I want to start off by saying that I am flattered that you have taken my influence to heart and have discovered some amazing tracks.
Separated by only four upvotes, Nosetalgia ranks as number two on r/hhh favorite tracks of the year with Pusha’s verse ranked two and K.dot’s ranked four on verse of the year, it’s easy to see that this is easily the best track of the year. That’s right, I’ll take Nosetalgia over 1 Train any day. I’ve listened to this track dozens of times and absolutely love every lyric. I actually agree with r/hhh and think that Pusha’s verse is better than K.dot’s. Fight me.
The two craft an amazing portrait of crack use in the hood, Pusha from the point of view of a crack dealer and Kendrick from the view of a kid surrounded by the devastation the drug can bring to family life. There’s a few things I want to talk about when it comes to this track, the first shall come in the form of a humorous story, the second will touch of my favorite lines and the third I’ll pull a ‘Cole and get deep and far out on this shit.
We both know that I am a terrible speller. This is not my fault, it’s genetic–or at least that’s what my eighth grade teacher Mrs. Dirks told me. I went to search for some lyrics last night for this track and could not come up with ANY search results. I typed ‘nostalgia’ in and got nothing. The spelling looked weird when I first saw it posted. Then it hit me. I’m not as bad of a speller as I thought, instead Pusha and dot are making a pun with the spelling, nose, relating to of course the crack. I like this, yeah it’s subtle and probably a little easy, but I think it’s clever.
You’re right about the “if he dies he dies” lines. Absolute chills. There are two more lines however, that I feel deliver just as much, if not more chill/cringe effect. The first is a Pusha line the follows ‘if he dies he dies’. “we don’t drink away the pain / When a nigga die we add a link to the chain / Inscribe a nigga name in your flesh”. “Inscribe a nigga name in your flesh”?!? Shit, son. That idea that the shit you’re selling can kill the motherfuckers who use it, and that you’ll be left with that person’s death on your conscience, is truly a painstaking, heart-wrenching line. The second is from King Kendrick: “Broke his nails misusing his pinky to treat his nose”. The way Kendrick delivers the line is almost haunting. I cringe every time I hear it. The imagery here is brilliantly frank. Like nails on a chalkboard.
Now, let’s get deep for a second and reach a little. Even with the nose pun in the title, the tracks name is Nostalgia, “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” I find it interesting that in this definition it actually says, ” typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”. Both stories that are told respectively in Nosetalgia are far from happy. You could look at it and say that both rappers have overcome these relative hardships and have become better people. I think this is well illustrated in the video when Push and dot embrace and clasp hands after Kendrick spit “every verse is a brick / your son dope nigga”. However I think there’s a deeper message about hip hop embedded in here.
Let’s look at the sample. “You better change what comes out your speaker / Dee-dee-dee dah-dee dah-dee dee-dee dah-dee day-ah” come from Boogie Down Productions’ track ‘The Bridge is Over’. Here: go back and have a listen:
Okay, now, Criminal Minded came out in 1987, the year I and Kendrick was born. “I was born in ’87 / my grandaddy a legend”. Having listened to ‘The Bridge is Over’ I find it to be, especially production-wise, very primitive when it comes to hip hop. The beat, starting from one simple loop and progressing into something KRS-One can rap over. There was something that really stood out to me in this track, or rather I should say, didn’t stand out me, and that was the lack of violence and drugs. Both violence and drugs have almost become a staple in hip hop today. Even Yung Lean, a 16 year old, white, Swedish, post-Lil B rapper, spits about violence and drugs.
(That’s a discussion for later). These subject matters don’t exist in ‘The Bridge is Over’. Rather KRS-One raps about his crew. Not a drug slingin’ crew, but a hip hop collective–BDP. The song is also a diss of the Juice Crew, but KRS-One never talks about going to shoot and kill the opposing crew. Instead KRS-One makes jabs at Marley Marl, saying he out of touch, and at his DJ, DJ Shan, making jabs at his Puma sneaks. There is no violence. There is no crack. Now, I’m not saying BDP didn’t rap about this stuff from time to time. Granted the album is called ‘Criminal Minded’, and ‘9mm Goes Bang’ in the same album is quite the opposite when it comes to touching on violence and drugs. In fact the opening line to that track is: “Me knew a crack dealer by the name of Pete / Had to buck him down with my 9 millimeter”.
To my point.
With Kanye and Nottz using this sample and Pusha and Kendrick making it such a violent and drug infested track makes one reexamine the usage of the word nostalgia. In his infamous ‘Control’ verse, Kendrick names off a gaggle of contemporary rappers who need to step their game up. By stepping their game up, or as Kendrick refers to it not hearing one more noun or verb from those niggas, Kendrick could be referring to the fact that it’s easy to rap about guns and violence, but telling stories and making metaphors out of this subject matter is for “the best MCs”. The nostalgia in this track refers to an age in hip hop where depth reigned, where you didn’t shoot another MC but rather battled him with words in the street or the studio.
Deeper we go.
Ironically, Scot Sterling (aka Scot La Rock), one of the founding members of Boogie Down Productions died in August 1987 at age 25 of a gunshot wound. ‘Criminal Minded’ dropped in March. Scot La Rock was really the first rapper to die via shooting. Leaving ‘The Bridge is Over’ as one of the last pieces from the era of the birth of hip hop to try and use words in a way that is mighty-er than the sword. The two men charged with Scot La Rock’s murder were both acquitted. As Chris Rock joked, put a mixtape in your victim’s pocket and the murder will never be solved.
The nostalgia in this track is the yearning for a time before drugs took over the streets and ruined hundreds of thousands of inner city lives. A time before “when [there was] tension in the air nines [came] with extensions”. A time before rappers were shot and killed. The two are reminiscing, of course about an unobtainable time. Never again will inner cities be the same. Never again will words trample guns in gang arguments. Never again will rappers ever feel safe. But they must inform. Rapper today use their words and their flow to illustrate the hardships of the inner city. Of course this doesn’t apply to all rappers, but it does apply to the majority. Kendrick ends his verse with the line, “Now the same shit that y’all was smoking is my profession.” Remember? “I don’t smoke crack / motherfucker I sell it!”. His last line is simply, “Let’s get it,” let’s tell our stories, let’s share our pain, and hopefully, someday, people will learn the pain caused by drugs and violence and stop. Stop and save their families. Stop and save their children. Stop and save themselves.