That time the intro to AZ’s ‘What’s The Deal’ embarrassed me because the album version did not start like the music video

OPINION: The lead single from AZ's sophomore album, 'Pieces of a Man' — which turns 25 years old — had a non-family-friendly intro that I didn't know about prior to buying the record.

AZ performs at Webster Hall on October 20, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I’m a big fan of rapper AZ and have been ever since I heard his show-stealing guest verse on “Life’s a Bitch” from Nas’ legendary debut album, “Illmatic.” So, of course, when AZ’s debut album, “Doe or Die” dropped in October 1995, driven by the stellar first single, “Sugar Hill,” I was all in. There was something about AZ’s delivery that was both smooth and punchy that when blended with his musical choices, just worked. Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that thinking. I remember “Sugar Hill” playing on the local radio in Huntsville, Ala., which kind of seems like a feat. Point is, AZ came out the gate swinging and cemented my fandom with his first album. 

When he made his return and began promoting what would be his second album, “Pieces of A Man,” with the lead single, “Hey AZ” I was right there waiting. Oddly, that lead single would not be on the final track list of the album it was supposed to be promoting. I have no idea why this happened or if AZ has ever addressed it but that’s not important here. What is important, though, is that the second song I remember coming out from the album was “What’s The Deal” featuring Kenny Greene (R.I.P.) from the group Intro. I cannot stress to you how much I loved this song. When that video hit the Rap City circuit, I loved it immediately. For one, I’m a huge fan of Intro and Kenny Greene’s voice, in particular. He had a certain sound that was so unique; his tone worked on every single song he ever sang that I heard. “What’s The Deal” was no different. 

Add to the fact AZ was spitting his standard luxury rap stuff over the top of a sample it took me decades to discover (Woods Empire’s “Universal Love,” which I listen to on its own all the time now) and you had a recipe for an amazing song. So when the album dropped on April 7, 1998, I wasn’t the first person in line but I was definitely in the line to purchase it. I was 18 years old and living my best college student-with-a-car life. The car part is important because I did have a car my freshman year of college and that means, on occasion, I would be able to cart the homies around or go on a very inexpensive “date” to TGI Fridays or something with a young lady I was seeing. 

This came into play one particular time with a young lady I was seeing as I also fancied myself a music person and was prone to introducing folks to music they might not regularly listen to. Stay with me. 

The day I bought the album, I also happened to be going on a date and was excited to share this song because of all the reasons I loved it. And I knew my date had never heard of it because she wasn’t much of a hip-hop head at all. 

Let’s take a quick pause to point out that this is the late 1990s when the versions of songs on the radio and in videos could be a far cry from the versions on the albums. And you wouldn’t discover this until you listened to the album; for what it’s worth, the radio versions were often just as good if not better than the album versions. Usually the lyrics would be different to curb the profanity. Every now and then, the entire song would be different or there would be some intro that led into the song you didn’t see coming. This brings us back to my date, who was a very nice young lady, not really into hip-hop and definitely not vulgar music. 

So I let her know I had this new AZ album and a song she absolutely must listen to that she’d like because the guy doing the hook was the cat from Intro and the whole song was amazing. I put the CD in and went straight for “What The Deal” but what I didn’t know was that the version of the song on the album included a 30-second intro of AZ and a woman simulating sex. As you can imagine, I was completely surprised by this revelation and not only couldn’t turn it off quickly enough, I thought I’d purchased a bad version of the record. My date, of course, looked at me disgusted as if I was trying to be nasty or something when really I just had no idea. I realized after hitting stop and skipping like two minutes that it was indeed the right song but that there was this intro. My date was nonplussed and irritated with me because, again, she wasn’t into vulgar art. I was embarrassed for having played this for her knowing who she was. I think of that terrible date every time I hear this song or this album, which is now 25 years old. 

And, well … as you can imagine, we did not get married.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.