Before I became a hip-hop junkie, I was a full fledged comic book, superhero cartoon, and video game junkie. From about ’75 to ’85, most of my loose change went to buying comic books and as I got bigger, playing video games. But comics were my first love and were the spark for my vivid imagination and my admiration for books. I remember my uncle taking me to the comic book store on at least two Saturday mornings per month to pick up new issues. Beginning way back in ’76, the Uncanny X-Men were my favorite but as time went on, I bought The Avengers, The Defenders, Alpha Flight, The New Mutants, Incredible Hulk, Dazzler, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, ROM, Power Pack, Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, What If, etc. I could go on and on. Comics then were like my Source magazines now. I had stacks of milk crates full of rare, first editions in the plastic to keep them safe for the future. In 1984, I started listening to hip-hop more and reading comics less…until Secret Wars came out. The mini-series concept was everything I had dreamed about regarding comics up to that point. An all out war between the good and bad. I debated every issue with the comic book nerds in school just as I debated every Run-DMC release with the hip-hop heads. Thinking back on those days, I can’t believe how seriously we were into comics and hip-hop at such a young age. So it didn’t surprise me in the summer of 1996, when I dropped by to visit a friend of mine who also lived in West Philly. Jamal (aka The Last Emperor) and I would always sit around and talk about the goings on in hip-hop and what he wanted to do with his own career. It just so happens that he was also a comic book junkie as well. 1996 turned out to be a pivotal year for him, too, since he had also gotten with Dr. Dre for his Aftermath label. That was an exciting day but we’ll save that for another time. So anyway, I stopped by his house and he wanted to talk about a concept for a new song that he wanted to write featuring rappers battling superheroes/villains. We went back and forth about who would be best for each match-up in the rhyme and I clearly remember saying, “No matter what, Nas has to go against Spiderman. He just seems to have that unassuming image on the surface but can really rhyme. Sort of like how Peter Parker is just a college student but fights super villains.” This was maybe a week before Nas’ second album was released. I never thought he would take me seriously until he recorded the song and played it back for me. I think I rewound the tape four or five times to soak it all in. It was like the perfect marriage of hip-hip and comics for us and in later years, he would always tell me that people wanted to hear that song performed no matter where he toured. Those were the days…
Secret Wars #1 (This version was released with his first album Music, Magic & Myth but I have a much better original version on tape with the sound effects. I’ll up it as soon as I get my old tapes burned to mp3 files.)
Secret Wars #2 (FYI – We never discussed this one before he wrote and recorded it. But it’s a good follow up.)
On a sad note, in 1984 crack hit America in a big way and Philly wasn’t immune to it. I lived with a younger uncle who became addicted to crack and when I went to school one day, he stole 95% of my comics and sold them to get high. Even though I was small, I tried to beat him with a baseball bat until my mother intervened.