Now that 2008 it here and well….there really hasn’t been much that I’m checkin’ for as far as new music is concerned, my lifelong obsession of 90′s Hip-Hop has been rekindled. As of late, I’ve been blowing way too much loot, purchasing those long, lost Source mags on E-Bay. And after leafing through many of those Source’s that I’ve received, it’s freaking AMAZING just how much quality Hip-Hop dropped between the years of 1990-1996 or prior to “the jiggy era” which formulated in 1997. For the past two months or so I’ve been wanting to dedicate an entire month or so (actually 6 weeks) and re-visit that particular time period (beginning with 1990 and ending with 1996) in a weekly series that would highlight 16 albums from each coinciding year along with a weekly “Fat Tapes” (from actual issues of The Source) that would re-cap the week’s worth of posts. Thankfully, I’m not shouldering this work-load all by my lonesome, the infamous Trav of “Wake Your Daughter Up” has agreed to partake in the fun as well and thank goodness! With our varying taste in music the month’s posts ahead should be quite a ride to say the least.
So, here’s how it’ll work. Trav & I have each picked 8 albums from 1990, four that are fairly well-known and four that may be categorized as “slept-on”. We will each dedicate two posts apiece (consisting of four albums) each week to give an overview of the albums we’ve picked. So that’s four days of posts, two on “Wake Your Daughter Up” and two here at “W.T.R.” dedicated to 1990. Each year and week that follows will follow the same format, and the icing on the cake will come in the form of our “Fat Tapes” (as I said, straight from those old Source mags), Trav will post his version and I’ll post mine near each week’s completion. Are you confused yet? I hope not, because trust me…you’re in for a real treat. So dig out your Cross Colours, your Carhartt hoodies and lace up those Timbs (damn, they’re timeless aren’t they?) as we go back in time for a first look at “When They Reminisce Over Waking Your Daughter Up” Presents “I Love The 90′s”:
First up to bat in our “I Love The 90′s” series is a strong, opinionated female that emerged from the ever so prevalent Hip-Hop label that boasted a line-up of heavy-hitters (Pete & CL, Brand Nubian, etc.), Elektra. Debuting in 1990 with her one and only full length release ”Attitude: A Hip Hop RAPsody”, Shazzy not only sported a flow and delivery that was very reminiscent of another “independent female” who also dropped her solo debut in 1990, Monie Love, but she was also backed by three gentlemen (Dante Ross, John Gamble & Geeby Dajani) whom we’ve all grown to know and love as the SD50′s (Stimulated Dummies). “Attitude…” was produced in it’s entirety by the aforementioned production trio, the album was sort of a “I can’t believe they sampled that” collage of unique sounds ranging from folk guitars to neck snapping drum patterns that ventured out of the box that was known as “traditional Hip Hop production”. By comparison, think of the production featured on KMD’s “Mr. Hood” albeit less “quirky”. However, not by any means was the production like anything that was labeled as more “acceptable” Hip-Hop beats back in 1990. Shazzy’s vocal compositions ranged from the political, (see “Black Is A Nation” & “The Way It Is”) to relationships & sex (see ”Giggahoe” & “Heartbreaker”), to straight up “get in that ass” battle lyrics (see “Play In Vain” & “Here Endz The Conquest”), needless to say Shazzy touches all the bases throughout much of this 17 cut long-play. The true gem of “Attitude:..” is “Get A Job”, over a knockin’ SD50 production that starts off slowly but elevates to new heights near the 30 second mark, Shazzy warns street corner dwellas and drug dealers alike that there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a “real job”. Another track you should peep is “Playhouse”, on this cut Shazzy turns the table and releases her “inner freak” over a fonkay breakbeat that is sprinkled with the same piano loop that Master Ace used on “As I Reminisce” from “Take A Look Around”, which was also released in 1990 (I’m sure Trav will touch base on that one!).
In the end, however, the beats steal the spotlight from the lyrically proficient Shazzy…which usually ends up being the case (although unfairly) with nearly every album dropped by a female emcee (see Nikki D’s “Daddy’s Little Girl” to catch my drift). As lyrical as Shazzy may jave been at certain moments on the album, she’s equally as bland during others. Even though the production was a step in the right direction for the Stimulated Dummies, it didn’t quite give them the name that “It Takes A Nation Of Millions” did for the Bomb Squad, or “Mecca & The Soul Brother” did for Pete Rock. If I had to give this album a rating, I’d feel very comfortable with a 6.5 outta’ 10. Strong beats, dope lyrics but lacking a “real” identity and direction. On a side note, Shazzy would go on to release a few more 12 inches after “Attitude…”, to include “Pass Anotha’ Bag” b/w “Ruff Stuff” on Elektra in ’94. Strangely enough “Pass Anotha’ Bag” boasted production from the one and only Pete Rock, while the B-Side “Ruff Stuff” was produced by Rockwilder. I’ve never been fortunate to have heard either, so if you may have “Ruff Stuff” on MP3 you’re more than welcome to send it this way!
Marley Marl is a mastermind, a brilliant wizard, a virtuoso by all means! Let’s just say the man changed the face of Hip Hop Music emphatically. He introduced various heavyweights like the Big Daddy Kanes, the Craig Gs, the Master Aces, the MC Shans and the Kool G Raps and dropped a compilation album in 1988 on the renown Cold Chillin’-Label called “In Control Volume 1″ (with the ultimate anthem “The Symphony”) to officially present his X-Men-Click the “Juice Crew” to our defunct universe. And then there were two tracks, “The Rebel” and “Live Motivator”, starring a boyish sounding kid called Percy / Tragedy… Now I am indeed very familiar with all the stories that have been told about the man before he became Khadafi: How a 13 year old Percy Chapman had to sleep on Marley’s stoop before the legend gave him a shot and actually started recording with him; how my man had to do 20 months on Rikers Island right after his debut on “In Control Volume 1″, an experience pushing him to his adolescent limits and forcing him to realize how he had to change his ways and what he successfully managed to emphasize on his debut album. But I will tell you a little different story: Back in 1993 when the hype about Nas releasing an album reached uncalled heights and the title of that album “Illmatic” was circulating our airwaves, I told everybody Mr. Jones is a biter! Yes Sir, your icon of now majestic realm, the Nasty Nas turned Escobar turned God’s Son, had taken the title of his debut-masterpiece off a rhyme Tragedy had delivered back in ‘88 from a song called “The Rebel”: “The rap automatical, the rhymatical / Forget ill, I get illmatical / Biceps pulsating in my lungs / Queensbridge Projects is where I’m from” (later on, Nas told the world that Tragedy’s been one of his idols). It wasn’t really the “illmatical” phrase that’s been buried in my mind for years. It was the graphic line “Biceps pulsating in my lungs” (take a minute to think about the line, it’s stupid folks) that had me going berserk and therefore, I knew right away where Nas had found his “inspiration”.
See, both of the songs Tragedy dropped back on “In Control” were overshadowing every house-hold name featured on that album. “The Motivator” used unseen vocabulary and excelled in every branch. But that didn’t seem to help him cause any fanfare when his debut “Intelligent Hoodlum” was released in 1990. For once, his label A&M Records chose to call him Intelligent Hoodlum too and not Tragedy (don’t ask me why!). Then, my man didn’t come out on Cold Chillin’ like everybody else from the “Juice Crew” (and what every fan would have had expected) and the whole project was left nearly unnoticed by the die-hard addicts. Still, the album was everything of a treasure if you ask me: Starting from the incredibly simple artwork (maybe I should drop a top ten list of best album-covers of all time!?), the mostly dark and gloomy production of Marley Marl that touched a realm of mysticism (and certainly something the man was not known for) and up to the impeccable lyrics delivered, this adventure felt unusual but very “right”. The first song (it was called Intelligent Hoodlum too and somebody from A&M should have felt a little weird) was magic (”I’m the Intelligent Hoodlum – reactor, I cause fear / Writing like Mark Twain, recite like Shakespeare”), “Back To Reality” ingenious, “Black and Proud” bold and “Microphone Check” playful! But the stand-out track had to be “Arrest the President” where he said: “Someone yelled out: Get the hell out / Evil fell out, but I’m no sell-out / Black’s the mineral, white subliminal / Arrest the President, he’s the criminal”. I could go on for days quoting lines form this album but I have to admit, I slept on this initially only to go back and listen to it again right after “In Control Volume 2″ came out in 1991. Still, this is a classic…-words by Rasul (thanks Ra!)
In what may very well be one of the most under appreciated efforts….nah….f*ck that…artist!, during the “all too brief” Hit Squad era (EPMD, Das, Redman & K-Solo..oh, don’t forget about the Knuckleheadz either, Tom, T-T-Tom J in tha house!), K-S-O-L-O came correct (oooh, more 90’s terminology!!) with his 1990 debut “Tell The World My Name”. I’ve always loved K-Solo from the get-go and even his most recent appearance on Psycho Les’ solo album has got me fiendin‘ to hear more from the “Spellbound MC”.Although K’s voice has albeit deteriorated (dude’s voice gets any more hoarse, (he’ll be soundin‘ like the D.O.C. On his “comeback” “Helter Skelter“!), you can still feel his passion for Hip Hop within his LL, Big Daddy Kane-esque flow patterns. K-Solo gained most of his notoriety by spelling out what seemed at the time of this album….most of his lyrics. “When I S-P-E-L-L, very W-E-L-L”….and you get the picture. Although, later DMX appeared in The Source’s “Unsigned Hype” crying wolf, claiming that “K -Stole It”…and that he, not Solo was the sole originator of the “I can spell” rhyming stylee. Whatever X, I’m rollin‘ with K Solo on this one! While, “Tell The World….”wasn’t quite up to par with K’s more polished sophomore effort “Time’s Up” it did posses it’s share of highlights. I think that I was introduced to “Tell The World….” through the video for the lead single and my favorite track “Spellbound” but I’m not quite sure, with it’s thick, rolling bassline and that damn “wa, wa, wa, wa, sound” I was hooked like pure uncut. “Your Mom’s In My Business” almost immediately capitalized on the impact left by “Spellbound” being released as a second single. K Solo’s story-telling abilities went largely unnoticed as such vivid and twisted tales like “Tales From The Crackside” and even “Sneak Tip” (I don’t know why not a single “sneaker chain” hasn’t picked up on this for a commercial yet) from “Time’s Up” are seldom mentioned amongst some of the greatest Hip-Hop tales ever. By the way, just why isn’t “Times Up” even mentioned in anyone’s Top 100? One last thought, wouldn’t it be nice to see entire Hit Squad reassemble for just one more album á la Boot Camp Click’s “For The People”? At any rate a very solid debut from K-Solo that is criminally overlooked when discussing important albums in the early nineties. Oh, and I almost forgot word is that K-Solo signed to Death Row Records around 1996 and actually completed an album. Does anyone have any info on this? Or possibly a few leaked tracks from the unknown album? Now that would be a good find my friend!!! K-S-O-L-O……SPELLBOUND!!!!
With his second go ’round “Lost Tribe Of Shabazz” Flavor Unit emcee Lakim Shabazz stood by the phrase “why mess up a good thing?”, not straying too far from the ideals and political lyrics presented on his debut (also on Tuff City), “Pure Righteousness”. After listening to this album in succession over the last two days as sort of a “refresher course”, one thing is very certain….”Lost Tribe Of Shabazz” certaintly didn’t age very well. at least production-wise. Although much of the production on the album was handled by the highly regarded 45 King, when compared to other classics from 1990 such as “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”, “Fear Of A Black Planet”…..or hell, even P.R.T.’s “Holy Intellect”, the production sounds very minimal and limited. Of course, I also listened to this album for the first time in five years right after I played YZ’s “Sons Of The Father” in full. Let me forewarn you….not a good combination, here’s why: Both of the albums are very similar, Tony D’s beats on “Sons Of The Father” really don’t differentiate themselves from the work courtesty of the 45 King, The Mighty Maestro are Cee Just’s for ”Lost Tribe…”. Both YZ and Lakim both filled their albums with pro-black, political rhymes, and when the same lyrics our funneled over and over within each track the album starts to run on the “long side of things”. But hey, Brand Nubian did it with “One For All” in 1990 as did X-Clan with “To The East, Blackwards”. However, Lakim Shabazz is only one man, and only one man can do so much, right?
Don’t get it twisted though, there is alot to like on “Lost Tribe…”. For one, even though Lakim maybe appear less than intimidating in stature, his vocal tone and delivery really threw me for a loop. A powerful, strong delivery is key within any Lakim track and even when he doesn’t stray away from the same subject matter his forcefulness on the mic is to be commended. Tracks like “Brothers In Action” find Lakim at his best, no slouch on the mic, he kills it lyrically over a crazy Cee Just track that is easy to mistake for the uptown swing of the 45 King. Cee Just also provided Lakim with a P-Funkish’ track for “Need Some Lovin” that almost sounds as if it would be better suited for AMG or 2nd II None rather than as a soundscape for Lakim to drop knowledge on. However, oddly enough “Need Some Lovin” works as Lakim’s uplifting lyrics flow nicely over the unconventional instrumental. Not that “Lost Tribe Of Shabazz” is a bad album, it’s just that it doesn’t hold a match to classics released that same year such as “One For All”, “Holy Intellect”, “Fear Of A Black Planet” or “To The East Blackwards”, but that’s not to say that this is an album that I would omit from my collection of music. Definitely worth a listen or two, just mix it up a bit…”Lost Tribe” would play-out decent between listens of “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” and “Call Me D-Nice”.