Nas

A Few Thoughts on Nas, dream hampton, Ghost Writing & Hip Hop Losing Integrity

The controversy around writer dream hampton (she spells her name in lower case) sending out a tweet where she asserted rappers Stic.man of dead prez and Jay Electronica were ‘ghost writers‘ for Nas is interesting on several levels. First, a lot of folks saw the tweet or heard about it and immediately jumped up to defend the Queensbridge emcee claiming that him having a ghostwriter is an assault to the ‘integrity of Hip Hop’ and that dream is somehow a bad journalist who should be tossed under a bus. I’ll let folks marinate on that for moment..

For those who aren’t up on what happened, here’s the tweet that dream sent out a few days ago…People went ape shyt over this..

“I think Jay writes what he believes. Nas’ “Nigger” album was largely written by Stic of dead prez and Jay Electronica @JusAire…”@dreamhampton

I found the angry reaction curious because what Dream tweeted wasn’t uncommon knowledge. Back when Nas was working on the Untitled album, there was lots of banter, speculation and hope that because he was working with dead prez, they might pen some tracks for him..Many felt such a move would give Nas sharper and harder hitting political content in his songs.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that when you consider over the years we’ve seen percussionist Duke Bootee do this for Grandmaster Flash & Mele-Mel with the landmark song The Message. We recently saw  Bay Area rapper Paris do this for Chuck D of Public Enemy on the album  ‘Rebirth of a Nation‘. No one would ever deny Chuck or Mel’s writing abilities or political prowess…In the case of Nas and Sticman, whether what resulted was co-writing, producing where hooks, ideas and a few bars were provided, scoring of tracks to model for Nas or ghostwriting in the technical sense where full songs were penned minus public credit, none of that seemed shocking, out of the ordinary or a bad thing. There’s a long tradition from  Billy Holiday’s Strange Fruit penned by Abel Meeropol to Stevie Wonder penning songs for Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & even Michael Jackson to Ice Cube and DOC penning songs for Eazy E and NWA to Prince penning songs for everyone from Chaka Khan to Sheila E to Rhymefest penning Jesus Walks for Kanye West.. Hip Hop and music in general has not lost its integrity because of it.

Over the years, I been in enough recording sessions with artists big and small to see first hand how the process plays out..People share ideas, verses get traded, shifted around, reassigned, some are written and then rewritten, some are imposed etc.. How things get publicly credited and monies divided up in the end is one aspect..but for the most part, the end game has been to put out the absolute best product. The bottom line is no matter what folks like to believe, not everything recorded is written by the one spitting verses. That applies to folks who some might consider the very best and it applies to some who are relatively unknown.

We see similar process in beat production. Not everyone who is deemed ‘the producer‘ works the drum machine and craft the melodies. By now its common knowledge that revered producer Dr Dre is not in the studio coming up with every single drum track, it doesn’t mean he’s not capable nor would anyone deny is skill as a producer?

On a side note, we also know that over the years everyone from Eminem to Jay-Z have penned raps for Dre.. Have we stopped liking him because it or do we give him dap for doing great records and using the best talent around him..

When you’re making records and you have money invested, in particular major label money, it becomes a team effort. It’s very collaborative where lots of folks have a hand in it. I don’t think the recording process as I’ve seen/ experienced takes away from the writing prowess of an artist, especially someone of the stature of Nas. If anything, one getting co-writers etc is a smart move especially if you’re trying to bring fresh perspectives or push boundaries musically or subject wise.

With all that being said, at the end of the day both Jay Electronica and Stic.man have denied ghostwriting for Nas and unless we were there in the studio with them, we’ll have to take their word for it… Sticman has been particularly humble in terms of expressing his long time admiration for Nas and further explains their recording process in a recent Vibe Magazine interview.

From where I sit, I think folks instead of getting upset at the possibility that they ghostwrote for Nas, they should’ve seen such a move as monumental.  Stic and Jay working with Nas, that’s a powerful team. People are acting like these guys are some Johnny-come-lately slouches or some no-name rookies to scoff at..They are not.. They are top shelf artists. If someone like Stic is penning songs, whether it’s for Nas or the guy down the street, its worth a listen especially if it’s on the political tip. Very few do it better.

With respect to dream hampton sending out a tweet which was directed to someone whether right or wrong is not an indictment on journalism-its a tweet. Yes it came from popular person who is a journalist, but a quick look at Dream’s twitter time line, will quickly reveal everything she tweets is not a news story. Far from it.. She shares many opinions, debates folks,  shares speculations and gets snarky at times.. Who hasn’t on twitter? It’s barbershop/ beauty shop talk..Media types should not be mining twitter for news stories unless they tend to do due diligence, put things in context and journalistically follow-up.

Dream’s penning of Jay-Z‘s Decoded, her brilliant columns and insightful articles over the past 15 years covering everything from rape to Too Short and sexism to her film on Black August all go out the window over a tweet?? Really?

If folks are really concerned about the Hip Hop journalism and faulty information being passed along to the masses, before going at dream hampton how about we go after those multi-million dollar corporate radio giants that run commercial sponsored gossip/ entertainment reports on the daily. Seems like I’ve heard more foul stuff said about Nas and his failed marriage to singer Kelis and his child support payments on those outlets then I ever seen Dream tweet or write. How many of those stories were accurate?  Was Nas really a dead beat dad? How many ran to the bank on those stories without checking to see if it was true or not?  Was Hip Hop’s integrity destroyed over those claims or only when it was asserted that Nas may have had some stellar artists pen songs for him?

The harsh and sometimes threatening response to dream was over the top and to be quite honest, cowardly. Was this really because she suggested Nas had ghost writers or because she was a woman? I didn’t see a whole lot of folks getting froggy a few years back when Suge Knight made unsavory remarks about Nas appearing on the song Thug Mansion on 2Pac’s album.. Where was all the ‘you’re a bitch’ and ‘you’re groupie’ rhetoric then?  Are we silent when it folks making remarks who are not afraid to talk greasy and mix it up physically with those who are opposed?

Seems like it was just a few short weeks ago when many were coming down on Nas for defending actress Gwyneth Paltrow and giving her a pass tweeting the N word.. Quite a few folks went in on Nas after he claimed Paltrow was a ‘real nigger’, some accused him of falling off and selling out. Some said they’d never listen to a Nas album again..Where was all the tough talk in response to those critiques? This is not to say that folks can’t get at dream hampton and express disappointment or disagreement over her remarks..She is not above criticism. I’m simply suggesting that all of us can come at things a different way.. We can be passionate without threatening, vicious and over-the-top demeaning on the misogynist tip.

For those who feel passionate about Nas and feel he needs to get more shine, here’s something to consider..I checked the recent issues of Billboard, their August 25th Rap Charts and their August 25th Top 50 R&B/ Hip Hop Charts, and you know what was missing?  A song from Nas. The man just put out a brilliant album and thus far it seems to be shunned for a whole lot of mediocre stuff..

Outside of Hot 97 in New York and a handful of station here there, most stations according to their playlist ain’t rocking Nas at all..Many feel Nas is a stellar lyricist who helps raise consciousness, so how is that Nas is news worthy enough to be gossiped about when his marriage fails and he’s deemed a dead beat dad, but now worthy enough to be played on some of those same outlets? That’s where people’s anger should be directed..

Let’s not make excuses for these public airwaves to not have songs like Nas’ Daughters being heard 8-10 times a day. We should be angry that young impressionable minds that tune in, are not being exposed to a song that gives encouragement for men to step up and be present for their kids. Why can’t these outlets show any love for the incredible joint he recently did with Knaan called ‘Nothing to Lose? Was there no songs off the dope album ‘Good Life’ to expose to the masses?

If folks are gonna ride for Nas, ride for him on some real impactful stuff..Like I said earlier, sure folks can call out dream for being wrong, but how about calling those folks out who really influence and shape minds? If we concerned about the integrity of Hip Hop, get mad and shut those outlets down.. Call those owners and program directors who talk to millions of people at every given moment to do right by Hip Hop if that’s really the issue..Lets’ push to make sure Nas is performing at the next Grammy or BET Award vs someone who has a fraction of his talent.. There’s simply no comparison between dream hampton’s tweet and the powerful forces at work day in and day out systematically undermine Nas and Hip Hop. Let’s get mad at that..

Something to Ponder..

Davey D

  • Justsayin’

    About halfway through I noticed that you pointed out that she wrote Jay-Z’s decoded. Not considering anything to be a coincidence, her putting out a tweet like that, now looks like a hate move. Obviously she is backing the person who she was writing for who just so happened to get Ether’ed by Nas. Hmmmm. Something to think about.

    • redviagra

      sauce money is Jay Z’s biggest ghost writer. So if we break stories on that, it will even the score in saying NY’s finest are a bunch of Fraud MC’s.

      • Frank Lucus

        Where you get that from? Sauce Money is garbage..

      • Ike smith

        Naw your wrong sauce money is lyrics just not the look son got lyrics just not the look

  • hoeyuno

    It is kinda wack that a seasoned vet like nas would have someone ghostwrite for him. l mean dre is no mc and has had people writing his shit since nwa.

    • Fresh87

      They both said they wasn’t “ghost writers”.

    • johnblacksad

      Nas doesn’t have no ghosts write for him… that’s one of the reasons why he is a seasoned vet

      • hoeyuno

        Yea I must of skimmed this one.

  • artofcip.com

    Why is it when a songwriter’s work is performed by singers – it is praised? Yet when a rapper recognizes someone with a gift, hires them to write a song and performs it, it gets trashed? Seriously folks, did Michael Jackson write all of his own songs? Nope. Does Kanye West make all of his own beats and writes all of his own lyrics? Nope. Did Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, or Dave Chappelle write all of their own jokes? Nope.
    These bruthahs in hip hop should be applauded for bringing creative diversity into their camps – not criticized. They are given very creative people jobs and furthering hip hop at the same time – the same as in Jazz, rock n roll, and R&B… And they arent even having this silly ass discussion – they are too busy making music…

    • Hip Hop ain’t singing.It comes from such a personal place that on some true MC shit having a ghostwriter is wack.We don’t respect that in hip hop but, I know it happens.I have no doubt nas is one of the best ever still

    • sinistaprince

      This iz hip hop!!! whats wrong with you?

  • PowerBorn

    Davey, I appreciate your assessment of the “dream hampton vs Nas fans”, I use quotes purely considering that such a situation exists. I personally do not subscribe to it and consider myself a fan of Nas’ music. I would like to make at least one criticism in my opinion to your assessment. I dont think that any of the artists that you mentioned from Marvin Gaye to Eazy-E to Chaka Khan or Sheila E. carry the same weight as lyricists and within the context of this argument, writers as Nas does to hip-hop. Sure, Marvin Gaye was a hell of an artist, but we know the Motown machine was infused with writers who penned songs for everyone from The Temptations to The Supremes. And, although Kanye West is a hip-hop juggernaut today, at the time of Jesus Walks he could arguably be considered the 3rd wheel on a team at Rocafella which included Jay-Z, members of State Property, and The Diplomats. But, even you shouldnt be surprised at the backlash against dream hampton, considering that Nas is arguably the greatest rapper/lyricist of all time with 20+ years in the game in a genre of music where your “word” is everything, at least amongst “the elitist hip-hop enthusiasts”. Now, I am not anti-dream hampton by any stretch of the imagination. But, I think she deserves everything she got. Not because the people who are perhaps going overboard in cowardly criticism are right. But, because what should we expect in a social media driven society? Isnt the best news on Twiiter and FB? Hell, I had to use my Twitter account to log in to All Hip Hop to make this comment. BTW, my Twitter is @powerborn, follow me. Back to the point. I read Decoded and admire dream’s work and I would love the idea of Nas working with stic.man and Jay to sharpen is socio-political expression. I dont know the context in which dream decided to post the Tweet. Was it in regards to discussing another idea? Was it planned sensationalism? I dont know. But, again to think that you can randomly Tweet that Nas’ album was “largely written” by stic.man and Jay so matter of factly without any consequences is naive, if not absurd.

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  • It’s obvious that the person who wrote this is trying to come to her rescue! When Suge said what he said about NaS being on Thug Mansion, people called him sour and a hater… my self included. The internet has evolved or devolved depending on who you ask since that time. Every year people get more vocal on the internet… Had Suge said that about NaS this year the public would have crucified him on every comment section, on every website. To even suggest that people are scared of Suge Night through the internet and wouldn’t say anything negative about him like he’s going to come do something is a joke! That tweet came out of left field. Why talk about it/bring it up right when NaS drops an album? The Untitled album came out in 2008. 4 years have passed. Don’t tell me that she conveniently happen to find out about this right when he’s dropping/dropped a new album that can potentially re-change the direction of the game again. Let me guess, she felt it was her duty to tell on him? FOH! She knew what she was trying to do, and that was to TRY and sabotage his latest albums success and tarnish his legacy at the same time!

  • redviagra

    The sad thing is those two ghost writers are from the south, a region not know for “super lyrical conscious music with soul and jazz beats”. Nas was the best from NY before this new truth was unveiled. Its kind of like Milli Vanilli being exposed? I think the lesson learned from this is if you want to be a super lyrical state proclaimed “God MC”, just get help and you can do it!

    • Fresh87

      Where’s the proof that their “ghost writers”? They both said they wasn’t.I swear,you people like to believe everything else but the truth.

    • $11625525

      Well, first of all, your comment makes you sound ignorant… Nas is not a beat maker so, if someone were writing for him what does beat making have to do with that? You say the South is not known for super lyrical conscious music? Well I would have to disagree with you there, I suggest you go do your homework.

      Lastly, it ain’t where you’re from it’s where ya at! (mentally)

      • Cmon son stop.I live in ATL.You can count on your hands who’s lyrical in the south.Face,Tip,Luda,Killa,Kast,Goodie,BOB,Krit,Cole. For the most pt the rest are far from lyrical.

  • DuckDollaz

    It’s funny how the media can exploit individuals, but when the tables are turned its a problem. If you don’t want to be in the line of fire, don’t put yourself in it. She deserved what she got what she deserved, whether male or female. If you are in the media and give thoughts and opinions on others, your fair games. It goes back to what you said, if you were not there, where’s the proof.

  • Muccie

    Are we just gonna pretend that we don’t know the context in which she tweeted this?
    Someone asked her if Jay Z (whom she was defending after being criticised for not speaking out on issues that impact black people) had the balls to make an album like Nas’ untitled album. Her response was that all she knows is that Jay Z writes what he thinks, Nas’ album was largely written by two other people.
    I have a problem with this on two fronts.
    Firstly, although dream hampton was not speaking in her capacity as a journalist, she has so many people’s ear that she should be careful what she says on twitter. There is definitely a line that must be drawn and a lot of people legitimately feel like she crossed it by making such unsubstantiated claims.
    Secvondly, to claim that the authorship of an album is a none issue is BS. You could argue that it shouldn’t, but it is. That’s the reality. And don’t think the public are stupid enough to think that every utterance that Nas has made into a mic is straight from his dome. We know making songs is a process and many people have input.
    The problem is when dream hampton dropped that “bomnbshell” she was insinuating that Nas is a fraud. She was trying to negate the point that was made about Nas’ bravery as an artist. If the writter wasn’t an issue to her, why did she even need to mention it? Because the essence of what happened is that Nas put out an album in his capacity, even if it was “largely written” by others. That was what had currency in that little debate, not who wrote what.
    To counter this dream decided to throw dirt at Nas. His fans then reacted angrily. That’s how it goes. She was Stanning for Hov, they are Stanning for Nas.
    Now of course, some people went overboard with how they expressed their disagreement and anger. But that’s not unique to this issue. It’s a problem in social media generally. You get idiots and kids who don’t know what they’re saying. That’s just plain stupid/wrong. But it doesn’t mean dream hampton is some kind of innocent victim. She is clearly the agressor here. She flung mud at a man who is revered and loved. The hip hop media still can’t get thier heads around why Nas gets so much love despite being shunned by them. It’s because he’s a giant in this thing.

    • sinistaprince

      Well said bro!

    • qweci

      ….preach…

    • johnblacksad

      again… like i said befo’ : FCUK A DREAM HAMPTON…. CAPS!

    • Lord Saltsworth McGinty III

      Real talk. No other posts are needed.

    • wizefire

      real talk

    • GuestwithacapG

      Pretty much what I took from it too. She was diminishing NAS to enhance Jay Z. Jay writes what he feels but he bites what he feels also.

    • Mucci, I definitely appreciate you giving some perspective as to what caused dream hampton to make the comments she did. Based on your assessment, this was clearly a neo-journalistic attempt to discredit Nas. SMH, I usually try and stay clear of the bullshit.

    • Sparky Flinstone

      REAL TALK MUCCCIE!

  • mrgibson

    She is a journalist, and journalists are known for “throwing things out there” to get attention or to highlight their space so they can get stories out there. Some of the backlash she got was over the top, but I don’t know what she expected to happen. If you’re not going to prove something like that after you come out and brazenly say it, then you are a fool. As another poster said, that album came out four years ago. If she wanted to make that kind of statement, the time would have been then (while the anti-Fox spotlight was on him). She’s not fooling anyone with that slick stuff she threw in there to stir the social pot. I feel that this article is misguided, if she wants to defend herself then let HER do it. She’s grown, and if she wants to put stuff out there she should be ready to defend herself.

  • MiiUziWeighsATon

    Imagine KRS ONE with a ghostwriter…or Canibus…u can’t cuz these mutherfukkaz embody MCing…Nas embodies MCing…look at the niggaz who get on stage and rip a show down solo…no hype man…no lipsyncing…just the instrumental and his voice, line for line, song after song…then look at the nigga who got ten hype men…the track cued with his vocals over the track, doing a sing a long cuz he has no breath control (as KRS puts it)…dream is a journalist…go rdport some news or go write a book

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  • no. using ghostwriters are lame!!!!! no if ands or buts about it. everyone knows dre does it and when u listen to dre its like meh… its all about who else is on the song. legit MCs get no passes for having ghostwritters. its fugazi. we want the thoughts that are inside the artists head not everyone elses head. whats the point then. smfh. NO PASSES!!!!

  • DonaldBang

    First and foremost, no matter what a person likes music wise, any MC who has others write rhymes for them is not hiphop or an MC. They are just a rapper rapping. That means Dr Dre, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Puffy, Biz Markie, Fat Joe, Will Smith or anyone else who has, or has had the whispers about ghostwriting hovering behind their name. It should be enforced/viewed evenly across the board. The media picks and chooses who they want to “give a pass to” and who they don’t. A lot of fans/media turn the other way if they like the songs or the artists, but it is the TRUTH. Hiphop is an art form of self expression. If what you are spitting/rapping is not your own thoughts, it cannot be self expression. Which means at that point, it is no longer pure hiphop. No matter how much or how little it sells.

    The second thing is, whenever someone makes the claim of “writing for someone” to the media, they NEVER get into specifics. Did you write verses? Complete songs? Just a bridge or chorus? Sometimes that person can come in and write 4 hooks/chorus on four different songs. Didn’t write any verses, but because people see “writing” they automatically think the verses. That is the person’s fault for not being specific on what they wrote or contributed.

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  • johnblacksad

    YO Yo yo…. what’s with the long paragraphs ya’ll?!
    Keep it simple : fcuk a dream hampton.

  • immackulate

    i believe they BOUNCED ideas, contributed with a line or two, pointed out a certain direction thus being apart of the creative process BUT Nasir wrote the complete majority of his raps – KANYE did a lot of Jay’s hooks mostly for the songs he produced ie: LUCIFER – and who didnt see the BLACK ALBUM or w/e the phuck that movie was called when Kanye was in the studio reciting the hook for Jay to repeat word for word
    “im from the murder capital – where they murder for capital”
    Chi-Town has had one of the highest murder rates in the last decades – while the ROTTEN APPLE not so much – er’body know Juliani cleaned the city up – and im not saying that to argue who has the toughest city cuz you could lose your life in Farmtown, IA – im stating that to prove my point – at the end of the day – it takes a TEAM of ideas and a creative process to churn out a hit record/album
    NAS aint Vanilla Ice by any means – but to believe that he didnt have slight help w/ a bar, hook, or sing direction would be foolish –

  • Bug

    Okay I don’t have much more to add because the commentators before me have expressed a great deal of criticism that I believe in regarding this issue and this article. I would like to ask this question : why have the singer/song writer relationship been brought into this issue? Marvin Gaye from what I’ve read was a helluva songwriter and a great singer. A singer’s true gift is their voice. If they can write songs, that’s a plus. An Mc’s true gift is their ability to write rhymes. If I was an A&R and a person walked up to me wanting me to listen to their demo or hear them recite someone else’s rhymes, I would say go get the person that wrote the rhymes. Remember Milli Vanilli (or however it was spelled)? They were frauds because they weren’t actually singing!!!!! Who gave a damn whether they wrote the songs or not. Whitney Houston didn’t write “I will always love you.” Following me here??? If I find out that Krs-One, Rass Kass, Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane, Talib Kweli, etc. are guilty of having someone else write entire songs for them to recite, those sh*ts go out with tonight’s trash. Now I understand an Mcs collaborating on ideas. If Stic says he had a title and came up with the hook and Nas wrote the rhymes, that doesn’t bother me at all. How would Nas have written “One Mic” without being a history buff or keeping up with current events??? While I don’t have anything bad to say about Dream Hampton, I have not always been impressed with her articles. I do believe in the future she should practice restraint regarding what information she chooses to tweet or write about. And if it’s the whole truth, I’m all for it.

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  • hahahahahaha Nas with a ghost writer hahahahahaha how could 1 possibly ghost write for the best MC that ever lived??? that would be like Muhammad Ali askin somebody to fight for him. Michael Jordan askin somebody to score for him. Babe Ruth askin somebody to hit for him. God askin somebody to watch over things for him.

  • SDK

    YEAH,YOU ETHER

  • oluwaseun ezekiel omisore

    hello,davey,in reaction to your comment on hiphop journalism;nas being a stellar lyricist and not getting spins on radiostations for conscious stuff ,rappers like nas(all rappers and musicians in general)need to have niche or general associations or unions as registered legal entities to buy radio segments to promote their their type of music instead of expecting profit driven corporate entities radio to play them for free;it’s a capitalist game,what does anyone expect?

  • HipHopStalker

    This is bullshit. Nas comes up with a brilliant album and rumors spread about him having a ghost writer lol It’s almost like an incredible athelete and how we can’t give them there props they have to be on roids right ? I know for a fact alot of rappers have writers and some may have another rapper in the studio with them to give them a few ideas for a hook and they get writig credit for it so we think that person must have wrote the whole song. Sometimes hip hop joirnalist’s and bloggers try to hard and don’t know when to stop this he said she said bullshit.

  • Jim Beam

    Ridiculous. Nas invented most of the stuff rappers have been doing for the last 20 years. Why would he need an average rapper with like 2 good songs to write for him ? It defies reason.

  • Bob

    Jesus, I’ve always disliked Davey D. Now that dislike has crystallized in to disgust. Way to stoke the fire-less flames.

  • SAD_FACED_CLOWN

    I am friends with Je’ri Allah AKA Jay Electronica since highschool, he has vehemently denied writting any of Nas’ songs…being in the studio and making a suggestion on the delivery of a bar or two does not constitute “ghost writting”….

  • Sparky Flinstone

    YO DAVEY D I LIKE U HOMIE BUT THIS ARTICLE IS SOME WACK SUCKING UP BULLISH!!! First of all as Muccie said she wrote a book for Jigga-Boo so therefore we already see where her bread is buttered — Nas don’t need no wack ass Stic Man from Dead Prez or Jay Electronica who is an underground rapper to write no albums for him… U sound foolish saying that. Every artist shares ideas, exchanges some verses but that is very different than somebody Ghostwriting songs an albums GTFOH wit this BS article Davey D

  • shawhill

    omg another jay z stan throwing dirt at the king cmon get over ether already. as soon as i saw the pic i knew this was the workings of a hater. sheen been riding jay

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  • HalfPast7

    A few things Davey D, this dream chick might not have the power that record execs do at shaping young minds but Twitter gives her an incredibly large enough audience that she is, in fact, shaping young minds, believe it or not. So by putting out there that the greatest rapper ever, in my opinion, used stic.man and Jay Elec as ghostwriters, whether true or not, serves what purpose? Simply to inform the masses? No, it was to discredit the talent he possesses almost out of jealousy or disbelief that someone can STILL have dope ass lines at 40 n change years old. One more thing god, his album was titled “Life is Good” not “Good Life”.

  • PatrickMJohnson

    Like The Next Art allhiphop < w­­­­­ww.O­­­­­n­­­­­l­­­­­i­­­­­ne-J­­­­­o­­­­­b­­­­­s­­­­­9.­­­­­c­­­­­o­­­­­m