Ahh, 1991, a number, another summer. Okay, so those lyrics were from a song a couple years earlier, but 1991 holds a special place in my heart, in both hip hop music and my personal life. Personally, I graduated high school in the spring of ’91. The summer was full of fun times hanging out in the mountains, water skiing, playing volleyball and of course some drinking. I had a female friend, a hot Hawaiian girl that I spent a lot of time with. Of course I would end up fucking that up a few months later, but it was fun while it lasted. That summer was one that could have made the “Summertime” video real easy.
As far as my musical tastes went, it was all hip hop. I wouldn’t discover “The Source” until late November of that year (what a glorious day that was), so I was still relying heavily on “Yo! MTV Raps” for my daily dose of hip hop music and discovering new music. As Eric already eloquently put, 1991 was a great year for hip hop. Looking back at things these days, I would say that the ifrst phase of the “Golden Age” started in 1986 and lasted through 1988. Living during that time, I always thought 1989 and 1990 were the “weak links” of the era. Don’t get me wrong, they still produced some classics that will always be considered among the best, but commercialism threatened the hip hop even back then. But then in 1991, a resurgence hit the music and it once again leaped forward into what I would coin as “the second phase” of the “golden age”, which I would loosely consider lasting until 1996 (although I wouldn’t argue if someone cut it off at ’94).
- Main Source releases an album viewed as classic in most circles (not mine) but more importantly, the world is introduced to Nasir Jones, a.k.a. Nasty Nas on the track “Live At The BBQ.”
- The first all rap radio station, KDAY, is shut down and becomes an all polka station, or talk show station, or something like that.
- The Lyricist Lounge Open Mic night opens and spawns classic performances from the likes of Biggie Smalls, Mos Def, Eminem, and Paul Wall…well not Paul Wall, but the others.
- Sway, Tech, and Joe Quixx begin doing the “Wake Up Show” on Bay Area station KMEL. Later, Paperboy would drop a freestyle so amazing that Tech quits and joins MTV.
- Big Daddy Kane appears in “Playgirl” magazine. It would be one of three career damaging incidents Kane would do. The other two were appearing on Heavy D’s “Don’t Curse” video wearing a purple jump suite and showing up in Madonna’s tell all book. His career is still trying to recover.
- De La Soul and MC Lyte would be the first hip-hop artists to appear on “MTV Unplugged.” The Vanilla Ice session becomes a lost TV moment.
- Puffy’s first exposure to the publics eye is a bad one when a basketball game sponsored by Heavy D and himself ends in tragedy as a stampede at the event kills nine people. I remember laughing at the name “Puffy”. No laughing matter is the nine lives lost. Another reason not to associate yourself with Puffy.
- John Singleton releases his hood classic “Boyz N The Hood” which introduces the world to Ice Cube, the actor. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure if Singleton released another movie. If he did, no one saw it.
- Dr. Dre throws “Pump It Up” video host, Dee Barnes, against a wall and down a flight of stairs. Dre insists he “ain’t got no love fo’ dem hoes”, but Barnes ends up richer and Dre looks like a coward.
- Cypress Hill becomes the first Latino group to go platinum with their s/t debut album. Cypress Hill would go on to make the same album over and over for the next 15 years.
- Marion “Suge” Knight and former NWA member Dr. Dre launch “Death Row Records”. Vanilla Ice pisses himself just a little.
Notable Deaths (RIP)
- MC Trouble
- Trouble T-Roy (Dancer for Heavy D & The Boyz)
Straight from the January 1992 issue of The Source, which can be read in its entirety at Thimk.
The awards were determined by polling 5,000 subscribers and 500 industry heads.
Artist of the Year – Ice Cube
New Artist of the Year – Naughty by Nature (I guess even then, they over looked the New Style release)
Album of the Year – N.W.A. – Niggaz 4 Life
Single of the Year – Geto Boys – Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me
Top 15 Albums of 1991 (According To The Source)
1. N.W.A. – Niggaz4Life
2. Brand Nubian – All For One
3. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
4. Public Enemy – Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black
5. De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
6. Main Source – Breaking Atoms
7. Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped
8. EPMD – Business As Usual
9. DJ Quik – Quik Is The Name
10. Naughty By Nature – Naughty By Nature
11. Chubb Rock – The One
12. Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
13. Nice & Smooth – Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed
14. Gang Starr – Step Into The Arena
15. Scarface – Mr. Scarface Is Back
Top 20 Singles of 1991 (According to The Source)
1. Geto Boys – My Mind Playing Tricks On Me
2. Naughty By Nature – O.P.P.
3. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Summertime
4. MC Breed & The DFC – Ain’t No Future In Yo’ Frontin’
5. 3rd Bass – Pop Goes The Weasel
6. Yo-Yo – Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo
7. Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs – I Gotta Have It
8. Chubb Rock – Treat ‘Em Right
9. Brand Nubian – Slow Down
10. Digital Underground – Same Song
11. AMG – Bitch Betta Have My Money
12. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
13. DJ Quik – Quik Is The Name
14. Public Enemy – Can’t Truss It
15. Compton’s Most Wanted – Growin’ Up In The Hood
16. A Tribe Called Quest - Check The Rhime
17. Nice & Smooth – Hip Hop Junkies
18. Black Sheep – Flavor Of The Month
19. Tim Dog – Fuck Compton
20. Gang Starr – Just To Get A Rep
Platinum and Gold Records: Sales
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Homebase
N.W.A. – Niggaz4Life
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
New Jack City OST
Too Short – Short Dogs In The House
Public Enemy – Apocalypse ’91
Ice Cube – Death Certificate
Young MC – Brainstorm
Heavy D – Peaceful Journey
Geto Boys - We Can’t Be Stopped
3rd Bass – Derelicts Of Dialect
De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
Digital Underground – This Is An EP Release
EPMD – Business As Usual
DJ Quik – Quik Is The Name
Ice Cube – Kill At Will
Boyz In The Hood OST
Vanilla Ice – Extremely Live
Naughty By Nature - Naughty By Nature
(Trav’s Take: There are some excellent albums that went gold in ’91 and five GOOD albums that went platinum, you could even argue that the NWA and Cube albums are CLASSICS. People supporting the music, that is an odd concept. This could never happen in today’s market, for many different reasons, but its kind of sad. I know there are more people into hip hop than there was in ’91, yet, less albums are being sold. Makes one think.)
12 Inch Singles Sales
Naughty By Nature - O.P.P.
Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Summertime
Heavy D – Now That We Found Love
3rd Bass – Goes The Weasel
Gerardo – Rico Sauve
LL Cool J – Around The Way Girl
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
Salt N’ Pepa – Do You Want Me
Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia)
Released: August 14th, 1991
Imagine where you were the first time you heard B-Real’s nasal vocal tone. What did you think? It certainly catches you off guard at first and maybe that’s why it took me a couple months to pick this up after it dropped. Cypress kind of came out of nowhere when the first video was shown on “Yo! MTV Raps”. I want to say the first video was “Phunky Feel One”, which is a good song in its own right, but might not have been the best choice for a lead single. It wouldn’t be until “How I Could Just Kill A Man” that I would jump on the Cypress Hill bandwagon.
Still, I was a little gun shy with all crappy radio music going on during the time (I was young and dumb, forgive me), and the high shrill of B-Real and the mounting exposure they were getting for being the “Cheech & Chong” of the hip hop world, I was kind thinking they were just a gimmick. The Source would soon be on the bandwagon, and of course “Yo!” played “How I Could….” four times a week at least. Luckily for everyone involved, the track is one of those songs you can play at anytime and never grow tired of it, it’s truly a classic track in the hip hop genre.
This would be another joint I’d buy on CD. By this time, I learned I could just make a copy of a CD on a tape and it was just as good. It wouldn’t be until I picked up my first Source that I would pick up this album. I picked up Cypress Hill, Brand Nubian and Black Sheep all the same day, one of those days you always remember. I still had a hard time accepting B-Real’s voice, but I gradually (as many people did) grew used to it. It’s rather obvious that B-Real isn’t going to win any lyrical battles, their subject matter was limited to weed smoking, gang banging and self bragging, but something about how they did it always attracted an audience of varying backgrounds. The stoners loved them, white boys loved them, the gang bangers loved them, this would all be compounded on the next album, but Cypress’ influence would be felt years later by artists like Redman, House Of Pain and even the Beastie Boys went through their “cypress” sound on the Check Your Head LP.
The selling point for me though, would be DJ Muggs’ production. Sounding like some blunted out Bomb Squad sessions, odd sounds litter the background of the beats on the LP as deep basslines, congo drums and dusted out samples give a great sound for the nasally B-Real to tell his weed smoking tales over. The lead off track, “Pigs”, is a great example of the unorthodox production of Muggs. With a whinny wa-wa guitar sample, B-Real tells tales of the “Little Pigs” and right from that moment, you know this isn’t your big brothers hip hop music. It was something totally original at the time. A sound that wasn’t quite like anyone else out there. All these things added together is why Cypress’ first album made the mark it did on the hip hop landscape. With the beats, the sounds, B-Real’s nasal flow, and Sen Dog’s gruff Spanglish lyrics, this album was all original. The album in its whole isn’t without fault. In a rush to get the album done, some tracks definitely have that rushed or filler feeling to them, but this was what hip hop was all about in 1991, originality. For that reason alone, this album will always stand as a benchmark in the game in my eyes.
We jump into the next portion of the year 1991 with an album that is quite possibly one of the most overlooked albums ever in my opinion. Son Of Bazerk was a “group” of sorts coming straight outta Strong Island, backed in it’s sonic soundscape by the almighty Bomb Squad. Bazerk was the lead MC, backed by No Self Control & The Band, which according to the inner liner notes, consisted of MC Halfpint, Almighty Jahwell, Daddy Rawe, and Sandman, all which pop up through all the album. As much as the group dynamic is strong and adds to the album, the main reason this album grabbed my attention was the crazy, crazy noise, provided by The Bomb Squad.
In 1991, The Bomb Squad was THE Squad on the production tip. They made music out of noise a prime example being Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions, but as much as that album was finely produced, Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk was created out of chaos and took it a step further. It was pure, unadulterated noise and it was beautiful. The Bomb Squad was known for it’s twisting of samples and making them almost unrecognizable, and this album was no different. Driving basslines dominate tracks, heavy scratching, driving synths and looped guitar riffs that help add to the absolute craziness of the album. It’s as if someone had a bucket full of musical concepts and threw it at a canvas and this is what came out of it. I love albums like this, and there is a reason The Bomb Squad is my second favorite producers, this album just adds to the legacy.
As far as the lyrics, SOB has enough style and vocal presence to not detract from the flurry of sounds coming at the listener. On some tracks such as What Could Be Better Bitch Bazerk actually is the main focus of the track, which doesn’t happen much on the album. On other tracks such as the single Change The Style, he even adds to the chaos on the track. His half shouted/half sang flow suites the tracks fine. With his crew splattered through out the album, it comes off as kind of a 60′s funk/soul album half the time. Sure, some concepts on the album fall short to keep it from being a certified classic, but the tracks that standout are more than enough to make up for any short comings.
The groups first single, Change The Style would be in rotation on “Yo! MTV Raps”, and I would I get in line to purchase the album when it dropped that spring. Being somewhat fond of different genres of music, the mesh of musical concepts in the song always appealed to me. The second video would be The Band Gets Swivey on the Wheels, which probably is my favorite track on the album (with J Dubs Theme right behind it). Son of Bazerk would also show up on the Juice Soundtrack with What Could Be Better, Bitch. This track would attract some of my less hip hop inclined friends, being the snot nosed 17,18 and 19 years we were back then. I’m sure some people will think I’m crazy mentioning this in the greatness of so many classic albums, but this album got constant play from me for a year or two (at least until Masta Ace INC’s Slaughtahouse dropped in 93′) and the production makes it one of my top 10 favorite produced albums of all-time. I wasn’t the only person that screams about the brilliancy that is “Bazerk, Bazerk, Bazerk”
Oh man. Talk about a brilliant record. The public wasnt ready for that. They were barely ready for Public Enemy, so Bazerk was just ahead of its time. Still is. I recently met Hank Shocklee and had him sign the sealed CD longbox I have, haha. I don’t think any producer can duplicate that. Ever. I’m a fanatic for details and noise and throwaway sounds, and even I was like “how the fuck did they do that?” Even my pops loves that album.
The MC wasn’t no Rakim, but he was perfect for that project. Guys like him, Tim Dog, Too $hort, Eazy-E. I looked up to them as MCs. Cause they may not have been the best, but they were entertaining, didnt take themselves so serious and knew how to rhyme in the scope of making a successful song. People overlook that for the sake of skills. I’d rather hear a dude that can rap or produce in the context of a cohesive project than some hack that can “spit” 90 bars of ill punchlines on a mixtape or a producer that makes banger after banger but can’t define his own sound and work within a concept scope. There have been better albums than Bazerk beatwise, but in terms of total production and sound, there has never been a better rap album. Ever.
Interesting interview from last year with 1/2Pint of No Self Control.
Someone PLEASE hook me up with that unreleased track. If the unreleased album is out there, I’d love to hear that as well. A guy can dream can’t he?
3rd Bass – Derelicts of Dialect (Def Jam)
Released: June 18th, 1991
My first introduction to 3rd Bass would be “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video, which came out before there was even a name for “The Cactus Album”. I remember the that my video tape ran out of tape right when the last verse started, so for the longest time, when I would watch the video while getting ready for high school, I never had the last verse. When “The Cactus” album did drop, it had the type of production that just spoke to me in volumes. You had Prince Paul, The Bomb Squad and even member Pete Nice’s production was much in the style of music I love. The album would soon rank as one of my all-time favorites. An album that I knew every single word to, an album that I could throw on at anytime and just jam to it. I wanted to be Pete Nice when I grew up.
Needless to say, “Derelicts of Dialect” was probably one of my most anticipated follow ups ever. I seem to remember “Derelicts….” being pushed back quite often for some reason. Back then, you basically had to go to the record store to see if something came out. If it wasn’t there the day it was supposed to, you’d walk up to the clerk behind the desk in hopes that they just hadn’t put it out yet and asked him if they had the albums of your desire in. They’d say no, look and say it’s been pushed back and there is no date. You’d leave, draggin’ your feet and disappointed as hell. We had it so rough back then. I still remember the day it dropped and I went and grabbed. It was one of the first albums I bought on CD, during a time I was still picking up tapes more often than not. We only had a CD player in our home stereo, so I went home and threw it in the CD player and sat and listened to it.
I think its safe to say that “Derelicts….” is a somewhat different sound and maybe an even more mature effort than was “The Cactus Album”. Most of the production is by a variety of either Prince Paul, Sam Sever, Stimulated Dummies or the group themselves. The album contains a very fluid sound, rich with some of the best production seen that year. Whether it was the smooth sample with keys dotting the musical landscape on “Microphone Techniques” that was hooked up by the far too often overlooked Sam Sever or the dusty guitar sample by the Doo Dew Man himself, the soundscapes are perfect for MC Serch and Pete Nice to drop their brand of humor. That humor would be examplified by the “Pop Goes The Weasel” video, which the trio aims their anger at pop music and take it out on one “Vanilla Wafer” who gets an epic beat down at the end of the video. Using a popular pop 80′s tune for the sample (Peter Gaberial’s “Sledgehammer”, the song almost became a caricature of itself in being the group’s largest selling single. The were also rumors that the track “No Master Plan, No Master Race” was aimed at X-Clan and/or YZ. Never ones to dodge controversy, Pete and Serch took this album to higher standards than their equally dope debut.
Raw Fusion – Live From The Styleetron (Hollywood Basic) *FIXED…I Think*
Released: November 12, 1991
Me and my neurotic tastes rear it’s ugly head once again with the Raw Fusion release “Live From The Styleetron”. I doubt anyone would consider the release from Digital Underground members, DJ Fuze and Money B as classic. Don’t get it wrong, I don’t consider it classic neither, but it is among my personal favorites. Following DU’s path of using a fictional scheme, Raw Fusion used a Styleetron, to fuse together different types of musics and ideas. The album is a collage of different types of music, which is part of the albums appeal and also a distraction of sorts, creating an album that sometimes lacks much consistency.
There is also a warning on the album, that it contains some “Toxic Waste Fallout Bass” and that severe damage could done to speakers that couldn’t handle it properly. That was no lie as the first three tracks are “Monster Jams”, leading off the album with some SERIOUS rumble. I always listened to the albums intro just because it had that low continuous rumble that sounded pretty nice on my stereo set up at the time. “Hip Hop/Stylee Expression” is
the first legitimate track, it too also has a killer bassline that used to shake the VW symbol hanging off of my rear view mirror something serious. Musically, it wasn’t much, it was along the lines of the Miami Bass jawns back in those days, but it that didn’t bother me as I played this track anytime I wanted to show off the “Boom” my car stereo packed. There is also some nifty scratching done by DJ Fuze, who was always overlooked as a DJ in my view. “Don’t Test”, the album’s third song, didn’t measure up quite to the first tracks in terms of bass, but it still contained a wicked bassline that would fuck up any uncapped speakers it came in contacted with.
The rest of the album lived up to the styleetron theme with many styles of music fused together. Money B came with his version of the “quiet storm” with “Wild Francis”, a sort of “Brenda” type of song. The album’s first single was a b-boy type of traditional hip hop song. “Throw Your Hands In The Air”, was probably a poor choice for a lead off single, but it did showcase Mon B’s story telling skills as he tells about a fucked up day he has. I always found Money B as a better than average MC, meaning I kind of liked him on the lyrical tip. He had a sense of humor as can be found on “Nah Go Drip”, as he makes fun of the Jehri Curl juice that ran rampant on the west coast in those days. Mon could also flow with some great lyrics as his last verse on “Hip Hop/Stylee Expression” demonstrates as I would rhyme along with him while playing the tape in my walkman while at work at a hospital I worked at. Tupac also makes an appearance on the albums finale “#1 With A Bullet”, as Mon and Pac trade verses back and forth over a lazy blues sample.
As I’ve previously stated, the album is very uneven, but its combination of killer bass and my fondness for Money B’s flow and style made this a personal favorite of mine for the year. You won’t find it on any year end lists from that year and Raw Fusion would stumble with their sophomore effort, Hoochified Funk, and would never release another Raw Fusion project (Money B has a couple solo efforts that aren’t all that either). This is probably one of those albums that you had to hear when it dropped to purely appreciate, but it will always be a WYDU favorite.