If you pose the question “What was the best year in Hip Hop?”, the answer more often than not will always be “1994″. Whoooaaaaa!!!, “Hoooooold up…wait a minute!” I’d have to argue, I’ve always felt that 1991 was the year that changed the face of Hip Hop forever and it is also the year that I really began to fall deeply in love with the music. Prior to 91′ I had been restricted to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper”, Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions..” and EPMD “Unfinished Business”….let’s just say that I’d broadened my listening when I realized that I could purchase albums that had the “Parental Advisory” sticker even though I wasn’t of age (what a dumbass!). Undoubtedly, 94′ was a pinnacle year for Hip Hop as well, but there were countless debuts in 1991 that introduced us to a few monumental classics along with a few debuts that have received more than than their due share of “fanfare” and have become cornerstones in Hip Hop as years have passed.
Where shall I begin? Well, for starters we have A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory”, which not only topped their classic (not in my opinion)”People’s Instinctive…..you know the rest” but would later go on to be quite possibly the most cohesive album in more than a few critics’ eyes’. Another release that has been hoisted to “classic” status is De La Soul’s complete “restructuring” “De La Soul Is Dead”. As far as debuts are concerned, the lists is pretty amazing if you think about it. Acts such as Main Source, Cypress Hill, Naughty By Nature, Black Sheep, Orgainized Konfusion, The UMC’s, Leaders Of The New School….ahhhh!!!! (deep breath)…..Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs, 2Pac, K.M.D.,…(tired yet?)…Del and also AMG blessed the listener with phenomenal rookie efforts. As much as I would’ve liked to post my favorite album of 1991 (GangStarr’s “Step In The Arena”…check the archives), I’m more than pleased to start you off with a little appetizer.
Let’s state the obvious. Most of you may already know that Del was indeed the “little” cousin of then West Coast stronghold, Ice Cube. We also know that Cube handled the duties of Executive Producer on “My Brother George…” ( what does an executive producer do anyway?? I sure do see Jay poppin‘ up as executive producer on a shitload of albums as of late), but would one dare to say that this release paved the way for much of the thriving underground LA underground scene that would soon include Del’s Hieroglypics co-horts as well as the likes of the Freestyle Fellowship? I mean really, who actually bought the Fellowship’s debut? You were probably much like me and didn’t catch on until “Innercity Griots“. If not, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that Del’s debut would’ve been considered ahead of it’s time when it was released. You must admit, with songs like “Mistadobalina“, “Dr Bombay” and “Sunny Meadowz” you had to have been a bit confused after the first few listens. Myself, I couldn’t stop scratching my head while reading the linear notes and thinking: “Damn, this dude doesn’t sound ANYTHING like Cube!?”. This album was definitely a “grower” for me, being 13 at the time it was really difficult to grasp much of Del’s lyrical content. Once I did “catch on” it quickly became an album that I would enjoy for much of my High School years…especially “Sunny Meadowz” if you catch my drift. Even the production was advanced by 1991 standards, as the Boogiemen with a helping hand from Cube assisted Del with perfectly paired sound schemes for Del’s uncharacteristic subject matter. This album is fairly overlooked in Hip Hop, as most of Del’s fans prefer his latter work, but I feel that this album was fairly daring for 1991 and more folks seem to have “caught on” as the years have passed by.
Hold up a minute! I know your looking at the title of E.S.P.’s “Valloompadoom Pink…” and thinking to yourself: “What in the hell is this sh*t?!”. I’m here to tell you, this album is surprisingly……good! Thanks to the almighty “Bust The Facts” I was introduced to this strangely titled disc by the three man crew that comprised E.S.P. (which was an acronym for each of the three member’s aliases). Little is known on the origin of this trio, as it was truly a task to find an info on the net’. Before I actually sat down and listened to the album nearly a year ago, I felt compelled to peep Discogs to see just who these cats were. I was surprised to find out that Hitman Howie Tee produced three cuts on the album. The correlation makes sense being that Howie had a heavy involvement in Chubb Rock’s production, and of course, Chubb happened to be on the Select Records imprint as well.
The album starts off with a nice intro, “Been A Long Time”, which incorporates the same loop that Ghostface popularized with his usage for “Daytona 500″. The good intro was key, because if some ”lovey dovey” bullsh*t” would have blasted thru the speakers there may have been a decent chance that I would’ve moved on to the next album. The hook for “Makin’ Nat’ Green” serves as a clever play on Schooly D’s infamous “P.S.K…”, while it also features a very familiar sample that’s extremely easy on the ears. Not too disappoint, Howie Tee comes through with top-notch production on the album with “One, Two, An A..”. The track, which really reminds me alot of Chubb’s “Just The Two Of Us”, has a bit of a reggae vibe to it, yet the rolling bass undertones solidify it’s edginess. And the Chubb Rock comparisons don’t end there, “One, Two, An A..” also features Chubb’s girl Lady Kazan (“Lady Kazan/My homegirl..peace!”, from “Treat Em’ Right”) The majority of the tracks on the album are heavily reliant on overused samples, well, I say overused now, but back in 1991 this album…production-wise….could have hung with the best of em’. I would have to say that “Valoompadoom..” reminds me of what Leaders of The New School’s “A Future Without A Past” and K.M.D.’s “Mr. Hood” would sound like if they were meshed together.
Lyrically, each of the emcees have a very laidback, smooth, yet mellow flow. Even though they may not be raising the bar with lyrics that make you reach for the rewind button, each of their voices blends effortlessly with the superb production. If you want to be surprised by an album that you’ve probably never heard, “Valoompadoom Pink…” is it! It’s not the type of album that I just threw in the headphones to give my ”two cents”, this is an album that is….no, has been in rotation over the course of the year. Don’t miss out on this one!
“I stay hard like an erection/ I’m burnin’ suckas’ so wear protection/…So who’s next when Ed’s flexin?/I’m the bread/And you are just a crumb off/Checkin’ ya’ jimmy but you still can’t come off”. Ahhh….classic material! The opening bars to one of the best Hip Hop songs ever laid to was, “I Got To Have It” from a fellow who has sorta’ become an MC with longevity that parallels the one and only Master Ace. I loved “I Got To Have It” so much when it dropped that it actually pissed me off when Pete Rock looped the same sample for Heavy D’s “Love Sexy”. Now, that is coming from a dude who not only loves everything Pete Rock has touch, but whom also would put “Blue Funk” in his top 20 albums of all-time!! Fresh outta’ Roxbury, MA Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs dropped a….not quite a classic for the masses in 1991. I was first introduced to Ed O.G. via the “Be A Father To Your Child” video on Yo! that played right after my introduction to Gang Starr (the video for “Just To Get A Rep”) and I became a fan shortly thereafter… picking up “Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto) from the local Camelot Music just a few days later. The album is solid from start to finish, with the only throwaway track being the lame New Jack Swingish’ attempt “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy”. Again, it’s forgivable, because in 1991 you either had a token reggae track, a dance/club track or a New Jack Swing attempt. Kinda’ hard to believe that Special K & Teddy Ted did the majority of the production on here along with Joe Mansfield because the production is PROPER…what’s you say Hamma?….PROPER (damn, where did that come from?)!! Again, I still like EDO’s second effort “Roxbury (add zip code)” a little bit more than this, solely based on the even better production from the likes of Diamond D (who produced nearly half the album). Oh, and now that Ed O’s long lost album from 1996 “Acting” has resurfaced you may wanna’ be sure and track it down, it’s a real good listen. With that being said, “Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto” was another solid debut that turned out to be a big contributor for a monumental year in Hip Hop.
Undoubtedly, the average Hip-Hop fan will associate Tim Dog with his ultimate dis to N.W.A., “Fuck Compton”. If your thinking is anything like mine, you too would have perceived Tim Dog’s debut LP “Penicillin On Wax” as gimmicky or as a desperate ploy for attention. That’s just one reason why I slept on this album for so long, another is the fact that, plain and simple, I never thought that Tim Dog could rhyme to save his life. Instead of injecting his tracks with clever wordplay, or witty metaphors, Tim opted to scream and “grunt out” his lyrics. For a little taste of what to expect, lyrically, on “Penicillin’ On Wax”, I highly suggest that you first listen to Dres’ impersonation of a “hardcore” emcee on “U Mean I’m Not?”, from Black Sheep’s debut “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”. Much of Tim’s lyrical content on “Penicillin..” will no doubt wear you down after a few listens, I mean, you can only kick so many people in the face, or “wax that ass” at least once every other record before it becomes repetitive. Check this out, let’s just take a look at a few track titles to get the gist of the LP: “Step To Me”, “I’ll Wax Anybody”, “Dog’s Gonna Getcha”, “Get Off The Dick”, “You Ain’t Shit” and “I Ain’t Takin’ No Shorts”. So, you see where I’m going with this, right?
Now for the good, I mean great! Hold your breath, I’m here to tell you that had I heard “Penicillin’ On Wax” back in 1991 when it first dropped, I would have been all over this album. Point blank, had that been the case… this record would probably have been one of my all-time favorites in the long run. Wait a second, how is it that I can completely dis Tim Dog’s lyrical (or lack thereof) abilities and turn around and place the album on a pedestal? I’ll tell you why….THE PRODUCTION!!! Moe Love, TR and Ced Gee of the Ultramagnetic MC’s laced Tim with some of the best production that the Bomb Squad never did! It’s obvious that Ultramag’ spent more than a little time with P.E.’s classic “Brothers Gonna’ Work It Out” in the headphones, because judging from the heavy metal guitar lick to the “wah wahs”, “I Ain’t Takin’ No Shorts” sounds like a dead-on knock-off. But, you know what? I ain’t mad at all. Most of the tracks fit perfectly with Tim’s intimidating, forceful delivery, even if the subject matter is somewhat “played”. Some of the production is even reminiscent of Sir Jinx.
The majority of the beats on this album are bass-heavy, uptempo joints that utilize familiar breakbeats to create a real “gritty, grimey” feel to the album. As I mentioned before, Tim isn’t droppin’ lyrical “jewelz” like O.C., or A.G., B.D.P., D.O.C. and he’s slightly above A.B.C. (damn, remember those rugrats?), but in the end it works. Talk about making the most of your abilities! I’m tellin’ you, for some of the best production on a record from the so-called “golden era” this is it! For lyrics, keep on searchin’…but “Penicillin On Wax” is most definitely worth your time!