Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”
What Do We Make Of Ray J’s Rumored Wedding Gift To Kanye & Kim?
Omar: Ray J randomly exists on the periphery of Hip Hop. Yes, he’s an R&B artist. And for decades, his biggest claim to fame was being Brandy’s brother, but dude actually has a bona fide track record as a charting artist. Would you believe me if I told you Ray J’s single “One Wish” peaked at the #11 spot on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” chart? Between “One Wish,” “I Hit It First,” “Wait A Minute” “Everything You Want” and “Let It Go,” Mr. Norwood has essentially had five hit singles. That’s a career a lot of R&B artists would kill for. But for every peak, there’s an equally low valley such as tickling the ivories during the sausage party hosted in Floyd Mayweather’s living room, getting cussed out by Suge Knight’s niece, the beef with Fabolous and now milking the fact that he was one of the many dudes to smash Kim Kardashian before she became Mrs. Kanye West. Think about it. If you factor in the stuff with Kim and his short-lived VH1 series, For the Love of Ray J, it’s entirely possible Ray J is more successful for making broads hit high notes than his own shaky falsetto. This is what reality television hath wrought. Intentionally or not, Ray J is going to be perceived as a hybrid of a himbo, a man-thot, a reality star and being way pimpish all in one. But when you profit from taping yourself simulating oral sex with Lil Kim, taping yourself actually performing oral sex on Kim Kardashian and busting down someone named “Cocktail” in the shower, then people may pay more attention to your self-aggrandizing sexual exploits than your music. But it’s cool. Ray J doesn’t want you to believe everything you hear about him. Guess what? Two months of Ray J’s residuals from the sextape with Kim are more than the average American’s annual income. While the country throws shade and attempts to pay off their car notes and student loans, Ray J is having the last laugh.
Don't believe everything you read about me #LiES
— Ray J. (@RayJ) May 19, 2014
Andre: Ray J seems to be the type of fellow to text you after he’s smashed your girl in a fit of drunkenness and claim, “Yo, fam, she was a ho anyway!” But you won’t be amused. No, you’ll call all of the other friends of yours whose lines of decency he’s shattered and exact swift Quentin Tarantino like revenge. And you’d have the right. The man is insufferable in almost every way, but by far the most amusing is his playing gnat to Kanye’s king sized tail. He’s amazing at it. First, coming out with a song deftly entitled “I Hit It First,” featuring a poor-man’s Kim Kardashian in a previous life remarkably devoid of KimYe level luxury such that it borders on revisionist history. Before the Internet, it would have been the sort of life you vehemently denied. Oh, you used to go to Cabo, too? Oh God, no. Only plebs go there. Well plebs and reputation straddled sort-ofs (at the time!) who’s most redeeming quality was that she was friends with one Paris Hilton. Since, she’s graduated to become a world renowned thirst trap whose level of lusty excellence in whatever she decides to wear is currently at one hundred thousand trillion, and the the owner of a reality show we hate watch with glee. But hate watch it we do! While we simultaneously check our account balances and swig another fif’ of Henny.
As completely self-centered and childish (no Gambino) gestures go, Ray J’s has managed to somehow up-troll the trolliest of them all with a sub 50K gift to a couple whose combined wealth borders on $150 million. Who knows what he could do if he used his deviousness for good. Isn’t there a season of Punk’d that needs rebooting? Isn’t there another banal concept of a reality show out there that would lead us all to say, “Can we get much lower?” Still, you’ve got our attention, Ray J, use it with reckless abandon.
Is Hip Hop Ready For The Return Of Ma$e?
Andre: The reason we love to hear about who’s in Mason Betha’s top five emcee’s of all time isn’t only because he achieved a more than moderate amount of success during Hip Hop’s Golden Era, but because he’s a pastor so he’s bound to his truth, right? He’s not going to give us a list he and his publicist practiced only moments before, and true to form he leaves off one of the highest grossing and beloved wordsmiths ever to grace the Hip Hop stage. His list was spectacular, though, and that’s the thing about Hip Hop. Tastes are highly regional and most often based on who you genuinely like as an emcee. Even fellow artists are, against all reason, also fans, so you can’t just go around admonishing someone’s list because he doesn’t include “Mr. Slim Shady.” His reasoning, however, is a bit outdated. Here’s what he said, “I wouldn’t say Em because the way Eminem rap…there were all types of niggas who rapped like that who couldn’t get on the radio…same rapid flow never got put in that light.” But it wasn’t just the rapid flow that made Ken Kaniff’s alter ego a hit. It was his almost genius use of melody, cadence, flow, and straight up intelligence combined with raw, unfettered emotion to put on wax taboo topics like killing your wife or dealing with a psychotic fan. For all intents and purposes, his first two albums were radically disparate works-of-art at that time, and fundamentally changed the way Hip Hop was received. His impact wasn’t just felt within the Rap intelligentsia but culturally, globally, and if that doesn’t make you top five, then I don’t know what does.
Omar: The fact that Mason Betha won’t go away fascinates me to no end. Unpopular opinion alert: I never fucked with Ma$e’s music at all—not during his Bad Boy, shiny suit wearing days, not during the brief G-Unit return and not on Cruel Summer. I’m a certified hater. I can’t front though, that verse on DMX’s “Niggas Done Started Somethin’” was mean. My old age has allowed me to separate the art from the artist, so I never threw shots at his decision to quit Rap and become a pastor, and I never will. The return back to “secular” music is questionable, but whatever. At any rate, Ma$e made headlines this week because he told XXL Eminem wasn’t on his Rap Mount Rushmore—opting to name Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Nas, N.W.A and Notorious B.I.G. as his top five dead or alive.
Here’s my thing, why should anyone care about Ma$e’s Rap Mount Rushmore when Ma$e himself can’t rap his way out of a wet paper bag? Yeah, yeah…I’m throwing shots. The most interesting thing about Ma$e is who he’s been affiliated with over the years. He had the obvious Bad Boy run, and that connected him with Big L, Cam’ron and Biggie. He made moves with Jermaine Dupri and a pre-Roc-a-fella Kanye West. And in the post-Bad Boy years, everyone from 50 Cent to Kanye West and Drake has recruited him. There was also a brief time when Earvin “Magic” Johnson served as his mentor, and Jay Z was at least irritated enough to damn near end his career with one verse on “Ride Or Die.” So Ma$e is kind of connected to a few branches on the tree of Rap royalty, even though he’s never really been an elite emcee. Harlem World is certified as having sold over 4 million copies by the RIAA, Double Up and Welcome Back are both gold, plus “Feels So Good,” “What You Want” and “Lookin’ At Me” are all top 10 singles. So I guess the moral of the story here is that you don’t have to be a talented bar-for-bar emcee to be successful and/or popular in Hip Hop. I’m going to go cry a few tears into my backpack now. Take that…take that.
Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.