Saturday, March 19, 2011

First We Pray

Nate Dogg is dead. It don't even seem right to be writing that shit. How the fuck Nate Dogg gone be dead? I'm about to hit a double-nickle and Nate couldn't have been no more than - dayum - 41 years old. Fourteen years my junior - but Nate Dogg weren't never no junior. He was always a grown ass man. And maybe that was the fuckin' problem. Nate always seem too grown for this silly ass rap game - which has always been a province of little boy posers. But as I said, Nate was always a grown ass man with a grown ass man's voice and a grown ass man's soul.

I stumbled across his great album, G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by accident. It literally fell off the roof of a moving car. Possession being nine-tenths of the law, I loaded it into my CD player and there it stayed for the better parts of the next six months as I played the hell out of it.

The two disk G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 is a ghetto elegy delivered in Nate Dogg's inimitable buffed-up baritone - which could have been described as silky-smooth if it hadn't been so rough-edged. Nate Dogg's voice told you he had been places and seen things - hell, done things - and that he had had a few drinks and a lot of smokes while he did so. If Luther Vandross and Tone Loc had had a bastard child, Nate Dogg is what he would have sounded like.

That voice infuses and informs everything on G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. I call Classics an elegy but while it is melancholic and plaintive, it is a lament for the living, not the dead.

Black people dont have no, no where to go
you know, all we got to do is kick it
we gonna kick it in our hood, you know
what we gonna do, we might
we might go kill a couple of niggaz mane
you know, go in they hood and do a drive-by
then come back in the hood and laugh about that stuff
you know, its just a thing
("First We Pray," G-Funk Classics, Vol.1&2)

Now the above lyrics are (or were) standard ghetto poetry. What elevates the song to greatness is the chorus:

First we pray, then we ride
First we pray, then we ride

The first time you hear Nate Dogg croon those first three plaintive words: First we pray, you'll never get them out of your head. The way he stretches and caresses the word "pray" and makes it soar will borrow into your consciousness like some insidious viral worm and your brain will never be the same again.

Rest in peace, Nathaniel Dwayne Hale.