Hopefully by now you have read what Eric of When They Reminisce and I have going for the next few weeks (six to be exact, barring any interruptions) over on WTR. If you haven’t, let me get you up to speed. The first quarter of each year is traditionally a slow time of the year for hip hop music. You do get your few gems, but overall, it’s just not much in the way of quality new music. The past few years, like a bear in hibernation, I shack up until the spring time and just play some old classics, check out old stuff I may have missed, and generally just get caught up in the nostalgia of yesteryear. I’m still an old school head at heart. I still think the music of my youth is better than the majority of music we are listening to today. This blog even started off with old school in mind and has featured the golden age classics for the most of its exsistence. So when Eric hit me up with his ideas of featuring albums from each time frame, I was down. You see, E’s been on a “The Source” mag buying spree lately, so he’s been “reminiscing” (pun intended) a lot about the good old days (que up “Can’t It All Be So Simple”). His idea is for each of us to highlight eight albums a piece in a two posts a piece for a grand total of four post covering a certain year. At the end of said week, we both will post up a “Fat Tape”, straight from a particular issue of The Source for that year. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? As mentioned, each choose eight albums to cover. Four that made a major mark on that particular year and four that might have slipped under some radars or may have been over looked. It should be fun, as both of us were active hip hop consumers during the years we are covering, which are ’90-’96. I know I have very detailed memories of the albums I’m covering and I look upon this era with a great fondness. This the musical soundtrack of my youth. I hope you all enjoy the ride down memory lane with us.
If you missed Part One, check it here….
1990 was an interesting year for hip hop. Until I started looking back at some of the releases that year, I always kind of looked at ’89 and ’90 as two of the weaker years in Hip Hop’s golden age (which I consider from 86-96 anymore, although I wouldn’t argue much if someone cut it off at ’94). After looking really looking at what was released, for at least ’90, I realize there were some GREAT albums that dropped that year. For myself personally, the year included my junior and senior year’s in high school. I had really dove head first into the hip hop culture by 1988 and by 1990, I wasn’t listening to anything but hip hop. I worked as a bus boy at a local Sizzler’s restaurant, cleaned horse stalls and did other various odds and ends for money, money which I pretty much totally spent on hip hop tapes. Being in the location I was, most of my discoveries would come via “Yo! MTV Raps”. I would tape the show religiously and watched it every single day and if anything came on that I liked, I would pick it up on tape or cassette single. Those were good years.
Important Hip Hop Events That Went Down In 1990
- Slick Rick is arrested and convicted of murder after trying to kill his cousin in a drive-by. He “raced up the block doing 83, crashed into a tree near an university”, only to be busted. It would throw a huge wrench in Rick’s career and people are left wondering “what if.”
- “Cross Colours” hip hop wear starts appearing on store shelves, replacing Dapper Dan as the corniest hip-hop clothing line ever.
- Kid ‘N Play become a household name with “House Party” taking the nation by storm. They also released hip-hop’s first Saturday morning cartoon, which just about no one notices.
- After telling Eazy and Jerry Hellar to fuck-off, Ice Cube heads to New York to record his classic debut album “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” with the Bomb Squad. Five years later, he would dismiss the East Coast, failing to realize just how ironic this is, which is almost as ironic as him appearing in Disney Movies.
- Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia start one of the most popular radio shows of all-times and Colombia University.
- “We’re All In The Same Gang”, which would be the west coast version to “Self Destruction” debuts and features some of the brightest west coast stars. People are miffed though that Candyman wasn’t included.
- Newsweek magazine drops an issue with Tone Loc on the cover in March. The proceeded to tell the world that Rap music would turn the world into hell on earth. Only thing they predicted that came true was that Tone Loc wouldn’t make it past two albums.
7X Platinum (7 million copies sold)
MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
(Trav’s Take: Everyone bitches about how commercialized hip hop has become….become? There have always been commercialized artists, and Hammer is the king of them all. Did I own it? I plead the 5th)
Platinum (million copies sold)
Digital Underground – Sex Packets
Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
Sir Mix-A-Lot – Swass
Vanilla Ice – To The Extreme (he would go one to sell more copies in ’91)
Gold (500,000 copies sold)
Rob Base – The Incredible Base
Boogie Down Productions – Edutainment
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – …And In This Corner
Eric B & Rakim - Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em
Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Ice T – The Iceberg
Biz Markie – The Biz Never Sleeps
Salt N Pepa - Blacks Magic
Sir Mix-A-Lot – Seminar
Snap – World Power
Too Short – Short Dogs in The House
Luke feat 2 Live Crew - Banned In The USA
from The Souce January ’91
(Trav’s Take: Fairly impressive list. It makes one wonder exactly just how much effect downloading does contribute to sales. I haven’t looked at a list like this for the past couple years, but I can’t imagine this many quality titles would be included in a present day list. I owned every one that year except Salt N Pepa, I wasn’t big on female hip hop and Biz Markie, my friend bought the tape and I dubbed it….so then again, “downloading” was happening then, just in a different form.)
12 Inch Singles Sales
Digital Underground – Humpty Dance
Biz Markie – Just A Friend
Salt N Pepa – Expressions
Snap – The Power
Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
Young MC – Bust A Move
(Trav’s Take: Radio dominate the sales charts then just like today)
Candyman – Knockin’ The Boots
MC Hammer – Have You Seen Her
Mellow Man Ace – Mentirosa
Luke feat 2 Live Crew – Banned In The USA
The West Coast All-Stars – We’re All In The Same Gang
from The Souce January ’91
(Trav’s Take: I owned Mentirosa, Banned In The USA and We’re All In The Same Gang on the cassestte singles)
The Source’s 1990 Year End Readers Picks (Thanks To Vincent Lopez….Go To His Site to download the issue if you haven’t already)
I hadn’t yet discovered The Source in 1990. I still remember the glorious day that I did, but I’ll save that for the 1991 series. In their January of 1991 issue, the posted the results of the reader survey.
Favorite Rap Album from 1990
1. Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted 25.4%
2. Boogie Down Productions – Edutainment 11.0%
3. Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet 10.7%
4. A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels….7.2%
5. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out 4.2%
Favorite Rap Producer for 1990
1. The Bomb Squad 30.4%
2. Marley Marl 20.2%
3. Dr. Dre & Yella (Yella??? BAHAHAHA) 14.2%
4. KRS-One – 8.2%
5. Prince Paul – 4.4%
Favorite Rap Record Label for 1990
1. Def Jam 33.2%
2. Ruthless/Priority 16.0%
3. Jive/RCA 10.7%
4. Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros 7%
5. Tommy Boy 5%
What Format Of Music Do You Prefer?
1. Vinyl 36.4%
2. Cassette 34.9%
3. CD 28.4%
The Source’s Year End Awards For 1990
Albums Of 1990
1. Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
2. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
3. A Tribe Called Quests – People’s Instinctive Travels…
4. Boogie Down Productions – Eduatainment
5. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Wanted: Dead Or Alive
6. Eric B & Rakim – Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em
7. Poor Righteous Teachers – Holy Intellect
8. Three Times Dope – Live From Acknickulous Land
9. Nice & Smooth – Nice & Smooth
10. X-Clan – To The East, Blackwards
Top 12 Inch Singles for 1990
1. Public Enemy – “Brother’s Gonna Work It Out” b/w “Anti N-
2. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – “Streets of New York”
3. Main Source – “Looking At The Front Door” b/w “Watch Roger Do His Thing”
4. A Tribe Called Quest – “Bonita Applebum (Hootie Mix)”
5. King Tee – “Ruff Rhyme” b/w “Played Like A Piano”
6. LL Cool J – “Jinglin’ Baby” b/w “Illegal Search”
7. Boogie Down Productions – “Love’s Gonna Get ‘Cha (Material Love)”
8. Digital Underground – “Humpty Dance”
9. 3rd Bass – “Gas Face” b/w “Words Of Wisdom”
10. De La Soul – “Buddy (remix)” b/w “Ghetto Thang”
Lots of interesting things went on during the year, as you can see. My four albums for this post are two that made a lot of noise for the year, Edutainment and Sex Packets, along with two albums that for whatever reason, were over looked or just underrated in Kwame’s “A Day In The Life: A Polkadelick Adventure” and Groove B Chill’s “Starting From Zero”. Of course, all four are albums that I personally enjoyed greatly that year.
Boogie Down Productions – Edutainment (Jive/RCA)
Released: July 17th, 1990 (I purchased the the tape on Friday, July 20th….don’t ask)
During the late 80′s and early 90′s, no group was as busy as Boogie Down Productions. KRS and crew would drop an album every year from ’87 until ’92. I personally would discover Kris and BDP as part of the debut episode of “Yo!” in August of ’88. The video for “My Philosophy” was a common favorite of “Yo!” in those days, so I quickly became enthralled with the crew. In ’89, Boogie Down Productions would drop “Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop”, an album that would lose many a hip hop head, myself included. If my memory serves me right, the first single, “Love’s Gonna Get’cha” dropped late that spring. In the middle of the hot summer, the LP “Edutainment”, which is possibly BDP’s most versatile albums of their catalog would be released. It’s funny how you remember shit. “Love’s Gonna Get’cha” is in my top five favorite BDP’s tracks, it was something that caught my attention the first time I saw the video. I was heavily into the song, so “Eduatainment” was an LP that I was anxiously awaiting. I remember picking it up on a Friday morning, bumping it in the car on the way to my best friends house, then throwing the tape into my walkman that I carried with me everywhere while I waited for him to finish up some stuff for his parents. I wasn’t sure what to think of this album that first day, but it was something that grew on me through out my years. The fact that I put this on last night and still remembered the words to most of the songs is a true tribute to the impact it had on me.
The album leads off with an excerpt from one of his speeches that he did as part of a tour around college campuses the winter before. I would be lucky enough to catch him at Boise State University during MLK week earlier that year, so hearing those speech excerpts sprinkled throughout the album are a vivid reminder of my only time seeing the Blastmaster. From the intro, the album jumps into a new breed of song that wasn’t found on “Ghetto Music…”, a song that drops knowledge AND sounds dope doing it. “Blackman In Effect” stays true to the albums name, but both entertaining and droppin’ the knowledge. The beat credited to Kris and D-Nice (which most likely means Nice did it) is heavy in the kick drums and usually a nice vocal hum to add as the music.
Lyrically, KRS is teachin’ your ignorant ass. As a kid, coming from the locale I came from, it was albums like Edutainment that enlightened me to some of the goings on in the black race, the U.S. government, and my role as a white person in the grand scheme of things. KRS did a lot of teaching on this album, with tracks like “Beef”, which Kris schools listeners about the dangers of red meat and the ills of the American diet. I’ll admit, it made me think about beef and how it’s raised, slaughtered, packaged and shipped. I still like a good steak, but it did cut back my red meat consumption and to this do, I try to stick to organic type of beef. Other tracks like “The Homeless”, shines light on a topic that is still a problem today. But don’t think this is another “Ghetto Music…” cause KRS and crew come with what made them famous, in your face tracks and Kris rippin’ shit. “Ya Know The Rules” comes off like “I’m Still #1″ part deux. The Blastmaster lets you know why you don’t step to him, he’ll simply bury you. It’s track like this that often makes me conclude that KRS might be the all around best MC to pick up a mic. “House N—a”, is another track with Kris coming off as the best to ever do it, just raw lyrics and dissing any wack MC that would dare step his way.
KRS also came with craaaaazy styles on this album. He came with so many different flavors that there are styles that he used on “Eduatainment” that he would never use again anywhere else. I remember back when I initially listened to this album, I found some of the styles somewhat corny, but I can appreciate them more in my older age. “100 Guns” is one such track that I don’t think I’ve ever heard KRS attempt to use that style again. It’s hard to explain the vocals if you have never heard the track before. Somewhat sing songy, but he flows the bassline throughout the song. “Breath Control II” was a technique he had used before on albums, but he really flexed his…umm lungs for this, running through the lyrics without taking many breaths. Ask any MC, you need to be up on your breath control, or you’ll end up sounding like Big Pun.
KRS often got knocked for his subpar production skills, but beatwise, there is not a whole lot to fault with “Edutainment”. I would agree if one was to say that he wasn’t keeping up with the evolving production during the era, but the boom bap found on here was what hip hop was to me at the time. The albums title track, “Edutainment”, is an example KRS doing his thing behind the boards. A quick paced bassline snatched from an old Reggae song coupled with some sax stabs makes for a quality track that is bound to get that those hips movin’.
The fact that I consider “Eduatainment” the fourth best BDP album out of the five they released as Boogie Down Productions speaks more on the quality of albums BDP released than any flaws found on this album. You do have KRS being a little overly preachy still, but the beats usually stand up on their own enough to make the average boy still take notice to what Kris is trying to say. It’s a quality album that should belong in any hip hop fans collection.
Groove B Chill – Starting From Zero (A&M Records)
Released: October 5th, 1990
Don’t let the fruity cover fool you. Despite seeing some flack about this album on other sites, I’ve always held Groove B Chill’s “Starting At Zero” in high regard. It’s not going to win any awards for the greatest production, although it does feature VERY early Pete Rock production and also contains some Prince Paul material. The lyrics are not mind blowing in the least and even down right simple in some cases, but the lead MC, Chill aka Chill E Dawg, contained a certain charisma, which is probably why him, along with fellow members Groovy Groove and B, were on Kid N Play’s “House Party” motion picture. Out of the ten tracks contained on this album, seven are quality in my book, two more are decent and the one sorry attempt at a love song pretty much sucked.
Groove is dancing at the first part of the clip and Chill is in the back with the funny hat.
My introduction to the album would be through the lead single, “Hip Hop Music” that got play very early in ’90 on”Yo!”. The video version is the same version that would appear on the 12 inch single released earlier in the year as a remix, which was done by Hitman Howie Tee. Many people say the remix of “Hip Hop Music” is much better and I tend to agree. I remember buying the tape the day it came out. It got quite a bit of play that fall of my senior year, but I would lose it fairly quick and the album would be one of those long lost favorites of my early memories until the internet came into play.
A young Pete Rock would produce the albums first two cuts. Don’t expect the typical Pete Rock horns or sound that would become popular a few years later, Pete was still getting his producing feet wet with this. The lead off song, “Starting From Zero” showcases Pete playing it fairly safe and staying to a commonly tried formula of fairly simple music and recognizable samples. In fact, the second track, “There It Is” following the same ideas, using a commonly used live bassline and those keys found on other tracks such as Redhead Kingpin and others. Some of the other music found on “Starting From Zero” was some what “experimental”, in the same way some considered “3 Feet High and Rising”, maybe it was the Prince Paul association. Paul produces my personal favorite track on the album, “Top Of The Hill”. With a beat that sounds like it wasn’t good enough for “De La Soul Is Dead”, the crew sing a variation of “On Top Of Ol’ Smokey” for the hook.
While this isn’t any lost treasure, “Starting From Zero” isn’t bad as some of the reviews I’ve seen for it. If you are down with some of the light hearted rap in those days, like Kwame, Kid N Play, Special Ed and others, this was right in line with those releases and worth the cheap purchase just to witness the birth of Pete Rock.
Digital Undergroud – Sex Packets (Tommy Boy)
Released: March 26th, 1990
Digital Underground was hip hop’s version of Parliment Funkadelic. With more members than a Saturday at a local shopping mall, DU was the essence of multi-talented, with MC’s, DJ’s, dancers, producers, ranging from Florida, Philly, to the bay area that Shock G and his alter ego Humpty Hump held down DU headquarters. The history of the group should be fairly familiar for the average visitor to this site, so I won’t get to deep into it. Hailing mainly from the Bay Area in Cali, this crew has seen many members. I wouldn’t even venture to guess at how many people have been involved in Digital Underground, but the numbers are sure to be in the twenties I’m guessing. The key members has always been Shock G aka Humpty Hump, aka MC Blowfish, aka The Piano Man, you get the point. Shock is the first artist that I know of that uses alias, like Kool Keith and some others floating around out there. Money B and DJ Fuze also make an appearance on every album, if my memory serves me right. After that, you have an hodge podge of group members that include people like Tupac Shakur, Saafir appeared on one album, MC Cleff, Schmoovy Schmoov, and a host of others from album to album.
Digital Underground’s first single would be “Doowhutchyalike”. It would make it’s appearance on “Yo!” the fall of ’89. It was one of those videos that didn’t have the name of the album listed yet, because I don’t think “Sex Packets” was even in the scope by that time. While it made some noise, it would be Humpty Hump’s “Humpty Dance” that would grab the nation by storm that winter and on coming spring. The video would only help bolster the single into a musical craze. Armed with a crazy dance, a larger than life cartoon character and a infectious bassline, “The Humpty Dance” was the jam of jams at the time. I, of course, was caught up in this craze as well and would pick up the tape the day it dropped during my spring break of that year.
What Sex Packets is, is a lost art in hip hop, rare as a dodo bird. It’s a party album. Plain and simple. You won’t be blowin’ away by lyrical wizadery, not in the least are the vocals by Shock, Money B, or anyone else that might grab the mic, but chances are, people didn’t buy “Sex Packets” for the dope lyrics. What the lyrics do is help is aide the beats paint a party like atmosphere. Of course you know what hap
pens when you throw “Dowhatchayalike” or “The Humpty Dance” on during a gathering, but other tracks such “Rhymin On The Funk” are soundtracks for a cold chest of brews and some BBQ. The album was all about having a good time.
If you were like me, you bought this tape as a kid when the craze was going on. Then later when you went to buy the CD, you realized something was missing. Four of the best tracks on the tape were not on the CD. WHen this album orginally dropped, tapes were still the medium of choice by the consumers. So it had the bonus tracks and that’s what happen here. So here they are in all their glory.
Sound Of The Underground
Hip Hop Doll
A Tribute To The Early Days
Kwame & The New Beginning – A Day In The Life: A Polkadelick Adventure (Atlantic)
(Released: May 10th, 1990)
In all retrospect, I should have hated this album back when it dropped in 1990. I wasn’t overly fond of Kwame’s debut “The Boy Genius”, I wasn’t into the Kid N Play type stuff, which this album is heavily influenced by as far as topics and lyrics, and I despised hip hop that had singing, which this album’s main singles possessed. I shouldn’t have liked it in the least. Then why do I consider this a personal classic then? The beats on the album are of the trunk rattling variety, but the lyrics were also very easy to sing-a-long to. He brought in the “New Beginning” for this album, which as far as I can tell was DJ Tat Money, who was also famous for being down with the Hilltop Hustlers in the mid to late 80′s as Steady B’s DJ, A-Sharp, B-Flat, Peek-a-boo, Nina, and the beautiful singing of Tasha Lambert. They can be found sprinkled through out the album on certain tracks.
I have a lot of personal experiences with this album. Listening to it last night, I still went along with Kwame word for word. Not bad for this album being more than 18 years old. Again, I think the first single for “A Day In The Life” was the Tasha Lambert assisted “Ownlee Ewe” is what grabbed me and as I said before, at this point in my hip hop tastes, I normally didn’t care for singing on hooks. Something grabbed me. Kwam’s charisma is something is quite abundant throughout the album and it’s found on the single.
I would end up buying the tape around the time it dropped, and it received a lot of plays in my little Volkswagen Jetta. Nicknamed “The Jetta of Death”, it contained two 12 inch Fosgate Woofers in a box in the trunk which was pushed by a Fosgate Punch 150 amp. Those who don’t know what that crap means, it means that little Jetta could be heard for a block or more. Part of the surprisingly complex production found on the album was some nice kick drums. As I mentioned, the production, at least to me, was more complexed than I anticipated or even expected looking back at it now. I had a lot of fun playing Kwame in my little sound system, so much so, that my best friend at the time started getting attached to the album, so it was our soundtrack for the summer. I also had a girlfriend that summer who disliked rap music, what she was doing with me, I have no clue. This was the only tape I could get away with playing much around her. She’d even end up singing along with certain songs and calling me her sleepy eyed man, due to my own sleepy eyed featured…ahhhh how cute.
Lyrically, Kwame drops a loosely termed concept album as it follows are Sleepy Eyed MC through out his adventures. Throughout the album, Kwame introduces himself to the listeners with the tracks lead off, “Da Man” which also tells about an upcoming house party….hmm where have I seen this idea before? Anyways “Skinee Muva” is more of an introduction track, as Kwame introduces his crew over a booming kick drum and some keys and explosions. Kwame also drops the term “Jelly”, a term that I just used last weekend to describe my Favre hating friend, on the title track “A Day In The Life”, which Kwam comes down on all the jealous biters and gossipers. From there, we have “Therez A Partee Goinz On”, in which Kwame slips out the crib after giving his pops a bad report card. He meets a girl, gets on the mic and just as he is ripping it, his pops shows up. Again, nothing that hadn’t been done at that time period, but it’s still interesting. Kwame is also skilled in the art of doing the female parts on the album. That’s something you don’t see artists doing these days. Dudes like Positive K and Kwame weren’t afraid to drop a few lines in a feminine voice and he does it quite often, even singing hooks on certain occasions.
For an album that went against all the things I held true and near for hip hop in those days, this album played a major part of my summer of ’90 and is still a personal classic despite what others, including Biggie, might say about it. The fun tag gets applied to this album as well. If you want some thug shit, with gats clapping, corner block dealing, this album isn’t going to do anything for you. If you are down with some fun lyrics, with some attitude to go over some slick and interesting production with some boom in the trunk, then Kwame is well than suited to handle having fun in hip hop music.