the 20 Year Anniversary of both De La Soul’s Stakes Is High and Nas’s It Was Written bring us —
Because, for a long time, hip-hop taught us that we had to think one way or the other. Nas and De La Soul made us take sides during the summer of 1996. It wasn’t cool to ride the fence; It Was Written or Stakes Is High was a choice we had to make. The “underground” label now applied to a style of music. “Before then, ‘underground’ meant that you hadn’t blown up yet,” Just explains. “You were doing the Stretch and Bobbito circuit, or The Underground Railroad, or Hank Love and Half Pint.”
Obviously this is historical perspective. These artists never beefed with each other.
De La Soul’s “Itsoweezee”
Questlove speculation: Nas felt underappreciated after the 1995 Source Awards.
For the sake of the Internet posting, I picture Nas feeling like the kid @ the beginning of the “Itsoweezee” video. Which is a song that was opposed to the mafioso fantasy.
But Nas was from Queens so he was like fuck it; this is what y’all like: “who doesn’t like money & women?”
So Nas Escobar replaced the Illmatic Nas.
In retrospect we got Bad Boy, Rawkus & Rocafella out of this conflict because rap music is the best music.
And “It Was Written” is far from whack. The Democrats could’ve played “I Gave You Power” when demanding gun reform. And it’s impossible to not relate to the lyric “Best Friends become strangers.” From the message. What saved so-called mafia rap was Dudes could rap, and the grotesque lifestyle does have layers of morality, relationship turmoil and general conflicts of the soul. Plus it’s a compelling story. Even if somewhat farce ached.
There is a great Questlove podcast where he discusses Puff showing up to some underground event with goons. Everyone got scared but Puff just lectured everyone how he liked them until they insulted him. Everyone felt kinda dumb afterwords.
But if it wasn’t for the “Stakes is High” feelings we probably would not have had the DIY community that utilized rock networks that created new outlets aside from the way the business of rap worked prior.
This isn’t to say Rocafella or Bad Boy didn’t chsnge the game.
I’m just saying the sentiment behind that “Stakes is High.” was heartfelt & honest.
And “Stakes is High” gave us Mos Def, Jux & everything that followed.
Was the public end of this cultural divide 2003’s “Two Words.” for anyone with taste? (Cultural divide not individual artist conflicts.) Which was foreshadowed by Jux rapping over “Grindin” during Scribble, and Hov wanting to be ‘lyrically Talib Kweli.’ (Punchline set-up to bring in Kanye’s career)
In 2016, Nas runs Mass Appeal Records. De La Soul has an Usher feature in their upcoming album, “the Anonymous Nobody.”
Really I’m only posting because Nas & De La Soul’s made “God It” which was released prior this year.I feel like people should revisit both records because they like music and then insert this in their thinkpieces. My guess this isn’t on the upcoming De La record because no one really wants to hear De La make a Bill Cosby reference. Some Rappers are supposed to make offensive references. But not De La Soul.
Columbus, Ohio’s OJ Hayes did the artwork. He is Chance the Rapper’s in house designer.