Saturday, December 30, 2006 

When It's Cold Outside

Winter's officially here and a sort of tradition with me is to listen to all the songs that remind me of winters past. It's something that started when I ended up spending winters away from home (the East Coast) in other places while I was in the military. Sometimes winter just don't feel like winter when you're in Arizona or Australia so you need a little mood music to keep you sane.

Nas - "It Ain't Hard To Tell" (1993)

"Deep like The Shining, sparkle like a diamond, sneak an uzi on an island in my army jacket lining...hit the Earth like a comet: INVASION! Nas is like the afro-centric asian, half-man, half-amazing." The first official single from his classic debut, ILLMATIC, Nas guided me through the winter of '93 with this one. Listen closely and you can detect the subtle strains of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" in the background.

Wu-Tang Clan - "C.R.E.A.M." (1993)

This beat is STILL a mixtape staple. As magic as RZA was on the production side back when this was out, this beat was so different from everything we expected and loved him for behind the boards. In other words, it actually had a melody (courtesy of The Charmels "I'll Never Grow Old"). This was the Clan at the height of their popularity. With one song they coined a new term for money AND gave niggas on the grind a personal mantra. And who can forget Meth at the end of the video, doing the hook, rocking the large afro with his braids out?

Gangstarr - "Mass Appeal" (1993)

The minute the video starts, the second you you see Premier's fingers nimbly manipulating the vinyl (cutting up a vocal sample from Da Youngstaz "Pass Da Mic") you know you 'bout to be in for some shit. After their stellar job with Spike Lee on the Mo' Betta Blues soundtrack, critics wrongly pigeon-holed this group as guys who were only good for sampling jazz records. Primo is responsible for and capable of so much more (peep Christian Aguilera's new album if you don't believe me) even if this cut did give Vic Juris' "Horizon Drive" new life. I miss songs where the dj is allowed to get loose at some point. I sometimes listen to the instrumental of this and just sit back and reminisce about going to high school football games and underage drinking in the parking lot on the hood of my car while this played.

Black Moon - "I Got Cha Opin (Remix)" (1993)

It's hard to believe that a group as young as they were at the time, were responsible for so many classic East Coast hip-hop joints. This is the song that introduced a new and mature Buckshot Shorty (going so far as to request in the song that you only refer to him as simply Buckshot, "no more Shorty"), rocking a lazy, sing-song flow over Barry White's "Playing Your Game, Baby." This video and the Boot Camp Clik taught me how to DRESS for winter.

Freeway feat. Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel - "What We Do" (2003)

This is the beat that convinced me finally that Just Blaze was the real deal and that Kanye West wasn't the only Rocafella producer with considerable talent. This is another anthem with a bar or two everyone can relate to it. (Freeway: "This shit for my kids, nigga.... Don't you know cops' sole purpose is to lock us down? And throw away the key but without this drug shit your kids ain't got no way to eat, huh? We still try to keep mom smiling 'cause when her teeth stop showing and her stomach start growling then the heat start blowing. If you from the 'hood I know you feel me (keep going)..." Jay-Z: "But I gotta feed Tiana, man so I move ki's, you can call me the Piano Man...rain, sleet, hail, snow, man..." Beanie Sigel: "...but still we grind from the bottom just to make it the bottom.") It's that "I gotta get mine because I HAVE to, I got no other choice" song that struggling brothas sing along to with all their heart no matter where it's playing because they feel it so deep. That Jigga verse in the middle don't hurt, either. It's The Roc-La-Familia at it's strongest.