In 2000 I lived in North Carolina and didn’t have much access to Hip-Hop. Between my strict African parents and the quiet suburb I lived in, the radio was all I had. So I was inundated in a world of Blink 182 and Eminem. It was pretty trash. However I had an unsuspecting savior. My uncle Itai was my uncle my Dad’s best friend. They’d known each other for years and we would frequently visit his South Caroline mini mansion. As a preteen I was fascinated by all the wealth, his Jaguar, his BMW, his Bowflex. My uncle Itai was proof that being a doctor meant you were a success. What really stood out to me was his music collection. Ever since I was a toddler I can remember the music I heard at his house, I remember being scared of the Thriller video AND the cover to the “Dangerous” album. I remember the first time I saw the name Sinbad and discovered Stand Up comedy. I knew my Uncle’s collection was to be trusted. However on this July day in South Carolina my eyes were drawn to one album and one album only. B.G.’s “Chopper City In The Ghetto”.
I “borrowed” the album and immediately hated it. I didn’t understand what anyone was saying and I was confused that Birdman was just talking instead of rapping on “Bling Bling”. I immediately moved on from the album and it collected dust in my room.
Flash Forward 19 years, I’m older, a little bit wiser but still very much remember the wide eyed child I was. A part of me holds onto that innocence, that the truths of my youth will stay true and things will never change. Unfortunately life has shown me that things do change, and the life you know can easily become the life you knew. I received a call from my Dad and he told me about a car accident and like that, my Uncle was gone.
I didn’t know what to do.
Honestly, I still don’t know what to do. All I can do is think about who my uncle was, how hard he worked for the life he built and how he ended up listening to B.G. Seriously, African Doctors aren’t who you think of when you think of B.G.’s fanbase. So while I think about this new reality, I figured I’d give “Chopper City In The Ghetto” another spin. Naturally I had some thoughts:
Almost every one of my favorite rappers credits B.G. as an inspiration. He lived what he rapped about with a natural ease and laid out the blueprint to how to stay real in the world of entertainment. Granted he ended up in prison but still, he defined what it meant to be a Gangsta Rapper. “Chopper City In The Ghetto” has a smooth griminess to it. Mannie Fresh did not take a day off on any of these beats as Cash Money was really working to take over the 99 and the 2000. This album captures the humidity of the Louisiana Streets. Seriously, this album sounds like 95 degree weather, everyone’s in a giant white tee because it’s the only way to stay comfortable while also carrying a gun.
The more I listen to this album the more I understand why my Doctor Uncle loved it: it makes you want to sell drugs. This is music you want to open a dope spot, or in my uncle’s case, a Private Practice. B.G. sounds cool, calm and collected, but in reality he’s focused and coldhearted in the face of massive adversity. He doesn’t spend much time complaining about the circumstances of his situation, he just knows that he has to work his hardest to make things better for him and the people he holds dear.
Another great thing about this album is that while it’s B.G.’s solo effort, the rest of Cash Money shows up periodically. This A. Guarantees that songs will be hits and B. Lets us know that no matter what happens, B.G. has his team behind him. B.G. is in the jungle but Cash Money is always there to remind him that he’s not Alone. This is a good album to listen to when you want to text your homies you appreciate them/want to sell more drugs with them.
Now, there are probably faults with this album but to be honest, I’m not trying to review it. I really just wanted to listen to it and see what my Uncle saw in it. I wish I could ask him about this, a part of me feels like I should have before it was too late. It’s hard to think about but regardless, I appreciate that he brought this into my life. So for that I give it 10 “I just want you to know I love you/can I borrow some money” texts out of 10.
RIP Uncle Itai.