Bryan L. just wrote a very well articulated post about his love for rap music. In it he mentions his first encounters with rap and then a list of reasons why he loves rap from the Golden Era (c. 1992 – 1998 ) — It’s a very good post and I suggest you read it. Rather than flood his comments section with a very long comment I thought I’d just write a rejoinder and link to it.
My introduction to rap was the movie Krush Groove with Run DMC, LL Cool J, Kurtis Blow, Sheila E., The Fat Boys, The Beastie Boys, etc. . . and then the Aerosmith & Run DMC video for Walk This Way. I was about 5-6 for all of this.
Now of course 5-6 year olds don’t generally buy albums to listen to so I was stuck having for the most part to listen to what my parents were into (which wasn’t bad at all — I have fond memories of Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Gloria Estefan, Toto, Journey, Whitney Houston, etc…) but whenever I heard the Beastie Boys or Run DMC I loved it!
When I turned 8 I bought my very first rap album. It was DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. This was the breakthrough album for Will Smith, the one that led to his hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But I digress…
Bryan expressed a disinterest in ‘old school’ rap* and I am inclined to agree with him as long as we make a necessary distinction — ‘old school’ ended with Run DMC. Run DMC started a revolution — if you listen to their original stuff it was unlike anything that came before it. LL and the Beastie Boys came real hard with their music as well and even Salt N Pepa had that new school sound. Boogie Down Productions, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, etc., were certainly a far cry from the Sugar Hill Gang, Grand Wizard Theodore, Kurtis Blow, and those of their ilk.
But there is something about the music from 92-98 that was just special. If you read Bryan’s points for loving that era I’m pretty much in agreement with most of them. Production was tight, lyrics were thoughtful, songs were more realistic and personal, and we were given more than repetitive hooks, we were captivated with stories (some fact, some fiction).
One point I would add is that this was the era of rap that produced more albums that could be played from front to back than any other. I’m talking about tapes (CDs weren’t really that popular yet) that you could just let ride without fast-forwarding anything — the days before 19 skits on a single album that have nothing to do with anything, the days when every song on the album sounded different.
A brief listing of these albums is as follows:
- Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)
- Wu Tang Clan – Enter the Wu Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)
- Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle (1993)
- The Alkaholiks – 21 & Over (1993)
- The Beatnuts – Intoxicated Demons (1993)
- Nas – Illmatic (1994)
- Biggie Smalls – Ready to Die (1994)
- Redman – Dare Iz a Darkside (1994)
- The Beatnuts – Street Level (1994)
- Mobb Deep – The Infamous (1995)
- Fat Joe – Jealous Ones Envy (1995)
- Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
- Nas – It Was Written (1996)
- Mobb Deep – Hell on Earth (1996)
- Jay Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)
- Redman – Muddy Waters (1996)
- Ghostface Killah – Ironman (1996)
- The Fugees – The Score (1996)
- Wu Tang Clan – Wu Tang Forever (1997)
- Big Pun – Capital Punishment (1998 )
- Noreaga – N.O.R.E. (1998 )
- Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998 )
Each and every one of these albums was a complete album — each song could stand alone or the entire album could stand as a unit. I spent many days laying on my bed just zoning out to these albums and I logged many hours in the car driving to and from my cousins’ house and work listening to them. While a lot of my friends don’t think that saints should listen to this kind of music, I retain it as a ‘guilty pleasure’
*Now-a-days the era we like is considered ‘old school’! — seriously, listen to Hot 97’s Old School at Noon and see that I’m right.