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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1988 - Classic Hip Hop Albums Celebrating Their 25th Anniversary

When i think of 1988 i think about me getting my license and graduating from high school and being suckered into joining the Army (If i ever run into that recruitment officer i just might slap the shit outta him for selling me false dreams lol ), yeah im ranting and telling my age right now, but 1988 also marked a significant time period in my life that blew my mind. Ask some of my closest friends and they will tell you the times where they used to hang out at my house while i djed for hours and hours. After a while they would either leave, or fall asleep but when they returned or woke up, i was still on those Gemini turntables having fun, cutting up "Im the King of Rock" by Run DMC to "Funky Beat" by Whodini .The music was pure, fresh and raw, and each artist didn't sound like the next one, they all had distinctive flows, styles and the music production was on point. So here we are, 25 years later, and this year these artists celebrated their 25th anniversary milestone debuts. 

So here are the 15 most memorable albums of 1988 in no particular order. I am sure you will agree that the talent of each of these artists reach beyond levels that can never ever ever ever ever be duplicated. 

    The Golden Era of Hip Hop..........  

1. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Released April 14, 1988) 

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Where most rappers present themselves as funky individualists, beating the odds of the status quo, Public Enemy suggests that rap listeners can become an active community, not just an audience.It Takes a Nation jams urban tension and black anger into the foreground; it reveals the potential for demagoguery as well as the need for change. 'Whatcha gonna do/ rappers not afraid of you', Public Enemy demands.  This was where Chuck wrote a fistful of lyrics that promoted him to the position of foremost commentator/documenter of life in the underbelly of the USA. He speaks to on the creation of one his greatest songs, "Rebel Without A Pause":
“Rebel Without a Pause” was like hearing a loud, jarring siren…a call. It was one of those things where when we recorded it we knew it has to be perfect. Because we needed a single that could smack the streets. We had to come up with something that matched what was going on musically, but with our own identity. And ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ matched that intensity. I went into the studio to cut the vocals. I stayed in the crib for a whole two days because I was so mad, yet inspired by Eric B and Rakim’s ‘I Know You Got Soul.’I had never heard a record that had smacked my face right off like, “What the fuck?!!!” Cats were so good that they made you damn near quit [laughs]. So I stayed in the crib all day and wrote “Rebel Without A Pause” with a combination of what Rakim and KRS were doing. Hank [Shocklee] has a whole other story on the production of “Rebel Without a Pause,” which we had to make with even more feeling. I really dug into myself and came back next day and started fucking with [my pitch] and I came into the studio and nailed it. But I had to nail it because Public Enemy had to have a real street record. Even with all that noise happening on “Rebel,” we could always trust Hank’s ears to put the music all in perspective. Any producer or engineer can make a song louder. But when it comes down to sonics, no one was better than Hank. So when Hank was making the mix I was like, “Yo, man, don’t touch that…” I just thought this was already a perfect mix. I just hoped we didn’t fuck it up with [the] mastering.
We then got the acetate disc of “Rebel” and went by Kiss-FM (the iconic New York radio station). Hank was outside standing by the car because back then they would tow your shit in a minute. By the time we came back down from the second floor, Chuck Chillout was playing “Rebel Without a Pause” like crazy on Kiss-FM! I have to salute Chuck Chillout, He’s my brother for life.
As far as the [Bomb Squad’s] production [on It Takes A Nation], if it wasn’t for Marley Marl doing MC Shan’s “The Bridge,” I don’t think we could have pulled that noisy sound off. I like noisy shit, but you can’t just like it. You have to have the ability to be heard over it. So the fact that myself and Flava didn’t have ordinary voices and we were totally different in contrast, that allowed us to cut through the noise. A lot of other cats that tried to do that loud sound had problems doing it.
It was difficult putting all those record samples together, but it’s supposed to be hard. You had four people in the room beat digging, evaluating and seeing what sounds worked and didn’t work. But at the end of the day, the music had to make some kind of sense. Songs like “Bring The Noise,” “Don’t Believe The Hype,” and “Nights of the Living Baseheads” had turned all of these crazy noises into actual songs. We never thought about making hit records, but our aim was to make distinctive records. You can make something that everyone else does, but what good is that? 

It Takes A Nation celebrated their 25th year with a limited edition vinyl box set they released on May 8th. The collection includes their complete Def Jam catalog on vinyl.

Box Set Features:
6. HE GOT GAME (1998) (2xLP)

2. EPMD – Strictly Business (Released August 30, 1988)

EPMD – Strictly Business

Imagine a time in history when artists didn't have to clear any samples in their music. EPMD's 1988 debut, Strictly Business, like the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, was recorded during the clearance-free sample heyday, and we're all a lot better off because of it. Long before Dr. Dre and Digital Underground were doling out legal cash to George Clinton and Kool and the Gang, EPMD was sampling them--and others--brilliantly on tracks like "You Gots to Chill" and "It's My Thing." (They even double-sample "Jungle Boogie," using it on both "You Gots to Chill" and "You're the Customer"--that takes some damn nerve.) The EPMD production sound gets in your pants and moves things against your will, making Strictly Business an essential time capsule from the Wild West-era of sampling.

3. BDP – By All Means Necessary (Released May 31, 1988)

BDP – By All Means Necessary

After Scott La Rock's death, KRS-One (a.k.a. Kris Parker) carried on the BDP name with this mammoth album and its uneasy balance between violence and nonviolence, jazz beats and hard-core hip-hop, the pride of boasting and the pride of the teacher he was trying to become. It leads off with KRS's declaration of "My Philosophy"--as philosophy, it was a little inconsistent, but at least it was something, and "Stop the Violence" cuts deep both as philosophy and as a superheavy reggae groove. Kris is funny, too--"Jimmy" introduced a deathless euphemism to the language--but he's mostly concerned here with demonstrating his supremacy ("I'm Still #1"), memorializing his partner, and charting his own growth from a maverick to a leader. 

4. Big Daddy Kane – Long Live the Kane (Released June 21, 1988)

Big Daddy Kane – Long Live the Kane

Big Daddy Kane's 1988 debut still stands as a raw classic from one of hip-hop's most fruitful years. The production is end to end brilliant, with Juice Crew guru Marley Marl soundtracking Kane through nine furious cuts (and one absolute stinker, the slow jam "The Day You're Mine"). Marl's production has rarely sounded finer, a gritty chorus of drums and funk-soul samples that have since been immortalized. "Raw," "Just Rhymin' with Biz," and "Ain't No Half-Steppin'" are the certified anthems, but they're not the only highlights. Check the furious "Long Live the Kane" and "Set It Off" for Kane's up-tempo odes to himself. "I'll Take You There" and "Word to the Mother(Land)" were the obligatory (yet heartfelt) Nation nods, mandatory during this brief late-'80s period of Afrocentricity. Though his image would soon switch to that of a smoothed-out new jack playa, the memory of Kane as one of hip-hop's supreme lyrical rulers lives long on this masterpiece.

5. Slick Rick – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (Released Nov 1, 1988)

After he gained legendary status rapping on Doug E. Fresh's "La Di Da Di," it was only a matter of time before the world would clutch British-born Ricky Walters to its heart. Rick had already fancied himself a rabid storyteller (and a mighty good one) on Fresh's track "The Show," and Great Adventures became Slick Rick's novella. Not content with one perspective, Slick Rick often employed tag-team rhyming with himself as his own partner ("Mona Lisa," "Teacher Teacher"). His cautionary tales ("Hey Young World," "Children's Story," "Teenage Love") work much better than his freaky tales ("Treat Her Like a Prostitute," "Indian Girl"). Still, it doesn't take a musicologist to appreciate the complex rhyme schemes and scenarios of "The Moment I Feared," "Children's Story," and "Mona Lisa," and his slight accent heightened his distinctiveness. 

6. Jungle Brothers – Straight out the Jungle (Released Nov 8, 1988)

Jungle Brothers – Straight out the Jungle

De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest may have been more commercially successful, but the afro centric, jazz political rap movement and unfadeable Native Tongue Massive started with the Jungle Brothers. Their debut full length Straight Out the Jungle opened up many doors that are walked through by todays artists like Mos Def, Common and even Kanye West. Their taste for jazzy horn samples helped kick-start the entire jazz-rap movement, and their James Brown fixation was one of the first. Plus, the group s groundbreaking collaboration with legendary house producer Todd Terry, I'll House You, paved the way for numerous Hip-House hybrids that shot up the dance and pop charts over the next few years and appeared to be a staple on every East Coast Rap Album from 88 until 92. The opening track Straight Out the Jungle samples the classic Bill Withers drum break as the JBs tell you where they are coming from. Black Is Black (featuring a young Q-Tip) and Sounds Of The Safari introduces the pro-black edge, while the sexually subtle classics Jimbrowski and I m Gonna Do You are funny, clever and timely. Hard, smart, fun, clever and brilliant, Mike G., Africa Baby Bam and Sammy G may not have realized it but they crafted a classic rap album that stands the test of time.

7. Marley Marl – In Control, Volume 1 (Released Sept 1, 1988)

Marley Marl – In Control, Volume 1

Marley Marl's first (official) album has to be one of the corner stones to the temple of Hip-Hop. Marl is (in my mind and in countless others) Hip-Hop's greatest and most inspiring producer. He has influenced the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Erick Sermon and pretty much any dope producer from the east-coast. The beats that he made are still being sampled today and it always blows my mind the music he created with such pre-historic equipment. Before G Unit, before Roc-a-fella, before the Hit Squad, and before Wutang there was the Juice Crew. A supergroup of Emcees featuring Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Mc Shan, Roxanne Shante, Bizmarkie, Masta Ace and Craig G. Spearheaded by the super producer Dj Marley Marl, this group spawned some of the greatest hits, Including the Posse classic banger "The Symphony". 

8. Biz Markie – Goin' Off (Released Feb 23, 1988)

Biz Markie – Goin' Off

Biz Markie debuted with "Goin' Off", one of the most unrelentingly amusing sets of productions and performances of anyone during Hip Hop's golden age. Markie was an oversized teenager with lyrical talents (if not finesse) far beyond his years, and material unlike every other rapper around, trading in nightclubs for the mall and striking a pose for picking your nose. Yes, the rhymes were often rudimentary or obvious (and many of the best were actually written by Big Daddy Kane), but his infectious optimism and winning flair (plus the masterful production of Marley Marl) carried Biz Markie far beyond the status of a novelty act. His first single, "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz" introduced him as a human beatbox, but he went on from there to drop a jingle friendly, yet legally challenged song ("Nobody Beats the Biz"), a tribute to his favorite haunts around Brooklyn ("Albee Square Mall"), and a track with some wry cynicism about the price of fame ("Vapors"). The rangy Marley Marl cued up some classic backing tracks for these songs, with any hint of braggadocio counteracted by his carnival-esque production sense.

9. MC Lyte – Lyte as a Rock (Released Sept 17, 1988)

MC Lyte – Lyte as a Rock

MC Lyte is woman. Hear her roar. On her 1988 debut, Lyte as a Rock, the savvy Brooklyn native balances her obvious battle skills with perceptive street-corner observations, delivered fresh over funky drum-machine beats (provided by Audio Two, and Prince Paul, among others). Lyte introduced herself to the rap world with the single "I Cram to Understand U," a potent tale of losing her man to the real femme fatale: crack. With that song, she established herself as one of the few MCs able to make an antidrug song without drowning in clichés ("Capuccino"" is a later antidope gem of hers). Lyte's stories work because she tells them from a smart-mouthed tomboy perspective--always pragmatic, never pedantic. On "Paper Thin," she gets raw about romance, putting potential suitors in their place: "Maybe we'll kiss on the fifth or sixth date," followed by "and then maybe I'll let you play with my feet." Though her dating guidelines may seem quaint compared with the raunchy raps of Lil' Kim or Foxy Brown, they remind one that in 1988 female MCs were rocking the rap world with skills, not skin.

10. Eric B & Rakim – Follow the Leader (Released July 25, 1988)

Eric B & Rakim – Follow the Leader

I've been listening to Rakim ever since his first album - meaning I bought it when it first came out, not 5 years ago and calling myself a Rakim/Hip Hop fan. Anyone who enjoys Hip Hop and tries to appreciate it for its entirety must get this album. While "Paid in Full" is their most well-known achievement, it is "Follow the Leader" that is Rakim's crowning achievement of lyrical mastery. You won't be able to tell until you listen to other hip hop albums of the same date to appreciate Rakim's style and mastery that were years beyond other artists in his industry compared to the weak lyrics of his peers. The songs "Lyrics of Fury" and "Microphone Fiend" are amongst the most powerful freestyles to have been written, EVER. Look at all the wannabe cartel/Capone gangster rappers there are now. All the rappers claiming to "sip Mo'". It was Rakim who hit it first in his videos, but was smart enough not to keep it for so long to make it a gimmick. While the album does run out of steam towards the end, if you're an old school lover to the fullest, or who enjoys that old Moog, electro-beat sound, then you may enjoy the end just as much as the beginning. Nevertheless, this album is a fantastic bargain and worth the first few songs where Rakim will never be imitated. Listen to "Lyrics of Fury" and think of any other lyricists who might even be able to match him without letting the beats ever overrun him. You'll realize why Rakim is revered as much as he is. If you want something "cool" to listen to, get "Paid in Full" (which you should own already) - but if you're ready to study lyrical mastery, this is it.

11. NWA – Straight Outta Compton (Released August 8, 1988)

NWA – Straight Outta Compton

A lone voice sneers "You are about to witness the strength of street knowledge," and with that warning the greatest-ever gangsta album begins. Then these Niggas with Attitude--wicked rhymes by Ice Cube, Easy E, and MC Ren; soulful production courtesy Dr. Dre; beats provided by DJ Yella--come barreling into your face, just daring you to ignore the streets of Compton (or any American city) even one day longer. From the anti-police brutality anthem "Fuck Tha Police" to the angry, unflinching realism of "Gangsta Gangsta," to the pro-free speech "Express Yourself," this is Ruthless.

12. Ultramagnetic MC’s – Critical Beatdown (October 4, 1988)

Ultramagnetic MC’s – Critical Beatdown

If you thought the likes of Canibus, Chino XL, or Pharoahe Monch were the summit of the "ahead of their time" hip-hop mountain, then you obviously missed out on the Ultramagnetic MC's and their early rap contributions. The Ultramagnetic MC's highly respected world-shattering classic Critical Beatdown, was THE first official new-school hip-hop album, in an old-school era. With Ced-Gee's revolutionary use of the drum machine, and of course Kool Keith's off-beat rhyme style, fully equipped with lyrics that clearly proclaim Kool Keith the one truly ahead of their time if there ever was one. From beginning to end, Critical Beatdown freezes all other early rap classics, and anything afterwards. A classic of classics. Truly, a masterpiece, among masterpieces. If you thought Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, or even the hip-hop philosopher himself, KRS-One, deserve more acclaim than Kool Keith and the Ultramagnetic MC's for their early hip-hop achievements, do yourself a favor, buy Critical Beatdown, and think again.

13. Stetsasonic – In Full Gear 

 Stetsasonic – In Full Gear

The "original hip-hop band," in business since 1981, Stetsasonic featured rappers, a human beatbox, a keyboardist, a drummer, and a young producer named Prince Paul. The contemporary of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the blueprint for Three Feet High and RisingIn Full Gear was Stetsasonic's full-fledged classic. As summarized in the sublime "Talking All That Jazz," the album was meant to be a musical manifesto of all of the directions late-'80s hip-hop was expanding toward: revolutionary spoken word, JBs tributes, soul jazz, go-go, R&B, dancehall, turntablism, instrumental hip-hop, rap rock, even Miami bass. Yes, they did it all, and they did most of it really well. Throughout the album, a sense of light-hearted vibes prevails, like a giddy summer concert in the park. Check out "Sally," "DBC Let the Music Play," and "Music for the Stetfully Insane" to work up a sweat.

14. Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew - The World's Greatest Entertainer (Released March 25, 1988)

Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew - The World's Greatest Entertainer

Doug E. Fresh is definitely one of the pioneers of hip hop but also of party hip hop. From that Genre with the exception of Biz Markie and Heavy D and Kid and Play, nobody had dance floors packed like Doug E. Fresh. The Show & La Di Da Di (with Slick Rick) has to be one of the top 5 greatest rap/party singles ever release on wax hands down. And just when you think there was no way Doug E. Fresh could ever top "The Show" then the single "Keep Rising To The Top" came later on and had the Summer of 88 on pure lockdown. 

15. Dj Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (Released March 29, 1988)

Dj Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

Okay, Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff did not offer the most stunning, revolutionary music in the hiphop world back in its heyday, but you need to realize that they were not sellouts and definitely not the worst of this genre. Yes, their style was almost too kid friendly and kind of hard to listen to repeatedly compared to other gems of the day. However, they did what they know, and created some pretty noteworthy pieces along the way. Selling out would have been if Will were to incorporate superficious gangsta, thug, or pimp elements into his music. He didn't. His style may have been silly, onery, and kid friendly, but that is who he is, and he never stepped outside of that. The myth is that he never used cuss words, but you go back and listen to "You Saw My Blinker..." and realize that he did every now and then, and find that hard to believe. Plus he always dropped a lot of hell's and damn's- in case that offends anyone. Will kept it true, to what he knows, and yet still has a bad rap for his music. I won't go as far to say that his work with Jazzy Jeff is something I absolutely cherish and revere, but one should recognize that they made big contributions to hiphop and stood strong as an example of hiphop's diversity. 

*most of the reviews are from, where you can LEGALLY purchase these timeless classics.


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