Lonzo Ball recently sparked another debate about Nas by claiming the legendary MC has fewer classics than Future. To many Hip Hop heads, it was a ludicrous statement.
But for others, the New Orleans Pelicans point guard and part-time rapper was speaking nothing but the truth.
After hearing Ball’s comments, the HipHopDX staff decided to discuss the validity of his claims. The chat ended up delving into everything from Nas’ résumé and Future’s career to Hip Hop fandom and how classic albums are judged.
Check out our conversation below.
Trent Clark (HipHopDX Editor-In-Chief): Is Lonzo Ball lying about Nas not having as many classics as Future?
Dana Scott (7-Year HipHopDX Contributor): Millennials gonna millennial (Laughs).
Cherise Johnson (4-Year HipHopDX Contributor): LONZO IS NOT WRONG!
Trent: I wouldn’t consider any of Future’s albums outright classics. They definitely created a moment, a wave, a lightyear buzz but even in today’s bite-sized climate were still flashes in the pan as standalone projects.
Dana: Is Dirty Sprite 2 a classic? Are “Fuck Up Some Commas” and “Where Ya At” classic records?
Scott Glaysher (3-Year HipHopDX Contributor): I LOVE THIS CONVO! I crusade against people my age (26) that say Illmatic is their fave album of all time.
Like, name all 10 songs if it’s your “fave album ever.” It’s just the “Hip Hop head” answer to say. Is Lonzo wrong for saying Future has more classics? Yes! Respect NEEDS to be given. But I love how he doesn’t try and go all “Hip Hop head” and say Illmatic is the best. I like how honest he is with himself.
Justin Ivey (HipHopDX Senior Writer & Editor): Scott, I also dislike safe answers. But when something is as good as Illmatic, it can’t be penalized for being a popular choice.
Trent: An album like Illmatic set the standard for what’s considered classic.
I’ve never seen a DS2 documentary.
I’ve never seen analytic breakdowns on DS2 lyrics.
I didn’t see anyone making DS2 memes in 2016 — a year later.
So unless the standard and echelon for what a classic is have changed (which would be ridiculous for anyone to agree on to lower the standard) I don’t think DS2 is a classic, no.
Illmatic not only covered every statistical category but it mastered them as well. Top-notch flows, storytelling, crazy rhyme schemes, you name it. Totally unprecedented at the time.
Illmatic is the greatest cypher ever recorded.
Dana: It Was Written is not a classic, but it has its moments. I look at a classic as nothing skip-worthy and it has to be a full playthrough like Hard To Earn, To Pimp A Butterfly, Death Certificate or Midnight Marauders.
Dana: Lonzo has been trolling Nas since his rookie year. This is nothing new.
Scott: That’s true. Like, Nas isn’t in my personal top 10. Just because I didn’t grow up with him really. My first real memory of Nas was “I Can.” I would be lying if I said Nas was one of my faves.
Dana: You can’t be mad at people about when they were born. Since then, there have been other artists who have mastered the artform of album creation in other ways, which I’m always trying to find myself open to and not closed off like many people my age.
Scott: BUT you gotta recognize how great Nas is.
Dana: Lonzo knows how great Nas is. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have made that Illmatic t-shirt heading into Cleveland to face LeBron and the Cavs during his rookie year.
Scott: Like, the “classics” to kids now should be things like Tha Carter II, Take Care, good kid m.A.A.D. city.
It’s just different! *Hov voice*
Dana: Tha Carter III even because that album was a big moment for millennials and Gen Y-ers like myself, just to be objective. Not saying I was a big fan.
Scott: Like, I think there is a difference between the best and your favorite.
Trent: Yeah, and when people start to skew those best with “fav,” I stop the debate.
Scott: Is Illmatic (on paper) one of the best albums ever? Yes! Do I listen to Da Drought 3 waaaaay more? Yes!
Trent: On paper, in music, in streaming, you name it.
Future, Lil Wayne and other trappers may be more exciting than Nas; I’ll cop to that. But I can’t make that the sole reason they’re better. Nas covers at least a dozen more dimensions than their predictable — however that much creative — niggadom raps.
I’d even go as far to say artists like Lil Tecca, who just dropped a subpar project, have been spawned from the low denominator type rap.
Now if everyone would’ve listened to the old heads and let the Nas’ of the game be the sound of the culture …
Scott: Yeah like, Tyga has occupied more space in my life than Nas but I wouldn’t put him on Mt. Rushmore.
Trent: That’s a generational scenario. Which behooves you to digest up on Nas before making any declarative statements.
Scott: And it doesn’t surprise me that you guys love and cherish Illmatic, but dudes from my high school who post about how dope it is on Facebook but then I saw them stanky legging a week ago.
Makes me wonder.
Justin: Is it possible you’re putting them in the box instead of the other way around, Scott? You’re saying people from HS were stanky legging as evidence of why their Nas fandom isn’t legitimate. People can like all types of stuff. Someone can admit they love junk food without trying to argue it’s filet mignon too.
Scott: Yeah, for sure. I was stretching that one to make a point.
Trent: There’s room for everyone but when the cleverness went out the window for some of these raps, there was cause for concern in my eyes.
Justin: I think you make a great point. Successors often learn the wrong lessons from their predecessors. Rappers heard JAY-Z and Lil Wayne didn’t write and stopped writing.
Scott: It’s like the coolest thing to do now – not write. But it’s like, GUYS CMONNNNN! Write that shit down.
Dana: Yeah blame Mims for that, allowing that shit in NYC, which was the cultural bloc for ultra-lyricism (Laughs).
Justin: I think the other issue right now is just the nature of consumption. People put out music now as a means of feeding the beast. Fans are still willing to track down old movies, old TV shows, old books (well, the people that still read, ha). But in music, I feel like that history session aspect of the consumer is gone. People just want their new fix. And so the quality doesn’t matter because they’ll get another soon enough.
It doesn’t matter if Future’s new tape didn’t do it for you. He’ll be back with another in a few months.
Scott: So what are our modern day classics? Are there any? Good kid, m.A.A.d city is probably one. Twisted Fantasy … Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Dana: Here’s one classic in mind that has all the storytelling, great beats and is not lyrically deep: YG’s My Krazy Life.
Justin: That’s one of the best albums with the worst rapping ever. Like Group Home when Preemo laced them. YG has improved a lot though, unlike them.
Trent: We have to wait and see if our beloved Bandana and EVE hold the test of time, but I’d say To Pimp A Butterfly was the last one that can still be pinpointed as an outright classic.
It arrived at time before the streaming explosion of rappers which made it impossible for any fan to listen to an album for more than a few months before being enticed with something new. The end of the CD era.
Dana: Classic can also something be that’s highly anticipated and exceeds expectations like To Pimp A Butterfly and stays in a class in itself because at that point, jazz and pimp-style rap was NOT popping in 2015.
And Kendrick made it hot again.
Justin: For me, the most basic definition of a classic album is one that stood the test of time. For me, somewhere 5-10 years after it dropped, it still holds up. The music can’t be dismissed as having aged poorly, for instance. I think influence and impact are also factors, but I don’t consider them catch-calls.
Scott: Yeah, I could agree with all that. But I say DS2 is the crown jewel of Future’s mixtape run. The best parts of every mixtape he had put out ended up on DS2. Also, Metro Boomin’s best collection of beats. A perfect fusion of beat and rhymes.
Dana: DS2 was really just a comeback album that we rated as the best of that year, and he needed that to be back in the “Best of the Best” rappers convo.
Cherise: DS2, Beast Mode, HNDRXX are all classic Future albums.
Why would any Future album be considered a comeback? When did he ever take a break?
Dana: DS2 … it reminded me of Stillmatic for Nas in that way, and it had moments but it was a back from the basement dust purpose for both artists. We awarded Future with Comeback of the Year based on DS2 in 2015.
Cherise: Future is literally stealth dropping GOOD MUSIC on YouTube right now!
Dana: In 2014, Future was just kinda drifting with much of his work and he was around but wasn’t like when he came in and took T-Pain’s spot.
Future came in hard in about 2010. He had been around for many years before then, but he wasn’t known as the trap Auto-Tuned rapper that built his fame.
Justin: Cherise, there was definitely a point where Future’s trajectory was going down. I’m not saying he was down and out by any means, but he was definitely a potential victim of being largely forgotten beyond his diehards like so many rappers. There was a new class of artists coming in.
It kinda took that 2014-2015 run to reassert himself and not be moved to the side.
Cherise: Maybe my head has been too buried in Future’s catalog that I never saw a decline.
Justin: I would say you’re that type of Future fan then. “Future heads” were continually praising him. But on the more casual level, the types not sitting through every one of his mixtapes, there was a downturn in interest. DS2 was definitely the culmination of the “he’s not going anywhere” type of thinking and making him a fixture in the larger conversations. “March Madness” also played a big role in that too.
Dana: Honestly, 2011-2014 was a huge shift back to the rise of Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick, Mac Miller, J. Cole, Drake, Joey Badass, A$AP Mob, YG, Gibbs, Curren$y, and other lyrical rappers that pushed trap off the radio for a resurgence in lyrics.
YG isn’t lyrical, but the West Coast definitely had a huge takeover at that time too.
Atlanta and Future kinda got lost in the shuffle a bit, until Future came in and did his thing with DS2.
Atlanta was always there but just saying it wasn’t like the 2000s when they dominated the landscape.
Justin: Yeah, that was definitely a time where I think certain Hip Hop heads (old and young) were thinking the melodic style was on its last legs. In the end, it only got bigger and more pervasive.
Cherise: HNDRXX should have won a Grammy!
Dana: That was much much later than the period we’re discussing.
Cherise: Those were his next albums after DS2. I’m speaking on albums, not mixtapes but I will say I can listen to Evol back to back no problem and Purple Reign is still very good.
Justin: Cherise, I don’t think you can do that with an artist like Future. Mixtapes are part of his story. There’s no real difference.
Cherise: If that’s so, then what are we really talking about then?
Justin: I’m saying the discussion was Future having a comeback. And you mentioned judging the albums. I’m just saying, I don’t think it works like that with an artist like Future. His albums and mixtape are basically the same, like so many artists these days.
Cherise: He puts out a lot of music; He’s like Lil Wayne’s child. What are we judging?
Justin: 2017 would be far past the discussion point. That’s firmly post-comeback. I mean “comebacks” are always a matter of semantics.
Cherise: So 2017 Future had his comeback and the discussion should focus on projects for 2017 and beyond. Got it. Y’all gotta understand that I’m a Future fan so there was no “comeback” in my eyes. I’m just trying to understand where the casual listener is coming from.
Justin: His comeback was 2014-2015. He had a run in the late 2000s and early 2010s. There was certain plateau reached. His mixtape trilogy is what changed widespread perception.
Cherise: OK yes, Beast Mode, Monster, 56 Nights. I agree. That’s when people, the masses so to speak, woke up.
Trent: Does everyone agree with me and apparently Lonzo that Nas only has one classic?
Cherise: Yes, Nas is boring.
Justin: I think Nas is a perfect case of a debate where nobody’s really wrong. If you told me Nas’ only classic is Illmatic, I don’t think it’s a bad take. If you told me has 3-4, I can also see it too.
Trent: Ha, I think it would be a terrible take if someone told me Nas had 4 classic albums (Laughs)
Justin: It Was Written, The Lost Tapes and Stillmatic are what I often see people bring up. Not that I agree, just the ones I see get named.
Trent: Word. Those aren’t classics but I understand. Great point.
Dana: Stillmatic as a classic? Nas diehards would say that, but even he admitted on The Breakfast Club that he doesn’t listen to “Ether” anymore (Laughs).
Cherise: Remember this?
Justin: I don’t think Stillmatic is a classic by any means. But, I see it get thrown around.
Trent, I would say It Was Written is the strongest argument because there are lots of people who claim it’s actually his best period. The Lost Tapes is not an album in the conventional sense, but I think it stands up when just talking about projects. Especially in comparison to the current era of mixtapes/EPs/albums being blurred lines.
Dana: I hear you. Thinking of the classic songs from Stillmatic… maybe “You’re The Man,” “Got Yourself A Gun,” “Rule,” “One Mic”? I just never thought it was that good but after Nastradamus, he needed that record to not sink into the abyss. Especially after Jay mentioned the truth about his discography in “Takeover.”
Justin: In my mind, I think Nas has two. I think what those two are up to the person. But I think if you said, “Nas has two,” you wouldn’t get a ton of pushback.
I also think Nas is a great example of how the legend/GOAT/best conversation has evolved. Just like Lonzo did, it seems like a lot of people play a counting game now. It’s often how JAY-Z ends up at the top. And I think people are penalized more for their lesser work. Like someone looks at Nas’ discog and feels there are too many “misses.”
Maybe it was just the circles of discussions I was in, but it seemed like 10-15 years ago, the conversations about rappers were more about the peaks. If you hit a peak so high like Illmatic, it didn’t matter if you dropped a dud like Nastradamus.
Dana: It definitely mattered if you dropped a dud, and I still argue that A Tribe Called Quest left the game dropping a dud in 1998, and many people consider Beats, Rhyme & Life a dud two years before that, too. But their first three were so great that there was only one way but down.
All artists go through that after BDP, KRS had three great solo albums and that was it so I can see your argument, Justin.
KRS has been dropping meh albums for like 20 years now, but he’s still revered for his BDP and early solo album work but it still matters to fans like me when he drops bad shit I even panned his The World Is Mind album a couple of years ago and his lifelong fans chewed me out for that in the comments.
Justin: I think the duds were (maybe still are) a lesser factor. I think fans and critics often base it on the peaks. But I feel like it might be changing. I’d say it’s like Robert De Niro. Been years since he’s been in a critically acclaimed movie. Doesn’t affect his rep, though.
People judge the peaks.
Sound off in the comment section if you agree with MC Lonzo Ball — or not.