WORDS BY KHALID STRICKLAND a.k.a. PACINO718
This Fourth of July, the gunshots echoing throughout the hood had me feeling a bit nostalgic. The fireworks show in my surrogate home, Harlem, is just as boisterous as the one in my native Brooklyn. A ghetto-trained ear can distinguish firecrackers from a Mac-10; a cherry bomb from a Mossberg. So as I laid low in the crib, puffing my Independence Day spliff, I thought about my favorite odes to the almighty burner. Sure, hip-hop is suffused with gun talk. But not every artist handles it with creativity and skill.
That’s why I still listen to “Throw Ya’ Gunz” by Onyx. From the moment Fredro hisses, “It’s time to get live… live, live like a wire”, it’s like a shot of pure adrenaline. And that sinister-ass beat? I remember being at a loft party when the record first dropped; niggas formed a mosh-pit so heavy, we felt the wooden floor buckle and cave. With his stand-out closing verse on “Gunz”, Sticky Fingaz became Onyx’s go-to guy. “Blue Steel”, an unsung banger (no pun intended) from M.O.P.’s debut album, To The Death, is also my shit. I actually played it in the whip on the Fourth and I ain’t take my foot off the gas ‘til the song ended; “Blue Steel” had me tearing up the West Side Highway. Wifey’s in the passenger seat like, “Damn, we made it from Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan in 5 minutes”. But when Fame & Billy drop bullet-riddled verses on that skeletal, kinetic beat, I black out.
Cypress Hill made drive-bys sound amusing when they dropped their funky hit, “Hand on the Pump”. Muggs was at the top of his game with that bouncy beat, while B-Real and Sen Dog’s gleeful voices tempered the carnage they described. When I went to the Paid Dues concert la while back, I saw KRS-ONE perform “9mm Goes Bang”, perhaps my favorite gun-bussin’ joint of them all. The beat is simple, but creepy. And KRS came with good ol’ murderous, drug-related lyrics; his chants in the background were the haunting precursor for the melodies in “Hand on the Pump”. Kris’s song was revolutionary because (correct me if I’m wrong) it may have been the first to mesh reggae cadence and rap lyrics into one wicked style. “Me knew a crack dealer by the name of Peter/Had to gun him down with my 9 millimeter/ He said I had his girl, I said now what are you stupid?/But he tried to play me and KRS-ONE knew it”.
One day I’ll cake up and move to a gated community in the ‘burbs, far away from the shootouts. But even when I join the upper crust, I’ll bring my ratchet raps with me. Buck! Buck!
As an added bonus, here are three shoot ‘em up clips choreographed by the God of movie directors, John Woo. The first two clips are from the greatest action film of all-time, Hard Boiled. I’ve embedded the opening scene at the Tea House and an excerpt from the climactic gun fight, which lasted a whopping 30 minutes. The third video clip is from one of my favorite films ever, the A Better Tommorrow. These scenes never get old.
What are your favorite gun-bussin’ songs and/or flicks?