In this edition of “100 Hip Hop Jawns That Changed My Life” we are now deeply entrenched in what has been unanimously considered the first Golden Age of Hip Hop music. During this time in Rap music there were numerous innovators and greats in direct competition at all facets of the artform. Whether it be lyricism, production or in terms of DJ’ing every discipline has reach it’s apex it seems. We had Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Ice Cube, Scarface, The D.O.C., Lord Finesse, GangStarr, Above The Law, Geto Boys, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante, Salt N’ Pepa, etc. all on the radio.
I was seeing names like DJ Mark The 45 King, Marley Marl, Paul C. Sam Sever, DJ Premier, Daddy-O, King Of Chill, Hurby Luv Bug, Teddy Riley, Dr. Dre, Ced Gee, EPMD, Hitman Howie Tee, Full Force, A Tribe Called Quest, The Bomb Squad, DJ Pooh, Sir Jinx, Prince Paul, etc. in the credits under “producer” of many of these classic records I was hearing. Cats were talking about S950′s, SP 1200′s & MPC 60′s all around me. I began to wonder how these records I heard on my radio (& later in my Walkman) were made. The Golden Era changed my life forever. Let’s find out how, shall we?:
61. Audio Two “Top Billin’” 
B-Boying had died out but if you could dance, you could still get girls. Back then you needed to have the ill gear, some waves, be light skinned (I STILL hate Al B. Sure to this day), fresh Adidas (which my brother refused to buy me) or you needed to be able to jam when the record came on. “Top Billin’” was a “go off” record. When it came on, folks used to either jam harder to it or they had practiced routines they did to it. I shit you not. Cats used to come over our apartment & practice routines for when that record came on at the party. My big brother and his boys Troy & Sherman used to come up with routines to pull out at the local college parties. They got women with them, too. When someone took a break I was the stand in. These cats were all 5 to 6 years older than me, too. When that record started up? Awwwww shit! © Antonio Hardy
62. Public Enemy “Bring The Noise” 
This was yet another “go off” record. People used to DANCE to Public Enemy records, son. I know Chuck D likes to say that he & the Shocklees came up with “The Noise” because girls hated it but that’s some bullshit. Girls came up with the illest routines to Public Enemy songs, this being one of them. That debut album had some jams on it but “Bring The Noise” was one of those records I hear in cars when the drug dealers parked in front of school & took all the finest girls when it let out. We regular cats never even stood a chance, B…
63. Big Daddy Kane “Raw” 
“Raw” was yet another “go off” record. It was also one of the slickest & most lyrical records I’d heard at that time. It stood out because the beat was disgusting but so was Kane’s delivery. The Glover brothers came up with the nonstop Rap style way back in the early days of the Furious Five but cats like Big Daddy Kane & Kool G. Rap from the Juice Crew completely turned it upside down and raise it to a higher level. I remember trying to deliver this rhyme perfectly & when I wrote my rhymes in secret I swore I imitated the shit out of Kane’s cadences and delivery.
64. Boogie Down Productions “The Bridge Is Over” 
This was a classic record. It wasn’t a record you jammed to but it was one that you rapped along to when it came on. The thing about the old Rap beefs was we just looked forward to the next diss or the next answer record. I don’t remember even contemplating taking a side. I’d hear an MC Shan record and jam to it then hear a BDP record and jam to it. It was the same thing with LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee’s beef. That, however, is another story…
Rakim changed EVERYTHING. When that dude’s voice came out of the radio it’s like I saw air molecules. Both of these songs were “go off” records while also being intensely lyrical and dense. You could dance to it or just sit there trying to absorb the weight of his bars. I remember when I was a kid and I used to rap I either sounded like Rakim or Kane or KRS One. I never even realized it until one of my friends pointed it out when I’d read my raps aloud. It was a step up from when I used to sound like Kurtis Blow at least…*Eraaaaaaaaah!*
66. Divine Force “Holy War (Live)” 
This was my record! I knew all the words and I was pissed off that it didn’t get played anywhere near as much as my other favorite songs. If I wanted this song I almost had to hope someone else recorded it or dubbed it off the vinyl because WRBB never played it, WMBR rarely played, WERS didn’t play it and WILD used to act like they didn’t know Rap existed sometimes. Sir Ibu’s lisp could not be ignored, either. Around this time, my cousin’s new crew RSO’s 12″ “We’ll Remember You”/“Call Us The All”/”To Be Like Us” was getting a fair amount of burn but I was still like “Why don’t they ever play “Holy War”?.
67. Biz Markie f/TJ Swan “Nobody Beats The Biz” 
This was the jam. Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” mixed in with some beatboxing (A Train of Fresh To Impress Crew would later beat Biz Markie in a beatbox battle) and vocals from TJ Swan who was Nate Dogg before Nate Dogg (RIP). This song had everyone on the floor and it sounded dope in cars. I remember going to Skippy White’s with my brother Dave and his boy Lucky. Skippy White was an older Black dude with a deep ass voice, goatee & an afro and he kept trying to push this record on us when it first came in. They didn’t buy it. We heard that song ALL OVER THE RADIO for the next week. Skippy was right about that one…
68. Kid N’ Play “Last Night” 
My brother went back to Skippy White’s the next day and he bought a mixtape that they stocked in the store with about 20 of the hottest Rap records of the time on it mixed by local DJ & producer Rusty The Toe Jammer. On said tape was Kid N’ Play’s “Last Night”. This song was certified dope but the thing that really hit me about it was I’d heard Kid N’ Play before. Kid even said “Hmm. Wonder what Playboy’s doing?”. Kid Coolout & MC Playboy used to be called Fresh Force Crew! They used to play “Rock Me” and blend it all the time on WRBB last year but it never took off like “Last Night” did. I guess Hurby Luv Bug replaced Casanova behind the boards, huh?
69. N.W.A. “Dope Man” 
I couldn’t escape this damn record. The drug dealers in South End & Roxbury were completely obsessed with it. They’d try to see who could play it the loudest in their cars’ sound systems. They’d sing it in the streets (which I kinda thought was like snitching on yourself). That song will stay with me forever because it always transports me to the time when crackheads for out on the block in full force and kids were rich that were broke the previous summer. The murder rate started going up. Gangs became more serious because instead of just fighting over their areas, they were fighting over customers & territory now. It was all about money. They revelled in the fact that they were untouchable. Truth is, the police just didn’t care about brown folks killing each other off. YET.
LL Cool J’s “Bigger And Deffer” album dropped during the end of my 6th grade year. I’d already taken the all important entrance exam that parents in Boston (and outside of it) hinged all of their child’s hopes of a bright future on. You either got into the 1st choice, the ever prestigious Boston Latin School, the runner up Latin Academy or one of the other remaining exam schools of the time (so many Boston Public Schools that existed back in 1987 that aren’t around anymore it’s disgusting). I’d gotten into Boston Latin and now it was party time. I’d be going to the same school as my big brother Dave & his friends. Things were looking up. No more having to brave the killing fields just to go to school every day. No more 8th graders trying to recruit me to sell crack for them in the bathroom. Or the lunch line. Or outside after school. I was free!
We all took a bus trip to Whalom Park back in the Summer of 1987. There were at least 10 big ass radios on our bus and while we were in transit someone played LL Cool J’s “Kanday” and EVERYONE on the bus started rapping along. James Brown hook included. The crazy part was that year was stressful as hell for most of us because that damn entrance exam had everyone at each other’s throats. The advanced classes kids were segregated from the regular 6th graders and that made us a target for all the kids in the school. I didn’t realize that until later on, though. This song reminds me that I’d survived one of the most harrowing years of my life when I pretty much feared death every day I went to school and went home afterwards. “I. FEEL. GOOOOD!”
71. MC Lyte “I Cram To Understand U (Sam)” 
As I’d mentioned before, the first rapper signed to a major from Boston was MC Spice. He thought he was the man, them Atlantic went and signed some teenaged girl from Brooklyn named MC Lyte. That song blew the fuck up on the block and nationwide. That joint was all over the radio. The girls loved it. Dudes dug it. It was a favorite of DJ’s. Before you knew it everyone forgot MC Spice ever even dropped a record. I saw the same thing happen to Jonzun Crew’s “Space Cowboy” after George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” blew up and eclipsed it. Now DJ’s still use pieces of this record today and folks still sample “Atomic Dog”. “Don’t Treat Your Girly Like A Dog, Dog, Dog”? Not as much in demand…
72. Ultramagnetic MC’s “Funky”/“Mentally Mad”  (tie)
Remember that Rusty The Toe Jammer mixtape from Skippy White’s I wrote about earlier? Well, on that very same mixtape were back to back songs by Ultramagnetic MC’s which were lifted right from their new 12″ on Next Plateau (the former home of Salt N’ Pepa). My little brother Buc & I used to pretend to be Ced Gee & Kool Keith. First we’d play the mixtape and we’d go through “Funky” & “Mentally Mad” trading verses. It’s funny that we’d each end up trading our own verses about 5 years later. Ultramagnetic MC’s were the shit to me both for their production and their lyrics. Kool Keith & Ced Gee fathered a gang of people’s styles both vocally and beatwise.
73. Jungle Brothers “Jimbrowski” 
This record was huge with the older kids, my brother Dave first heard it at some Northeastern party and went looking for it the next day. They started playing it on the radio not too long afterwards. I remember jamming to this record with Red Alert going “WOOOOOOORD UP!” over it with no clue that the Native Tongues Era had just begun. The beat was ridiculous. Those drums? I was really starting to become more and more interested in how to make your own beat around this time. I’d heard that the Jungle Brothers were still in high school. My brother Dave & his friends were either their age or older. How hard could it be to make beats if kids are doing it?
74. Heavy D & The Boyz “The Overweight Lover’s In The House” 
My cousins in Mount Vernon would go back & forth with us in Boston about how her neighbors were doing big things meanwhile who in Boston was making noise? My cousin Nanzette was on the phone with my brother Dave telling him Dwight got signed and he had a single coming out. Dwight’s single dropped on MCA Records, His name? Heavy D. He had his boy Eddie F as his DJ and Troy & G were his dancers. We’d heard about this cat from Nanzette & her little sister forever but when that Marley Marl produced jawn hit the airwaves it blew up. Nanzette was like “Told ya!”. Then she wouldn’t shut up about that damb DJ kid Peter who spent all his time practicing so he could be better than Jazzy Jeff. I wonder whatever happened to that dude?
I did extremely well on the “Latin test” so I got to begin 7th grade at the first school ever created in America. Boston Latin School. The alumni list reads like the Illuminati. My big sister had graduated and was at Wellesley. My big brother Dave was a junior (Class II they called it at Latin) and I was a lowly Sixie (Class VI = 7th grade). In Class VI, we had the average workload of a 9th or 10 grader in a typical public school. The building was old as hell. It had a kerosene backup. It was dirty, rusty, dusty and desks had graffiti carved in them from the 50′s. It was a cold ass school and devoid of fun. Also, as a real Bostonian I’d never seen such a huge concentration of White students in one place in my entire life.
I ended up in Summer School for Latin. Yes. Latin. And I went to Boston Latin. Shut up. Back then Boston Latin was ACROSS THE DAMB STREET from it’s bitter rival Boston English High School. While Boston Latin was the first school in all of America (Harvard was made so Latin graduates had a school of higher learning. Let that sink in), Boston English High School was the first public school in all of America (1821. Look it up. These are facts, b*tches).
English & Latin had BRAWLS every day at the Green Line station. Sometimes they fought after school out in the street. English was full of thugs & hoods who rocked Adidas head to toe. Mostly Blacks & Latinos with a respectable percentage of Asians & Cape Verdeans. Latin? Mostly cornball ass White kids who lied on their transcripts to go to a Boston public school (White kids don’t go to public school in Boston, B). Some Blacks & Latinos. Some Cape Verdeans. But a respectable percentage of Asians. They’d kick our asses on the regular.
The reason I tell you this is because I went to Summer School AT ENGLISH HIGH. After a year with kids named Brendan Shaughnessy & Mike McDonough. I’m back among the Khalid’s, Rohan’s, Malik’s & Tiron’s of the world. It was like the Timilty with older kids. Every morning we’d wait for the finest girls to arrive to summer school in their gangster/drug dealer boyfriend’s cars. Whether they were Black, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cape Verdean or even Chinese those cars would pull up blasting that damb Stetsasonic “In Full Gear” tape.
One of the baddest girls in Summer School was this White girl Heather who looked like Alyssa Milano if her mom was Brazilian (figure it out) was actually my neighbor. She lived around the corner from me in the Piano Factory (Look it up. More history). Her favorite song was “Sally”. Dudes used to sweat her SO HARD. I’d be walking home from Summer School with her and dudes would drive up next to us hollering at her WHILE I WAS THERE. N*ggas don’t be carin’, B (She WAS 3 years older than me). When my brother bought the tape from Skippy White’s I became infatuated with how DBC made “It’s In My Song”. This song made me begin trying to find out ALL I could about how beats are made. That Summer changed my life forever.
76. The Alliance “Kibbles N’ Bits” 
I can’t remember if I heard “It’s In My Song” or “Kibbles N’ Bits” first but before I’d became aware of the Bomb Squad’s noise and I’d spend hours listening to “Delta Force” on the first Ultramagnetic MC’s tape (story next episode) I became infatuated with the beat for this song. I don’t know exactly why but this beat had completely captured my imagination. I needed to know how King Of Chill made this beat. What did he make it on? What were the records he used? How’d he make it sound like this? What is DJ Skills cutting up? I was obsessed with this song. They never played it on the radio, either. It wasn’t until I read in some Roots album liner notes years later that I wasn’t alone. A young Ahmir Thompson was also in love with this same composition. Great minds think alike, I guess?
I heard the “Follow The Leader” album in my big brother’s friend Trent’s Walkman for the first time. They were discussing some shit that was above my paygrade so in order to occupy me, Trent said “Heard this yet?” and let me use his Walkman & play his tape. And use his batteries. If you were alive during the 80′s you’d know that older cats didn’t give their Walkmans with their new tapes to 13 year olds indoors very often.
I went outside, sat on my front steps and played this tape from beginning to end. Holy. Fucking. Shit. As if I didn’t write enough of my rhymes like Rakim already. What an amazing album. And classic like that were par for the course in 1988. That and seeing a crackhead riding by on a BMX bike rocking a young ass Member’s Only jacket while smoking on a crackpipe…
78. EPMD “I’m Housin’”/“Jane” (tie) 
This EPMD album further pushed my obsession with production. This album cover made me want to find out exactly what was in that studio. Remember that while Parrish Smith was a college student, Erick Sermon was a kid. He was younger than my big brother Dave and about the same age as my brother Dirk (Boston heads remember him as D. Badness from the radio. Yeah. We’re related, too). “I’m Housin’” was a “go off” record. If you could murder it to “I’m Housin’” you were the man. “Jane” made me wonder how they flipped that Rick James song. I was also a huge DJ K La Boss fan back then as I was toying with being a DJ since I knew all the new records. SIDEBAR: When I first ever asked Skippy White for an EPMD jawn I called them “Epmo”. So did Dave (I was there. You can’t lie about it!).
79. Slick Rick “Hey Young World”/“Lick The Balls”  (tie)
Back in 1988, my big brother Dave had a job and a driver’s license plus he was 18 years old. Back then, you could rent a car at 18 (Thanks crack money!) so he’d go leave school, rent a car and drive back to pick me up. I’d be standing there with my friends talking about some ol’ nerd shit (I went to Boston Latin) and Dave would pull up in an ill car with one of his boys blasting Slick Rick’s “Lick The Balls” loud as fuck. We’d get in the car and peel the fuck off while my young ass friends envied my ass.
I’ll never forget how ill that beat sounded in a sound system. The Bomb Squad made that jawn, too. “Hey Young World” was amazing to me because it was so laid back and smooth. It was calm and the beat was strings & piano. It wasn’t a “go off” record. It was a head nod record. It’s also one of the most enduring Hip Hop classic songs ever written. Salute.
80. Queen Latifah “Wrath Of My Madness” 
Queen Latifah. I was in love with her. My brother Dave bought the 12″ for “Wrath Of My Madness’/”Princess Of The Posse” from Nubian Notion one day when he was out driving with Dirk looking for girls (they usually succeeded). I played this record to death. The instrumental would get played nonstop. I remember looking at that label and seeing the name DJ Mark The 45 King. I became obsessed with finding anything produced by DJ Mark The 45 King. This lead me to going back through the Flavor Unit’s Tuff City releases and later on all his instrumentals. Hip Hop is a fuckin’ gateway drug, B. My life is a living testament to that fact.
NEXT UP: 100 Hip Hop Jawns That Changed My Life (Compiled by Dart Adams) Part Five (81-100)