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Chicago, Illinois, United States
I'm a south side/Park Manor native, I graduated from Simeon Career Academy class of 2004 and have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the American Academy of Art. Illustrator & Graphic Design are my skills of trade. Typically draw athletes but I also like topical illustrations as well. Contact for commissions: jess.nelsonjr@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nellzartworx website


The new site is live now the link is above. It's got a little ways before I perfect it but I've been working on it since June so it's a good time to go live with it.

artworx:Greatest hits

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dear Gang Bangers

Dear gangbangers and goons,

You guys have been a menacing force in the urban areas of America for about 40 years now (maybe more), now I fully understand that you are not the only form of organized crime, but you've been a standard in our inner city communities and have had a continued impact to this day.
I was just wondering, isn't it time for new policies? I mean aren't you guys tired of running from police, going to jail and losing friends and family to the violence that is brought about because your activity. Just think about it; instead of attacking rival gangs in the middle of neighborhoods where innocent people live, go to an empty lot or abandoned building and just solve whatever issues you have away from common civilians.

Check it out, instead of selling drugs like crack and cocaine and heroin to make a profit for drug lords in some other country, you guys could buy Mrs. Johnson heart medicine for her. Lil Ray Ray got autism and he need medication and his mother can't afford it, you guys can go in together and help her buy it. I mean, look you guys stand in front of corner stores all day and night anyway, might as well do something meaningful while you're out there.

And instead of being a menace, try being a protective force to your neighbors. Say other gangs or whatever come in, trying to do harm and sell drugs to your community, you step in and stop them. You already have the weaponry and willing to die for your fellow gang members, how about using that to protect the people who really do love and care about you? You guys could be there before the cops show up while making sure the right people get locked up instead of being the ones getting locked up. Just think about it

It's not an overnight process it's gonna take some time process everything but just give it a thought. For our and your sakes.

I say this in a joking way, but this isn't a criticism or meant to be joke. It's going on for long enough, when is time to change things for the better. When do you wake up and see the cycle you're in, constantly living in danger, with no hope for a future. Yeah it's rough out here, and being black or Hispanic in America has always come with it's challenges but don't make it harder for yourselves to succeed and don't make it easy for "other" to tell you that you can't make it.

It's too many of y'all falling to the same trap that your uncles, and fathers and brothers fell into therefore making your community fall with you because you're not around to see that it gets the love, nurturing and attention it needs. You're not proving it with positive male imagery so the girls either fall in love with the same guys and have kids that continue the same thing or the women go outside their community to be with someone that will have a positive effect on her and her children's lives.

More and more in Chicago I'm seeing what used to be historical Hispanic and Black neighborhoods become ran down with gangs and violence. The buildings being boarded it up, and empty lots with no plans of restoration. As long as I've been alive it's been like that. However our neighborhoods usually have great real estate and in close proximity to the city Universities like Chicago State, University of Chicago and UIC so it's becoming more appealing to the upper middle class citizens again.

Well we're not taking advantage of that, so the outsiders are moving back in. They're tearing down your schools and building high end grocery stores, restoring the transit systems. None of that matter when it was just you living in the community, but now it's becoming hot commodity to live near Englewood, Bronzeville, the Back of the Yards, Little Village, Pilsen and Logan Square.

See that, gang bangers. Then what block will you be claiming then, where will you go to sell your drugs, Because when they finish restoring the spots that they want, all your precious liquor stores will get shut down, without a second thought and turned into a Walgreens, Walmart or Walnut. Wake up brothers. If you guys make a more positive impact on our communities there will be no need to move away or shut down. There won't be any need to make sure these new things have security patrolling because you could be the security, without making a scene.

Be smart and constructive and not destructive. Things are changing all around us, and society is going to keep moving and growing with or with out gang bangers. It's time for you guys to catch up with the rest of the world. Our lives and yours depend on it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Greatest Rap Acts 20-11

Kanye West Chicago, IL

Arrogant, Artist, Genius, Misogynist, Martyr, visonary, A##hole. Call him what you want, but as far as rap acts, Mr. West is simply undeniable.

To begin, Kanye was born in Atlanta, GA. His father Ray West, a former Black Panther and photo journalist, then his mother Ms. Donda West was an educator teaching English at Clark University in Atlanta then Chair of the English Department at the University of Chicago. Both of those influences have been relevant in Kanye's career. Obviously the knowledge he spits on "All Falls Down" or "Chain Heavy" comes from his mother and his love for the arts and fashion comes from his father.

He also spent some time China when he was a pre-teen, while his mom was an English teacher, which helped expose the young Kanye to cultures outside the United States at an early age. However it was Chicago that bred the attitude that he carries with him to this day. He attended Polaris High in the South suburban Oak Lawn neighborhood. He went on to attend the American Academy of Art (My alma mater) then to Chicago State before dropping out to turn his full attention to music.

Now after linking up with Chicago legendary producer NO I.D, Kanye learned how to craft the art of producing hip hop tracks. It took a while before he picked up any traction but he was able to have a few artist like Ma$e's Harlem World group to record a song on a beat of his called, You Made Me. He also had songs recorded by Foxy Brown, Jermaine Dupri and Goodie Mob around 1999-2000. The beats at the time fit the era of hip hop but didn't feature many of the signature Kanye sounds we've become accostumed to.

It wasn't until he met one of the rappers he was a huge fan of that led to his breakout moment. He got his demo into the hands of rap superstar Jay-Z in 2000. The first song he had Jay-Z record on was "This Can't Be Life". It featured the new style, that helped define Jay-Z and the Roc-A-Life era during that time. Sped up 70's Soul music samples, heavy drum kicks and double snares creating an emotional yet cold and grimy sound for the Roc to rhyme on. He later admitted that he also sampled the drums from Dr. Dre's "XXXplosive" song to make the drums sound heavier.

However the first of a few tragic moments happened to West, just as his career was beginning. After leaving the studio late one night, he was in a nearly fatal car accident. He obviously survived, but suffered a severely damaged jaw that caused his face to swell up. Kanye decided to record and release a track he did over fellow Chicago Native r&b legend, Chaka Khan's "Through The Fire" which he sampled and called "Through the Wire" while his jaws still wired. This earned him respect from fans and his peers, however it would be a struggle to release his first full length album as a rap artist.

Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella was apprehinsive about promoting Kanye, considering at the time Roc-A-Fella artist were a mix of harder, "gangster" rappers from New York & Philadelphia. Kanye's a clean cut backpacker from Chicago. He didn't sell drugs or shoot anybody. He's rapping about history or just simple things in life. How would that fit in. So for a year he worked on his album and Roc tried to fit him into songs, to get the public used to hearing Kanye rap.

He was still green. On the song "The Bounce" by Jay-Z, Kanye has the last verse on the song. The beat is a classic by Timbaland and Jay does his thing but Kanye could not even hang at all. His rhymes were simple, unstylistic and lacked creativity, sex appeal or anything. He was nervous, he's on a song with his idol and it's produced by one of if not the best producer in the game. He had work ahead of him.

'Ye continued to produce classic singles for other mainstream artist such as Ludacris, Lil Kim, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, etc. Now came 2004 and it was his turn. Feburary his debut album The College Dropout dropped and....it turned out to be a bigger and better success than Def Jam even imagined. What fans recieved was an album alternative to the bling and guns of rap and got an album about the struggles of the climb to success, introspective lyrics and pure feelings about the world, politics and religion. The song "Jesus Walks" earned Kanye his first Grammy and the album nominated for album of the year.

The next year he released his second album Late Registration, straying away from the underground, soul sample style of the first album focusing more on an orchestration style and brought in Miri Ben Ari to violin and Jon Brion to play the piano. The album was also recieved well and nomination. However the first instances of controversy that would follow him throughout his career happened in 2005. When he lost the best new artist award at the Grammys he stormed out of the auditorium and released the statement: "I felt like I was definitely robbed [...] I was the best new artist this year."
Also that year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, LA Kanye hit us with the infamous "George Bush doesn't care about Black people quote.

Despite his antics, Kanye was rolling as a top producer and rapper. He released his 3rd album Graduation in 2007. The hype was huge as he was releasing bigger budget videos, featuring eccentric artwork in the booklet and in the videos as well as his style of dress became more ecclectic, preferring the designs of international fashion designers and artist. However the largest hype came from the proposal 50 Cent laid down, as both artist were dropping highly anticipated albums on the same day. 50 says that if Kanye outsells him, then he will retire from rap (as a solo artist). Challenged issued.

The two promoted their individual projects seperately and together through out that summer. When the numbers were settled after a week, Graduation had 957,000 copies sold to 50's Curtis 691,000 copies. Overall Graduation: 2,116,00 and Curtis: 1,336,000. 50 didn't retire (he was under contract for 3 more albums), but you get the point. The competion was great and was what hip hop needed, but it also showed the new direction that was opening up.

While the "gangsta" rap that 50 Cent was known for is still a favorite sub-genre in the hip hop community, Kanye winning helped open another side to mainstream. While he had vulgar lyrics and performed on songs with other more harder rappers, he made hip hop more accessable to a wider audience. His fashion sense, simple lyricsm and ecclectic taste appealed to fans who cannot speak english or maybe not relate to the more thugged out raps, and also to women who may have been turned off to rap because of the mysoginistic lyrics or dangers of going to a rap concert. He pushed itin a whole other direction by having that something that made Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Oprah and Michael Jackson so appealing in 80's.

Now, as on top as he was, the sudden death (cosmetic surgery complications) of his mother Donda seemingly spun everything around. Mrs. West meant everything to him. She was not only guiding him through life but also through his career. When he made public mistakes she would be there to tap him make sure to get him back in line. In fact, Donda wrote a book about raising Kanye West, and she went on to Oprah Winfrey show to promote it as well as Kanye coming on to perform being the first and only rapper to ever perform on her show.

After her death and a break up with his longtime girlfriend, Alexis Pfiefer it seemed like a new Kanye was formed, not entirely for the better (or worse). He was supposed to close the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards and fans expected usual Kanye flair, stadium hip hop style. He scaled it down and launched into the icy yet agressive song now known as "Love Lockdown". Audience were taken aback. He was not rapping but singing using the Auto-Tune device (which T-Pain made popular at the time).

It was clear that his music had been affected by his recent personal situations. He announced that he was working on a new album that was gonna sound primarily like the first single. He brought in his mentor NO I.D. and Jeff Bhasker to give him the more simple 80's, yet raw minimal sound. Heavy drums, jungle sounds and synthesizers. No samples. He released November 24, 2008 merely 3 months after writing and debuting the first single. At first the album was met with cold reception, as the fans were not prepared for the new sound and attitude of West. He began even dressing differently. However the album produced the hit singles "Amazing" feat Young Jeezy, " Heartless" and "Paranoid" and pushed to become a platinum selling record.

The impact of that album runs deeper than just the sales. As I stated earlier, Kanye's style circa College Dropout, allowed the fellow backpackers to finally get some mainstream light, then Graduation helped make hip hop become recieved on pop radio and worldwide. This album combined those elements and gave rappers the chance to enter a darker, more exisistential place in their psyche. Not everybody relates to murder and drugs but can understand and sympathize heartache and the album has opened doors for rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Wale, Drake and Nicki Minaj to showcase multiple sides to their personas on stage and in their videos.

He began dating Amber Rose around this time and was seen just about everywhere with her. He began to gain a bad-boy image in the media but nothing was bigger than his moment at the 2009 VMA show. Apparently smashed off a wholed bottle of Patron, Ye manage to make a huge ass out of himself, worst than ever when he interrupted teenage Country singing star Taylor Swifts award speech. You all know what happened.

After taking some time off to get his thoughts together, he broke up with Amber. He flew to Hawaii, and assembled some of the greatest artist, singers and producers in the music industry to help him put together one of the most unique, bizarre and interesting rap albums to date. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released Thanksgiving 2010. Almost Renaissance, Baroque era classic, dark and emotional, cocky and unapologetic, the album features 'Ye firing off on his critics, and rapping better than he ever has in his career and some of the most sonically interesting productions from him, Q-Tip, NO I.D., Bhasker, RZA and Mike Dean.

To promote the album, West directed a 35 minute music video/short film titled "Runaway". It features the story of a beautiful phoenix that crashes to Earth, she and Kanye fall in love despite their differences. It also featured snippets and altered versions of some of the songs on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, while the song "Runaway" was performed in it's entirety while ballerinas performed a routine to fit the instrumental of the song.

The next year Kanye and his mentor/friend Jay-Z released their collabo album Watch the Throne to mixed reviews but sold well and featured numerous hit singles including "Niggas in Paris". In 2012, he dropped an album that showcased his vanity label,G.O.O.D music, and their talented roster, called CRUEL SUMMER. However his personal life continues to catch more attention than his music, now that he is dating and fathering Hollywood socialite, Kim Kardashian's child. Hopefully we can turn our attention back to the music soon.

At this point musically, he flucuates between religion, socio-political themes and opulent, braggadocious lyrics. His beats have become heavier and darker sounding with choir type samples in the background. He no longer handles the beatmaking full time as he has enlisted newcomers Lex Luger, Hit-Boy and Mike Will Made It to provide new sounds to his arsenal. He has taken a bit of a back seat as well allowing artist Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz to shine, but still continuing to deliver memorable verses on tracks that he is featured on.

Speakig of which, lyrically he seems to have found his comfort zone. He still is not the most poetic, or mind flipping rhymer. He lacks the cadence and grit in his voice that make the legends truly legendary. He has gotten much better with his timing and delivery as he showed on Watch the Throne, he's able to competently go toe to toe with Jay-Z and in some cases out rap him. Hopefully Kanye continues to grow as he gets older. Maybe having a kid will mellow him out, and give him an even broader scope to rap about.

No matter what though, what ever you think about him, he has a proven track record. He's provided the most You Tube worthy moments in hip hop that we will never forget, good, bad or worse. There's no denying that Kanye West is undeniable.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Greatest Rap acts 30-21

Geto Boys Houston, TX

Similar to California's N.W.A, The Geto Boys was the pioneers of hardcore gangsta rap in the South. Originally consisting of Sire Jukebox, Prince Johnny C and Buschwick Bill (a little person, who just was a dancer in the beginning). They debuted as a part of southern label RAP-A-LOT imprint with the album Making Trouble. The album was laced with loads of mysogonistic and cartoonishly violent lyrics. It went mostly unnoticed.

In 1989, Sire Jukebox and Prince Johnny C were both released from the group and replaced by Willie D and Scarface (at the time known as Akshen). Instantly their album The GETO Boys was a greater success, but of course was met with controversy from Tipper Gore and numerous parent groups opposing of the albums lyrics. The GETO Boys is hailed by many artist as one of the first Horrorcore albums in hip hop. It also showcased Scarface on numerous solo tracks. At the time he had a flow similar to Big Daddy Kane with his deep voice and fast paced style.

However in 1991, the group broke through with their album We Can't Be Stopped. On the cover is a picture of the group rushing Buschwick Bill through a hospital, after he was shot in the eye. It's by far the most memorable album covers of all time. The album was also their most well recieved by critics. The group still used dark mysogonistic lyrics but start to tell blood soaked stories of death, paranoia and drugs destroying black communities. 'Face starting rapping in a slower more thorough manner, pushing his ability to tell a story even further. The single "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" is considered a classic with it's detailed lyrics of paranoia, violence and guilt. The video became a fixture on Rap City on BET and Yo! MTV Raps in the early 90s.

Of course after the group started to achieve success, they became more accepted in pop culture. Buschwick Bill began appearing in tv shows and in other rappers videos. Scarface went on to have a successful solo career. He was already a fan favorite and considered one of the greatest emcees of all time. He crafted the soul stirring "Never Seen a Man Cry" and released the album The Fix, which is a great album and features younger rappers of the time and production from Kanye West. He's strayed further from the horrorcore style that defined the group in the 90's and rapped more about real life scenarios and issues people deal with on a day to day basis. He went on to serve as president of DEF JAM South from 1999 to 2005. He was responsible for the signings of Ludacris and Rick Ross to the label.

The legacy of the group has been well perserved in the films directed by King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge, also a Texas native. Fans of Judge's 1999 film Office Space remember the Geto Boys "Damn It Feel Good to Be Gangsta" from various scenes and the soundtrack. Judge also used "Still" and had Scarface play a character in his film Idiocracy in 2006.


Cypress Hill South Gate, California

B-Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs, and Eric Bobo emerged out of Cali in 1991 with their mult-platinum debut self-titled album. It boasted hit singles "Insane in the Brain", "How I could just kill a Man", establishing them as funky, manacing Cholos while also helping define that era in music. The group success piggy backed on the popularity of both gangsta rap and grunge alternative rock.

Backed by the dark beats by DJ Muggs and led by B-Real and his nasally style of rapping, Cypress Hill blended the sounds of Latin percussions and the funk of hip hop as well as the crashing cymbals and guitars of heavy metal into a sound that has helped the group cross boundaries musically. In 1993 they were one of the first rap acts on the Lollapalooza (Alt. Rock music) tour, setting the tone for other rap artist to join the concert (which is now a 3 day music festival in Chicago's Grant Park).

The group is also known for their support of legalizing recreational marijuana use, which is a subject that appears in many of their songs and has made them icons in the counter cultural movement.

Since their initial debut the group has released 10 albums, selling 18 million copies worldwide, taken part in numerous movies, t.v. shows and has formed multiple super groups with various other artist of similar styles. They also have some of the coolest rap album covers of all time.

De La Soul New York

Maseo, Dave and Posdnous formed De La Soul while they were still in high school. They recorded a demo tape, and it wound up in the hands of influential hip hop producer, Prince Paul. They released their first album 3 Feet High and Rising, in 1989. It was well recieved by fans and critics as it was apart of the era in East Coast hip hop where rappers were experimenting with jazz samples and lyrics opposing violence and misogynism. The album featured the hit, and really the only song I like by them "Me, Myself and I" at least out of their singles.

They became known for their positive, witty and even exisistential lyricsm. Most of their rhymes were delivered in a poetic, spoken word style. The beats were mostly built around jazz samples and even 70's disco grooves.
They released their second album De La Soul is Dead, in 1991 which wasn't as well received but the lyrics were a bit more serious than on their first album and featured more rap appearances from the Native Tongues Posse (a collective of New York area rappers that have similar styles).

For me their 1996 effort the Stakes is High is their best album. It has a cohesiveness sound and features less obvious samples. The beats are updated and fresh, with most of the production being handled by the group themselves and then up and coming producer J.Dilla did the title track. The album featured a guest appearance from Chicago emcee Common and an unknown Mos Def raps on "Big Brother Beat". Alot of the verses are critical of black poverty in America and the direction hip hop music was going in at the time.

Their 5th album Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump was released in 2000. It recieved mixed reviews from critics and since it was their first release on a major label, hella money was spent on promotion and production. The album's alternative cover was designed by Japanese manga artist Santa Inoue. The video for the lead single "Ooh" which featured Redman on the song, was expensive yet creative especially for hip hop at the time.
The video is a hip hop version of Wizard of Oz and has rapper Rah Digga in the role of Dorothy, De La Soul as Tin Man, Lion & Scarecrow and Redman is the Wizard. Dave Chappelle is also in it as a doorman. It's pretty cool actually and was a huge hit on MTV. The next year they released a sequel to AOI and was planning a third album to fit the vibe but went a different direction on The Grind Date, which saw them return to the sound of the Stakes is High. It was the last album produced by J. Dilla, he passed away in 2006.

The group did an album in collaboration with Nike' +RUN promotion in 2009 and have been touring worldwide. They've also done collaborations with the band Gorillaz and have generated new fans through those various projects.


Gang Starr Boston, MA

Gang Starr was group originally created in Boston by rapper Keith Elam aka Guru in 1985. He used various dj's and producers to help craft albums for the group until in 1989 the group split up. Guru continued using Gang Starr and brought in Houston native DJ Premier as his new producer. The duo released No More Mr. Nice Guy in 1989. The album came out during a time when fellow East Coast rappers Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were experimenting with Jazz music samples and alternative lyrics to the gangsta rap that was on the rise at the time.

Guru rapped in a style similar to other East Coast emcees at the time with the boom boom bap steady on the beat flow. DJ Premier however was becoming well known for his unique triple samples over one beat and transforming scratching technique.

Then in 1991, the group crafted the seminal album Step Into the Arena. A classic for sure, the beats was smoothly layered with Jazz samples without the obvious mention of Jazz and Guru comfortably settled into his signature "monotone style". The album featured no commercially successful singles, but it is beloved by critics and fans of underground hip hop to this day.

Over the course of the next five years, Gang Starr began perfecting their style becoming more adept at mixing jazz samples, heavy beats and Guru began incorporating grittier New York style lyricsm. Daily Operation, their 1992 album, set the tone for the rest of their career together and for other East Coast emcees like Jeru the Damaja, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and Notorious B.I.G followed the style on their own projects.
Gang Starr began performing on late night talk shows and appearing on various soundtracks during their 90's run.

Gang Starr styled became so well crafted they just continued to improve every album and despite their popularity and hit singles like "Mass Appeal" and "DWYCK", the duo never rised above the "underground" and never became commercial superstars, selling out multi-platinum records. They just stay consistent.

2003 saw the duo release their last album. The Ownerz continued the same style from previous albums as well as recording a song, "Battle", for the 8 Mile soundtrack. The group continued to tour but disparities between Guru and DJ Premier caused them to split. Guru continued traveling around the world and working with different artist on projects and as well as charity work. Premier worked on other well known artist projects including Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics album in 2006.
Guru aka Keith Elam suffered a heart attack in 2010 after battling complications with myeloma disease. He died April 19, 2010.


BONE thugs-n-harmony Cleveland, OH

The sentiment behind Bone's inclusion starts back to growing up watching my older brother, his uncle Corey, and my friend's older brothers. They had that pure straight gangster neighborhood hustlers look and style that just felt familiar.

Bizzy, Layzie, Krayzie, Wish and Flesh-N-Bone started out as B.O.N.E Enterpri$e from Cleveland, OH. They put out their first album,Faces of Death, independently in 1993. They came with the rugged, violent lyricsm but rapid flow that's become a signature of Midwest rappers styles.
However a chance meeting with their idol Eazy E gave the group their big chance. They performed a verse from their song "Flow Motion" and Eazy was impressed with how fast and sing songy their style was. He signed them to Ruthless records (except Layzie's brother Flesh) and gave them the name Thugs-N-Harmony (they asked to keep BONE). They released their first EP for Ruthless, Creepin on ah Come up in 1994.

Publicity for the group started slow, as they were only popular with fans of gangsta rap, but their singles for "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and "Foe tha Love of $" gained them attention and the videos started to recieve heavy rotation. The group was starting to finally achieve success, but a sudden drastic turn changed their careers.

Eazy E died in 1995 due to AIDS complications and it hit the group hard emotionally. They went on to release their first full length album for Ruthless records in 1995, called E.1999 Eternal. The first single "1st of tha Month" was a huge hit on the radio and the video, which began incorporating BONE's love of the occult and mysticsm, was in constant rotation. "1st of tha Month" was less about causing violence and more about taking advantage of getting a welfare check, cashing it in and spending it on weed and partying.
Their second video "E.1999" delve more into the occult and mystic themes showing scenes of potions, ouija boards and each member rapping in suspended animation. It started fans to believe that the group were devil worshippers and that songs on their album featured hidden satanic messages.
However when they released their tribute single "Tha Crossroads", dedicated in memory to Eazy E and also various members of their own family, the song was met with positive reviews and was their first #1 single on the Billboard charts.
The video featured a man wearing a long coat, hat and sunglasses taking the souls of BONE's friends and family. He then led them all up a mountain top to reveal he was an angel. The clip was nominated for a MTV Music Video award and they perform the song at the award show. The song is a classic and is considered the group's signature song.

From that point, BONE's songs started to become more melodic and less violent. The occult lyrics were replaced with more spiritual and religious feelings. This helped them gain more acceptance in mainstream, as they appeared on other artist songs outside of rap music. Collaborations include Akon, Mariah Carey and Phil Collins.

They released two more mult-platinum selling albums and continued to do solo projects. Krayzie has been the most prominent releasing two top selling solo albums and was featured on Houston based rapper Chamillionaire's hit single "Ridin" in 2006. Layzie and Bizzy released two BONE brothers albums and Bizzy also released two albums. Bizzy has seen his fair share of trouble with the law in his career, but he has been an advocate for abused children as he was from an abusive home when he was a child.

The group still performs and records together, though not to the same success they once recieved in the late 90's. Krayzie and Wish have left the group to pursue solo projects but the group as a whole has had a long lasting impact on rap music. From the urban DIY low key style of their videos, to the psuedo-patois they used to rap with and the sing songy harmonizing now used by Drake, Nelly, and A$AP Rocky.

Talib Kweli Brooklyn, NY

"Truth Seeker", the proper translation of Talib Kweli Greene's name is not just a name but a motto for the Brooklyn born emcee. Raised around education as his mother is a professor, father a school administrator and even his younger brother has become a professor, Talib was instinctively drawn to the more afro-centric, intelligent raps of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and other Native Tongues Posse members.

He began participating in cyphers in high school, learning to improve his skills. He made his recorded debut on the song "Doom" by Cinncinatti rappers Mood (Donte, Main Flow) and it was in Cinncy he met producer Hi-Tek. The two formed the duo Reflection Eternal. After returning to New York, the duo perform on other underground NYC rappers songs and teamed up with label Rawkus to do tracks.

It was then he linked up with fellow Brooklynite Mos Def. They performed various tracks on other Rawkus records acts albums and decided to team up for an album on their own. They released Mos Def and Talib Kweli are BLACK STAR. It was released to critical acclaim but moderate sales. It was an album of trying to bridge the gap of gangsta rap and "Conscious" rap, also keeping old school hip hop alive. It's become the most definitve album in both rappers careers.

In 2000, both Mos and Talib went their seperate ways, not because of any rift but just to work on different projects. Talib recorded Train of Thought with Hi-Tek and it was met with positive reviews but moderate sales. For me, I was hooked. Finally a true sound in hip hop for my generation. I felt like the golden age of the late 80's/early 90's that I barely remember was back through guys like Talib, Mos Def, Pharoah Monche and Common.

Talib released his first solo album Quality in 2002. It featured production by Megahertz and newcommer Kanye West. West provided his signature soul samples and Kweli rapidly flowed over each track. It was the alternative to the commercial landscape of hip hop and once again a welcomed addition to the industry for me. Yet despite the hit single "Get By", produced by West, Quality still still had minimal sales.

Kweli's released three more solo albums The Beautiful Struggle in 2004 Eardrum in 2007, Gutter Rainbows in 2011 which was originally a digital release only. He also re-teamed with Hi-Tek for Revolution per Minute in 2010. He also continued to work with Kanye throughout the years on various projects as well a planned Black Star reunion.

What Kweli lacks in sales as an artist he makes up for in authenticity. He's one of hip hop's true warriors continuing to choose rap with substance over shooting for mainstream success. He probably came the closes to a commercial hit with the Eardrum album, but he prefers to work out of his own label and feature artist that are not so popular. He continues to do charity work and fight for causes he believes in. Talib remains hip hop in an era where it's almost non existent.

Method Man Staten Island, NY Redman Newark, NJ

No situation could work out as perfectly as this. Two rappers, whose known each other for years, with similar rap names, carving out successful rap careers on their own eventually collaborate and become one of the most popular tandems in all of hip hop.
That's what happened here with these two East Coast emcees.

Method Man, born Clifford Smith in Long Island, NY. He made his rap debut as a member of Staten Island collective the Wu-Tang Clan. He began to stand out in the group for his hybrid of raspy gritty yet humorous pop culture filled lyrics. Like just about every member of the Wu, Meth released his first solo album, Tical, in 1994. It was big hit particularly the single "I'll be there for you (You're all I need)" featuring Mary J. Blige. The song went platinum and also won a Grammy award in 1995.

Reggie Noble, aka Redman, aka Funk Doctor Spock, aka Muddy Waters began his career kicking cyphers in Newark, NJ. He started appearing on EPMD's record Business as Usual in 1990. He released his debut "Whut? thee album" in 1992 to universal acclaim and went on to be named by Source magazines rap artist of the year in 92.

He packed an unique reggae, East coast style. His voice stood out on tracks making him one of the more sampled emcees in the game. He similar to Method Man is known for his gritty, violent yet humorous lyrics. However Meth has a more laid back style, while Red started off more darker and as the two collaborated more together and with other artist, Funk Doc became more off the wall and slapstick.

Becoming two of Def Jam's top artist in the mid 90's, it was a perfect collaboration when the two hooked up for "How High" in 1995. A few more solo albums released between the two, they finally released an album together. Blackout! dropped in 1999 and sold 1.4 million copies becoming both artist most successful album to date. Ten years later they released a sequel "Blackout 2", which was well recieved but did not match album sells of the first one.

The success led to them starring in the stoner-comedy "How High" in 2001, and even a short lived tv show called "Meth & Red" on Fox in 2005. Red has had a little more action on the radio recently scoring a hit with his single "Let's get Dirty" in 2001, and was featured on Christina Aguilera's similar single "Dirrty" the next year. On the otherside Method Man has been honing his acting skills playing various comedy roles as well as dramatic features on television and the big screen.

Lupe Fiasco Chicago,IL

Growing up listening to hip hop, all my life I've enjoyed different artist from different places and ways of life. However it wasn't until 2004 when I first heard of Lupe Fiasco. His single "Titled" was a nice little club song, that was featured on Need for Speed Underground and NBA Live 2004. He did a radio interview on Power 96 and I found out that like me, this was a native of Chicago. He instantly had my interest.

A year later he released his first single for his debut album called "Kick,Push". The song is an ode to skateboard lovers trying to just find a place to be themselves. It was different, in an era where "gangsta" is the sure fire way to stardom, Lupe was trying to make it in the rap industry by being himself.

Wasulu Muhammad Jaco grew up with nine siblings on the West Side of Chicago in the Madison Terrace housing projects. He was influenced early by his father, who was a police officer. His father's interest ranged from gangster rap to karate as well following the Muslim faith. Lu didn't really share his father's love for Hip hop at first because he actually thought it was too vulgar.

A fan of jazz music, he eventually gravitated to hip hop with similar sounds to jazz. He became a fan of Queensbridge MC Nas, and began writing poems over beats from Nas' It was written album. In high school he met gang member Bishop G, and the two formed a relationship with G helping Lupe craft his raps. At first he formulated a style similar to what he grew up disliking, more akin to the West coast gangsta rap. It sounded catchy yet lacked anything unique or even believability.
(Look up: Da Pak-Armpits on YouTube)

His mother introduced Lupe to the spoken word group The Watts Prophets, it was around then he began crafting the style he is known for now. He took most of the profanity out of his lyrics and wanted to rap about social issues plaguing the rap industry. His remix of Kanye West "Diamonds are Forever" was insightful and clever with his wordplay and deliver with rapid lyrics. It caught Kanye and Def Jam label head at the time Jay-Z, so Kanye featured Lu on his own album Late Registration in 2005.

He signed to Atlantic records and released his first album Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, which was also released under his own label 1st & 15th records. The album was well recieved and his second album The Cool was released in 2007. It expanded Lupe's views on politics and the negative influence media has on the youth. The album was generally well recieved with Fiasco's more laid back songs on the album being the most criticized.

His 3rd album which originally was titled "LupE.N.D" then "The Great American Rap Album" had much controversy and difficulty being released. There was conflict between him and Atlantic when it came to the content of his next project. Apparently the label felt that Lupe needed to record and release more radio friendly singles to help attract more sales, feeling that he was going over audience heads with the political lyricsm in his previous albums. The record was being put on hold and frustration on Lupe began to grow, he contemplated retiring altogether. Fans began petitions and flooding Twitter showing support to Fiasco. In 2011 a protest was staged outside of Atlantic's office in New York. Lasers was finally released March 4 2011 and is his most successful album thus far, despite mixed criticsm.

And that's just it. Fiasco is entered at 23 on the list for being an emcee that spoke from the heart. He speaks from the heart with great intelligence and passion. He believes firmly in the cause, the fight for the common man. He could have gone the easy route rapping about commercial wealth and swore every other word disrespecting women and murdering his fellow man over catchy beats crafted by the most expensive producers in the game. But he didn't. He stayed true to himself and his fans followed.

He continues to try to change the image of Chicago rap music and involvements in local charities, he recently released his latest album Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor II (The Great American Rap Album pt. I). So I champion Wasulu for being the first rapper in my lifetime of listening to rap that I could relate to in any real way and hopefully he continues influencing more artist to follow in his footsteps.

Snoop Dogg Long Beach, CA

From the very first note of the sinister bass line on Dr. Dre first single "Deep Cover" we knew that this was a new era in gangsta rap upon us. "Creep with me as I roll through the hood/Maniac, lunatic, call 'em Snoop Eastwood" The introduction was perfect, and delivery classic. Calvin Broadus was no mere sidekick to the more well known West Coast legend Dr. Dre. He was the show.

Troubled, charismatic, eccletic and talented young Calvin, was the typical young black American male growing up in the 1980's. A student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School (classmates with actress Cameron Diaz and late singer Jenni Rivera). He would form freestyle cyphers with friends Warren G and cousin Nate Dogg calling themselves 213. Early on he was in and out of jail selling drugs and gang banging as a member of the Rollin'20 Crips gang.

However it was when Warren G, introduced the lanky 19 year old to his stepbrother Dr. Dre, legendary producer and formerly of the group NWA. Impressed with his freestyle ability and charm, Dre enlisted former NWA ally D.O.C to help Snoop with crafting his lyrics into full songs with a constant theme. Soon Snoop Doggy Dogg was featured on Dre's Deep Cover track.

The laid back usually high Snoop flossed all over tracks he featured with Dr. Dre, his natural charisma helped gain him popularity instantly. The anticipation for his first solo album continued to build. In 1993, Doggystyle was released to critical acclaim. The album was praised for Snoop's easy flowing yet thuggish style as well as Dr. Dre's signature West Coast bouncy G-Funk style. It was a commercial success and considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time. However it was always a target of controversy for Parents groups that pointed at the violent and overtly mysogenistic lyrics often performed by Snoop's cousins the group Tha Dogg Pound.

In 1994 however, life began imitating art for young Snoop Dogg. He was arrested in connection to the murder of a rival gang member. His bodyguard apparently shot the man down and Snoop was driving the getaway car. This proved to be significantly taxing on the rapper. Now he was facing murder chargers right as he was releasing his first album, there was no time to celebrate as he spent a year and a half in and out of court.

He created a short film and soundtrack called Murder was the case in 1994. The main single had Snoop dying and making a pact with the Devil. It showed an improvement in his storytelling ability as well as a bit of maturity. His next album DoggFather was released in 1996, shortly after he was aquitted of murder charges. He went on to collaborate with newly signed Death Row rap star Tupac Shakur for Shakur's 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted. However things still were dark for Snoop. Tupac was murdered in September of 1996, Dr. Dre left Death Row and the environment in Death Row records became much more dangerous and untrustworthy, even more so than before.

Snoop ended up signing with Southern rap label No Limit records. His work ethic increased even though his sound relapsed a bit. The Game is to be sold not to Be told, sold well but was not critically acclaimed. However his next album No Limit Top Dogg, saw the return of Dr. Dre to produce several tracks giving Snoop the laid back, chronic laced G-Funk style that made him popular. Still his flow lacked the speed and storytelling ability that D.O.C crafted for him in the beginning.

Nonetheless, Snoop left No Limit in 2000, but continues to release album after album and has gravitated to a more commercial sound. With production by Timbaland and the Neptunes, with whom he frequently collaborates with now, he's put out more fun bouncy party anthemic songs with an old school vibe often featuring Pharrell of the Neptunes or Charlie Wilson singing the hook. In fact while it was considered Snoop had lost a bit of the swagger that made him a star on tracks, he teamed with Pharrell and released the classic "Drop it Like it's Hot" in 2004.

Whether it's rapping or smoking pot, singing retro auto-tuned funk jams or being the reggae influenced Bob Marley re-incarnated Snoop Lion, there's no denying Snoop's legendariness. He exudes cool, and charm that many rappers have to pretend, it just comes natural to the Doggfather. He doesn't spit with the same fluidness as he did on Doggystyle, but he still has a smooth eloquent style, signature voice and groovy beats that will keep him relevant for a long time.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth Mount Vernon, NY

One of my favorite Rap duos of all time, Pete Rock & CL Smooth's style and approach to hip hop may have been the last true effort at performing the genre with substance.
Making their debut in 1992 with their first full length album, The Mecca and the Soul Brother, the group were the last to truly embrace the jazz samples and ecclectic lyricsm that was pioneered by the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr in the late 80's/early 90's.
Mecca and the Soul Brother is a classic hip hop album. It features the lead single "T.R.O.Y (They Reminisce Over You)" a song dedicated to a friend that passed Trouble T-Roy. T-Roy was a member of Heavy D & The Boys and in turn Heavy D is Pete Rock's cousin. The song is instantly recognizable and has been sampled by other rappers since it's inception.

Though the album was well recieved and critically acclaimed, it did not the achieve the mainstream success that "gangsta rap" had at the time. The duo went on to record songs for soundtracks to the films Who's the Man? and Poetic Justice. They released their second full album in 1994, called the Main Ingredient. This album was much more lush as Pete Rock's production was very complete and on par with some of the most well known producers in other genres. It still featured heavy samples, but the horns were leveled out much better, offering pure headphone quality sounds. CL smooth also grew as an emcee rapping in a more themeatic sequence and lyrics more about love and progression. Once again the album critically acclaimed, but released around the same time the more popular Notorious B.I.G and Method Man released their debut albums.

Unfortunately after the two were featured in a well recieved Sprite commercial, where they were trading off rhymes in a studio, they broke up afterwards. They apparently had creative differences going forth. While Pete Rock has had steady work, producing and DJing since then and even released a solo album in 1998 and 7 more since then. CL Smooth has made sparing appearances on tracks over the years, including DJ Jazzy Jeff's album in 2008 and few Pete Rock's songs as well.

Man, listening to these guys you get the true essence of hip hop and what it's supposed to look and sound like. Lyrics are intelligent yet can make people move, the beats are smooth and heavy with thick layers of sounds forcing you to bob your neck. They looked like two young cats that was just into their art form, no chains, no tattoos, no gimmicks. Just an MC and a DJ. There have been rumors of a new album by the duo but it hasn't come to fruition yet. It's definitely going to be welcomed by true hip hop fans whenever they decide to release one.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Nation gear for the new year.

It's that time again Nation, sorry I took so long. Now I'm back and reloaded.

Got new snap backs. New logos new colors.

Each cap is $28 (that includes shipping & handling). I can deliver them to you anywhere in the continintel United States (excludes Hawaii & Alaska).
To order just email me at jess.nelsonjr@yahoo.com anytime during the week.
#Nation: Black/Blue; Grey/Blue; Black; Black/Red
#NellzNation logo (star Double N's): Black/Red; Black/Blue; Black/Purple; Teal/Black

* the hats will not have the new era logo on them.

N-Normal is never acceptable

A-Always keep a cool head

T-Take nothing from no one.

I-Innerpeace is a constant struggle, so keep fighting

O-Oppose injustices and social irresponsibility

N-Never come whack