the streets” or in the clubs right now Rakim is still held as one of the greatest emcees ever because of the amount of emcees that look up to him or in some case try to imitate. Raekwon & Ghostface are also prime examples.

So it kind of surprised that Luda would think of himself in that way. I suppose the competative nature of mc’ing causes people to ask who is the best all the time and in today’s hip hop climate it is sometimes hard to know what criteria to fully focus on. Is it how many records they have sold or how influential they have been in the grand sceme of things or is it simply a case of who’s hot right now.

I hate to be the one to tell him but in my opinion if I was going by lyrical skills then Ludacris would struggle to make it into a top 20 let alone 10 or even 5. Here’s a list of the rappers I consider to be the best lyricists in the game right now (in no particular order).

Jadakiss
Styles P
Nas
Lil Wayne
T.I.
Sean Price
Royce da 5-9
Jay-Z
Joe Budden
Dead Prez
Immortal Technique
Raekwon
Ghostface
Joell Ortiz
Talib Kweli
Consequence
MF DOOM
Freeway
Beanie Sigel
Busta Rhymes
Killah Priest
The Game
Phonte from Little Brother
Elzhi
Planet Asia

I could go on but thats 25 emcees that for me are head and shoulders above a rapper like Luda. At best Luda is a good party emcee but anything past that for me is stretching it a little bit. Lil Wayne has alot of party records right now but when you hear him on a mixtape or a track with a concept behind it (check Dr Carter) he’s wordplay and ideas are fresh and original whereas with Luda alot of his punchlines have been done before and done better for that matter.

I like the fact that Luda has clearly come to decision to be more lyrical and thought prevoking with his new LP but it has come about 5 albums to late. If he wanted to be considered one of the best then he should’ve really been that guy out the gate I think it’s too late in his career to suddenly talk about being considered top 5.

Luda while you were out making shit for the clubs and radio others were getting their rap on and perfecting their craft so before we start dishing out props you need to peep how many emcees there are out there who are a true representation of a real lyricist go look em up.

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Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Insane in the Brain

Invsetigative Report: Exploring the mind of Ol Dirty Bastard

book-coverIn a new book set to be released next month author Jaime Lowe attempts to analyze the behaviour of controversial rapper Russel Jones, known to adoring fans across the world as the Ol Dirty Bastard.
In her book Lowe with help from Jones’ ex lawyer, Robert Shapiro, suggests the possibility that Jones was suffering from mental illness at the time of his death due to his seemingly erratic behaviour. However Jones’ mother, Cherry Jones, has taken exception to this claim and has recently urged people to boycott the book.

Cherry Jpnes

Cherry Jones with her son

“For the past four years I have sat back and watched certain individuals try and tarnish my son’s beliefs. My son loved every single one of his children and every single one of their mothers and provided for them all the best he could when he was alive. My son was an extremely generous soul.”

“I am asking all of Dirty’s fans to boycott this book as none of the proceeds are going to the children and this author’s motives and intentions seems to be in the vein of disgracing my son’s legacy. Quotes from Robert Shapiro in [Wednesday’s] newspaper are shameful that an attorney who represented my son for less then a minute and has been out of the spotlight would comment and speculate on my son’s health in order for a mention of his name in print.”

Judging by her outrage she seems to be adamantly dismissing the claims made by Lowe and Shapiro as to her son’s health. I began to wonder what information, if any have these two got in order for them to reach this conclusion. But first of all let’s take a brief look at the career of rapper Russel Jones.

In 1993 Ol Dirty Bastard exploded onto the rap scene as part of the group the Wu-Tang Clan based in Staten Island New York. Their album “Enter the 36 Chambers” is still considered by many to be one of the greatest rap records of all time and was instrumental in bringing the east coast sound so prevalent in the late 80’s back to hip hop music.
Previous to this ODB had been apart of a group called “All In Together Now” which consisted of fellow Wu members the GZA and his cousin the RZA. The crew became infamous for challenging other rappers and crews to battle as they traveled as well as preaching their 5% Nation of Islam ideologies. ODB was known by other name at this time, Unique Ason or Osirus. At the end of 1993 he was convicted of second-degree assault in New York which was the only violent offence ever proven against him.
In 1994 he was shot in the stomach by another rapper in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn following a street argument. The next year he released his solo album “Return to the 36 Chambers” which eventually went gold and was part of a hit selling record when he appeared on the remix of Mariah Carey’s song “Fantasy” the same year.
In 1997 Wu-tang clan released their sophomore album entitled “Forever”, it sold over 600,000 copies in its first week of release and became only the third double disc hip hop album ever released next to Tupac Shakur’s “All Eyez on Me” and the Notorious B.I.G’s “Life after Death”. However in November of that year he was arrested for failing to pay nearly a year’s worth of child support (around 35,000 dollars) for the three children he had with his wife, Icelene Jones (by this point, he’d fathered a total of 13 children, beginning in his teenage years).
ODB’s antics were now starting to become even more frequent and random. Here are a list of the incidents involving ODB that took place up until his untimely death.

Dirt Dog rushing the stage at the Grammys

Dirt Dog rushing the stage at the Grammys

-In April 1998 he plead guilty to a charge of attempted assault on Icelene Jones
-In June he is shot in the back in an attempted robbery at his girlfriend’s apartment in Brooklyn
-A week later he is arrested for shoplifting in Virginia beach for walking out of the store with a pair of $50 shoes on
-In September he is arrested in Los Angeles for making terrorist threats to security at the House of Blues after he refused to be escorted outside due to his drunken behaviour. After he was kicked out he came back and said that he would shoot the security staff.
-Not two weeks after posting bail he was kicked out of a hotel in Berlin for lounging on his balcony in the nude. No charges were filed
-He later returned to California, where he was arrested once again in November on more charges of making terrorist threats — this time allegedly threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend (and mother of one of his children). ODB pleaded not guilty in both “terrorist” cases, and returned to New York in January 1999 (the case was later dismissed due to lack of evidence and it is at this time that he was represented by Robert Shapiro).
-Shortly after his return to New York he is pulled over while with his cousin for a traffic violation. The police then claim he opened fire on the officers and was charged with attempted murder and criminal weapons possession. No matching weapons, shell cases or ammunition were found and in February the case was dismissed
-A couple weeks later he is arrested again in California for wearing a bulletproof vest which is illegal in that state if you are a convicted felon
-In March he is pulled over in New York and found in possession of a small amount of crack cocaine.

-Five days later he is stopped again for driving without license plates as well as driving with a suspended license
-In July he is jailed in California for failing to pay a portion of his bail from the House of Blues case. Eventually he is able to post the money and was released however he is arrested just days later for running a red light. Officers discovered marijuana and 20 vials of crack cocaine. He was also able to post bail on this but failed to return to the hearing in California and his bail was revoked. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
-In mid August he checks himself into rehab in upstate New York and is later transferred to a different center in Los Angeles
-In September his sophomore album “Nigga Please” is released entering the top ten in the charts spawning the hit single “Got your Money” featuring a then unknown artist by the name of Kelis
In November his two cases pending in California result in him being sentenced to one year in drug rehabilitation and three years probation. ODB complained at this time that he was being targeted “excessively” by police.
-In 2000 he violated terms of his probation by getting drunk and upon returning to California was kicked out of rehab and put in prison. He later received a sentence of a further 6 months in rehabilitation.
In Oct with just two months left of his drug program ODB escaped and became a fugitive on the run from police. Appearing at the Hammerstein Ballroom during Wu-Tang’s album release party for their new lp “The W”. Despite heavy police presence he makes it out without being arrested however was then apprehended in a Mcdonald’s parking lot a few days later while signing autographs.
-He was extradited back to New York to stand trial to his prior drug charges, traffic violations and violating the protection order on Irelene Jones in 1998. In April he plead guilty to possession of crack cocaine in exchange for his other cases being dropped
-He received a sentence of two to four years in a state prison. In July he is put on suicide watch pending a psychiatric evaluation his leg is also broken in an attack he’d suffered while in holding.
Elektra release “The Dirty Story: The Best of Ol Dirty Bastard” in late 2001. In early 2002 small record label D-3 release The Trials and Tribulations of Russel Jones which is slammed by critics. ODB went on record and said he knew little to nothing about the release.
-In 2003 after leaving prison he was signed to Roc-a-Fella records home to Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z. The following year while working on his new album he collapses in the old Wu-Tang recording studios on West 45th street a day after missing a Wu-Tang reunion show and dies shortly thereafter. According to the New York medical examiner’s office Russel Jones died from a fatal mixture of cocaine and the prescription drug Tramadol, used to combat severe pain. His death is ruled as an accidental drug overdose.
It has been mentioned by those close to him that he complained of severe chest pains in the hours leading up to his death.

ODB on the cover of Rap Pages

ODB on the cover of Rap Pages

There is no doubt about it Russel Jones lived a bizarre and often unexplainable life. Many of his actions and behaviour left you baffled and confused as to his possible motives and intentions. I however am skeptical of Lowe and Shapiro’s claims of Ol Dirty’s supposed mental condition. As his former lawyer, Robert Shapiro, told author Jaime Lowe, ODB would

“talk in jive talk” and “come into court with two different shoes, labels with price tags attached . . . It’s possible his behavior was a result of mental illness. One time he had his hat on backward, had on two different shoes, and he stood with his back to the judge with his hat facing the judge as if he was looking at the judge.”

Hardly enough evidence to say that he is mentally ill is it. Let’s take a quick look at the author and ex lawyer’s background before we go any further into this.
ODB’s ex lawyer Robert Shapiro is better known for being involved in the defense team for OJ Simpson in his trial in 1995. He has also represented famous athletes Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco and Vince Coleman as well as celebrities like Jonny Carson and Linda Lovlace.
In August 2005 one of Shapiro’s sons, Brent. died from a MDMA overdose which sparked the creation of The Brent Shapiro Drug Foundation a non profit organization with an aim to raise drug awareness. Ol Dirty Bastard himself was a heavy drug user and I can’t help but think this plays a big part into the perception that Shapiro may have had of him due to his own sons tragic death involving drugs.
Record producer Phil Spector unsuccessfully sued Shapiro in 2007 for a one million dollar retainer paid before the first trial. Spector also claimed that Shapiro inadequately prepared the trial and may have been responsible for the prosecution filing charges in the first place.

On 30 April 2007 Shapiro was the subject of a published appellate opinion involving allegations that he improperly removed $6 million in cash from the apartment of a client, in violation of a judge’s order freezing the client’s assets.

Jaime Lowe

Jaime Lowe

As for Jaime Lowe information on the Internet about her was scarce. All i know is she apparently lives in Brooklyn and she has written for such music magazines as Rollingstone and The Village Voice among others. According to website Macmillan it describes her book as

a compelling combination of personal narrative, biography, and cultural criticism, Diggin for Dirt explores ODB’s life, career, mythology, death, and the troubled trajectory of his public and private worlds. Jaime Lowe met with the people ODB affected and was most affected by—surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan, his hip-hop contemporaries, his parents, his followers, his managers, his neighbors, and his friends—in an attempt to figure out the man behind the clown-prince persona, and the issues of race, celebrity, mental illness, and exploitation that surrounded his rise and fall.

I wonder what other members of his former group the Wu-Tang Clan make of all of this and if they agree that there is any truth behind the claims that Ol Dirt may have been mentally ill. I guess I’ll have to read the book to find out. One thing is for sure though ODB is not here to defend himself however his mother someone, if not the, closet person to him the women that created him is clearly unhappy.

To say ODB was unique is possibly a great understatement. A troubled soul most definitely but to call a man crazy is the worst thing you could ever do because it takes away from the value of a mans words and actions. Yes sometimes ODB would act “insane” saying things that were hard to decipher and figure out. But the world is a very strange and unexplainable place and just because something or someone doesn’t fit our limited view of what normal is we have a tendency to label a man crazy. Yet we constantly struggle to define and explain things in life all the time.
I am also treating these claims very skeptically due to the fact that anytime I read about someone outside of the hip hop industry writing about many artists but Wu-Tang especially it tends to be mainly negative and focus on rumor and hearsay rather then facts and evidence. Like for instance in 2000 the Village Voice did a piece on the Clan attempting to link them to organized crime in New York. Most journalists seem to still think that the murders of Tupac and Biggie were gang related or an escalation of violence spilling out of the rap world and into real life. It’s shoddy reporting like this that leaves me questioning the motives and intentions of the people writing them. So forgive me if I think that Shapiro and Lowe may be spreading misinformation. It just when it comes to hip hop you have to really have your eyes open and your wits about you at all times. Also forgive me if I am wrong but unless Jaime Lowe has just graduated from medical school and holds some kind of degree who is she to even suggest that ODB may have been of ill health mentally. No wonder Cherry Jones is urging a boycott of the book.
Im going to leave you with a link to an article written by Cedric Muhammad who was Wu-Tang’s manager for a few years here is what he had to say about Russel Jones

click here

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment