“You have to lay where I laid, stay where I stayed”.
Growing up in the inner city can be very challenging for our youth. There is a lot of temptation, crime, love, hate, poverty, broken families and school systems that are often inadequate. When a young man faces these various fights, he is forced to be tough and have the ability to survive the fittest. Dysfunctions can build character or destroy a person. When it comes to Hip Hop, the MC’s that move me often persevere through the storms of life and share the news with eager listeners. Beanie Sigel, born Dwight Grant, took us on a journey to South Philadelphia with the same vivid imagery that was shown when NAS took us to Queensbridge in the early 90's.
“Yo I come from a crack in the ground, a hole in the wall
And dog when the crack ain't around, the smokers'll brawl
Streets like a bullet in cancer, it'll swallow you up
Or eat you from the inside and hollow you up
And everyday like a test, you know life got rules
And its sorta like checkers and chess
I went to school and took the lessons punk
Know a pawn get kinged, a bishop get juiced
A rook get jumped”…
– Beanie Sigel “Got Nowhere” Part of Verse 1; prod. by Kanye
Only the chosen few can push fans emotionally and create a connection that goes beyond beats and rhymes. In all of my years listening to Rap Music, there are several MC’s that pushed me to “FEEL” them. MC’s such as Tupac, Scarface, Eminem, DMX, Joe Budden, and Beanie Sigel force me to think about life the way I would reading a Langston Hughes or Robert Frost poem. I mean, the passion behind the bars just felt different, deeper, and more honest than your typical rapper. Beanie Sigel is the offspring of Scarface and Biggie Smalls in my opinion. Beanie Sigel has the mic presence of Biggie and the deepness of Scarface. BEANS, as he is also affectionately known as, wasn’t afraid to touch topics revolving around “Life” and “Death”, in a fashion that most MC’s would shy away from. BEANS ran towards discussing the vulnerability of our very existence. On BEANS debut album THE TRUTH, the track “DIE”, BEANS took another route and talked about bad decisions and fate.
"Die 'cause I hesitated to spray that man
Die 'cause I hesitated to pay that man
Die 'cause my man passed me a empty tool
Die 'cause I panicked, couldn't keep my cool
Die 'cause I mixed all them pills wit Hennessy
Or die 'cause them niggas in jail, envyed me
Die tryin' to steal the fate of my enemy
I could go out from a case of mistaken identity
Or die 'cause the door wasn't open, it was locked
Die 'cause the 4 was broken, it wouldn't cock
Die 'cause a nigga wasn't focused on the block
Die 'cause them niggas thought the coke was in the spot
Die 'cause another nigga said I said somethin'
Die 'cause that newsy bitch said I did somethin'
Die 'cause a nigga was tryin' to get a name
Or die 'cause it was just my time to feel the flame"……. BEANS
Yep, in most cases we don’t know when it’s our time to move on from this life. BEANS had a way of talking about behavior and actions that could speed up the process. I have to be honest; a lot of rappers bore me after I’ve heard their music a few times. I like to feel engaged and connected to lyrics. I like lyrics to hit me and force me to remember them 10 years later. Yes, some of the greatest MC’s spoiled me, which pushed expectations to an elevated state. I don't have patience with lazy MC's. I want to hear MC’s talk about the pleasures and pains of life. I don’t want to hear about how much money you have 24/7. As an MC, take me on a journey.
"Eh yo I'm caught up in the system where the blind lead the blind
And this artist only speaks on the signs of the time
And I pop pills in purple rain to state my pain
They say I'm just like my father, bold and too cold
But you know thats how a thug ride
I send a kite through a dove in a jail where the thugs cry
I feel your pain when you restrained and your love die
And make your heart hard, the blood in your vein fry
Feel like I'm trapped and I'm blindfolded
But my eyes wide open to see it
Feel like the O'Jay's, climbin those stairways hopin
Heaven's gates wide open for me
Look towards a lie, Sigel in direction
Still I spin in every direction, seekin directions
Tryin to balance out the good with the imperfections
Yeah I know I still move with nowhere to go"
- BEANS “Got Nowhere” verse 2
Ok, now let’s talk about Beanie Sigel as an MC. BEANS can rap, let’s get that out of the way. He is generally amazing on posse cuts or individual tracks. The first time I heard BEANS was doing a freestyle in 1998 on the Hardknock Life Tour with Jay-Z and DMX. You could tell he was going to be special. Soon after, I heard him on “Reservoir Dogs”, which was a posse cut on Jay-Z’s Hardknock Life Album. Needless to say, BEANS went toe to toe with Jay-Z, Sauce Money and The LOX on this track. Less than a year later, I heard BEANS with fellow Philly Natives THE ROOTS Things Fall Apart album on the track “Adrenaline”. I was truthfully sold at this point but of course I needed to hear his debut album that was approaching called THE TRUTH (2000). The Source Magazine rated The Truth with a superior 4.5/5 mic rating. If you know about the history of this magazine, this rating doesn’t come around often to artists, especially for a debut album. Various major publications provided positive reviews. The Truth is also known for being the first Roc-A-Fella release to introduce Just Blaze and Kanye West, both who would later become primary producers for artists on the label. The Truth spawned the track “What’s Ya Life Like”, which pushed memories of Biggie on Ready to Die. Yes, I said Biggie.
“What you know about solitary
Locked down, no commissary
And you wild or ready
And you just seen your mom get buried
You got drowns, comin' in all kinds of flurries
What you know about your towel on your cell when you alone at night
Or a jailhouse hunger strike
Or you sittin' in your cell and just zone one night
And you think "damn, I'm neva comin' home one night"
You got 5 years in, neva been flown a kite
You hearin' grown men moan at night
They got you stuck in the can
White man got you fuckin' your hand
Your wife on land fuckin' your man
What you know about no parole
Life in the hole
Lifes cold, you be eatin' them swags
Guards on the nightshift they be beatin' you bad
The hardest nigga turned bitch, be sleepin' wit fags
What you know about gettin' and shippin' balloons
Keep switchin' positions in the visitin' room
Gotta take Ex-Lax, hope you did it in time
Gotta shit in your palm just ta get the heroin
And you talkin' 'bout your life is this, your life is that
Your life ain't shit, your life is whack
Man you listenin' ta the realest nigga
Close your eyes, muthafuckas tell me you don't feel this nigga
The illest nigga”
- Beanie Sigel; Verse 2 “What’s Ya Life Like”
Beanie Sigel is known for being RAW. The passion in his voice is evident and authentic. I challenge you to go listen to “What’s Ya Life Like” part 1 and the continuation “What’s Ya Life Like” part 2 on his sophomore album THE REASON. Over the years, Sigel dropped several dope albums, but I really enjoyed THE B. COMING. I would also recommend the tracks “Feel It In The Air” and “It’s On” featuring Jay-Z. Speaking of Jay-Z, Sigel went head to head with Jay-Z on several songs during the labels most popular years. Some fans have stated that he outshined Jay-Z on many of their collaborations. You can also hear Sigel with his favorite MC, Scarface on “Guess Who’s Back” off FACE’s classic LP THE FIX. The track also features Jay-Z and is produced by a young Kanye West. Beanie Sigel is also the only MC to attack Jadakiss and The LOX with any success. BEANS had the rare gift of being a songwriter, battle MC, passion, bars, voice, aggression, realness, and could craft full length projects. Unfortunately, I honestly don’t believe we got the best of BEANS even though he released 7 solo albums, 2 group albums with State Property and Mixtapes. This is of course due to legal issues, jail, prison and label situations.
“They say change gone come
But its a long time comin'
My legs tired
Hundred million miles runnin'
On life's treadmill
Runnin' in place
But still I run wit the race
I think back on my wonder years
Food stamps shorts of wonder bread
My mom dukes
Young, wild, loose learned a less
I got my truths from the older heads
U went 2 church n took a different route
U got ya truths from out the bishop mouth
I drunk the juice that turn dish about
Them double deuces turned my system out
And them zanies and the weed too
Fuck it I'm still here”
- Beanie Sigel “Change”
- Beans I ain't trying to change you, just give you some game. To make the transition, from the street to the fame – Jay-Z “Momma Loves Me”
There is a short list of MCs’ that come from a special place. Beanie Sigel was special but he fought the man in the mirror often. In order to grow, one must change bad habits. In order to grow, one must distance themselves from environments and activities that can stifle growth. In order to reach your full potential, you will have to become uncomfortable. Even though BEANS released more projects than a lot of rappers in his career, there were times where he didn’t appear focused or totally committed. I believe he robbed himself of legendary status. I believed he robbed the fans of greatness. At the end of the day, I do appreciate his contribution. I guess it’s more difficult to accept the incompleteness of an artist who had the “wings”, but refused to fly and soar to heights unknown.
Source: Lyrics from "Got Nowhere", "Die", "Change" and "What's Ya Life Like"
Photos: dailymail & wikipedia