Dear Culture

The great hip-hop debate

Episode 51

Dear Culture kicks off Black Music Month with an epic debate that covers everyone from Nas and Lauryn Hill to Ice Cube and Drake. Both self-proclaimed hip-hop heads, host Panama Jackson and veteran music journalist Touré can’t seem to agree on pretty much anything. 

NEW YORK CITY – JAY-Z and Nas perform B-Sides 2 at Webster Hall on April 26, 2019. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Roc Nation)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. What’s going on? Everybody in Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for Wired about the culture. I’m your host, Panama Jackson, here on the Real Black Podcast Network. And like every week we have a special guest this week happens to be my colleague here at theGrio. But you know him as a culture critic, music journalist in the past 20 plus years. If there’s something happening in music, he’s been on the ground somewhere involved. Apparently he was at Freaknik. He’s been if it happened, he’s been there, he been hanging out. So everybody, please put your digital hands together for the homie, Touré. How are you doing, bro?

Touré [00:00:44] Good. What’s up?

Panama Jackson [00:00:46] Man, nothing much. I’m excited to do this.

Touré [00:00:49] They may not know that usually when we get together, we end up arguing. So I assume there will be lots of verbal fisticuffs today.

Panama Jackson [00:00:59] Well, this is exactly where I was going. 

Touré [00:01:03] Can we tell them about what happened the other day?

Panama Jackson [00:01:06] I was about to do that and I feel free to chime in. So part of the reason we’re doing this is that so we’re celebrating like 50 years of hip hop, right? This is an important landmark in the genre that has taken over the world. And every time Touré and I gets together, we have some argument about something hip hop related. This happened in Vegas for NABJ. This happened recently for, you know, Byron Allen had the DC, the Washington DC gala for the Post White House Correspondents Dinner. And we had this hours. Well, I don’t know how long a very lengthy debate about whether Drake belongs in the top 20 greatest rappers of all time.

Touré [00:01:41] Well, it wasn’t a debate really, because I said I could name 20 MCs who you would have to agree are above Drake. And you were like, No. And I said them from the top of my head and named 20 that you agreed, okay, that person has to be above Drake.

Panama Jackson [00:02:06] It got dicey at that end there. It definitely got dicey at the end.

Touré [00:02:10] Threw out some names. We threw we tossed out names that you didn’t agree with. And I think if we said publicly something that you didn’t agree with, you know, there might people might start tugging on your Black card a little bit. But I’m just saying.

Panama Jackson [00:02:22] You’re right. We were going through that list every time you threw out a name, I was like alright, alright. And I don’t know where Drake belongs. Like, So do you think he even belongs in the top 100? Like, are you one of those people? Like, where do you where do you think he belongs? What’s a proper.

Touré [00:02:38] I really never go beyond top 20 in my thinking because it gets so nebulous. And how do I make these distinction after? Like, that’s really hard. But, you know, I think that Drake is very much, he’s like Tyler Perry in this particular way. If there wasn’t the commercial success, there would be no critical discussion of the work. Film comment would not be talking about Tyler Perry’s films if he wasn’t making hundreds of millions of dollars. We would not be talking about Drake’s music if he was not selling tons of records, right. The only reason why we are forced to talk about it critically is because of the commercial success. But the work does not deserve the lens of like, serious, critical hip hop heads. I mean, like I’m man, I like many Drake songs, but I am constantly lost at the almost inability to flow, and he almost seems to fuck up the flow almost on purpose at times where I’m like, Wait, okay, where does he get in the pocket and flow to where we’re like, Yes, I’m rolling with Drake on this beat.

Panama Jackson [00:03:54] This is where you lose me.

Touré [00:03:55] Oh my God. It’s like this. It’s like, it’s like a slam poet.

Panama Jackson [00:03:59] I hate to say this.

Touré [00:04:01] Slam poetry flow. It’s not a real flow.

Panama Jackson [00:04:05] I was so close to agreeing with you. When you said we only focus on him because of the commercial success. I was this close to being like, You’re right. And then you hopped in there with that. He can’t flow, nonesense. Which is 100% wrong. See, all this. No, no, no.

Touré [00:04:23] Here’s the problem with, here’s the problem with using sales and you’re not doing it. But some of the people in the audience might be doing some of the problem with the problem with using signals to prop up Drake or anybody right there. I believe M.C. Hammer is still one of the top selling hip hop albums of all time. The Beastie Boys are still among one. You know, Outkast is up there also. But that’s the whole thing, because SoundScan counted the two albums as one. As two. There was one album, you had to buy it together, but they counted it as two, right. It was Speakerbox/LoveBelow. So that that was some shenanigans. But I mean, so nobody would argue that the Beastie Boys or M.C. Hammer are among the best rappers of all time. Here’s the thing. There’s only so many hip hop fans. We can make something double platinum. Maybe we can make something triple platinum, but there’s just really not that many people who are going out to buy a record that are beloved albums are getting to triple platinum.

Touré [00:05:21] Drake is getting to six and 7 million regularly. That means that there are millions of people who are buying his record who are not really into hip hop and probably are like, Should we listen to Taylor Swift or Paramore or Drake? And that’s fine. But when we use sales, we are giving those people soccer moms, suburban boys who don’t care about hip hop, suburban girls who don’t care about hip hop. But just like Drake, we’re giving them a vote on who is the great emcee. No, no, they don’t get a vote at all. So we kind of have to throw out sales. It doesn’t it doesn’t redeem Drake’s inability to flow, to put him alongside Jay, Nas, 3000, Black Thought, Rakim, Biggie. He does not belong in this conversation.

Panama Jackson [00:06:10] 100 percent. I agree with you by using sales. I think it’s a ridiculous metric to use. And you’re talking about the skill set in the art of the actual. Oh, like rapping. I agree. I do think he can spit. I am one of those people that actually thinks he can spit. I wish he did more of it and I wish he did it on better music sometimes. Oh, his early stuff. It was 100% like the. The Thank Me Later. Dude, I told you like his his flow on the song On One. His flow on Pop That with French Montana. Like his verse was insane.

Drake [00:06:42] One of my closet dogs got three kids and they all three. But we always been that type of crew that been good without a plan B, so.

Panama Jackson [00:06:49] I 100% believe he belongs in, I’m not going to say he’s better than Jay or somebody like Black Thought. Who literally, this is controversial, who I think is probably one of the most technically sound rappers of all time, could do all type of acrobatics. But you don’t remember any of those verses. I he’s not as good as Black Thought is it that thing.. So this is where it is. This is where the like I don’t know where to properly rate him on that.

Touré [00:07:19] He makes catchiness. Right. But.

Panama Jackson [00:07:25] Or Lil Wayne who is really good at flow. Lil Wayne has mastered the art of flow. Biggie flow. They have that in spades.

Touré [00:07:33] Wayne’s flow and his lyrics are incredible, right?

Unidentified [00:07:37] Talking to myself because I am my own consultant. Married to the money, fuck the world that adultery.

Touré [00:07:43] I mean, like definitely one of the top ten of all time. That’s where I’m talking about. Like, that’s where I’m getting where I come to hip hop for, right? The way that Weezy attacks a track. I don’t even care what he’s saying or how ignorant it is, the way he’s flowing through the track, that makes me happy. That is what I come to hip hop for. For the emcee to become an instrument of rhythm within the track. And I’m like, loving the polyrhythm, the counter rhythm and all the the things that Jay, Nas, 3000 do. Weezy do all the time. Drake don’t give you that. That’s not what he’s able to do. That’s not what he’s about. What? What?

Panama Jackson [00:08:25] He’s immenses success.

Touré [00:08:29] Immenses success.

Panama Jackson [00:08:30] I mean that’s.

Touré [00:08:31] I mean.

Panama Jackson [00:08:32] That’s, that’s a that’s a really. Hold on. That’s a really hard bar to use considering how much non sense the significant portion of nineties rappers were talking about. The the.

Touré [00:08:45] Wait a minute.

Panama Jackson [00:08:46] The 90s was full of people talk about nothing creatively.

Touré [00:08:50] You can do. You can talk about nothing creatively. I don’t. I don’t. I’m not sure what you mean by nothing, though. Like, who are you saying you talked about nothing creative. You talking about said ignorant things or like Seinfeld? Like said nothing. But it was still really interesting.

Panama Jackson [00:09:07] I’m talking about the. So. Okay, let’s use, for instance, there are entire Wu-Tang verses where I have no clue what’s being talked about, what is done so wonderfully that, Hey, you get off my cloud, you don’t know. He’s like, like Method Man is Wonderful Flow and all those other things, but every verse ain’t exactly talking about something. That’s, that’s. Important somewhere. Anything.

Touré [00:09:39] The majority of hip hop songs are, this is the thesis of most hip hop songs, I’m the shit. Either. I’m the shit because I can rap because I made it in the street. Because I wear great clothes and I’m good looking because I’m smarter than you. Like I have more money than you. Like I can flip these words or these birds better than you like. That’s ultimately. And I don’t mind. I’m the shit as a thesis for a group of people who’ve been consistently told throughout history you ain’t shit. Right. So with that becomes revolutionary, right. For white people saying I’m the shit, that doesn’t mean anything, right? But Black people, especially Black people from the hood, right? Most rappers probably come from a line of people who’ve been in the hood and may have never gotten out. But for this one guy or one woman’s record deal. Right. For them to be saying I’m the shit, to me that’s meaningful and important, right? And I don’t want to reduce it to. Here’s one verse that I don’t understand. When I look at the entirety of what Wu-Tang is talking about, they are making a point as a group, right? Or Method Man in general over time is making a point. Jay-Z and Nas, there is an on a point in an arc to their career and the point that they’re making over time. What is Drake saying to us through, what is it, six, seven albums, many repeat, What are you taught? What is the point? What are you talking about?

Panama Jackson [00:11:03] Let me ask you a question, because I think this is going to help gel that part for me anyway, which is going to lead into what I wanted to talk about today, as a matter of fact, which we’re doing, even if we’re not doing it intentionally. Do you like the current iteration of hip hop, like the non Kendricks, the non Coles, the like these rapper, I mean, these rappers that are basically just all talking about how sad they are all the time and the amount of drugs they use because they’re so sad and the like. Where do you stand on current hip hop?

Touré [00:11:36] Who? Well, first of all, who are you referring to when you say that?

Panama Jackson [00:11:38] Say so, for instance, so I like, let’s say the Juice Wrld, the Juice Wrlds and the Uzis. Throw Migos in there, even though they’re more of the we’re I’m the shit because I’m rich rap. You know like the folk, when I think like the NBA Young Boys of the world or the Durks like that this crop of current like hip hop stars are the ones that most people know. The list that I get from my nephews who tell me who’s hot right now.

Touré [00:12:08] So, okay, I vowed a long time ago that I would never be the old man at the club. I would never be with hip hop. I would never be the get off my lawn. It used to be better in my day sort of guy. And I strived to say, like Questlove sort of gave me a different perspective. One time we were talking and he was basically like, I don’t look at music as like or dislike any more. I look at it like, What is it doing right? How is it functioning? Why do other people like it? Why is the culture making this at this time? So I try to take a bit more of an anthropological or sociological look at it than that, rather than saying, Well, back in my day now, one, I do not listen to most of the people you named as you were going through that list. You know, I like some of them. I like 21 Savage. I’d have to think about some of the I think Savage has a great voice, but like one of the I think you know Offset and and Quavo are great and Takeoff was great. There’s some people I like Yachty that’s a little bit different but I mean I.

Panama Jackson [00:13:27] Before this last album or like because of this last album.

Touré [00:13:31] I had no I liked Yachty from the beginning. I haven’t actually dug into this new album, and I know you’re all about it and I haven’t dug into it enough yet. I started it on your recommendation and I haven’t fully dug into it. I mean, you know, one of the things I think a lot about is that. In the nineties especially, I feel like we reached maximum density in terms of the average word per minute, especially with verses, right? Jay, Nas, Eminem, we know, not DMX, but a lot of people were putting as many words as possible. So where would the subsequent generation be able to go? Right? You can’t get more dense than what they were doing. So they have on in the other direction and their songs have a lot more space and a lot of them use Adlibs as a very active voice in their verse to fill in that space. So it doesn’t sound too airy, right? So I’m just sort of like I try to resist the impulse to be like, Yo, we used to actually rap the whole verse and not adlib half the verse, but to say, okay, I understand why they’re like, we need to go in a different direction, because from the 80s to 90s, they went more dense, more fast, more more speed, more complexity. The kids of now are like, We can’t go any further, so we’ll go the other direction. So I’m trying to be like, Let me notice where hip hop is going and not put a judgment on it. My day, we used to be real MCs, like, I don’t want to be that guy. So, you know, the the folks you named are not my favorites, although I think that Jay Electronica is one of the great emcees of all time and hasn’t gotten enough props. Probably because he hasn’t released enought output.

Jay Electronica [00:15:26] Friends of the slaves are the wings that carry us. A feel for the dreams is where they tried to bury us.

Touré [00:15:32] Yeah, but I mean, like before his solo album of what, two years ago? Something like that. Three years ago. I had more Jay Electronica songs that I had acquired here and there. Then many, many artists who had albums out. And I think as far as hip hop, we don’t just it’s not just what you do on an album, it’s what you do on a mixtape, what you do on a feature, what you do, you know, on your buddies album, right? So it’s not it’s not we can’t just say, Well, you didn’t release an album, so we can’t rate you like I have 50 Jay Electronic songs right here for you all incredible and and Jay Electronica is talking about some shit he’s talking about he’s talking about how to live in the world. He’s talking about the, you know, the mind and like, he’s deep, Like, that’s what I’m talking about. Like when I’m like, okay, so I listen to a bunch of Drake. What are we talking about here? This isn’t even Diet Coke. It’s fluffy, like a like a wafer. What are we talking about here?

Panama Jackson [00:16:31] Okay, look, we’re we’re going to take a quick break. We’re going to end the Drake thing on I’m where I feel like every time I see you from here on out, we’re always going to come back to this Drake thing in some way, shape or form, which is going to be fun. It’s going to be the running conversation, the running thread. I love it. We’ll see. We’re all probably going to be I think we’re going to be NABJ again this year in Birmingham, and I’m sure we’ll be doing something with with our podcast and I’m sure the Drake thing will come up.

Touré [00:16:57] We can post up at the bar with a sign of like, you know, I hate Drake, change my mind, I love Drake, changed my mind and it just be it coming all day long.

Panama Jackson [00:17:07] We would be a panel. It would be a panel in and of itself. It would be the talk of the talk of the conversation here on Dear Culture. All right, we’re back Yard deer coach. And I’m here with Trey, and we just had a whole discussion about Drake unintentionally, by the way. But this this came on the heels of a conversation we had in person a couple of weeks ago. But this also, like, dovetails with what I actually wanted us to kind of talk about here in terms of hip hop, because I don’t actually know where you stand on a lot of the the importance, so to speak. Not these questions, the things we’ve all argued about and over the course of the decade since. Right. So we’re going to start with one of the most important this or that type of question that everybody everybody has, which is the low end theory or Midnight Marauders, which for those that don’t know, are two Landmark Tribe Called Quest albums. Tribe Called Quest, one of my favorite groups of all time. I have a Tribe Quest sticker on the back of my car. So you always know it’s my car because I have the Tribe Called Quest thing on there. But where do you stand? Which album is the more pivotal album for Tribe? Is Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders?

Touré [00:18:20] This is an intersting question. It’s an important question because. Marauders is the more quote unquote mature album, right where the sound gets deeper. And I think they get a little bit deeper into who they really who who they are trying to be marauders. I mean, just on a personal note, marauders took me a little bit longer to get all the way into. I remember I felt I felt like a war tour hit me right away. But then the rest of it and I mean, like for Tribe, it was like it took me like three or four listens instead of like, being floored right away. I was definitely floored right away. And that’s not the judgment. That’s not the final judgment. But they’ll be floored right away. With the low end theory. I feel like the low end theory is probably the greatest articulation of who A Tribe Called Quest is or who they were, who they were. And using jazz scenario, one of the most important records of that decade. Um, you know, you think about check the rhyme, you know, talking about the music industry the way they did just the it’s a really beautiful and important record. I would I know that to me talks about who they are I think better than Midnight Marauders does. And and you know, if I was going to put something on right now, it would be low end theory. So I would go with that.

Panama Jackson [00:19:58] So I go the other direction. Of course, you’d buy it with a caveat. Low end theory, as their second album is the more important album, Midnight Marauders, to me is the better album. I think it’s like everything they were good at on Low in theory, they mastered on Midnight Marauders.

A Tribe Called Quest [00:20:14] People give your ears so I be Sublime. It’s enjoyable to know you in the concubine. Take off because ladies act like gem. Sit down, indian style, as we recite these hymns. See lyrically on Mario Andretti on the MOMO. Ludicrously Speedy or infectious with the slo-mo.

Panama Jackson [00:20:29]  But I do not think it’s as important as low end theory because it would just like a continuation and just the the best version of what low end theory could have been like. I think the beats are better. I like in fact, if I was stranded on a desert island and I could only bring one album with me, I’m bringing Midnight Marauders. Like I have an album. I have it on.

Touré [00:20:51] First of all, that’s not true. You would bring De La Soul is dead, as would I.

Panama Jackson [00:20:57] But I have. But so I have. So here’s the caveat to that.

Touré [00:21:02] Is your favorite hip hop and my.

Panama Jackson [00:21:03] Favorite hip hop album of all time. Yes, unfortunately. See, here’s where here’s where technology in the world comes into play. I wrote an article about this, too, because I did not have De La Soul is dead on streaming for so long and I don’t have a CD player anywhere. When I needed a fallback on an album, I started listening to Midnight Marauders 100% of the time. Right now, I’m glad De La Soul is back on streaming so I can enjoy De La Soul is dead the way that it’s supposed to be enjoyed, which is every day. But I still find myself now defaulting to Midnight Marauders. Like if I can’t think of anything to put on, I’m just kind of like, what though? Midnight Marauders is because it’s the one that always gives me the biggest hug when I walk in the door. So I that’s where I’m at with it.

Touré [00:21:50] I played Bitties in the BK Lounge for my kids the other day.

De La Soul [00:21:55] Forget about the aura. I mean. I’ll go get a slice of pizza. Bitties in the B K Lounge. All they do is beg and they scrounge.

Panama Jackson [00:22:04] How did that go?

Touré [00:22:05] They were bugging out like, Yo, this song is amazing. This song is so funny. It’s so funny. Oh, my God. And like the way it grows and changes and, you know, I think also from the C D era, for some reason I thought the Maceo part was the next song. And now that we’re on streaming, it like presents the songs just slightly differently to where I finally realized, Oh, this is a triptych. I thought it was just two parts and then a skit, but it’s actually three parts. It’s a it’s a genius.

Panama Jackson [00:22:41] Maceo what goes on? Maceo what goes on? I don’t know. That part.

Touré [00:22:46] Okay. I don’t know. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s so yeah. Okay. I mean, you know, I think when we think about as a culture, what is a Tribe Called Quest below in theory is what we think about. And then the youthfulness of people’s instinctive and the further growth of Midnight Marauders adds on to that and and suggests like, wow. Like not only were they brilliant, but they allowed us see this growth and they were brilliant in the growth because the first album had brilliance and Midnight Marauders, of course, has brilliance, but. I mean, you know, the Low End Theory is who they really are.

Panama Jackson [00:23:29] Okay. All right. Well, let’s move on to another who they really are, a type of question. Ice Cube, America’s Most Wanted or Death Certificate.

Touré [00:23:38] I mean, it’s definitely a Death Certificate, I think, without a question. Death Certificate is powerful and mature. I think it’s I think Low End Theory represented. Tribe’s maturation and then Midnight Marauders was a further evolution. I think death certificate is who Ice Cube really was and wanted to be an America’s Most Wanted is a step toward it. But death certificate is the full flowering of who Ice Cube is the power, the anger, the rage, the fury.

Ice Cube [00:24:15] Hell yea it’s on you better tell him. Ice cube and I am rolling with the motherfucking LM. It’s the number one crew in the area. Make a move for your gat and I’ll bury ya.

Touré [00:24:25] And that record just punches you in the face.

Panama Jackson [00:24:28] I agree 100%. So I’m I’m a fan. NWA is probably for years my favorite group because I just like I look, I grew up. I’m a Southerner, so a lot of West Coast music is what we got. My older sister introduced me to this stuff, so I remember Efil4zaggin was the like the album that I gravitated towards because it’s it’s a indefensible, ridiculous album. I don’t know how many people got raped, murdered on this album. It’s what you know, it’s terrible. But musically I loved it. So and of course, I’m a huge IQ fan because of the first album, America’s Most Wanted. It took me a long time to get into. Now, granted, I’m like 11, but death certificate from the second. I listen to it 100%. All in. I love that album. Whenever I shovel snow, I listen to Death Certificate because that anger is what I feel when I’m shoveling snow.

Touré [00:25:17] That. That’s a really beautiful anecdote. I love that. When you’re shoveling snow. You know, I’m a little older than you and there was there was a huge East Coast bias. And as the West started rising, some of us, not all of us, but some of us were very snobby and were basically like, Fuck the West Coast. They don’t rhyme as as complex as we do. They don’t rhyme as fast as we do. That’s not real, real hip hop, right. And and that that idea did not last too long. But there was a period when that idea was real. America’s Most Wanted was Cube with the Public Enemy Bomb Squad. So that was this sort of warm welcome in for me to a West Coast rapper that I could unadulterated, really love this because he’s still rocking with a core East Coast superstar on the beats right. On the production. So it was like, oh, like this is more like an East West hybrid than anything we had seen up to that point. So then I was able, you know, I was into NWA. Interesting You say they’re your favorite group. I think that is absolutely arguable and I think they are absolutely in that top list. I think Wu-Tang is in that competition and I think De La Soul is in that club too. And for me, it’s De La Soul is the greatest of all time. But I think it’s those three that are really in the competition. I want to make a distinction. Duos are something different and special within hip hop, and duos should not be compared to groups. If you have three people who rap in the group like De La Soul, then you are a group. Right now. The nineties poses lots of challenges because you can.

Panama Jackson [00:27:11] You consider Maceo a rapper too?

Touré [00:27:14] Maceo raps alot.

Panama Jackson [00:27:16] You think he raps a lot?

Touré [00:27:17] A lot. He raps a lot.

Speaker 3 [00:27:20] His voice is present. Yeah.

Touré [00:27:23] He he raps a lot and he raps very well. The nineties poses all sorts of problems with that definition is in A Tribe Called Quest, a group. Of course they are. But then Ali e Muhammad never raps, Right? Right, right. He’s fully part of the group, right? Like other groups, the deejay was there on stage in the shows. But is he really doing anything in the studio? Not really. But he’s part of the image, right? I think what EPMD does. Right. But then, you know, where is gangster? Are they not a group do?

Panama Jackson [00:27:56] Of course they’re starting with something, right? You know it’s that yeah.

Touré [00:28:00] There’s two rappers, right? So that’s not happening through you. All right.

Panama Jackson [00:28:05] But they started producing.

Touré [00:28:06] But they’re out there too, right? Nobody is as long as there are too. Just too much. Right. Then where do and I do think we need to mark that. Like we can have a whole conversation about who are the greatest duos. And I’m like, let’s, let’s do that. And then the great. So Outkast is not in the greatest group competition because they’re a duo. And I think that the duo, is it the hip hop thing that we should respect is separate from the groups. Okay.

Panama Jackson [00:28:32] Yeah. Full disclosure, it took me a long, long time to get into Wu-Tang. Like I, I could not stand Wu-Tang when they first dropped. Now I’m a Southerner. Our sounds a little bit different. Like the sound was so dirty for me. When Enter the 36  dropped. I just could not. And I’m coming off listening to The Chronic, like I’m going from The Chronic to trying to listen to Enter the thirty-. I couldn’t do it. I just it just did not work for me. It was it wasn’t until more recently that I could appreciate it.

Touré [00:29:02] Wow. Okay. That I wouldn’t have admitted that in public. But that’s you. I think what you’re talking about as far as the rough and rawness of the Wu-Tang sound, was difficult for a lot of people. It was difficult for me at first. I, I, okay. I the, the, the record review I most regret was I did on them on their first album and I really didn’t get it and I gave it. It was more like a mid I was like, This is mid. I didn’t see them at all as some great thing. And then I think a few months later I was like, Oh, I fucked up that review because this album is the shit. They’re the shit. You know, I haven’t necessarily dug into like every little nook and cranny of where, you know, what they where they’ve gone. But I think that I mean, it’s an unbelievable career.

Panama Jackson [00:29:59] I like the individual parts more than I like that first album. So when when Wu-Tang Forever comes out, I buy the album, know like I get it in 97 when it drops. So it’s not like but but part of my disdain was also one of my best friends in life was a die hard Wu Head. So we’re in Alabama at this point. He’s the only one who. Loves the Wu-Tang Clan the way he loves them, and he’s the only one with a car, so he makes us listen to Wu-Tang wherever we go. So I 100% never wanted to hear ODB again. I got so tired of Brooklyn Zoo and Shimmy, Shimmy Ya, I got tired of listening to protect your neck. So I think part of my disdain was also the amount of it that I had to listen to because I was immobile and the only person who could get me from point A to point B because this is Alabama, bro. This ain’t there’s no subway. There is no bus has taken us nowhere, especially in the early nineties, was that I could only listen to this because my friend was the one with the car. So I appreciate it. Now watching the the Wu-Tang Saga show, like as I’m watching that and kind of like reliving my youth through it, I found a brand new appreciation for it because I’ve always loved Ghosts, I’ve always loved Rae, I’ve always loved Meth. You know, like I say, I like the pieces, but like that first album just didn’t really curl over for me until more. Now I’m listening to it and I can’t stop listening to it. I’m kind of mad at myself now that I didn’t love it back then because I probably lost years of Wu-Tang standom because of how much you know. So anyway.

Touré [00:31:28] I just remember walking around New York listening to Raekwon solo album and thinking, Well, this is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard.

Raekwon [00:31:41] It’s trafficking. RZA bake the track and its militant. Then I react, like a convict and start killing shit. It’s manifested, the gods work like appliances.

Touré [00:31:51] And that album was insane.

Panama Jackson [00:31:53] It is insane. It is insane. Okay. All right, so this one’s going to be a little bit abstract because I don’t even know that this is not apples to apples. It’s 100 percent not apples to apples, but Lauryn Hill on The Score or Lauryn Miseducation?

Touré [00:32:11] Well, that’s not really close. I mean, Lauryn on Miseducation, I mean, that is the full flowering of who she was and who she wanted to be.

Lauryn Hill [00:32:22] Lauryn is only human. Don’t think I haven’t been through the same predicament. Like a million women in Philly pen. It’s only one girl selling souls because of sin.

Touré [00:32:31] The Score, she’s brilliant. She’s beautiful. She’s amazing. She’s one third or maybe a half of the mix. You know, and you know, we know why they are. You go. Good. Oh, good. You caught that, good. Wyclef is shaping The Score. He’s making most of the decision. Right? Right on Miseducation, It’s Lauryn, Right? And she set out to do that album to show Wyclef and show the world. I’m just as much of a genius as you. So the initial concept was Clef was going to work with her on it because, you know, we’re all family. And Lauryn was like, You know what? No, you leave me alone because I want to show everybody else and you that I was is just as genius. Because the story after The Score was Lauryn’s voice is gorgeous. She’s a great rapper. Wyclef is a musical genius. That was the conventional wisdom. And not until miseducation that everybody was like. Lauryn Hill is also a musical genius. And, you know, notwithstanding whatever happened after that in terms of lawsuits, Lauryn Hill is a musical genius and the mixing of soul music and hip hop on that is so beautiful and delicate and valuable. I could somebody just the other day tried to argue to me that Miseducation is not a hip hop album because she’s singing on most of it. I’m like that. That’s absurd.

Panama Jackson [00:34:00] Constant argument people have. Full disclosure. See, this is one of them confessions. I, I never loved Miseducation. Now I acknowledge that it’s I listen. This is me. I’m the problem. I’m the problem. I can see that. Everybody loves it. I bought it. I stood in line for hours at Northlake Mall in Atlanta to get her to get her autograph. But I am so. I don’t know that there’s a problem with it. It just I don’t love the way that I wanted to, the way that everybody else did. Right. You know, like you hear an album, everybody’s like, this is the greatest thing ever. And you’re like, I’m trying to get there. Like, I’m really trying to get there with you all, but I don’t feel it. Meanwhile, Lauryn, on the score, like my favorite hip hop verse of all time is literally Lauryn Hill’s verse on Zealous, where she’s like, two emcees can’t occupy the same space at the same time. And even after all my logic in my theory, I add a motherfucker. So you ignorant niggas hear me, which we probably have to bleep out from that.

Lauryn Hill [00:34:59] You just embarrassed because this your Last Tango in Paris. And even after all my logic in my theory, I add a motherfucker. So you ignorant niggas hear me. Remember take notes. Cause I sow my rap oath.

Panama Jackson [00:35:12] That is like my favorite verse in hip hop. Straight up. Wow. So I love the score and Lauryn in particular in a way that I mean, look, Miseducation is a completely different type of album. Like she literally ten out of ten, that album, I understand. I just never loved it as much as everybody else did. So I’ve never argue with people that it’s not a great album. I’m just always like, I don’t love it the way that other people do.

Touré [00:35:38] Do you not love seventies soul music?

Panama Jackson [00:35:43] I do. Of course, I believe I should have been one of the 70 soul artists. I don’t know what my hook would have been, but I should have been there.

Touré [00:35:51] I mean, so much of miseducation sounds like it was just plucked out of the early seventies, right? I mean, like, the record could fit right in if you if you did a playlist of, you know, whatever Earth, Wind and Fire, Kool the Gang, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, and then, you know, Miseducation comes out like it would sound. And the instrumentation and the music, the instruments they used were meant to evoke that. They’re using older instruments. They’re recording it in a certain way, producing in a certain way to evoke that sound. So I’m like, If you like that stuff, how could you not love Miseducation? It was kind of like, Remember Cody Chestnut? Remember him?

Panama Jackson [00:36:34] Yeah, of course. Yeah. I love Cody Chestnut.

Touré [00:36:37] One hit record. One hit album and then disappeared again. And that album, too, was like, you know, like Searching for Sugar Man. I found an album from 1974 that everybody forgot about. That is amazing, right? But it’s not from 1974. Just came out. Right? Yeah. I don’t know.

Panama Jackson [00:36:55] Yeah. I mean, again, it’s me. I understand that it’s me, and I’m fine with that. I that’s why I would never argue with people that it’s not everything that everybody claims it to be. It just didn’t 100% curl over for me the way that I wanted it to. So I could feel like everybody else felt. But that’s fine.

Touré [00:37:13] Even even though as as as a parent and I know that children, you know, matter deeply to you. And when you have kids, you’re in the world of kids. You’re constantly around other kids, other people’s kids. And the way they bring in the Newark school system and this very gentle teaching lesson that they’re having, it just sets you in this mood of like, oh, childhood, utopia, beauty, love, Black love. I mean, so many kids were used just as like, we’re screwing around and having fun. Right. De La Soul was dead and Miseducation use skits in a very strategic way to set the mood and to have a further comment on what the album is doing. I love. I don’t. Why is why is the skit gone away? I missed the skits.

Panama Jackson [00:38:13] Because people don’t listen to music. They don’t consume albums the same way, right? Like if you listen to those skits because they were part of the songs, they led into the next one. We’re in plug in the song tou like culture, right? I feel like releasing albums almost seems pointless nowadays. Just drop a bunch of singles because that’s how people are going to consume it anyway. You know, I mean.

Touré [00:38:32] Remember when Kanye was doing what was it? Good Music Fridays. Right. And we’re like waiting for a new song. And that was brilliant and like and we would all consume it and talk about it. Like if we dropped an album, we may or may not listen to it. We may or may not. I mean, Kanye, we’re not listen to it at all at this point. But we, you know, just in general that like we’re going to release one record once a week or something like that’s a really interesting model.

Panama Jackson [00:39:03] It is. All right, last question. Illmatic or Reasonable Doubt.

Touré [00:39:09] What, what, what, what, what, what, what, what kind of.

Panama Jackson [00:39:14] This is a constant argument I’ve had with my homies, so I’m curious. I listen, I’m pretty sure I know where you’re going to land, and I’m not going to land there.

Touré [00:39:23] How? Wow.

Panama Jackson [00:39:24] I’m a Reasonable Doubt guy. I I’m a Reasonable Doubt person. And again, let me be clear because when you do these it always makes it sound like you don’t like the other thing. I acknowledge Illmatic is probably the greatest hip hop album of all time. But, well, I’m listening to Reasonable Doubt ten times out of ten. No, you don’t think so?

Touré [00:39:45] I’m glad you. You tell me you touched down there. We’re in a dope slash wack culture. Either something is dope or it’s wack. There’s no in-between. So when I say Drake is not as good as 3000 people, like, Oh, you’re saying Drake is wack? No, I’m not saying he’s whack. I love Drake. Right. I’m not saying either of those albums is. You’re not saying either of those albums are wack. You made a choice, but you have deep respect for the other.

Panama Jackson [00:40:12] 100%. Stillmatic.

Touré [00:40:17] I am. I, I am completely on the notion of Jay-Z is the greatest rapper of all time. Nas number two, right? When we’re looking at the whole career, the whole lyrics flows, triple entendres, subjects, all the things. But Man Illmatic versus reasonable doubt. I mean, like he, as the kids would say, he ate and left no crumbs. Illmatic is incredible.

Nas [00:40:47] Took the rapper to a new plateau. Through rap slow. My rhyming is a vitamin held without a capsule.

Touré [00:40:52] Every record is incredible. He’s telling stories with his man in prison and this and that and bringing in wild style and like Reasonable Doubt had dopenness and I was into Reasonable Doubt at the time. Right. So I was on it. Talk about shooting his brother and deal with it all. Feelin it was murder in me.

Panama Jackson [00:41:16] These are rules our following my life you got to love It. Jiggy Jigga looking gully in joint. If ya’ll brothers been talking about large money. C’mon Money.

Touré [00:41:25] But my God, Illmatic was a neutron bomb. It dropped in the culture. I feel like I’ve heard the five Mike because we heard. We heard the Snuff and Jesus that go to hell for snuff. And we heard that right? So we knew, Oh, somebody’s coming. Big stuff is coming right? He was coming into the culture with like, bam, bam, I’m coming. And then I think I heard, you know, Illmatic got five mikes, and I think that was the first time a debut solo album, a debut album, had gotten five mics. I think that was the first time. So it was like, Yo, big things are happening. And the first time I put it in, I’m like, Yo, this album is everything.

Panama Jackson [00:42:06] Didn’t AmeriKKKas Most Wanted get five? That was a five mic album, wasn’t it?

Touré [00:42:10] Uh, you know, I mean, I worked at the Source in the nineties. I do. I’m not a source historian. I don’t. I don’t know. But I. I agree.

Panama Jackson [00:42:24] Illmatic was a bomb. It it was. It it. It was a game changer. It was a game changer.

Touré [00:42:30] Reasonable Doubt came into the culture in a different way, you know, kind of like the way smoke enters the room. I remember thinking, this new guy has a song with Mary J. Blige on his debut album, okay, he must be somebody because Mary ain’t coming out for just anybody, right? So she must really like him. Like she ain’t coming out just because of the check. He’s not on her label. Like, yo, he and you know, it’s just, ah, listen to him. Like, I’ve always loved Jay-Z, but Illmatic, dawg, that is it. That is a monster.

Panama Jackson [00:43:05] For me, Reasonable Doubt the the punch line. So I think Can I Live is the one that really. I listened to that song and I’m still impressed, you know, the way people are impressive, like New York State of Mind. And it’s an impressive song. Can I live Like I listen to that song and I’m still like I the way that. So Biggie is my, like, favorite rapper ever. Like, I Biggie’s the most important for me. The one who impresses me more than any any other rapper like. But I still I still get impressed listening to him now.

Biggie Smalls [00:43:35] Got mad friends with Benz’. C-notes by the layers. True to heart players. Drop in my rover and come over. Tell your friends jump in the GS3. I got the chronic by the tree.

Panama Jackson [00:43:48] Jay on Reasonable doubt did that for me. So that’s that’s. I think why I am Reasonable Doubt, though. I listen to the above like, oh, I’m still like that’s I love listening to Illmatic, especially because I love, you know, it’s hard to tell, like I love that song. So and I hated that people were like, Oh, that’s the commercial record. I don’t love that. Like, that man says, Snuck a Uzi in the island on my army jacket.

Nas [00:44:12] Sneak an Uzi on an Island. In my Army jacket lining. Hit the earth like a comet. Invasion. Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian. Half man, half amazing.

Panama Jackson [00:44:20] And the way that he did that, I was like, that is the perfect execution of flow like that. So yes I it’s it’s it’s one A and one B, but, you know, I’m choosing.

Touré [00:44:32] We disagreed on every point.

Panama Jackson [00:44:35] That’s perfect. There you go. See that? There we go. All right. We’re going to take a break here. We’re going to come back. And I want to hear we’re going to talk about the podcast that you have dropping here on theGrio Black Podcast Network. And I’m excited for it. I can’t wait for it. So stay tuned here on Dear Culture. We’ve been debating specifically nineties hip hop joints. And it turns out we disagree on all of them in some way.

Touré [00:45:00] Do you think you won any of those debates? Cause I don’t.

Panama Jackson [00:45:06] I don’t think that I’m wrong on anything that I said. So take that for what it’s worth. But, you know, listen, I, I still had ten toes down to everything that I said, and I would never back down in any of that. And I think that’s what makes that’s why I would every time we get together, we start debating because we get very, very strong opinions about these things. What I do appreciate, like you have a very sociological, like anthropological way of looking at this stuff. And also you were there for so much of this, like covering it. So I can appreciate the perspective you bring on it because I wasn’t right. Like you were like, you’re one of those people who I would read to learn about these things, especially as a younger person in a region that wasn’t there at the time.

Touré [00:45:48] I came to New York City in 1992 wanting to write and write about hip hop, and in the back of my mind I thought, I have missed the party. The party is over. This is all trending downward, right?

Panama Jackson [00:46:02] You thought that that in 92?

Touré [00:46:05] Yes. In the dope stuff already happened. I’m I’m just here because this is my time. But what Greg Tate and Nelson George and Harry Allen and Joan Morgan got to write about around the eighties. That was the real shit. I’m, you know, but. But this it And then, you know, Biggie and Tupac happened and, you know, they die and Jay-Z and Nas blow up and all. The nineties was an amazing time to cover hip hop. But I remember at the beginning I was like, I’m late to the party. Oh, well.

Panama Jackson [00:46:37] I appreciate all those efforts because for somebody who was so far away. Enamored with the culture and romanced by New York City and L.A. and all of this stuff. Like, I was fascinated reading these things and I wanted to be a part of it so bad, like it was like air for me and, you know, so everybody, you name that Greg Tates and it’s like reading or buying the magazines back then, right? Like it actually reading this stuff was like a portal entry way into a world that I wanted to be a part of. But and there were just a couple people that I could argue and talk about this stuff with, right? Because, you know, like where I was, everybody wasn’t on the same wavelength. And I’m not saying that it was a bad thing or not, but it was just like we were like my my head was in certain places and being down south, you know, we had our own musical culture and all that stuff. And it just what? And it wasn’t being covered the same way, right? It just wasn’t at that time. So anyway, All right. So you have a podcast coming out called Being Black the Eighties, which is about music. You know, then I’m I’ve seen like snippets and all this stuff, but, but I’m excited for this. So please tell everybody what your podcast is about to be about and why the why they need to check it out and when they can check it out.

Touré [00:47:52] Yeah, I mean, thanks for bringing it up. I, I have been trying to do something like this for years, so, you know, as soon as I got my feet settled here, I went to the our bosses and was like, Yo, this is what I want to do. And they were like, Knock it out. And it’s more of a documentary style podcast where I talk about important sociological and political issues for Black people in the eighties through the lens of important songs from the period. So we’re talking about NWA as a way to talk about the the war on drugs. We’re talking about Tracy Chapman as a way to talk about affirmative action and diasporic thinking.

Tracy Chaptman [00:48:37] Had a feeling I could be someone.

Being Black: The 80s [00:48:44] And that’s the moment when Tracy Chapman became a global superstar. But it wouldn’t have happened if not for Stevie Wonder having a technical problem and the awareness of Mandela and the injustice of apartheid reaching a fever pitch.

Touré [00:49:00] Talking about, you know, Diana Ross, I’m coming out as a way to get into the rise of disco and gay and lesbian liberation movements. So every episode is taking you through a journey of here’s an important song, and here are some of the things that relate to it. We did an episode about Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday, which was really about like, Let’s push forward the notion of We should have a King holiday. And I talked to Dr. King’s daughter who really outlines, you know, all the things that she and her mother did over the decades from when King was killed, when his approval rating among white Americans was way underwater. Right. They did not love him when he was alive and how they worked to reconstruct his image and to put pressure on legislators. And really, what they talked about, which he talked about, was that it was really a bottom up sort of thing that a lot of local areas started having a King Day, which put pressure on people above them, and that started to make it a national thing. Of course, Arizona held out. Public Enemy makes a credible song responding to that. So I’m in conversation with both of those songs. So every episode we’re in conversation with the great music of the time and talking about some of the important issues so mean like kind of like, you know, Black 1980s history class, but like the most fun, funky way you could imagine. Being Black The Eighties comes out in June. Every episode will be available on the first day, and then I believe in August, we’re going to come back with Being Black the seventies, which is almost done. And then a little while after that, we’re going to come back with Being Black, the nineties, which of course you will love as a nineties baby, but just trying to tell the story of us through our music.

Panama Jackson [00:51:07] Yeah, that’s though I’m looking forward to it. Like I said, I see little snippets in in from here. You talk about it and everybody involved with it from the producers and everybody talk about it. It sounds fascinating. I’m a big fan of documentary style podcasts, in particular, the ones that are teaching you something, taking an element and talking about it in anything music related. I’m going to be all in on like 100% because, you know, I’m a music person, so I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. You know, this this is this conversation is a Black Music Month conversation. So it’s fitting that your podcast is going to drop there and Black Music Month. So yeah, everybody needs to go check that out, you know, like. I’m excited. And I work with you. You know what I’m saying? I’m excited for this. And I’m here. I’m not obligated to be looking forward to it. I’m actually looking forward to it. Appreciate it. So, yeah, well, look, thank you for being here. We’ve got to do this again because there’s a million debate. I am actually surprised that we disagreed on almost everything here. I’m genuinely surprised with it. I thought some of these were going to be the were on the same page. But it worked out perfectly. Worked out perfectly. Could not have worked out better. So, you know, thank you for being here and for being wrong so frequently and consistently.

Touré [00:52:22] When did that happen? Where did the wrongness occur?

Panama Jackson [00:52:26] From the second we started rolling, from the second we started rolling.

Touré [00:52:33] You admitted it. And I named 20 emcees, you were like, okay, fine. They’re all the all but we got to 13. You were like, Clearly, Drake is number 13. Leave it there. I’m like, No, can’t be. Number 13 he less than that.

Panama Jackson [00:52:50] Listen for more of these shenanigans again, we’ll have to do this again. Stay tuned to Dear Culture in theGrio, Black Podcast Network. Thank everybody. Thank you Toure for being here. Thank everybody for listening. Dear Culture is an Original Podcast of theGrio Black Podcast Network. It is produced by Sasha Armstrong. It is edited by Geoff Trudeau, and Regina Griffin is our director of podcast. I am Panama Jackson Thank you for listening. Have a Black one.

Touré [00:53:46] The eighties gave us unforgettable songs from Bob Marley, De La Soul and Public Enemy.

Public Enemy [00:53:53] I’m a Black man and I can never be a.

Touré [00:53:56] Being Black. The Eighties is a podcast docu series hosted by me Toray looking at the most important issues of the eighties through the songs of the decade.

NWA [00:54:07] Can I have another hit.

Touré [00:54:09] A decade when crack kingpins controlled the streets but lost their humanity.

[00:54:15] You couldn’t be like the soft smile and happy go lucky drug dealer. You had to suppress that.

Diana Ross [00:54:21] I feel so good, everytime I hear. I’m coming out.

Touré [00:54:25] It was a time when disco was part of gay liberation.

[00:54:29] It provided the information to counter narratives that were given to gay people by the straight world.

Touré [00:54:35] This is the funkiest history class you’ll ever take. Join me, Touré for Being Black The Eighties on theGrio Black Podcast Network, or wherever you listen to podcasts.