For The Born-In-The-’90s N—-: Decoding Nas’ “Life Is Good” Album

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nas-life-is-good-decoded-1There are a fair amount of listeners that heard Nas’ album Life Is Good but have no clue who some of the people and things he referenced on the album even are. By the same token, there are some places Nas referenced that the younger audience is completely unaware of.

So for the born in the 90’s contingency, TheUrbanDaily breaks down 12 people, places and things Nas referenced on Life Is Good so you understand why the album resonated so much with the old heads. Let’s get to it…

It’s foul what this money could do, cash corrupts the loyal/I hung with E-Money too, the f*ckin truth!
F*ckin with Stretch from Live Squad
I could’ve DIED the same night that Stretch died
I just got out of his ride
He dropped me off and drove to Springfield
November 30th, another Queens king killed, it f*cked me up, y’all!” – Nas, “Queens Story”

E Money Bags is referenced on “A Queens Story”, he was a Queens emcee with ties to Mobb Deep and Live Squad. He had a feud with Jay-Z & Roc-A-Fella Records and he also ran a record label called Grand Imperial with Majesty of Live Squad. E Money Bags was murdered in Queens in 2001, Queens drug kingpin Kenneth “Supreme” Griffin was charged with ordering his murder in retaliation for E Money Bags killing a Supreme Team member a few years previous.

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On “A Queens Story” Nas also references Stretch from Live Squad. Stretch was also an associate of Tupac Shakur’s and appeared on several tracks with him (as did E Money Bags). Live Squad consisted of Stretch, his brother Majesty (mentioned above) and their DJ K-Low. Live Squad was signed to Tommy Boy Records and released the singles “Murderahh”/”Heartless” and “Game Of Survival”/”Pump For A Livin’.”

At one point in time, both Ice T & Live Squad were pioneers in making videos for their tracks that served as mini movies as evidenced by the ultra rare Live Squad “Game Of Survival” film on VHS. Unfortunately, Stretch would eventually fall out with 2Pac. Stretch was gunned down on November 30th, 1995, the one-year anniversary of Tupac Shakur getting shot during the Jimmy “Henchman” Rosemond ordered robbery of Quad Studios.

“…On 118, my n*gga Ben fly by like it’s a dream
His face on his Shirt Kings
Laced in a pinky ring, in his black Benz murkin
Back when Black Rock & Ron was on the map…”

Shirt Kings is also name dropped on “A Queens Story.” Shirt Kings were a collection of artists that made custom gear and hand made airbrushed t shirts and sweaters to order for customers. They were made popular by rappers and entertainers that frequented their storefront in Colosseum Mall located in Jamaica Queens during the late 80’s. They were unsung pioneers in the Hip-Hop clothing business.

Black, Rock & Ron earned a mention from Olu’s son as well. Black, Rock & Ron were another trio of emcees from Hollis, Queens that never reached the level of acclaim that Run DMC did (though some believe they may have written a few rhymes for them) but were widely respected in Hip-Hop circles. They had ties to Jazzy Jay, Paul C, Skeff Anslem and released their only album “Stop The World” back in 1989. They made classics such as “That’s How I’m Livin’” and “You Can’t Do Me None.”

DJ Hot Day is a Queensbridge legend shouted out at the beginning of “Reach Out.” He made records with the first incarnation of the Juice Crew (Super Kids) and the song Mary J. Blige sang on is actually a remake of the 1987 classic “Hot Day Master Mix.” DJ Hot Day was also half of the group PHD with MC Poet (AKA Blaq Poet of Screwball). Their 1991 Tuff City LP Without Warning featured a young emcee named MC Cor (Cormega) on the track “Set It Off.”

“When my British Knights can rival your foamposites/ Don’t make me pull my ‘Lottos out the closet Ha Ha!” –“Reach Out”

On “Reach Out,”  Nas also mentioned British Knights. British Knights were a sneaker that old school sneaker heads who craved unique kicks would cop. They appealed to a niche market before they signed MC Hammer to an endorsement deal in 1990 which all but killed their credibility and appeal amongst sneaker heads (Kool Moe Dee endorsed them in the years previous). The next year, British Knights signed Derrick Coleman of the New Jersey Nets and Xavier McDaniel of the New York Knicks after introducing their BK Dymacel shoe technology. The shoe failed to make an impact on the market.

Lotto’s were another brand of sneaker Nas shouted out on “Reach Out.”  In the late 80’s, this Italian sneaker had a removable velcro patch that back in the days came with multiple Lotto logo patches that you could swap out to match the rest of your gear. During the mid to late 80’s, New York proto-hypebeasts would cop these, the Italian made Diadora or the Czech Bata sneakers.

Yo! I used to listen to that Red Alert and Rap Attack
I fell in love with all that poetry I mastered that
Cuttin school where ‘Preme Team and Fat Cat was at...”  -“The Don”

On “The Don” shouted out the Rap Attack Show. The Rap Attack Show was a Hip-Hop radio show that featured Mr. Magic and Queensbridge’s own DJ Marley Marl. It used to air on WBLS in New York and the tapes made from this show whole circulate all throughout the NYC tri state area and beyond. The Juice Crew’s rise can be widely attributed to their songs getting considerable burn on the Rap Attack Show. No doubt a young Nasir Jones was tuned in to hear Mr. Magic and Marley Marl on Saturday night. RIP Mr. Magic.

On “The Don”, Nas invoked the name of Queens’ Supreme Team. Supreme Team was an early to late 80‘s drug gang headed by the infamous Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff centralized in the Baisley Park Houses located in South Jamaica, Queens. They operated from the early 80’s up until the early 90’s and they ran a fair amount of the drug trade in New York, most notably in Queens and Harlem.

Howard “Pappy” Mason was also mentioned in Nas’ “The World Is Yours” on his debut album “Illmatic”. Mason was the partner of Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols who was an associate of the Supreme Team in Queens. He reportedly ordered a hit on a policeman while he was already incarcerated on a gun charge. He was investigated and later charged and convicted with the officer’s murder. In 1994, while he was already serving a seven-year sentence for his previous gun charge, he received a life sentence.

Fellates me, who hate me? My gun off safety/Since the Tunnel and Skate Key, my jewelry in HD” — “Nasty”

On “Nasty”, Nas mentioned the Peter Gatien owned club The Tunnel. The Tunnel had a Hip-Hop party thrown on Sunday nights called “Mecca” beginning in 1993 that was the brainchild of manager/promoter Jessica Rosenblum. Between 1994 and 2000, both Funkmaster Flex and Cipha Sounds broke a ton of records there and it became the Gold standard by which all modern Hip-Hop club experiences are judged. Rudy Giuliani succeeded in shutting down The Tunnel in 2001. You 90’s babies missed out.

God’s Son also mentioned Skate Key (watch video above) in his bars on “Nasty.” Skate Key Skate was a skating rink that was located in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. It became a Hip-Hop club at night and an invaluable venue that showcased many emcees, DJ’s and B-Boys all throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Skate Key was also infamous for high incidents of violence. Skate Key was finally shut down in 2006 due to repeated public nuisance reports and multiple quality of life issues related to noise, underage drinking and incidents of violence.

Get more original interviews and videos on TheUrbanDaily.com:

Dave “The Dopefiend” Carter On The Killing Of 17-Year-Old Ty Jackson [FICTION]

Reek Da Villain Says Nas’ “I Am” Was Most Influential Album

MY FAVORITE ALBUM: Honors English Gets “Illmatic” [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

Dart Adams is a Bostonian/Information Broker/Independent A&R/Blogger/Writer @ Bastard Swordsman/Producers I Know. Host of On The Radio & The Cypher on Skyyhook Radio. Follow him on Twitter @Dart_Adams and read his work at http://bastardswordsman.tumblr.com/

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