Here we go! This is the final edition of the “100 Hip Hop Jawns That Changed My Life” series. Rather than just pick 100 random songs from Hip Hop history, I decided to back back through my life as really think about the songs that influenced me on a personal level throughout my young life. Most young people get into music between the ages of 9-13, during this time they begin to develop their own identities and develop musical taste. I grew up with siblings much older than me so as I mentioned before I got “aged up”. Add to this, the fact I was surrounded by people that loved music and I started reading at 30 months old (when my memories also start) and you get a list that begins in 1979.
Since the years of 1979-1982 were dominated by tapes of jams, shows and battles rather than actual LP’s, it was slow going. In the first Golden Era Of Hip Hop is where this particular list will end (1986-89). I didn’t even get out of 1988 (which makes sense as it was one of the greatest years in Hip Hop history & it was the year I turned 13) so if I ever do my “Next 100 Hip Hop Jawns That Changed My Life” list I’ll know where to pick up from.
I’d like to thank my family (Hi Ma! Rest In Peace, Dad), my many cousins, my friends throughout the years and the entire city of Boston for being the best/worst place to grow up and experience this wondrous thing that transformed my life called Hip Hop. Thanks for reading and Happy Mother’s Day. Let’s get it started! © Stanley Burrell
81. T.D.S. Mob “Dope For The Folks” 
T.D.S. Mob is hands down one of the greatest and most underrated Hip Hop groups in the history of Rap music. Hands down. Cool Gzus would be considered a legend today if he were from New York or Philadelphia instead of Boston. I KNOW this for a fact. This song blew my mind when I first heard it and the next year they released one of the greatest Hip Hop 12″s evar (“What’s This World Coming To?” b/w “T.D.S. Scratch Reaction”). When the staffs at Ego Trip & the original Source Mind Squad acknowledge a group as great & underrated you believe it. I saw these cats rock firsthand, B. BELIEVE ME when I tell you…
82. Shinehead “Know How Fe Chat” 
Back in 1988, there were quite a few dudes doing what you could consider Ragamuffin’ Hip Hop. KRS One, Just-Ice, Daddy Freddy, Asher D, etc. but Shinehead was rocking before them all as far back as 1986. Shinehead collected his past singles alongside so new recordings in an album called “Unity”. While jawns like “Who The Cap Fits” were crazy it was “Know How Fe Chat” that made me keep rewinding that tape. Drove my brothers INSANE. This is before I had a Walkman and started rocking headphones all that time. That was 1989. This list is all pre Walkman era for me…
83. Big Daddy Kane “Set It Off” 
Big Daddy Kane’s debut album was a classic but two songs in particular changed my life due to the production, lyricism, cadences and delivery. Those two songs were the previously written about “Raw” and the other was “Set It Off”. I used to play this song and try to figure out how Kane was able to spit that jawn. I was in absolute awe. Still am to be perfectly honest. When I saw Black Thought (who has the best breath control in Hip Hop at the present moment) perform it perfectly it was obvious why Black Thought is one of the greatest emcees of all times. He CLEARLY studied the greats: Big Daddy Kane & Kool G Rap…
84. De La Soul “Plug Tunin’” 
I remember hearing this song on the radio and wondering what these cats were talking about but also loving this song. I was a huge Ultramagnetic MC’s fan at the time so I never really regarded De La Soul as being “weird”. I loved “Plug Tunin’” but I also didn’t have high expectations for the album (if it ever even came out). I need to write about the day I first heard that album sometime. That was an event…
85. LL Cool J “Jack The Ripper” 
Kool Moe Dee was, for those of you that missed the earlier posts (go to Bloggerhouse categories bar and pick the category “Dart’s Rants” for the past posts in this series. I can’t add my own categories on Bloggerhouse. Go figure), one of my favorite emcees. I loved his LL diss “Let’s Go” but LL Cool J came back with one of the most lethal disses and answer records in Rap history. Even to this day, ever response record is measured by “Jack The Ripper” as it is the Gold Standard. This was also another “comeback” for LL Cool J. Then Kool Moe Dee dropped a classic called “Knowledge Is King”. LL dropped something called ‘Walking With A Panther”. Cocaine is one HELL of a drug…
Kid N’ Play’s “2 Hype” was a classic album. I was in love with 2 records in particular, “Gittin’ Funky” and “Do This My Way” due to the production and the reaction they got when they were played in public. I remember being at a step show on Northeastern’s campus that my big sister and brother brought me to and when “Gittin’ Funky” got played? It turned into a damb video shoot! I remember reading the CD liner notes because my sister bought it and hearing what these jawns sounded like on CD. I remember looking at my younger brother Buc like “DO YOU HEAR THIS SHIT?”. Memories…
87. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo “Poison” 
Kool G Rap’s “Poison” is one of the most overlooked and underrated vocal performances in Hip Hop history. I was actually in shock it didn’t blow up on radio. I remember hearing this song and having the same feeling as when I first heard “Raw”, “Set It Off” or “Follow The Leader”. What an incredible jawn “Poison” was…
Production wise and lyrically, a whole new guard and a new generation of emcees and Hip Hop groups were beginning to eclipse Run DMC. Run DMC’s “Tougher Than Leather” dropped with a movie that the police wanted to shut down in Boston as it was a thug & Adidas convention at the infamous Saks 57 theater. The two standout bangers on “Tougher Than Leather” that made it worth the wait (they were attempting to leave Profile for Def Jam before Profile spazzed out) were “Beats To The Rhyme” and “Run’s House”. I don’t remember being too moved by anything else. “Ragtime”? “Mary Mary”?
89. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince “Brand New Funk” 
This was Fresh Prince’s best overall vocal performance of his entire career in my opinion and Fresh Prince made a number of classics (remember when Ready Rock C wanted equal billing? That was hilarious). I used to rock this song like crazy. My brother’s friend Trent essentially put their first 3 albums on 2 cassettes and I rocked their entire back catalog that way. The live routines were also highlights for me.
“The Vapors” was the jawn but the song that really captured my attention? “Cool V’s Tribute To Scratching”. I became so intrigued by this composition that my friends didn’t get why I paid so much attention to the song that Biz Markie didn’t even rap that well on it. I knew he was freestyling and Kane didn’t write it but that beat and those cuts were what stood out to me. I remember reading the liner notes and thinking “I’d like to figure out how songs like this are made”.
“The Noise”. The Bomb Squad. HOLYFUCKINGSHIT. I remember listening to “It Takes A Nation Of Millions…” and waiting for him to go to work so I could listen to it by myself and read those liner notes. As kids we went looking for what those records they used on these songs were. Sometimes 8 or more selections would end up on a song. It was a chore to find a damb horn stab or a vocal sample. “She Watch Channel Zero” was up there with “Kibbles N’ Bits” and “It’s In My Song” in terms of my personal obsession with them. Then I heard Ultramagnetic’s “Critical Beatdown” and I had even more songs to be mystified by.
Ced Gee and that damb SP 1200 his mom bought him warped my fragile little mind back when I was a kid. I actually revisited these compositions recently and it brought back all those old memories of when a 13 year old me first heard the dense, sample heavy and expertly crafted production on these tracks combined with Kool Keith’s bars. The Paul C produced “Give The Drummer Some” is amazing as well. These were the songs I rewound the most whenever I listened to this album whether it was for the beat or lyrics or both. Going back through this list I honestly feel for those of you that didn’t grow up during a Golden Era of Hip Hop. 1988 was INSANITY, B…
I forgot that this tape only had 10 songs on it. While jawns like “Jimmy” and “T’Cha T’Cha” rocked, the two songs that captured my imagination the most were “My Philosophy” and “Illegal Business”. “My Philosophy” was the beginning of KRS One’s transformation which was forced by the passing of Scott LaRock and “Illegal Business” was one of the first hardcore conscious songs that used to rock the party I can remember. It was a jam but he was dropping some serious knowledge on it. I remember being in shock people were DANCING while KRS One was going in on the true nature of things. Amazing.
My brother’s friend John “Lucky” O’Neill lived nearby in Hammond Street Projects. He had a cousin closer to my age named Jamile. Jamile and I used to run around Hammond Street Projects, Whittier Street Projects and Roxse Homes looking for girls and betting folks we could beat them at NES games like Double Dribble. Jamile also used to play this faded ass Eazy-E tape in his Walkman all the time.
He left it over our house once and I remember going to the Boston Latin/Boston English Thanksgiving football game with Jamile’s Walkman and playing “Eazy-Duz-It” on repeat. To me, the things that made that album a classic was Dre & Yella’s production and Ren & Cube’s pen game. “Ruthless Villain” was a Ren track! “2 Hard Muthas” was essentially a beats & Ren showcase. “No More ?’s” was classic Ice Cube all the way. I also remember that they swore so much on that tape I didn’t tell anyone I had it…
95. Marley Marl “The Symphony”  (tie)
Marley Marl’s “In Control Vol. 1″ had a gang of classics on it (it only had 10 songs, too? Really?) but as far as being LIFE ALTERING? The one song that fits that description is easily “The Symphony”. Even to this day all posse tracks are compared to “The Symphony”. I listened to it on YouTube recently and got chills. Everyone killed it but Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane simply were a two man wrecking crew…
The Jungle Brothers made a classic album without even trying really hard. They didn’t try to be super scientific with their rhymes. They didn’t try to become extra super ill with the beats. They just pretty much had fun and made an album. I knew this album front to back because my brother went out and bought the actual record like he did with Whodini’s “Back In Black” years ago. Not the tape. Not the CD. The damb VINYL.
I still own it to this very day with the classic yellow & green Idlers/Warlock label. They rapped about getting girls and having fun. The beats were dope and they were all kids. I first heard Q-Tip and the name “A Tribe Called Quest” on the track “The Promo” which WASN’T on this album. “Black Is Black” was a routine. They didn’t even really kick a rhyme, did they? This album was just fun and it stuck with me 22 years later.
In 1988, the greatest emcees were killing shit and Doug E. Fresh was not known for his rhyming ability, delivery or lyrical dexterity but he was nice with the flow. “Guess? Who?” showcased that brilliantly. It also featured production by a few Bomb Squad members and Doug came away with yet another classic album. To me, the signature song was “Keep Rising To The Top” but most heads were sold on “Drop The Zero”. Nah, B. For me, that song was a classic. My big brother Dave was like ‘STOP PLAYING THAT SHIT!”.
This album is criminally underrated. My big brother Dave bought this at Skippy White’s one day after school. The owner suggested something but Dave went for Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud instead because he was still mad that Skip made him buy Funkmaster Wizard Wiz’s “Bellevue Patient” on his recommendation last year. That was hilarious. In any event, I remember hearing “I’m Back” and saying to myself “This tape’s gonna be ill!”. Oh, it was. There was also a Paul C gem on here. This album ended up getting slept on, too. HOW? Oh yeah…it was 1988. Ask the Krown Rulers how that went.
Ice T’s “Rhyme Pays” and “Power” were two highly influential albums for me. From Ice T’s Ammo Dump Productions team to his Rhyme Syndicate crew he had things all in order. He made concise albums that were well produced and his lyrics were always on point. He was really good at pacing his records, too. He did the story rhymes, the battle raps, the crime stories and even the occasional party joints (albeit gangsta party joints). I couldn’t wait for Dave to go to work so I could go in his tape cases and play all his shit. Those were the days. I remember my younger brother and I fighting over what to play next…
100. The Almighty RSO Crew “We’re Notorious” 
As I mentioned before, my cousin Marco used to be in a Boston Rap group called Body Rock Crew with Big Chuck (heads know who Big Chuck is). They broke up and Orangeman left a spot in RSO Crew so Marco (who was known as Emo E) joined up. He soon changed his rap name to E Devious and he spit the first verse on the classic Boston Hip Hop jawn “We’re Notorious”. I remember when I first heard this on the radio and started bugging out. Then Dave & I saw the single cover hanging up on the wall in Skippy White’s the next day.
RSO was on the cover with the guns Adidased out with the Boston skyline (circa 1988) in the background. I remember thinking that between T.D.S. Mob & The Almighty RSO Crew someone was going to go national. Little did I know that they’d merge and become Made Men in 10 years time back then.
NEXT UP: The Tale Of The Tape Part One