"I'll probably never be as big as Slim Shady or Jay-Z
Even though I write vivid like I'm Homer the Greek"
Six years ago today, Bronze Nazareth, at that time a relatively unknown Wu-Tang affiliate, officially released his debut solo album The Great Migration. Most listeners, myself included, had immediately sought the record based on Bronze's already solid reputation as a producer of enticingly melodic and powerful beats. We weren't yet aware of his gift for poetic lyrics.
The all-around artistic brilliance of the album not only cemented Bronze's position as a new up-and-coming musician of great talent, it played a major role in my life at the time and became one of my favorite albums ever.
I was 20 years old when it was released, a junior in college with no clue what lied ahead for me. The album's orchestral and soulful sounds were a source of comfort, I used to carry a CD player on the bus to and from school at Pace University strictly for playing The Great Migration over and over again (it's an album with nearly infinite replay value). I listened to it many hundreds of times that summer as I attended summer classes in sweltering downtown Manhattan and the disc quickly became so scratched from overuse that I had to buy another one.
That second copy came with me on my first visit to San Diego that July when I visited my older brother and let him hear this special piece of music. He insisted on keeping it for himself and so I had to buy a third copy once I returned to Staten Island. A promo poster for the album, showing a huge shiny gold medallion emblazoned with an ideogrammatic "B" was soon acquired and displayed prominently on my wall. Inspired by the record's title and message, "The Great Migration" became the personal name for my goal to leave home and migrate across the country to California, which I did in June of 2008.
Though the album was officially released on May 23rd, 2006, I didn't manage to acquire a copy of it until at least a week later. It was impossible to find in stores and my online order took a while to arrive. My first experience of it was an early leaked version. Prior to release, the album had received pretty good promotion, the first single "The Pain" floated around and eventually hit my ears. The impact was so strong I can still remember exactly where I was the moment I first heard it. The intense passion of the fast-paced beat is soul-shaking, while the lyrics strike one to the core. "In a zoo of dead life/ for bread, even the birds fight/ feel like I'm living third strike/ And I realized I was a man when/ the headline read 19-year-old man dead." Those last words still stick with me. During this period, a close friend of mine had lost his 21-year-old brother to a motorcycle accident leading to a similar headline in the Staten Island Advance the next day.
While remaining below the surface, the album received a relatively strong buzz shortly after it came out. Devout Wu-Tang fans like me rejoiced at this display of fresh talent, Kanye West comparisons were frequent at the time with the noted exception Bronze clearly maintained a much better balance between his beat-making and rhyme-writing skills. Through the internet I befriended a young woman from Alaska who was as deeply struck by the album as I was and, five years and two relocations later, we got to meet and discuss the music in person at her home in Arizona. Among the many user reviews the album received on Amazon.com, one in particular always seemed to sum up the experience:
This cd singlehandedly transformed my entire outlook on the hiphop genre. It breaks my heart that this dude isn't the most talked about artist out there. It's simply the best hiphop cd I have heard in years. No throwaway tracks on here. Period. It flows and and it sounds like a complete album start to finish.Somehow I never did get around to writing my own review of the album but, with an enormous and in-depth review of his second album almost complete, and a book of overall Bronze lyrical explication in progress, I'll have plenty to say about it in due time.
Just another amazing sleeper cd that some of us are so fortunate to be aware of. Its too bad these dudes aren't the multiplatinum sellers instead of what we have right now. Then again, it's cool to be on the inside loop, I have to admit.
For now, here is one of my favorite tracks from The Great Migration entitled "Black Royalty" with full lyrics provided.
Royal golden, watch my inner soul flowin'
Like leaves in a Galilee current toward the ocean
Grab it and smoke one, but don't overdose lungs
I'll trade you these scriptures if you hand me ya guns!
Made it for students in the school of life
I could write a sun ray, author a full moon's light
My words are sutures to a broken future
that stitch clouds together, lift ya to God when we lose ya
I speak planets, think mountains, deep fountains
Bleed messages, tell the welfare kids!
Place Saturn's rings around a splattered kid's wig
send him to Heaven's gates to earn his severed wings
I greet the fallen angels with a second chance
under blankets of death like winter Indian chants
My thoughts float through the city, homeless man heard me
Found more dreams in my rhymes than that flask of Wild Turkey
Open it, pour it, withdraw it, before he sipped it
put his bottle in his coat and said "That kid is gifted"
Follow a spiral staircase into my brainwave
count every step and see exactly where the pain lays
Align my watch with her biological clock,
drag the moon into her womb, show this child you could watch
Then maybe you'll never leave, fatherless child as a seed
Black royalty, the horn's my robe, crown, and habitat
On the blacktop I spoke to Judas he regretted that
Metal gat my habit's like fresh fleets of heroin
Looked close and saw the map of Detroit streets in his arm
The city climbed in that old picture of me in the frame
and asked the man it used to know, why the fuck I changed
Told him with no expression words were on the page
written in goblins, ghosts, and the hemoglobin of slaves
I drew blood in the shape of the Wu symbol
wrote rhymes in hieroglyphics left for mystics in temples
Carefully build each bar like I welded you a jail
then smoke from the same plants black magic used to heal
and blow the residue in the 9/11 wind direction
Stranger than fiction how those buildings stand as missing
Back in deep thought like a rich man now homeless
Stroke the fire like intern's hips in melting moments
This is triumphant warrior overthrow
Vivid like my face carved in Blackfoot totem pole
They asked who's the Wu-Tang poet so graphic
They sent 'em towards the Wisemen
and he came to Nazareth