I have had a taste for the stuff ever since getting into Cypress Hill as a teen, arguably even when friends cooler than I showed me NWA tapes when I was nine (sadly I can’t really count the latter as my being a big fan, even if the Public Enemy ‘target’ symbol was emblazoned on the back covers of a number of my school books.
I like rap of all ages, natch, but the early nineties really appeals to me. Perhaps this is due to a misplaced romanticism of my youth in a middle school of massively varied ethnic make-up, of taping Tribe Called Quest and PM Dawn songs off the radio, and of when The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was actually good. Well, it’s probably entirely due to that, and my twin fixation with the media generated image of South Central LA, perpetrated through the likes of Boyz N The Hood, New Jack City, Death Row records and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (which in reality I neither would nor could endure), and my never-ending general California obsession.
Partly due to summer allegedly in authority for its quarter-year, and partly due to another ridiculous message board poll, I have decided to fill in the gaps in my period rap knowledge that are so large as to represent a void, with the actual artefacts of familiarity representing mere molecules of matter that are being sucked into my black hole of awareness. So I thought I might scribble some random thoughts as I go.
We all know about Wu Tang, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, N.W.A. (and offshoots) and Illmatic. We should know at the very least of the biggest of the ‘cult hits’, such as Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, Ultramagnetic MCs, De la Soul and Gang Starr. The ever-excellent Woebot wrote a great post about some of the lesser-known albums, and this newly-discovered-by-me blog, When They Reminisce, is full of gems and nice writing too.
The big discovery for me thus far has been Ice Cube’s solo breakthrough album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. I remember being aware of this when it came out, but I didn’t listen to it when I was ten. And for some reason, I decided I didn’t think much to Cube in general. Maybe I was being unduly influenced by the D.R.E and Cypress Hill, both of whom have had words to say. That and the majority of what I have seen of his film resume (Boyz… excepted, natch). Anyway, this was pretty damn good, a surprisingly intellectual example of what would turn into the bloated, posturing gangsta movement. Judging from her guest spot, I want to get some Yo-Yo in.
I’ve liked what bits I’ve heard of Ice T for a while, but I was recently recommended his Home Invasion set (Crazy Overlord holla!), and I am digging it greatly. I love how he comes at the gangsta angle from a rather arch perspective because it means he can go all-out. The problem with a lot of gangsta rappers trying to seem legit is that they end up blustery and sweary, but with no cool tales to tell. As far as I’m concerned, this particular avenue of rap is all about the characters – and nobody works a gimmick like Ice motherfucking T. His enunciation is also really good: I know this was an era in which perspicacity was prized, and the rappers had the verbal skills lacking from the likes of Diddy and Fiddy, but man alive – T might not have the smoothest flow, but he is on an almost Chuck D level of clarity.
Anyway, I’ll hopefully post thoughts as I go, rather than have this be an obsessive-compulsive treatise on my thoughts about everything I ever listen to. Before I finish, though, Masta Ace is excellent, The Low End Theory is way better than I even thought it was, and Six Feet Deep: better than …36 Chambers? Oooh.