Archive for the ‘50 Cent’ Category

For Nate Dogg: Hip-Hop’s Captain Hook

March 17, 2011

T-pain, Akon, Ja, Fif, Drake. All inspired by this man.

 

Nathaniel “Nate Dogg” Hale

1969-2011

On March 15, 2011 Nathaniel D. Hale, professionally known as Nate Dogg, transitioned from a world upon which he left an indelible mark.

Before Ja Rule, before 50 Cent, and long before T-Pain, Akon, or Drake were dabbling in the hook game, there was Tha Homie Nate, co-founding member of 213.

The East Coast and Midwest probably know his crossover hits best: obviously the monster smash “Regulate” performed with Warren G, huge songs from Snoop Dogg’s debut Doggystyle like “It Ain’t No Fun” and classic album cuts like “Lil Ghetto Boy” from The Chronic that Nate Dogg blessed. In 2001, Whitney Houston brought his banger with Tha Eastsidaz into the national consciousness on the BET Awards by singing, “you betta Lay Low” to her detractors from the podium.

Nate made magic for them all...

We on the West heard much more of his repertoire on a daily basis throughout the mid ‘90s. We rode hard to tracks like “It’s All About U” from 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me, “Bitch Please” from Snoop Dogg with Xzibit, and “Big Pimpin’”, his outing with Tha Dogg Pound from the Above The Rim Soundtrack (that predated the song of shared title by Jay-Z) and of course—“The Next Episode” from Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001.

Never one to discriminate based on region, the songs Nate did with emcees from the East and the South are also memorable: “Oh No” with Most Def and Pharoahe Monch; “Running Your Mouth”, the cut he did with Biggie, Fab and Busta Rhymes on B.I.G’s posthumous Greatest Hits CD; “Have A Party” with Mobb Deep, “Time’s Up” with Jadakiss, “Area Codes” with Ludacris, and his two most radio friendly collaborations of them all, I Can’t Deny It with Fabolous and “21 Questions” with 50 Cent.

Unifier of the Hip-Hop Sound

That’s part of what made Nate so great; his versatility; his velvety, confident delivery on the mic; his ability to shape hip-hop’s sound and in so doing, remove boundaries. The result is a catalog so diverse within the genre, it will take quite some time for any other vocalist to eclipse it. Nate Dogg is truly an architect of contemporary hip-hop. He elevated the collaboration, and was nominated for four Grammy® Awards over the course of his career.

For some perspective, when gangsta rap ramped up and started receiving more than the “shock value” airplay given to N.W.A., Domino was Nate’s only contemporary on the West Coast, singing hooks as he half-rapped. When Death Row kicked down a new door in gangsta rap, Nate went into warp speed with a barrage of hits, leaving Domino and his gold-selling “Geto Jam” at the starting line. Nate never tried to rap, but he didn’t need to. Nate Dogg kicked game everlasting through his vocals, often anchoring the young, hurried voices of the emcees with measured grown-man sensibility. He made the most misogynist, testosterone-laden, and most triflin’ ‘hood phrases sound like quiet storm dedications, only you almost snapped your neck nodding to them. Nate Dogg was a master of melody, Suge’s heavy-hitter of hooks. And with Jewell and Danny Boy rounding out Suge’s vocal arsenal, Death Row became the arbiter of what Snoop Dogg would later call R&G, Rhythm & Gangsta.

Nate Dogg was so prolific, he had G-Funk Classics Vol 1 & 2, a two-disc compilation come out before his own solo debut dropped. While not well received upon its release, Music & Me (2001) had a jam I kept on repeat as its opening song called “I Got Love” for that melody and those horns beneath Nate’s signature vocal styling. And he had love, from every corner of the hip-hop map, boasting Snoop, Fabo, Pharoahe, Lil’ Mo, Xzibit, and JD on the project. He had certainly given more than his share as a bonafide hitmaker for other artists, to the tune of over 100 million albums sold with him featured.

I got to meet him over the phone on a Tech.nitions DJ conference call—he and I were the featured guests that week. I gave him his props and called him Captain Hook; he laughed long and strong at that moniker. Me personally, I would have loved to have gotten “One More Day” to thank and acknowledge Nate for crafting a significant part of my life’s hip-hop soundtrack. This post will have to suffice.

Rest in Power, Nate Dogg.

The United States of 50 Cent

April 4, 2009
So my new favorite Sunday show, The United States of Tara comes to a close this weekend.

united-states-of-tara-promo

In a nutshell (pardon the pun) Toni Collette deftly dances between her central character, named Tara, and that woman’s other personalities, or ‘alters’: T, a petulant, hypersexed teenager; Alice, a prudish but alluring homemaker cut from Donna Reed’s cloth; Buck, her male alter who lives at the intersection of trailer trash biker and delusional Vietnam vet. And then: there’s Gimme, the feral child, an alter that screeches, cowers, destroys and even pees on sleeping relatives in the middle of the night.


The show has led me to draw an unlikely parallel between Tara and of all people, 50 Cent. Now, I am not a shrink, and I don’t think 50 Cent has multiple personality disorder. On the contrary: I think he’s got a firm grasp on who he is. But the Showtime series, executive produced by Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno, got me to thinking about all the personalities 50 has revealed to us thus far.

For the show’s central character Tara, there is Curtis Jackson. He listens more than he talks, is a brilliant creative (like Tara, who is a muralist—only his mediums are movies, music, books and apparel). Low-key and perceptive, Curtis is probably the least exciting of all the personalities, but loveable for the same reasons.


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Then there’s Tara’s polar opposite, T. Less than half Tara’s age with twice the sex drive, and no regard for consequences. T’s attitude is ‘all me all the time’, period. And while the only way to dial T back is to banish her to the shed in the family’s back yard, sometimes it’s cool having T around because she knows how to have a good time. In 50’s amusement park, this character is the irrepressible Pimpin’ Curly. A newly revealed personality, Curly rocks plush furs, a red sistercurl ‘do (okay, it’s a wig cocked to the side, but roll with me here), fresh kicks, and a mouth as foul as his attitude. And it works for him. His bitches love it. And the money they bring him is all that matters; he’s a legend in his own mind.


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Pimpin' Curly

Even among Tara’s alters, there is a voice of reason. The same holds true for Curtis. In Tara’s world, there is Alice, perfectly coiffed with clipped speech. Alice’s work is in the home, but make no mistake—she’s all business. You better have it together around Alice, and if you don’t she’ll help you with that. Even the show’s subway posters for Alice read ‘She’s One Tough Mother’. Enter Earl, the equivalent personality for Curtis. Straight-laced and accomplished in the corporate world, he’s one tough brother. He’s even shared co-consciousness with Curly and faced him down, telling Curly, “I’m not afraid of you. You’re goin’ to hell. Hell, hell, hell, hell, HELL!”

AliceEarl

Who among the United States of 50 measures up to Buck, Tara’s chain-smoking, crotch adjusting male alter? Well, that’s easy. 50 Cent. He’s as male as male gets. Swagger and shit-talking beyond belief, right down to the monogram pistol holster. To let this guy tell it, he’s invincible. And he has a point: he survived Southside Jamaica, Queens, the drug trade and being served a dishonorable discharge from the rap game after being shot 9 times. Exacting revenge on the same industry that left him for dead says he’s right.


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I was 50’s advertising writer for “How To Rob” and Power of The Dollar. Our bond goes back to 1999 B.B. (Before the Bullets). He even generously blessed the back cover of my book with a quote.


“There are only a couple people I still keep in touch with from my days at Columbia, people who totally focused on my project and did their best for me. Thembisa is one of them.”
—50 Cent, Shady/Aftermath recording artist and G-Unit branding phenomenon


I’ve been in the presence of both Curtis and 50 Cent. I have witnessed the warm smile of one soul transition into the sneer of another at close range. More recently, I have been thoroughly entertained from afar by Curly and Earl, who prove that Curtis hasn’t lost his sense of humor, and may have even found some self-deprecation after all the success he’s achieved in music, business, film, and fashion.

When an alter overtakes Tara, she transitions as a result of a word, action or behavior that triggers their appearance. Unlike Curtis, Tara is still wondering what cataclysmic event brought on her mental state. Curtis’ near-death experience answered that question for him. See, I believe he knows why these personalities are manifesting, and more than that, wields them in a way Tara can’t. All this shrink talk from The United States of Tara begs a few questions.


What do you think triggers Curtis? Is there a Gimme in his arsenal of personalities? If so, when will we get to meet him? Or is he holding that one back before he self-destructs?


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I for one can’t wait to find out.


Showtime’s The United States of Tara finale premieres Sunday, April 5 at 10pm. My book Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business streets April 23. The new album from 50 Cent, Before I Self Destruct is slated for release later this year.