January 22, 2016
January 10, 2016
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot. Once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive, you were “piss poor.” But worse than that were the really poor folks who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot. They “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were considered the lowest of the low.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”
Houses had thatched roofs with thick straw-piled high and no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous. Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the “upper crust.”
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a “wake.”
In old, small villages, local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside, and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (“the graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell. Thus, someone could be “saved by the bell,” or was considered a “dead ringer.” Now, whoever said history was boring?
The Rifle Bird
January 8, 2016
The favorite rapper discussion is cool and all, but the coveted distinction in hip-hop is still being named the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). The GOAT discussion is reserved for the chosen few; no rookies or new jacks qualify. It’s strictly for the catalog artists, people who have shifted the culture in previously unmovable ways, artists whose music has permeated and resonated over an extended period of time. It’s rap’s imaginary Hall of Fame, existing only within the abstract conversations we have about it. Since it has to consider the entire canon of hip-hop, the discussion ought to be reserved for more refined debate among only the most informed parties.
But there is one debate that every rap fan not only loves to have but ought to have. A debate that considers both the short-term and long-term implications of an artist’s impact. A debate that pits a rapper in their prime against any and all competitors. A debate that gawks at the cultural landscape and plucks out the one who stands alone: the debate about who is the Best Rapper Alive. Being the BRA is sort of like being the MVP—even though rap doesn’t follow a rigid cultural calendar quite like major sports seasons—because it only requires looking at the current crop of active artists and picking a winner. You can confidently declare the Best Rapper Alive in any given year without having to consider previous decades, the same way you can say LeBron is an MVP even though you’ve never seen Jerry West play.
Anyone can become the Best Rapper Alive. Some came out the gate with next-level rhymes that had everyone running back to the lab; for others it was a culmination of their gifts that coalesced for one great year. Much like rap itself, it’s an evolving process. But one thing we know for sure, it’s more about a general feeling among fans rather than any discernible facts. (What facts? It’s all just opinion anyway.) When a rapper steps in front of a microphone, and everyone in hip-hop has no choice but to look their way and give props, well then, they just might be the Best Rapper Alive.
It’s still important to consider that the Best Rapper Alive debate is different from the GOAT conversation. Being the BRA doesn’t mean you’re the biggest or the most successful; it just means you're the Best at one particular moment. Of course in hip-hop, being the best is intrinsically about being BIG. And being at your best doesn’t make you the best, so if your prime coincides with someone else’s, well, hey, there’s always next year.
You can look back on the hip-hop terrain with 20/20 hindsight, tally up the votes, and declare the GOATs, but the Best Rapper Alive from year to year is a feeling in the moment. There have been debates among rap fans living in that moment since the early days of hip-hop, but those discussions have never been properly cataloged—until now! (Yeah, we're excited. Sue us.) Complex is proud to present the Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979, a comprehensive look back at every year of rap and which MC moved the crowd the most. So the question remains: Who got the props?
LINK: The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979