I found this mixtape not too long ago while I was cleaning out my closet (Pause!) and, man, did it take me back to that magical year, 1996. I threw it in my tape deck (yes, I still have a tape stereo) and began to reminisce about the abundance of puree (Pronounced Puu-ray) and chocolate that was burned listening to a then unknown rapper spit: “Be larger than life, twice as nice as your idol / pump you with pride and guide you straight to hell like the bible!”

We knew that some rapper named Big Punisher was going to be a big problem sooner or later. And how could I forget the barrels of St. Ides, Crazy Horse, O.E. and Ballantine that were guzzled listening to the first song that featured Nas and Jigga on the same track? “No Love Lost” was a street classic, even if it did have Shaq on it. Countless arguments were made on who had the better verse, Esco or Jay. I was gonna buy Shaq’s album just to have that joint on CD! But when his album dropped, Nas’ verse mysteriously disappeared. Maybe because it was the first—and only—time Nas killed Jay on a track together. I’ll show you their verses and let y’all decide:

Nas: "I spend nights on corners, see the crack, cocked my first mac / no longer scared to pump what y'all pump, now I burst back / it hurts that, don't seem cream can make my purse fat / without the benefits of a doubt, I hit the Hearst black / but curse that, tryin to see Nas was your worst match / blowin like Tahiti, throw off NYPD / am I greedy? like I mean EDC me / in a fly Salini gimme frames in a beanie / I flip my loot twice a week on my most trifest streets / you got no right to eat by the laws of life you keep / ain't no love lost, none taken, none givin’ / stressin how I'm livin it, thinkin’ when my loot first came look what I did with it / bought my click glaciers and pagers / rollin’ ten deep to Las Vegas / copped a live croc, chopped it up, hit my block off wit' gators / feedin’ peoples, from the bridge to Decatur / but now, two years, five months, and 30 days later / I still put out the street flavor / but watch that kid right there, a bulge in his Nike wear / awoke me up the ways I used to be in my heist years / bubble eye small fry, loaded four five / just thirstin’ for some person with shine to just walk by / now that I can see the 360, now that its me that’s jiggy / them cooly heads they wanna stick me, whoa!"

Jay: "Fo' sure, everything’s for dough now / flow—you gotta pay a little more now / It's platinum nowadays we put the gold down / we stepped it up, y'all, don't ever want a showdown / get wetted up by the sleeve that leave the Bezzle out / y'all don't like it? Sue me, fuck, I'll settle out / ghetto'd out in the vehicle Bent / these days I mellowed out, see success make a fella content / uh-huh, you know, it’s rap star, Papi Chulo / Jay-Z, Hugo, of course player, you lost player / I know you rappers wanna see me fail, but quick to see a 600SL V-12 / live wit it, y'all got dough to get get it / I got mine, your little bit of money couldn't stop mine / your block time, too hot, too many hands in your pie / seventy-thirty, the nigga you work for work for me / bottom line."

Man, this was also the time when Lord Tariq was one of the hottest MC’s in the game. He had joints all over the B-side of this mixtape. Joints with Shaq, Mobb Deep and he was also the fourth dude on “No Love Lost.”

Fallout also had other bangers like the M.O.P., Kool G Rap and Mobb Deep joint, “Survive The Game,” (I remember watching my nucca, Dread, beat the shit out this kid while this joint was bumping), KRS-One feat. Cold Crush Brothers (I know it sounds like a corny collabo to y’all youngn’s but this joint is harder than most of G-Unit’s T.O.S album), and a few other bangers that are just too many to name. All of which gave me a nostalgia that reminded me that: even though I was living in Brooklyn--and broke as Gary Coleman and hoping the train just to go Uptown to get nick bags the size of pillows--it was a youth that was real and more exciting and fulfilling than that of Lil’ Romeo’s.

I wish DJ Clue would pull a Jordan and press up all of his old mixtapes on CD’s and make a retro series. Maybe then this new generation will begin to realize what real hip-hop is and how they missed out on the era that was so much more priceless than the platinum era.

Best Song: "No Love Lost," Shaq featuring Lord Tariq, Nas, and Jay-Z

Worst Song: "I'll Be There," Foxy Brown (original version without Jay-Z and a different beat)