In hip-hop, fans and critics often marvel at and put a premium on the supreme soloists or groups who can craft classic songs and bodies of work while remaining the central figure. However, the most electric moments in the culture occur when multiple emcees collaborate on a track, with the sole purpose of asserting themselves as the most lyrically gifted by delivering an epic rhyme spill that outclasses the others. Throughout the years, the songs—generally referred to as "posse cuts"—have become some of the most memorable in the genre's history, with rap's most legendary stars teaming up on wax and bringing the most rabid of rap fans' fantasies to reality.
In celebration of these historic songs and what they mean to the culture, REVOLT TV presents 'Tale of the Tape,' a series that breaks down the greatest posse cuts of all time, and rank the verses from least impressive to most beloved.
In the third installment of the series, we'll be revisiting Fat Joe's 1998 track "John Blaze," from the Terror Squad general's third studio album, Don Cartagena. Making his debut in 1993 with Represent and returning in 1995 with his sophomore album Jealous Ones Envy, Fat Joe stepped into an executive role after discovering Big Pun and offering the rotund rapper a deal with Loud Records, resulting in the release of Pun's own multi-platinum debut, Capital Punishment, in 1998. Not one to rest on the laurels and a competitive artist in his own right, Fat Joe switched from Relativity Records to Atlantic Records that same year, where he released Don Cartagena, which would be his most successful album to date. Debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and producing a pair of hit singles, Don Cartagena became Fat Joe's first album to reach gold certification and showed a vast improvement in the Bronx hard-rock's lyrical ability. However, one track from Don Cartagena, titled "John Blaze," really caught the attention of the rap community and was tapped early as a fan-favorite. Produced by Ski and boasting a line-up of spitters that includes Nas, Big Pun, Jadakiss and Raekwon, "John Blaze" would become one of the biggest posse cuts of not only 1998, but in the history of rap, making it an essential gem from its era.
Without further adieu, check out our ranking of the verses on "John Blaze."
5 | Fat Joe
The last rhymer up to bat on "John Blaze" is the Don Cartagena himself, who anchors the track with a verse that sees him basking in his newfound position as a mogul and CEO. Listing his discovery of Big Pun and the launch of his FJ560 clothing line among his recent achievements at that point in time, Fat Joe delivers a verse that is a testament to his growth as a lyricist, but when all is said and done, it's not enough to prevent him from placing last on this particular occasion.
Standout Lyrics: "It's simple mathematics, you gotta love us / 'Cause Joey Crack plus gat equals a lotta dead motherfuckers / Just when you thought I was done, I recruited Pun / Terror Squad Enterprise, undisputed Dunn / I'm from the slums where it's worse, bust with guns 'til it hurts / For fucking with my funds on the first / And go to church like a mobster / Discuss your death over shrimp and lobster, with my Cuban partners"
4 | Raekwon
Wu-Tang member Raekwon may have taken more than four years to deliver Immobilarity, the sequel to his 1995 debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, but the Shaolin rep kept busy in the interim by turning in guest appearances on songs from his peers, one of them being "John Blaze." Employing an off-kilter delivery and bars rife with his unique brand of slang, Raekwon runs roughshod over the Ski-produced track with a stanza that is enthralling and keeps him from finishing in last place, but pales in comparison to his collaborators.
Standout Lyrics: "The flicker blocker, wicked sneaker rocker footwear / Strike me out God, stacking up joints, rack 'em like Footlocker / This is raw, raw like fuck kid, represent here to Crenshaw / Hold my words stronger than a Benz store / Relentless, the anthology consolidated with the quickness / dress up in the wig and blouse, killer sickness / Lex, imagination large, gold cards"
3 | Jadakiss
In 1998, Jadakiss was already considered one of the premier spitters in rap, with a reputation that preceded him. So when Fat Joe tapped the Yonkers rep to appear on his "John Blaze," most predicted that fireworks would ensue before they even pressed play. And Jada didn't disappoint, reeling off a 16 that was full of the wry wit and lyrical guile that made him a top contender for the nicest in the game. However, for as potent as his couplets were, they may have landed him in the Top 3 on this outing, but ultimately fell short of receiving the top honors.
Standout Lyrics: "Hardcore, like shit you get kicked out the yard for / 'Kiss ain't the cops, but I lock niggas up / You could meet me in my cell, I soap and sock niggas up / Far as the flow go, you could let your dough show / Put your money on the table, we could battle on cable / Y'all hot dog niggas get Nathans / Fuck around with Jason, that shorty from The Lox, John Blazin"
2 | Nas
Achieving mainstream success with his breakout sophomore LP It Was Written, and releasing an album as part of the NYC supergroup The Firm, Nas was one of a handful of stars at the time that were able to balance their star status with their competitive fervor as an emcee. This shined bright during many of his guest spots during the latter half of the '90s, with one of the more noteworthy occasions being his rhyme spill on "John Blaze," on which Esco opens the track with a flurry of couplets. Getting surgical over the backdrop, the Nasty one gives all comers a run for their money, however, he fails to outclass one collaborator in particular, but nabs runner-up honors in respectable fashion.
Standout Lyrics: "My stripes show like regiments, military intelligence / Murder game, I leave no evidence -- credentials / Go ask my pre-school, even talk to my old principal / He'd tell you how you I used to pack a No. 2 pencil / Stabbing students, grabbing teachers, Catholics, preachers / In the school staircase, cutting class, passing my reefer / In my own class, operation return, they tried to say / I was incompetent, not able to learn"
1 | Big Pun
Besting the likes of Nas and Jadakiss on a track is a feat reserved for only those with the rarest of skill sets as an emcee, but Big Pun is one of the few that ranks in that class, which he makes clear with his appearance on this street banger from his partner-in-crime. Rhyming after Esco and before Kiss is the epitome of being put between a rock and a hard place in rap, but the Terror Squad franchise player makes the job appear effortless, dropping a string of rewind-worthy musings and even getting bilingual for good measure. The call may have been a close one between first and second place, but when you stutter in a verse and shit on the comp, you give the listeners no choice but to rate your bars as the best and give you the bragging right of outclassing your peers.
Standout Lyrics: "I hate an actor that plays a rapper / I'm Terror Squad beta kappa, everybody's favorite rapper / Grand imperial, college material, insane criminal / The same nigga who known to blow out your brain mineral / I reign subliminal inside your visual / Try to supply your physical with my spiritual side of this lyrical / I'll appear in your dreams, like Freddie do, no kidding you / Even if I stuttered, I would still sh-sh-sh-shit on you"
Revisit "John Blaze" below.
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