Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gems VI

I'm going to lump the rest of the eighties into one (undeserved) post. Not because I want to, but more because I have least for the moment. If I continue to go on diatribes of each album on the years of 86-89, I'll never get past the decade, which is something I want to do.
In the year 1989, I turned twelve years old. Being the same age as hip-hop itself, we both had a pivotal year for many reasons. First, it was my last year as being considered a kid, the last year before turning into a teenager. I was starting to grow up and expand and experiment....just like hip-hop.
The eighties were feeling grounds, both hip-hop and I unsure of our futures, unsure of our surroundings or what we were capable of. The end of 1989 birthed a new decade. I went on to junior high school. Hip-hop went on to more major label attention. Both of us had our fuck ups and both of us found ways to search out and find purpose, focusing on positivity while still acknowledging the negative aspects.
When I became a teenager, so did hip-hop. This means I have to sum up our "youth" in brief snippets right now before returning later on, reflecting on exact instances I remember involving certain albums, reading certain magazines and watching certain films.

So, in fast forward, this is youth:

Around the time of RUN-DMC's rise, there were other names lumped in with them, with modern pop culture media attempting to acknowledge hip-hop. Magazines like Rolling Stone all of a sudden gave a shit about the genre as a whole and not just groups that do songs with shitheads like Aerosmith. On one hand, it was welcomed and those that appreciated the art form were happy to see it get some much needed and deserved love. The other hand caused frustration as the obviously uninformed tried their best to bullshit a way through an article they had absolutely no prior knowledge of.
That's besides the point.
Beastie Boys released "License to Ill". They blew up almost immediately. I tried to love them. The record has it's moments, and if the whole albums made me feel like "Rhymin and Stealin" did, I would have been another to worship at the altar of three white boys from Brooklyn. I will say, however, that I did think some of their albums were fantastic. Paul's Boutique was a mindfuck in the best of ways. Check Your Head will always be their classic, their premium album in, well, my head. Their follow-up to that LP, Ill Communication was right up there with it, before "Sureshot" got so overplayed in every circle of life it became unbearable to listen to for a while.
Eric B and Rakim's "Paid in Full" came out, "I Ain't No Joke" being the song that turned my head.
Public Enemy. Enough said. I can't even start about them right now or I'll need another ten pots of coffee and will call in sick to work for the next three days. They deserve much more description than I have time for right now.
NWA introduced the world to gangsta rap. "Straight Outta Compton" is in the top five hardest songs of all time. Period. These dudes were so pissed, they make every Discharge song sound like they were sung by schoolchildren. Blasphemy for a punk to say? Probably. But, truth? Definitely. Fab Five Freddy introducing them on YO! MTV Raps was such a memorable moment. Once Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre went and did solo albums, their legacy as a group became even more important. Shit, even MC Ren's "Kizz My Black Azz" EP was quality.
EPMD came out with "Strictly Business" and planted their feet into fresh cement. The following few years and releases for them are much like those footprints....they'll be noticed for a very long time, especially with Erick Sermon still making good music (most of Method Man and Redman's "Blackout" is still the best production he has done.).
Lighthearded MCs started to surface, with Biz Markie and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince presenting a more lighthearted version of east coast hip-hop. Biz was almost muppet-like character that is still today one of the most entertaining individuals to ever be involved the the creation of this music, with "Just a Friend" still sealing the deal as a classic. Same with Jazzy Jeff and Mr. Will Smith...."He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" is still listenable, still bizarre and comical. I mean, there are songs about Freddy Krueger, stealing and crashing your parents' car, bodyguards, etc. Plus, it was when CDs were new and had less room on them, so those of us that lived in cassette world, we got an extra couple of minutes and tracks on this record. Last but not least, Kid 'N Play introduced themselves.....say what you want about the albums, but they were important, if only, because it gave them access to create personas that carried on into feature films that I consider hip-hop classics. More on that at some other point.
Females besides Roxanne Shante started getting respect, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa being at the forefront, while others like Monie Love were still making good songs without as much attention.
On the other end of the spectrum was 2 Live Crew. It was never, and will never be, my thing. I can't relate to almost anything their entire lyric output entailed. I don't care about booty bass. I don't care about shock for the sake of shock, with no validity behind it, whether you take it to the United States Supreme Court or not. No matter what way it was "meant to be perceived", misogyny is not a part of my hip-hop. Strippers and prostitutes are not a part of my hip-hop. At almost thirty three years of age, I've still never even been to a strip club. Sad....pathetic? You decide. I'm okay with it, and I'll stick to songs like Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's "Lots of Lovin" and be just fine. It's (my opinion..) not about being some PC hippie's just about being a human.
Kool G Rap and DJ Polo's "Road to Riches", Big Daddy Kane's "Long Live the Kane" and "It's a Big Daddy Thing", LLCool J's slew of albums, as well as Ice-T's (including "6 in the Mornin', which was on ninety five percent of every mixtapes I ever made), The D.O.C.'s "No One Can Do it Better".....all of these came out in this time frame. Looking back, it's's another reason it can all be described as golden.
MC Serch and Prime Minister Pete Nice fronted one of hip-hop's first interracial groups in #rd Bass. The Cactus Album is released, and almost every motherfucker on this planet felt "The Gas Face". Why? Because they had skills. Because they weren't a gimmick. Because their lifestyle wasn't created by a record executive looking to cash in. Because their records are still great, even by today's standards, and because they never turned on what they started. Serch brought Nas to greatness, put out an incredible solo album ("Return of the Product") and just a few years ago, worked with Ego Trip on VH1's The (White) Rapper Show. I've read they (Ego Trip) are doing a new book about white bet is that Serch will be heavily, heavily involved, within not only the content, but the entire production. 3rd Bass made me feel like I didn't need to question my love for the culture, as if I was intruding on something I wasn't supposed to.

So, that's a brief and minimal rundown. Trying to open a ten ton can of worms within a few paragraphs is impossible. Like I said before, my main goal is to cover everything I can whenever time permits, and this was the best starting point I could come up with.
I'm also not going to sit here and act like I was waiting out front of the record store every Tuesday knowing release dates. Some of these records took me three, four, five years to discover. I am no aficionado. What I am, however, is an enthusiast, which I consider even more important. I don't remember every song title, all the lyrics to every LP, who produced every track, etc. But what I do recall is how these records as a whole, influenced me.....and that is what this is all about....not statistics, nor biographies of each's about the affect these artists and albums had to my ears, my head and, ultimately, my life.

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