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Swizz Beatz: The Monster

By: Mic Cool

Born in the Bronx NY, the place that birthed hip hop, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean would help shape the east coast landscape as a mega producer. After getting the equipment he needed he started to DJ and garnered success. After relocating to Atlanta Georgia due to violent behavior, he began to work for his uncles Joaquin and Darrin Dean who just happened to be co CEOs of the Ruff Ryders record label. In his early work he chose not to sample but rather accentuate the performance aspect of his music. With his uncles and aunt heavily involved with Ruff Ryders, he began to produce tracks at the age 16. A year later he made his first collaboration with DMX witch just happen to be the chart topping “Ruff Ryders Anthem”. Swizzy did a lot of production on X’s first two albums It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and Flesh of my Flesh Blood of my Blood.

Following those accomplishments he produced other major hip hop songs “Banned From TV” from N.O.R.E. And Jay-Z’s “Money Cash Hoes”. He then produced most of the songs on the Ruff Ryders compilation “Ryde or Die Vol. 1” as well as the bulk of Eve’s debut who was the Ruff Ryders First Lady. Now in a joint venture with Clive Davis, Swizz established his own label “Full Surface Records” a part of J Records. The first artist signed was Philadelphia based rapper Cassidy who’s underground following was becoming a big deal off of his battle raps and the ability to become a larger artist with the right backing. Swizz put out his first Lp Ghetto Stories in 2002 getting noticed not only for his beats but now actually rhyming on the first single “Guilty” featuring a reggae artist Bounty Hunter. His second single featuring Cassidy, “Bigger Business” also reached the billboard charts.

Along with him associating himself with Ruff Ryders he also began churning out hits with labels like Elektra, Atlantic, Def Jam, and Bad Boy Ent. By 2003 his artist Cassidy had a massive song featuring R Kelly, “Hotel” and it blew up. He worked with the Problem for a while producing some of his biggest songs and when Cassidy was in a accident he waited until his boy came out of his coma and also beat a murder case, then they did “My Drink N My 2 Step” bringing back their dominance. After he and Cass parted ways, Swizz released his second LP One Man Band led by the singles “It’s Me Bitches”, “Money in the Bank” and “Top Down” which reinvigorated his sound and put him back in the charts. In that time period he married R&B songstress Alicia Keys and signed legendary group Bone Thugs N Harmony. His first Grammy award came in the form of “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z.

Let’s face it he reinvented The LOX after Puff Daddy made them wear shiny suits, he created a backdrop for DMX, he basically help shape The Ruff Ryders sound. Currently he sits as VP of sports, style, marketing, design, and brand music development for global footwear at Reebok. He is still trying to revive DMX’s career while working with a whole new crop of artists, and Swizz is still makes those beats. What his bread and butter has been and always will be.

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Illmatic: Greatest Album of All Time?

Image courtesy of Apple Music

By Mic Cool

In 1992, G Funk and the west coast dominated the hip hop airwaves and had rap on lock between Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” and his then protege Snoop Doggy Doggs “Doggystyle”. New York needed an answer. One emcee from the Queensbridge projects may have been what NYC needed to bring hip hop back to where it originated from, back to the Mecca. We were first introduced to a young Nasir Jones when he shined on Large Professors “Live from the BBQ” and had a notable quote “ I went to hell for snuffing Jesus”. This is a legendary verse that most from that era can spit back line for line. Nas was rhyming with his childhood friend  Willy “Ill Will” Graham, who was his DJ at the time until he was tragically shot and killed May 23rd 1992 near the building where they grew up as kids. This devastated the young budding emcee, but yet he preservered continuing on a mission. In mid 1992, MC Serch of 3rd Bass fame discovered him. Serch put Nas’s name out there claiming he was the 2nd coming of Rakim but Gods Son didn’t want that title; he wanted to be the first Nas. 

He got in the studio when he could sitting in on Kool G Raps sessions. He then began his debut album Illmatic. A slew of who’s who in hip hop came thru to add production to this project. Living NY legends; DJ Premier, Q-Tip, Large Professor, Marly Mal, and newcomer L.E.S., molded one of a kind beats that catered to Nas’ vivid street tales. After the talking/sampled intro “NY State of Mind” was born. Nas freestyled when the beat came on, with no practice or anything, the stuff legends are made of. Track 3 “Life’s a Bitch” featuring AZ brought not only a catch phrase but lyrical wizardry. Funny thing is Nas’s own father did a part of the instrumentation incorporating jazz music. “The World is Yours” told inner city youth that they could be what they wanted to be no matter what. “Halftime” is a verbal onslaught, crazy wordplay an punchlines. “Memory Lane” is storytelling at its finest in the mold of pioneer Slick Rick. “One Love” helmed by Q-Tip from Tribe called Quest, provided a canvas for Nas to paint pictures of realism. “One Time 4 Your Mind” had a simple hook yet once again Nas, blessed by a herbal essence, displayed excellence showing every black teen they don’t have to just play basketball to make it out alive. “Represent” was an anthem of sorts and was indeed a representation for not just his crew or his hood, but he was saying each dude around the globe should rep their city. The grand finally “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” featured no chorus necessary. The outro was three verses of tales from a creative educated poet well ahead of his time. Time is Illmatic and as we can see it never gets old no matter how many decades pass.

Illmatic has garnered many critical accolades throughout the years widely considered as the best hip hop album of all time. Blender magazine has listed it as one of the top 500 albums you must listen to before you die. Illmatic is in Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums as well, while also being included in The Source’s top 100. Ranked.com, a website that allows it’s audience create the ranking of their topics, ranks Illmatic the best hip hop album of all time. To date Nas’ 1994 debut release has reached platinum status and it’s lyrical poetic style is taught at universities across the world.

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