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jigga gets leid

So we were clearing out the house of a man who had collected vinyl.  Instead of using shelves, the guy had stacked records on top of each other in six-foot-high piles along every wall in just about every room. There must have been a few thousand records.  The collection gravitated heavily towards folk, bluegrass, and, somewhat unusually, Hawaiian.  Think of every novelty “Hawaiian” record you’ve ever seen in the dollar bin at the record store – this guy had them all.  I noticed in some of the pictures on the walls a woman – probably his wife – who looked Hawaiian. All of the Hawaiian records were well-worn, like they’d been played many times.  All except for one, which was in pristine condition:

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The guy must have seen “Hawaiian” in the title, bought it on a whim, listened to it once, realized it was rap, thrown it into a pile and never looked at it again.  Here’s a detail of the record’s back cover:

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Had he looked at it again, he might have noticed that the figure crouching in back there is none other than a young (about 19 years old) Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z.  The guy in front is Jay-Z’s “mentor” Jaz.  Sound confusing?  It is.  Sound like the perfect setup for a saucy hip-hop feud?  Yes, it’s that too.

I haven’t been able to confirm this, but someone told me that this record is actually Jay-Z’s first time ever on wax. Wikipedia has the rest, much of which is merely “reported” or “claimed” or “known” or simply “stated” to be true: Jaz (also known as Big Jaz and Jaz-O) discovered young Shawn Carter, brought him in as a sidekick, let him do background stuff and then some verses on some of his songs, and then faded into obscurity.  His young protege went on to become what even some people besides Jay-Z himself call the “greatest MC alive”.

And somewhere in there, the relationship soured, to the point that each rapper has made a point to “diss” the other on many of their recordings.  Apparently it has sweetened enough that the two have joined each other on a few recordings, but as of November 18th, 2008, it’s back to sour.  The relationship has even helped fuel another more well-known hip-hop fued by being an important subject in Nas’s diss track “Ether“.

Yet look how comfortable they are with each other as Jay-Z mysteriously parachutes into the background of the set in the video for “Hawaiian Sophie”, which has elicited many vituperative comments, one of my favorites being: “A black man should never wear a Hawaiin shirt.  Period.”

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And I couldn’t resist sharing another one with you, which harkens back to those days in the late 80s-early 90s when dignified Afrocentrism was the cool thing to do in hip-hop, when everyone was “Nubian” and Salt-N-Pepa could still utter “No we ain’t tryin to be sexy!” and be taken somewhat seriously.

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But I digress.  The point here is, well, the point is…sometimes it’s nice to be distracted from the point.  Normal experience and human traffic patterns have a way of censoring what kinds of objects (not to mention people, perspectives, ideas, etc.) we come into contact with. Haulers have constant access to a steady stream – steady waste stream – of objects from all eras of history and strata of society.  And if you have any curiosity, some of these objects require explanation.  Which is dangerous if you have a point to make, or more ‘important’ work to do, because these objects can suck you in and make you spend an evening researching obscure hip-hop feuds.  I could be writing something more useful or relevant right now.  But sometimes some hip-hop needle in a haystack of folk and bluegrass just begs to be examined, and I get to remind myself that the world is full of little digressions, objects with rich backstories just waiting to be discovered.

2 Responses to “jigga gets leid”

  1. on 04 Feb 2009 at 1:39 pmcalhoun

    hova’s a baby!

  2. on 21 Feb 2009 at 11:04 pmgnd

    this is fantastic.

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