From all the way back in 1994, when he made his debut with a memorable verse on the song, ‘Life’s A Bitch’ from Nas’ classic debut album Illmatic, those who understand lyricism in hip hop knew AZ was definitely one of the finest where lyrics are concerned.
Though, through the years, he spent his time with some major record labels (EMI, Motown), he has been absent from the forefront of rap over the last several years. Well, he really hasn’t been. AZ’s been putting in a lot of work, releasing albums independently, some through his own Quiet Money label. Despite this, he hasn’t been completely forgotten by mainstream. A few years ago, MTV ranked him No. 1 on its list of the most underrated MCs of all time.
Around 2010, word hit the streets that the Aziatic One was going to release an album, Doe Or Die II, which was to be a sequel to his 1995 debut, Doe Or Die, which followed his Illmatic guest appearance. It was delayed, so he released a 15th Year Anniversary album that same year while the masses waited. Well, it looks like it could finally happen. . . “could” happen, we hope. In March 2013, a freestyle from AZ, entitled ‘Thank You’, was leaked online, sparking belief that it may be a preview of Doe Or Die II.
Almost 20 years later, he’s still got it. When it comes to spitting, the boy goes in, still multi-syllabic, layered rhyming with substance. ‘Thank You’ is not necessarily a freestyle in a technical sense, it’s actually three to four verses over different instrumentals, about three and half minutes long. He opens by spitting:
“From the scales/jail cells/ and the drought / a nigga’s lasting / When L / and ‘Rock / The Bells/ came out/ still a classic / Was young, still schooled on the skills, to seal the plastic / Was chill / but females feel / I’m still the fastest / Scholactic / studied degrees”
These bars are rapped over a sample of the Jackson 5’s ‘It’s Great To Be Here’. He put more in those four bars, lyrically, than a lot of current rappers put in complete songs. The beat then changes to an old school one (think 1980s) with some scratches mixed in. The native of East New York, Brooklyn, still sprinkled ‘Thank You’ with eloquent drug talk, explaining how one falls victim to the perils of the drug game:
“Back to poli / from crack to Molly / It’s the same me to stack them 100 racks in Raleigh / Shout out to Charlotte…. / Born in the Brook / you either got put on or hooked / Hated synthetic coke, it took too long to cook”
You can see he still is definitely taking pride in his skills. But the best part of this freestyle is at the very end, when he’s finished rapping and says, “keep your eyes open, I’m coming.”
They’re open, and we’re waiting.