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5 Random Hip Hop Facts That Will Surprise You

April 27, 2011

As I was working on a new post on the ‘Top Hip Hop Producers Ever’ (I know, it’ll be sweet..) I stumbled across a site detailing how Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes went to the same high school and actually freestyle battled each other. It got me thinking about other random hip hop incidents and relationships that are really interesting yet often forgotten. Since my ‘Top Producers’ post is literally taking me for ever to finish, I figured I’d give you peep-le a list of five of these factoids to whet your hip hop appetite and maybe give you something one-up your friends when they’re telling you how Dr. Dre and Ice Cube used to hate each other.

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1.) Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes Battled in their High School Cafeteria

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While Brooklyn, New York in the late 80′s was bursting at the seams with hip hop, it is still a longshot that these two hip hop heavyweights went to the same high school at the same time. What’s more interesting is that the two actually showed up to school on the same day. But anyway, according to a recent interview with Busta, he claims to have been invited to rap against Jay-Z, who at the time had much more cred and defeated him easily. Here’s how Busta tells it:

“One day, somebody came up to me and was like, ‘Yo, Hov is in the cafeteria,’ ” Busta Rhymes told MTV News’ Sway. “They weren’t calling him Hov at the time; they were calling him Jay. ‘Do you want to step to him on some rhyme sh–?’ So I go. At the time, when we were rhyming, it was speed rap. That was the thing to do. I knew how to freak it, and he knew how to freak it. And at the time, he was so ill, ’cause of the people he was with at the time, Jaz-O and them, it was their thing [that style]. He kind of got the best of the situation. I got to give it up. He was so ill and his arsenal was so long that he had more than what I did. I spit my one rap, and my tank was empty real fast. He came with two or three after that, and I was like, ‘Here we go.’ But I gave it my best. That was probably the fist time that I lost a battle that mattered,” he said. “[Jay-Z] always exemplified greatness as an MC. He was a scientist with it.”

Pretty cool, considering that, at the time neither were famous. Busta went on to become a part of the Leaders of the New School and was featured on ‘Scenario’ by A Tribe Called Quest in 1991 (he beat Jigga by almost 3 years in that respect) and Jay-Z became, well, Jay-Z. What’s crazier about this story? There was another future rapper at Georger Westinghouse high school who would change hip hop forever. The Notorious B.I.G.

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2.) Eazy-E Signed The Black Eyed Peas

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Before the Black Eyed Peas looked like this ^ and performed lame Super Bowl halftime shows (although I do like their music, am I the only one??), Will.i.am (on the left) and apl.de.ap (to the right of Fergie) formed L.A.-based A.T.B.A.N. Klann when they were only in 8th grade. A.T.B.A.N., by the way, stands for A Tribe Beyond A Nation which somehow manages to bite both A Tribe Called Quest’s and Universal Zulu Nation’s names at the same time. Four years after it was formed, A.T.B.A.N. Klann (it gets more annoying the more you say it, btw) got noticed by Jerry Heller’s, who was Eazy-E’s manager, nephew. Once word spread along to Eazy-E, he signed the group to Ruthless Records, the label he now ran after the break-up of N.W.A. (Ruthless Records also signed then homeless Bone Thugs N Harmony also). Unfortunately, the Black Eyed Peas first album, Grass Roots, was never released due to Easy-E’s death from AIDS complication in 1995. The Black Eyed Peas aren’t complaining though, as they got another chance, added ex-crystal meth head Fergie and that random pale dude, started making pop music, and became RIDANKULOUSLY famous. I’ve always wondered what type of group the BEP would be today if they stuck to their 90′s origins, or what their interactions with gangster-ass Eazy-E were like, but then again if they never went mainstream we wouldn’t have ‘Let’s Get Retarded’ and ‘OMG’. Hmmm.

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3.) Kanye West’s All of The Lights Features a Gazillion (aka 11) Artists

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The dramatic, grandeur production featured in ‘All of the Lights’ would usually be unwelcome in the head-nodding, lyric focused genre of hip hop, but Kanye West’s over-indulgent anthem manages to work due to its excellent composition and relevant message. Or, maybe its because West invites 11 music superstars to help him on the track, providing everything from the chorus (Rihanna) to the random female verse about going on welfare (Fergie… seriously). The other artists drop in little tidbits like Alicia Keys’ easily recognizable “Woaa-oh-ohh”, or Kid Cudi’s “Gettin’ mineee”, but the most surprising and undecipherable feature is Elton John’s “I tried to tell you but all I could say is ohh” which concludes the track. Kanye claimed that he did this to get a ‘unique vocal texture’ on his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I got to admit sort of works. Songs with a ton of featured artists aren’t sparse with hip hop, just listen to any DJ Khaled song ever made, but the sheer number and diversity that ‘All of the Lights’ really stands out.

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4.) Nas’s First Record Deal and Illmatic Would Not Have Happened Without This Guy…

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There is arguably no uttered word that is more revered in hip hop than Illmatic. As the title of Nas’s debut album, which is seen by most hip hop heads (including me) as the greatest of all-time, the word represents so much it deserves a definition in Websters. Listening to Illmatic, its hard not to view Nas’s pure and fantastic lyrics as the work of a savant who was born to spit on the mic. However, even the great emcee needed some help getting recognized from in the crowd (back then, everybody was good). Cue MC Serch (that guy above with the epic Jew-fro fade), who approached Nas (then Nasty Nas) after hearing him on Main Source’s ‘Live At The Barbeque’ (Nas’s first official verse) and soon thereafter featured him on his track ‘Back to The Grill Again’ and became his manager. So who is this guy? MC Serch was a member of 3rd Bass, a critically acclaimed (but admittedlycorny) interracial hip hop group from the late 80′s, who proved that even Jewish guys from Queens can do hip hop. Using his star credibility, he brought Nas to various labels in an attempt to get him signed, which Nas recalls in ‘Surviving the Times‘:

My boy MC Serch, nevertheless,

Brought me to Columbia, back then CBS

MC Serch’s efforts paid off when Nas got signed by Columbia Records, and he went on to be executive producer on the aforementioned classic, Illmatic. On a serious note though, how awesome is that picture though. Perfect.

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5.) Nas’s Intro to ‘NY State of Mind’ Was A Mistake 

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I know, I know, this one’s about Illmatic too (it was an important and interesting moment in hip hop!). Nas has always been praised for the realness of his lyrical content and delivery in classic Illmatic tracks like ‘NY State of Mind’. Well, according to an interview with DJ Premier, who produced the track, Nas’s delivery on sounds so raw because he spit the entire first verse in one take. We know that Jay-Z prides himself on one-taking some of his studio verses, but Nas, who was only 17 at the time, recorded ‘NY State of Mind’ with Primo immediately after writing the song inside the same studio in a matter of hours. Pretty impressive. Since Nas just completed writing the song, he had not yet come up with a clever intro. So when the beat dropped and it was his time, all Nas muttered before his verse was “I don’t know how to start this”. What would have been an obvious retake was instead kept because of his ill delivery, and the mistake ended up adding to the authenticity of the album.  Here’s more of what DJ Premier recalls from that recording session:

Nas watched me build the beat from scratch. And he wrote the verse in the studio. If you listen to ‘N.Y. State of Mind’ you’ll hear him going, ‘I don’t know how to start this shit,’ because he literally just wrote it. Before he started the verse, I was signaling him going, ‘One, two, three,’ and he just goes in like, ‘Rappers I monkey flip’em, in the funky rhythm.” He did that in one take. After he did that first verse, he goes, ‘How was that? Did that sound all right?’ And we were just like, ‘Oh, my God! The streets are going to go crazy when they hear this!’

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As always….

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Consider Yourself Peeped!

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…And look out for my post on the ‘Top 16 Producers of All Time. I would have done a Top Ten, but there are too many dope producers out there!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 8:41 am

    Hello Will!
    I am very impressed with your unusual facts about Hiphop and I would love to “chat” to see if there are any collabing opportunities. Please send your email address to info@hypomanicproductions.com

    I will already give you the props due on my facebook and twitter – @HypomainicP and facebook.com/hypomanicproductions,

    the website is http://www.hypomanicproductions.com – free beats, a video-comp, free advertising space and we are pushing the “real hiphop” movement over here in the UK.

  2. bong permalink
    December 8, 2011 11:26 am

    yea yea yeA CHEAK OUT OK OK OK OK OK OK OK
    \

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