The final chapter of covering our favorite albums for the year 1990. As I try to forgive E for trashing the album from which gave this blog it’s name, I figured we’d give a quick look at the year’s hottest videos for 1990. Video shows were a BIG thing back then, unlike now. There was no internet, so it’s how artists got their name out of the respected locales. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past, Yo! MTV Raps and The Source were HUGE in exposing me to music that I would hear no other way. Again, I go to The Source issue of Jan ’91 for:
Captain Video’s Top 10 Rap Clips for 1990
1. Public Enemy – 911 Is A Joke
2. Ice Cube – Who’s The Mack?
3. LL Cool J – Jingling Baby
4. Digital Underground – The Humpty Dance
5. A Tribe Called Quest – Bonita Applebum
6. Nice & Smooth – Funky For You
7. Divine Styler – Ain’t Say Nuthin’ (Great to see this in the top 10…one of my all-time favorite beats and songs…great to see the video again as well)
8. Poor Righteous Teachers – Rock Dis Funky Joint
9. 3rd Bass – Gas Face
10. Above The Law – Murder Rap
Audio Two – I Don’t Care: The Album (First Priority/Atlantic)
Released: April 18th, 1989
If you visited this blog enough, you should know by now that I’m somewhat of an Audio Two junkie. One of my personal highlights of last year was conducting an interview with Milk D, it was like a classical music fan talking to Beethoven. While they were not the most popular group in hip hop history, they have forever left their mark on hip hop history by recording one of the top singles of all-time in “Top Billin’”. Audio Two was composed of Milk Dee on vocals and Giz as the DJ. They dropped a hip hop classic in “Top Billin” (my personal favorite all -time favorite hip hop single) in 87′ and then their debut album “What More Can I Say” in 88′. It earned enough attention to put them up among top releases in what many describe as one of the best years ever for hip hop. In 1990 they dropped their somewhat underrated album “I Don’t Care: The Album”.
Despite being a personal favorite of mine, the album did not get much critical praise and the album would not match the success of their debut. I think it was actually to braggadocios for people. The album was slammed for being “to one dimensional” (go figure, now it’s okay). Personally for myself, Milk was what MC’s used to be all about in the world of hip hop. Milk was all about telling sucka MC’s that he is the “baddest mamajamma” on the mic. Tracks like “Milk Does The Body Good”, was all about him being the flyest brutha, just cruisin’ in his Jetta. It’s either party starters or Milk bragging how bad he is. To me hip hop is built on that though, people forget that. Yeah, it’s fine to grow, but like the roots of a tree, the roots of hip hop also hold the art form into the ground firmly and thats what Audio Two did. It’s in your face bragging rhymes.
Milk and the album caught flack for some of the lyrics on “Whatcha’ Lookin’ At?” which contained some so called “bigotry” lyrics, with his “gay mutha’s should get punched in the face” line along with a few other questionable lines. As a naive high school senior, I loved it. Not saying it was right, but it added to the albums attractiveness. As far as lyrics, there is nothing ground breaking. racks like “Milk Does The Body Good (remix)” are straight badass lyrics. While it’s true Milks lyrics are not deep or politically correct, but to me, this is the stuff that drew me to hip hop in the first place. They are also of the first artists to dis MC Hammer on “Start It Up Y’all” with his “(Pos K & others) “So what’s up with Hammer? Yo Hammer can’t rhyme and 357 is a bunch of Ho’s”. Straight in your face lyrics and hard core beats. Don’t expect to be blown away by lyrics.
Beat wise, it’s all done by Milk. It’s a bit more musical that “What More Can I Say”, but that ain’t sayin’ much. Lot’s of familiar breaks (familiar because of Milk and the other old school cats) and some hard drums. Milk seemed to still favor the 808 approach to things that had started to pass by NY by this time. There is nothing mind blowing as far as beats go, but for a simpler time, this music was great. I r
emember playing this a lot on the way to my senior year in high school and knowing just about all the words. This is a classic to me, fuck everyone else….
Many Styles (I NEVER knew there was a video for this)
Kid Sensation – Rollin’ With Number One (Nastymix)
Released: July 2nd, 1990
Since the 1990 year was in the highlight of my high school years, sometimes I didn’t necessarily choose music because it was “quality” music. I chose it because it sounded good in the audio system I had hooked up in my little black ’82 Jetta. This was one such album that got play for the “big boom” it supplied. Don’t get me wrong, Kid Sensation’s debut album “Rollin’ With Number” wasn’t one of those talent devoid bass albums that were so popular with the white kids in those days. The Kid was more than adequate on the mic and the album’s topics ranged from socially and politically conscious (Hype It Up), to mackin’ to the females (Skin To Skin), to just straight up battle rhymes (I S.P.I.T.). Of course it didn’t hurt that his music packed some wicked 808 to back up the lyrics.
Kid Sensation came up in the Seattle/Tacoma area in the late 80′s with the Northwest’s main man, Sir Mix-a-Lot. He would appear on Mix’s “Swass” album, showing up as an early day Quasimoto, using an altered high pitched voice on tracks like “Square Dance Rap”, “Buttermilk Biscuits” and “Rippin’” as he he became Mix-a-Lot’s right hand man, “Kid Sensation dropped a 20 and didn’t even miss it”….. In late ’89/early 1990, Kid would drop his first single “Back To Boom” b/w “I S.P.I.T.” (the original version), and since I was a big fan of Sir Mix-a-Lot and the Swass LP, I was all over this release. I quickly snatched up a cassette single of the song and it would be a prized possession of mine for the next six months or so while Nastymix got ready to release a full length project. Coming from an area loosely lumped in the geographical region of the Pacific Northwest, this was as close as I could get to calling an artist “local”, so I was supporting mine when “Rollin’ With Number One” dropped in the middle of the summer of 1990.
Musically, “Rollin….” sounds very close to the first two Sir Mix-a-Lot albums, Swass and Seminar. I’m sure Mix had a lot of influence on his young protege first release and his fingerprints can be heard all over the album. Mix would also produce four out of the twelve tracks found on the album while Kid did five tracks. Bass is the name of the game as 808 kick drums dominate the albums sound, which makes for some good “bump in the trunk”. Lyrically, Kid Sensation was a notch above the average MC, although the lyrics will come off a little dated when listened to today just in flow and delivery (it is almost 18 years old after all). The lyrical flexing found on “Two Minutes” is a prime example that Kid was better on the mic than his rhyme boss, Mix-a-Lot, although you can tell a certain influence in Kids style from Mix’s own lyrical style.
This album gets overlooked all the time and there are probably several reasons for that. West coast hip hop was having a problem being taken seriously by the east coast rap fans critics and something coming out of Seattle had it even more rough. The Northwest in general is a place that to this day still doesn’t get much recognition for its hip hop artists and contributions. Being associated with Mix-a-Lot might have hindered his ability to be taken seriously as well, which I find rather sad. This was of course before Mix’s popularity explosion with “Baby Got Back” (which I like), but it’s tied to the whole location thing again. As I’ve said previously, this album had a lot going for it, variety, boomin’ beats and good lyrics, I just wish it would have more of a chance to shine.
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (Def Jam)
Released: August 27th, 1990
LL Cool J is like my Kool Herc. It was Run DMC and LL Cool J that really got me into hip hop. While they both kind of fell off in their later years, their early material is stuff that will always be stamped deep in my thoughts and memories. I had “Bigger & Deffer” on constant play in my walkmen back in ’86 and ’87. I can still recite every lyric on that release. Then I would go back to “Radio” and learn that album as well. In 1989, LL would drop “Walking With A Panther”, which got a lot of flack from the hip hop world. Hip Hop was evolving, no more was it just okay to spit battle rhymes about how dope you were, it was talking about Afrocentric in nature. Rhymes were more complex, while “Walking With A Panther” was just straight up braggin’ and boastin’ over fairly minimalistic beats. Despite all of that, I still loved the album (still do to this day), but LL was faced with his first “hurdle” in his musical career. It is at this point many an artist, whether it is in jazz, rock, or even country, slip up. Not Uncle L though, he came with possibly the greatest comeback in hip hop history with “Mama Said Knock You Out”.
“Boomin’ System” would be the first true single from the album, which dropped a little before the album would be released. Again, this was more bass for my trunk, although it had a different sound. It wasn’t just the straight up 808 kicks that my system was set up to do. “Boomin’ System” had some rolling, strung out basslines found on it. It was still an early favorite. When the album dropped right around the start of school, I would snatch it up the day it dropped. For most of that first semester of school, anytime it was my turn to drive to school with my car pooling friends, we would be listening to “Mama Said Knock You Out”. The title track would quickly become my favorite track on the album, long before it would be released as a single later that fall. It would became my favorite saying for the year. Corny, but I was also wearing a stolen VW logo on my fake dookie gold rope.
Cool J didn’t really change his blueprint for an album as far as topics and lyrics go with this. Of course the tit
le track, “Mama Said Knock You Out”, is a straight to ya face lyrical barrage. LL comes after everyone, “towering” over the comp, there was nothing pro-anything on this track, except maybe a pro-lyrical ass whoopin. He also had his jams for the ladies, something that he had been doing since “Radio”. This was the part of LL that usually provoked my index finger to hit the “FF” button on the walkmen, but how do you argue with the greatness of “Around The Way Girl”? It’s an anthem, plain and simple. Of course LL goes after the “sucka” MC’s on “To Da Break Of Dawn”, exemplifying why some consider him on of the best record battle rhymers to pick up the mic, as Ice T, MC Hammer and his favorite whippin’ boy Kool Moe Dee all catch LL’s wrath. Yup, lyrically, there wasn’t really anything new here, so what made the “comeback” so successful? The beats.
The first Marley Marl appearance on an LL joint would be the remix for “Jingling Baby”, a track found on the “Walking With A Panther” LP. The track was….eh so-so and the Panther LP, but a remix soon followed, done by the (by this time) legendary Marley Marl. The remix was a hit on Yo! and the rap charts. LL being the smart artist that he is, saw that he was on to something and had Marley do the entire “Mama Said Knock You Out” LP. It worked and it worked well. Marley added funky beats behind LL’s ferocious rhymes. From the straight up jeep banger of “Boomin’ System” where Marley would show early signs of his later sounds found on the Lords of the Underground albums to the almost New Jackish “Illegal Search, Marley made LL relevant again in the hip hop world.
The album has long been a favorite of mine and I would dare to go as far as to say this would still rank as one of the best albums of the 90′s. At one time or another, just about every song has been considered my favorite. Even the typically targeted “weak links” such as “Farmer’s BLVD”, “Six Minutes To Pleasure” (although the remix is MUCH better) or “Cheesy Rat Blues” have things I like about them. LL has long been considered an icon in the hip hop game and this album only cemented his legacy in the hip hop game.
C.P.O. – To Hell & Black (Capitol)
Released: August 7th, 1990
MC Ren always was kind of the redheaded step child when it came to NWA. You had Eazy doing his thing with the label, Dre obviously was the musical brains behind the crew, Ice Cube was seen as the lead vocalist, DJ Yella….yeah, well there was Yella. I’ve always thought lyrically, Ren was a notch above Cube when it came to spitting straight up lyrics. Ren would also get outshined on the business side of things as well. Ren would get his own label through Capitol records and the first release wouldn’t garner much attention. C.P.O. was a southern LA group made up of the large and in charge Lil Nation, Young D, Chip and DJ Train. Nation would be the MC and of course the late DJ Train was the DJ, Young D did most of the production on their “To Hell & Black” release in 1990. Ren though, would be all over the release, from guest appearing on the lead single “Ballad of a Menace” to also showing up on that single’s horrible video. He would also drop a verse on the album’s closing song, Gangsta Melody, ala Grand Finale type of thing and have a song named after him, with “Ren’s Rhythm”. 1990 was still before the west coast gangsta phase really took over. Yes, you had NWA and Eazy blowing up along with Ice T doing his thing, but it was still a early in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, while this group definitely had the gangsta culture ties, it wasn’t a hardcore “gangster rap” album.
Lil Nation was strong with the rhymes, commanding a booming voice and a tight, Nation was able to hang with Ren on both of the tracks he appeared on. The album almost contains a bi-coastal feel both on the mic and the beats. Tracks like “Flow To The Rhythm” and “Somethin’ Like Dis” both use commonly used break beats and samples for it’s basis. While not overly creative or original, it’s comes off as some party starting jams that the poppers and breakers (the west coast b-boys) could get into. MC Ren is listed as co-producer. One might question just how much production he did on the project, but the production does sound like some of Ren’s previous production attempts, “We Want Eazy” remix and “Ruthless Villain”, which he is rumored to have produced. Lil Nation just concentrates on rippin’ the mic and flexin’ his lyrical muscle.
The track “Homicide” is probably the most gangsterish and also Lil Nation’s strongest lyrical performance. It is also probably my favorite cut off an album that did get a lot of play from me. As I mentioned, Ren was my favorite member out of NWA, even back in those days. When I first saw the video for “Ballad Of A Menace” on “Yo!”, I was all over this release. It’s not classic material in the least, but it’s a strong release from the west coast that got over looked in those days.