Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Top 5 Underrated Albums of 1987

These are the albums that may get their shine in the real hip hop head level. However as far as casual rap fans at large may not be remembered for their own uniqueness as they should. These will be notably shorter than my top ten reviews.

Born to Mack- Too $hort

Too $hort's debut album after some raunchy EP's are him at his early dirty best. Tales of the shady side of the streets will leave your bass knockin & your sides split due to the laughs. He will only get better come his next album (which will be in a future top ten list).

Rhyme Pays- Ice-T

Another West Cost debut featuring a smooth street storyteller. Ice-T gives you the highs & lows of the Cali hustlers life. He deserves his props for being the voice of reason for a lot of the wests problems. Both with the cops & with our own kind.

N.W.A. And the Posse- N.W.A. 

A lot of people don't realize that this is N.W.A.'s real debut album (a compilation album actually). Featuring the original Boyz-in-da-Hood & some real early N.W.A songs. It's pretty interesting to look back at this now that their bio-pic is out. An overlooked gem.

Lyrical King- T La Rock
T La Rock is another NYC legend no one speaks of anymore sadly. His single with Rick Ruban, the classic "It's Yours" is the first single ever released on Def Jam. A solid lyricist who's street stories are probably more infamous than his actual career.

The Godfather of Rap- Spoonie G
Great production from Marley Marl & New Jack Swing legend Teddy Riley. Spoonie Gee had an smooth flow that was made for some laid back R&B type vibes. Plus he knew how to get lyrical when needed. Go play GTA San Andreas & look for his joint on Playback & tell me I'm wrong. 

Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of 1987

Ah, 1987 was a damn good year. The Redskins won the Super Bowl, timeless movies like Predator & The Untouchables dropped. A gifted young black child came screaming into the world the morning of the 22nd of May... And hip hop was fast becoming a force to be reckoned with in the music industry as well as popular culture as a whole.

The fruits of the labor put down by act's like Sugar Hill Gang,  Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, DJ Kool Herc,  Afrika Bambaataa & others were starting to unfold. However, there was still a long way to go before there was a point when hip hop was given equal footing to other more established forms of music. In myself & I'm sure a lot of others eyes, this year set the table for what was to come. So without any further ado, here is my top ten albums of 1987.

10. Rock the House- DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

You wanna talk about a fun album that was built for a typical 80's house party. Will from the very first track grabs your attention with his effortless flow. You can pretty easily tell that his transition from the Fresh Prince on wax to the Fresh Prince on TV was genuine. He is an underrated story teller and it seems like he knows how to do just enough to keep the listener hanging to every word of his tales. When he tries the braggadocio route is where he stumbles lyrically (you can find him repeating curtain lines if you're paying attention). Jazz makes up for it with his supreme scratching ability that puts other DJ's to shame during this period. The biggest single, "Girls ain't Nothin But Trouble", is the duo at their best. While the lack of major production holds this back (He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper was their first major label album), Will still makes you feel like he's the coolest guy in the room but you could be that guy. I can see why a lot of adolescents at that time gravitated to him. Jazz is a master turntablist and its showcased well here. It's a solid debut which only leads to even bigger heights to come from the Philly tag team.

3.5 out of 5

9. How Ya Like Me Now- Kool Moe Dee

The iconic album cover alone had to of helped Kool Moe Dee get that platinum plaque for this album. Kool Moe Dee gets lost in the shuffle at times when people bring up great MCs from the 80's. The album starts off all business with the title track. Now is it the most scathing diss track of all time? No, but at the same time you can see how it was looked at as an damaging track in 1987. Moe Dee accuses his rival of biting his style & questions LL Cool J's legitimacy as an hardcore MC. He has a few clever lines & overall the song is a classic diss track and a great way to kick off the album. We then go to the big single, "Wild Wild West" (which would eventually be sampled by the MC I reviewed earlier). This song was pretty popular among rap fans and gave Moe Dee the hit he needed to breakthrough in his solo career. The beat is thumpin thanks to the Cameo "Word Up" sample. It showcases his signature flow and voice nicely. After that the album kinda goes in a lull period with some filler tracks. For the most part we do find Moe Dee in his natural element. Battle rhymes and
serious shit talkin. Overall, this album was front loaded with his most memorable and greatest songs in his catalog. It's just gets pretty inconsistent towards the end. It is however, a solid album for its time and it's first two tracks alone gives you Kool Moe Dee in all his big shade greatness.

3.5 out of 5

8. Kool & Deadly- Just-Ice

Just-Ice embraced gangsta rap & helped bring it to the center stage of NYC hip-hop in the mid-80's. A year earlier he dropped the much slept on Back to the Old School on the indie Sleeping Bag label. The next year he hooked up with Blastmaster KRS-One himself for the bulk of the production duties & dropped this gem. With the first track and through a lot of the album you can notice KRS-One's fingerprints are all over it. That's a great thing though, because he's always been a great producer which showed in damn near all his albums. There's some hard hitting beats here & Just-Ice's delivery blends so well with them. The song "Moshitup" features KRS & the reggaie influence is in full effect. We're told about the dangers of pork products in perhaps the illest way possible & Ice lays down some serious hardcore lyrics. In case you didn't realize this is where the oft used line "suicide, its a suicide" originates. My only complaints, the beats to "On the Strength" & "Booga Bandit Bitch" are the sore thumbs on this album. Plus, its just so damn short. Only 8 tracks, but it makes you beg for more Ice & KRS. They hooked up again for the follow up album & even his most recent one 5 years ago. This is a match made in heaven between these two. Ice can rock it with the best of em on the mic & it's a damn shame that outside of New York you don't hear his name among the greats as often as
you should.

4 out of 5

7. Down By Law- MC Shan

It's the first album to drop under the Cold Chillin' label & it's of course produced by the legendary Marley Marl. It features some of the more recognizable loops & samples in rap history. Shan does though know how to weave a tale that meshes well with the production & helps carry things along. Two tracks that forever live on of course are "The Bridge" & "Kill That Noise". To me (and alot of people who watched the Beef DVD where KRS says this), all Shan had to do was not say a damn thing. Shan was more established & the one with less to loose at the time. "Kill That Noise" was Shan backed into a corner & when he's on the defensive it didn't come off very well. The album picks right up with a bangin title track which shows Shan at his best on the mic. Things though kinda dip again with the next few tracks. Which suffer from not as good beats ("Another One to Get Jealous Of") or lyrics that aren't that entertaining ("MC Space"). "Living in the World of Hip Hop" is pretty insightful when you think of where rap was then and where it is now. The final track of course  is "Beat Biter", and he has no shame of outright saying LL's name the first few bars. It's not the greatest dis by any means, but it did enough for LL to respond in subsequent tracks for the next couple years.
The conflict with BDP helped damper a lot of the heat Shan had. By 1988 "The Symphony" dropped
with the young future legends of Cold Chillin' all forcing Shan into the backseat. Shan is revered as a
Queensbridge legend but judging from where he was headed before "The Bridge Is Over" he deserved better. At least he & Marley Marl were able to drop a great debut that paved the way for others to succeed in his place.

4 out of 5

6. Dana Dane with Fame- Dana Dane

It's not a coincidence that Dane's voice & a lot of his mannerisms remind you of another rap great, Slick Rick. They both were childhood friends & apart of their own collective, the Kangol Crew. While the British accent clearly isn't Danes naturally. On wax he still finds a away to pull it off pretty well. After a super quick "Dedication" we get to the highest charting single of his career, "Cinderfella Dana Dane". An entertaining homeboy version of Cinderella that shows off his story telling ability nicely. Hurby Love Bug proves here that he knows how to create the perfect backdrop to any club or house party on this album. A pretty good mix of jams for the casual listener & the avid hip hop head. The title track shows off Dane at his most playaistic. Seducing the females to the point of turning Japanese in a variety of ways. The stories of high fashion & the honeys continue with "Delancey Street", the funniest track on the album in my opinion. The classic "Nightmares" plays out as a groupie horror story with some quotable lines & a cheesy but fitting Freddy Kruger like beat. The final two tracks "Keep the Groove" & "Love At First Sight" are okay but feel like the album wasn't finished.While the exclusion of perhaps a real final track along with no Slick Rick feature are kinda hard to avoid thinking of, this is still a dope album. Dana Dane is a criminally underrated storyteller who carved his own niche into rap lore. It feels great knowing this album & myself share a birthday. Each year here on I'm gonna celebrate... with fame.

4 out of 5

5. Saturday Night!- The Album- Schoolly D

D isn't exactly exceptional as far as lyricism. He is however a gangsta rap pioneer that greats such as Ice-T tip their hat off to. Painting vivid pictures of Philly street life in the mid-eighties behind his own boom bap production. While many may be put off by the misogynistic lyrics to certain songs. There are also times where the message far out weighs the explicit content. This originally dropped in '86 but Jive Records '87 version has three new tracks. The first one is the opening track, & "Housing the Joint" is a great set up for this album. In your mind you can picture Schoolly D in some hole in the wall club spittin this while cutting to scenes of a home invasion. "Dedicated to All B-Boys" was pushed as a single & while I thought the rhymes were dope I didn't care for all the bells & drums used. The only real filler track is the underutilized "Dis Groove Was Bad" (another '87 add-on). Which only has D rap but a couple bars over a def beat. "Parkside 5-2" is the final new track. Focusing on the ills of the streets, with himself questioning his boy's & his own motives behind the drug game. Two great tracks showcasing superior production & comical lil hood stories ("B-Boy Rhyme & Riddle"/"It's Krack") sandwich an all around classic in "Saturday Night". D reciting crazy weekend tales & then seamlessly going into a weed induced tangent make this other than "P.S.K." one of his most well known songs.
Overall if you want to see one of the royal oats of gangsta rap get sown you should own this album. D's groundbreaking style helped paved the way for what was to come in such a very short time.

4 out of 5

4. Bigger & Deffer- LL Cool J

I don't think people truly appreciate Todd Smith's longevity and impact. At this time to many LL could do no wrong. Yet still from the first track on he set out to prove he wasn't a flash in the pan MC. The iconic opening track "I'm Bad" is LL's declaration to all that may want to step to him. DJ Pooh's explosive production helps build upon the sound Rick Ruban perfected with LL on Radio. Just so many quotable lines to choose from on this record. A real fun track and exercise in wordplay is "My Rhyme Ain't Done". Mentioning everyone from the Royal Queen to Mickey Mouse in the rhyme that never ends (which is good in this case). The much forgotten third single of this album "Go Cut Creator Go" has the awesome guitar riffs that seem like a nod to Rick Ruban & Radio. Then comes the big song from this album, "I Need Love". LL made the blueprint for the hip hop love song. It's been a damn near prerequisite for most big time commercial rap albums since. Does it hold up today? Meh. It's cheesy & I guess that's its appeal. "Ahh, Let's Get Ill" feels like a throwaway party track & is treated as such. While the final actual song "The Do Wop" gives us a glimpse into the life of 18 year old LL, even if he does try to play it off as a dream at the end. This album has a few classic & memorable tracks but there's some filler here that keeps it from being the complete classic Radio was before it. Still, this helped establish LL Cool J as not only the biggest solo rap star of this era but a big star overall in music as well.

4 out of 5

3. Yo! Bum Rush the Show- Public Enemy

If Wu-Tang is the most talented group of all time, PE is the most important. The politically charged style, Chuck D's booming voice, Terminator X's scratches, & the buckwild style of Flava Flav was unlike anything in hip hop before or since. While this wasn't as rich with social commentary as much as the great albums that follow, its PE at it's most raw form. Chuck D's flow commands your attention from the jump. Rather it's tellin the cops not to mess with his 'Olds Ninety-Eight ("You're Gonna Get Yours"), tellin us how it is with the ladies ("Sophisticated Bitch") or merkin cats metaphorically ("My Uzi Weighs a Ton"). Chuck D commands your attention. Flava Flav as sort of a bridge between each song is welcome seeing that it's his introduction to the world. Not too annoying except for the all over the place at times "Too Much Posse". "Rightstarter (Message to a Black Man)" is when Chuck get's his on the socially conscious tip. Instilling the value of knowledge over ignorance in his own way. The classic "Public Enemy No. 1" lets you know Chuck could probably rock you in a battle when provoked with hard hitting rhymes. The production is all superbly handled by Rick Ruban as he brings his signature rock sound to Chuck D's raw ability vocal wise. There's no real misses on this one could argue. The final two tracks weren't up to par compared to the rest of the album to my liking as "Megablast" was kinda a let down & I'm not a big fan of instrumental tracks ("Terminator X Speaks With His Hands"). This album sets the stage for what will be their best one exactly a year later. It's an essential for any PE fan & great for those just joining in.

4.5 out of 5

2. Criminal Minded- Boogie Down Productions

Scott La Rock & KRS-One definitely got peoples attention with their classic debut. From the beef with Shan to the controversial subject matter all the way down to the guns on the cover. BDP's early path to rap stardom was full of grass roots gorilla warfare rhymes & gritty production. From the beginning you can tell that compared to his work from after Scott La Rocks untimely death onward that KRS wasn't full on in his teacher persona quite yet. Still there's some flashes of the conscious KRS that we come to expect on this joint. The aggression in these songs are unparalleled no doubt. From the mission statement like opening with "Poetry" right into the first shot of the Bridge Wars with "South Bronx". "9mm Goes Bang" is a gem that sees Kris go full on street storytelling mode. One of the first of its kind that influenced tons of NY hardcore street tracks for years. Words can't express how incredible the beats are for this album. Great use of sampling take classic James Brown along with other act's such as The Beatles & AC/DC. Classic's blended together to make timeless music. Truly showcasing hip-hops "Wild West" of sampling. "Elementary" feels like a precursor to the classic "My Philosophy" that he would craft a year later. A more edgy, bare bones version that knocks perfectly & fits the albums vibe. Intricate stories of Bronx whores & Scott La Rock's own ho tendencies are actually funny & a light hearted break in the albums hardness. "The Bridge Is Over" & the title track are masterpieces in hip-hop. Nailing Shan's coffin on one hand & giving others fair warning shots won't be hesitated in the next. All laid out with two classic beats. There's no skipping tracks with this one. From top to bottom its a testament to hardcore NY hip-hop from beginning to end. A shame Scott La Rock wouldn't be apart of what was to come.

5 out of 5

1. Paid in Full- Eric B. & Rakim

Did Rakim know what he was doing would be the most imitated style in rap music? Could he foresee how big a legacy he would leave on future MC's? Rather he knew it or not that's what he did at the young age of 19. Paid in Full is what hip-hop needed in a time where a lot of MC's were still screaming into the mic & substance in lyrics were few & far between. Rakim stood out from the rest. He made you think with his well crafted bars & references to the 5 Percent Nation & other concepts. He drew you in with his steady voice & flow that "Move the Crowd" with a purpose. The production is shared with Eric B. (& possibly Marley Marl) & its top-notch. The James Brown samples that rule this album mesh well with Rakim's chill flow. "I Ain't No Joke" is just an exercise in internal rhymes & breath control. All built together with signature horns & break beat. The instrumental tracks on this album are the better ones from this era & Eric B. can scratch with the best of 'em. However this is Rakim's show & he continues on his A game. Each song rather it be "My Melody" or "I Know You Got Soul" just leaves it's own distict mark lyrically. The type of details he describes & the way he did it was unlike nothing in rap at this time. Looking back & going on a site like Rap Genius helps you fully appreciate what he was doing as far as wordplay back then. "I came through the door, I said it before/I never let the mic magnetize me no more". "Eric B. is President" encapsulates the R's love for his craft. The title track needs no introduction, it's become a standard in hip-hop & continues to be relevant to those still digging in their pockets commin up with lint. Consider every great MC the last damn near 30 years. All the great bars, songs & albums in between. It all begins & ends with this album. The R is president.  

5 out of 5


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Just An Intro

What's good? The name is Mook & for as long as I can remember I've been a HUGE hip-hop head. Growing up through the best patch of time creatively in the genre (the 90's & early '00s) has afforded me a sense of whats quality when it comes to the rap game. After going back myself & looking at my vast collection of albums as well as old copies of The Source, Rap Pages, & XXL. I've decided to create this blog sort of as a personal timeline for hip-hop as we've known it in the past up to now. I will cover each year in the world of hip-hop starting from 1987. Why '87? Well, I was born that year & it was also the year that more innovative albums and acts began emerging. While there was a lot that transcended the game before that year (Run DMC, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Beastie Boys to name a few), I just feel like its a good starting point.

While doing each year I will cover the following...

-Top 10 Best Albums

-The 5 Most Underrated Albums

I will also note that starting with 1990 I will also include a top 5 most disappointing album list. I chose 1990 because by this point the rap game was now realized as a big money maker. Which in turn gave way to more rappers (good or otherwise) as well as more tendency to see established artists crank out less than potent material. I'm gonna try to crank out about 28 years of hip hop through the end of 2015 well into '16 in time to also do a review on 2016 when the time may come. So sit back, throw on some headphones and enjoy the read.