Ye, ye, ye, ye, ye! Who Did It Better? is back ladies and gents! It has been long anticipated and the only reason I am bringing life back to this series is because of all of YOU! That’s right, as a recent poll via my twitter declared, the Who Did It Better? post I did in May 2014 has been highly recognized and you, the people, identified that The Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls), did it better than Rick Ross (see the post here to understand why)
I want to figure out what you guys think about this particular clash; OutKast’s Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 1 VS. J. Cole’s LAnd of the Snakes. So first, let me give you a background story on OutKast for those who don’t know who they are.
OutKast is an East Point Atlanta, Georgia Hip-Hop/Rap group that includes André Benjamin (a.k.a. André 3000) and Antwan Patton (a.k.a. Big Boi) which was formed in 1992. During the 90’s (or what Hip-Hop nerds like myself call “The Golden Age,”) OutKast made dirty-south rap famous; a rap style that no one in that era of rap has ever heard before.
On Tuesday, September 29th, 1998, OutKast released their third critically acclaimed album titled Aquemini; a clever way of combining two Zodiac signs (Big Boi being an Aquarius, André 3000 being a Gemini) and creating a new word; Aquemini (pronounced A-quem-in-eye) That in itself should tell you how strong the bond these two individuals have, even if you have never listened to OutKast before.
Track number nine on the album introduced a beat that will forever play in my head for as long as I live. The track is called Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 1 ft.Sleepy Brown who is part of The Dungeon Family but we can’t get into what that is right now because it’s complex but simply put, the song tells two stories told by each member of OutKast which intertwines into one.
The song starts off with Big Boi recounting a time where he received a booty call from a girl he calls “Suzy Skrew.” As you can imagine, Suzy Skrew was a promiscuous girl who only had sex with rappers in places she found appropriate, so no backseat of cars or “bathroom stalls” like Kanye West would say (that was a N****s In Paris reference in case you didn’t get it.) Big Boi caught Suzy at the mall and realized she is indeed a prostitute however at this point, Big Boi is okay with that and figured he might as well get some head from her before he picks up his daughter and goes home to his baby momma (this is that southern-playalistic ideology in which they made popular on their first album.)
Following Big Boi’s pimpish verse, André 3000 starts off verse two with:
“Now Suzy Skrew had a partner named Sasha, (Sasha) Thumper, (Thumper)
I remember her number like the summer,
When her and Suzy yeah they threw a slumber,
Party, but you cannot call it that ’cause it was slummer.”
André 3000 goes out with Sasha at three in the morning, dancing under street lights and being the nice guy that André is, he finds himself sharing a moment of peace and happiness with an unpredictable counter-part; Suzy’s friend who is also a prostitute as stated in the first line of verse two.
As André and Sasha are hanging out late at night, he asks her “What you wanna be?” and she replies with “Alive.” This one-word reply has André 3000’s mind blown. Maybe it’s because he too realized that even though young Sasha Thumper was a prostitute, she wanted to be more than that; she wanted to feel alive for once in her life and not be labelled as a sex symbol. The verse ends on a melancholy note, fact is this Sasha Thumper character impacted André 3000’s life to the point where he would be performing at live shows and hoped she would be standing front row, cheering him on. She never did show up because as it turns out, Sasha was with a guy who mistreated her and nevertheless impregnated her and unfortunately, Sasha Thumper, who was two months due, was found dead at the back of a school with a needle in her arm.
Now that I covered the first song that we will be comparing, let me elaborate on J. Cole and some of the metaphors and theories behind the meaning of his song, LAnd of the Snakes.
Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 was a big day for Hip-Hop. Mac Miller released his sophomore album Watching Movies With The Sound Off (an album that surprisingly made me a fan of Mac Miller, shout out to my friend Diego for letting me borrow that album), Kanye West dropped his sixth solo album, you might of heard it, it’s called Yeezus and of course, Jermaine Cole (a.k.a. J. Cole) who was 28 years-old at the time, gave his fans a treat for the summer of 2013; his sophomore album Born Sinner.
With the intention of competing in terms of album sales with Kanye West, J. Cole who is signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, sold 297,000 copies of the album in it’s first week while Kanye sold 327,000; Jermaine lost the first-weeks sales bout by 30,000 copies. Although Kanye had a better marketing scheme compared to J. Cole, the Dreamville founder undoubtedly had the better album compared to Kanye’s because in my opinion, Cole had one of the best albums of 2013.
- Fun fact: 71.43% of people on WordPress agreed Born Sinner was better than Cole’s debut album Cole World: Sideline Story
When I first listened to LAnd of the Snakes I immediately had a moment of realization that Oh shit, Cole is rapping on an OutKast instrumental! This is about to be one crazy track, I don’t know if I’m ready for this! After I calmed down from my nerdy rap juncture, I pressed play on my iPod and just vibed out alone in my room as I usually do. The result was a very relateable song or at least, from my eyes.
In the first line of verse one, Cole already acknowledges the fact that yes, he sampled OutKast and that he used to bump Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 1 on Lewis Street which is a 20-minute walk from Cole’s childhood house, three minutes by car.
Cole reflects on his success in this verse, ponders on the thought of how “hoes” from his past are probably envious of how much of a successor he grew to be. He talks about how he can sleep in his own room meaning he doesn’t have to share one with his brother which I found relatable because I too share a room with my brother who like Cole, has two sides to him; one good, one evil (cross reference to the Born Sinner theme in case you’re confused.) Then, Cole suddenly vents out some emotions, raps that he can’t even fuck hoes in his room because his brother is always there and that she’ll find out his clothes are old based off the bullshit she might hear from Cole’s brother (we all know siblings like to ruin things for us.) Cole continues with a boastful flow:
“I’m the president, you the co-chair,
You the player, yeah, I’m the coach here
N***a I coast here
This weather got me set up on this West Coast, yeah
Avoiding the snakes, AK’s and coke, yeah,
Get my dick wet but I never let it soak there”
This starts the rally of theories as to why the “LA” in LAnd of the Snakes is uppercase sensitive. For one, he’s expressing himself from the view point on how to live in Los Angeles whilst avoiding the snake-in-the-grass kind of people. Secondly, on the hook I noticed that even though Cole’s a genuinely nice person, he finds himself in the club scene, hollering at a “bad bitch” and she even gives him some word of advice saying “Watch the snakes ’cause they watching you” which again, goes along with the snakes theme of this story.
Moving on to the third verse of the song because well, I found it more appealing than his second verse to be honest with all of you, Cole is in Beverly Hills and runs into a chick he went to College with. At this moment, he reflects when he used to be a basketball player and was in College via paid scholarship. He admits he had sex with this girl back in College one night and as soon as they were finished, he kicked her out of his dorm room and never called her back; something he’s not so proud of now that she’s standing right in front of him.
The girl goes on to tell Cole that he’s a misogynist and then Cole raps a couple philosophical lines full of metaphors:
“On some Bobby Brown shit, my prerogative, n***a is to hit and never commit,
Now realizing when I hit, she never forgets”
J. Cole stated he just wanted to have sex with no intentions of building a relationship with this chick and makes a Bobby Brown reference because Bobby Brown was once infamously married to the late Whitney Houston. They got divorced because Bobby Brown was a drug addict at the time and a violent spousal abuser. This is why Cole says “hit and never commit,” it’s a double entendre; for physically hitting the College chick in a sexually-fetish way (perhaps something Bobby Brown did to Whitney when they were still a couple) and for hitting her up for the night but again, not trying to get into a relationship with her, which was ultimately the reason why Bobby and Whitney divorced; because Bobby would hit her in the face, leaving her bruised physically and battered emotionally.
The song ends with the girl telling J. Cole that she remembers the time he kicked her out of his dorm room and informs Cole that he ain’t worth shit which can be interpreted in a lot of ways. For instance, even though Cole’s net-worth is tremendous in riches, he made a morally poor decision towards this girl who he ran into in The Hills. This brings me to my third and final reason as to why this song is called LAnd of the Snakes; the twist is that Jermaine Cole snaked the girl from College who he ran into while in L.A.
So, enough chit-chat,
Listen to these guys rap!
Then vote on which one was better, but take your time,
Don’t skip or dash!
OutKast ft.Sleepy Brown
Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 1
LAnd of the Snakes
Born Sinner (2013)