Entre Les Lignes by Cyrus Pavel: Al Kooper et Jay-Z – Love Theme/Soon You’ll Understand

Watching demolition man I am realizing one thing.  That even when I first saw this flick at the movie theatre back in 1993 I thought then it was just as corny as today yet still loved it! LOL.  Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, the future, taco bell, and that hot black haired girl in the killer spandex… Oh yea, Sandra Bullock… back when she was HOT in a slutty way “you really licked his ass”…  The anticipation of possibly seeing her in a hot sexual position and maybe some form of brief nudity is what I can truly say was one of the key things that kept me watching. Anyway, time to turn the tube off and get to work!

Feeling Nostalgic I go back towards a gang of songs set up for play. Beat submissions for this rapper, entirely done song submissions for that pop star, records to review, records to reference, records to look out for and “Soon You’ll Understand” by Jay-Z… Yessss! BREAK TIME!  Play that:::

Listening to this awesomeness of a throwback, I love this record because Jay-Z puts himself at the vantage point of Manolo, who is Tony Montana a.k.a. Scarface’s best friend since Cuba. For those of you that haven’t heard, Scarface is a 1983 gangster film rated one of the top 10 gangster films of all time starring Al Pacino.  Google and Wiki the shit out of it and watch it afterwards if you haven’t.  Its quite the ride.  Tony (Al Pacino) & his best friend Manolo have a long history together as crimey’s and co-defendants tearing shit up! all in the name of Money, Power, and Pussy, way back since their law breaking days in Cuba.  Fast Forward to Miami as Manolo meets Tony’s younger sister, Gina during a visit to Tony’s mothers house. In the movie Cupid smacks Manolo in the face as he lays his eyes on Gina for the first time.  Completely mesmerized by her beauty, Manolo can’t conjure up two thoughts during the entire moment. After Tony returns to the car from speaking to Gina, Manolo comments on Tony’s little sisters “Beauty” and is quickly shut down by a loud yell and a subtle yet stern threat from his best friend/crime partner. As the song begins, Jay takes over and goes into some scenarios that although we don’t actually get to see see during the film, we safely assume take place.  Part of the entire grand finale to the movie is finding out that some of the things Jay-Z mentions, as Manolo in verse I of “Soon You’ll Understand”, surely took place.

In the film one night, Tony sees Gina dancing with a drug dealer. He follows the two to a restroom stall where he berates Gina for her promiscuous conduct. He asks Manny to take her home. On the way home Gina reveals her attraction to Manny, but he wards her off, mindful of Tony’s extreme protectiveness.” – Wikipedia

Eventually we find out that Manolo sees Gina behind Tony’s back anyway and they fall in love.  Jay-Z, now speaking as Manolo in his rap, is explaining to Gina why he can’t be with her and has to leave her.  As Tony has stated before he feels that Gina should be dating a lawyer, a doctor or someone with a PHD. (Jay mentions this line from the movie directly to make more of the connections.)  Feeling guilty about the fact that she is his best friends little sister and the mere fact that he knows Tony wants better for her, it seems that Manolo regretfully makes the decision that is best for both of their lives.  The music cries out to the listener from the gate with it’s airy sounds reminiscent of an empty OK Corral moment, choir like voices in the deep background, and the piano and hook samples snatched from Al Koopers “Love Theme” from the Landlord.  The dramatic sounds add to the genius story telling that was so craftily constructed by S. Carter on the opening verse.  The song immediately launches its listener into a familiar dream like state that we have come to realize Jay-Z consistently provides throughout the years.  (Check out another favorite Jay-Z records of all time which sits in the exact same lane titled- “Beach Chair”.)

You’re my best friends sister, grown women and all, but you see how I am around girls, I ruin them all…”

Jay does a  spectacular job of transferring the emotion from his mind and his view, onto the record, and then, onto the listener with every verse of this mini-series/audio docu-drama.  It is something that not a lot of rappers know how to do and something which I believe, is the ultimate difference for me between decent and legendary rappers.  The transferring of emotions in a record or – transferring emotion.  That’s right folks!  There is no “in between” – no limbo or purgatory in music for me.

Verse 2:

Continuing to Episode/Verse 2 of this SHOWTIME mini-series, Jay-Z makes a quantum leap into the life of a GREAT friend of mine and goes ahead to make it his own once again, or at least make you feel as if it is his own, once again.  It hits home for me because I saw and witnessed a friend go through this exact verse that Sean Carter delivers meticulously, first hand.  Jay manages to, again, transfer the exact emotion of what someone going through the exact same situation in this verse feels onto the audience. I sat there during endless conversations with this great friend of mine who always happened to fuck up on his baby’s mother and when this song came on we both looked at one another in astonishment.  It was as if Jay-Z had camera’s on my good friend and decided to tell his story.

Now it’s too late, we got a little life together
and in my mind I really want you to be my wife forever
But in the physical it’s like I’ma be trife forever
A different girl every night forever; told you to leave..

My friend truly tried to be a great father, a good, almost-husband, and a good individual all around, but at the end of the day he knew he could not resist what was out there. He told her to leave a bunch of times and he never blamed her or anyone but himself for what he put her through regardless of whether she left or stayed.  He loved her tons, he just wasn’t ready to give up the life.  The pursuit of what else comes after “this”, is what kept him going.  In the end he ended up in Jail and she, til this day, holds on strong with her two sons….

Jail.  That’s a place that no one really needs to be at. A bunch of middle and old aged grumpy men, deciding on what things are illegal and what things aren’t.  If that, since every state has their own laws nowadays, oh and since one year one thing can be illegal and a crime and then the next year it could become perfectly legal to do with no punishment involved….  And they say Charlie Sheen is bi-fucking-polar???…

Anyhow, speaking of jail and it not being the move, we get into a place that we could have avoided all together had Jay or “Manolo” just left the pussy alone and focused on the order of things: Money, Power, and endless Pussy.  Jay ends up in jail during his version of the Scarface fable as he steps into Verse 3 and speaks to his mother from jail, both in thought and through a handwritten letter.

Verse 3:

Directing his attention to his mother for the final verse, and who’s mom would not be completely disappointed in them ending up in the slammer? Jay-Z starts off the final chapter as he writes this letter out to his mother:

Dear ma, I’m in the cell, lonely as hell
Writin this scribe, thinkin bout how you must feel inside
You tried to teach me better, but I refused to grow
God damn I ain’t the young man that you used to know

Jay makes me feel as if I am in his position at the moment, head down in shame, as I have to play back how I just made things worse and explain them to my mother who has by now seen all the news reports.  Knowing that everything my mother tried to teach me was good, my head is down in shame because I knew all the well, every time I did something bad, that this was something I should not have been doing in the first place.  Yet, I felt the rush of it every time which was the rush of knowing that at any moment I could alter my life drastically without being truly ready for the outcome.  After all of that, still doing it and getting away with it was where the rush could be found for me every time and NOW, having to deal with it:

Shit we grew apart, try to blame it on your new spouse
I know it hurt like hell the day you kicked me out
But your house is your house, I ain’t respect the rules
I brought crack past your door, beefed with rival crews
And who wants to be the mother of a son who sold drugs”…

What I embrace and love about many of Jay-Z’s records are the constant battles and contradictions that he makes his character, within the story, face.  His battles are just as real and as human to me as mine and I can relate on a personal level and have related on a personal level to most.  As he almost tries to blame his outcome on his mother, and the effect that her “new husband” on her to kick him out, he still quickly acknowledges his fuck ups and just how major they were a fragment of a second later.  The two emotions are extremely different.  One emotion is a hint of arrogance in the fact that his mother wasn’t completely perfect yet the next emotion right after was regret with acknowledgement of the fact that he brought drugs and violence into his mothers home.  The emotion after that one is of complete disgust as he states

Who wants to be the mother of a son who sold drugs”

Fact of the matter is, in the end, his character got lost each and every time by his own hand no matter what the x-factor was.

A man cannot be forced to become a man until he decides for himself that he is ready to become a man and take on the responsibilities that come with that.  Until then, No woman, No child, and No parent or family member can do anything to change, affect, sway, or help speed up that moment. Hence the title “Soon You’ll Understand”… understand?

Jay-Z – Soon You’ll Understand

Al Kooper – Love Theme (from The Landlord)


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