Monday, October 04, 2010

The most Important records in hip-hop history?

Trying to pick ten is virtually impossible. First of all the ten most important records in hip-hop history would definitely have to include breaks like "Apache", "The Funky Drummer" and "Amen Brother" so for purposes of simplicity i'm gonna keep it to distinctly hip-hop records and leave the breaks for another day! Also, as a person who grew up as a kid in the 80's with hip-hop but who truly appreciates the sophistication of 90's (which brought us Dilla, Nas, Jay Z, Biggie, Dj Shadow, Rza and Wu Tang etc etc), i've decided to cut it off at 1990 as i feel the genre had developed at that stage to such an extent that it's raw materials were in place. Some of the best and most important 90's stuff like A Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul, Dr Dre and Snoop and many more, had it's roots in the 80's and while some lazy journalists who know little of hip-hop will count the likes of 2 Pac and Eminem in such a list, I will argue that they were simply a development of what had already come before. True, you could say that about most hip-hop, but the ten i've selected are a personal opinion on ten vital slabs of vinyl that helped pave the way. At the very bottom i've included some free mixes too of more newer skool 90s sounds plus a killer old skool party mix of pioneering tunes that time has largely forgotten, so check them out too! Remember this is my opinion only, feel free to comment and please spread the word!

I've decided to do this chronologically so let's start with

The Fatback Band-King Tim 111 (Personality Jock)

Hip-hop and rap had been around for a good few years but this is widely regarded as the first cut that made it to wax. Ironically it was by funk legends the Fatback Band, hardly the most hip-hop of outfits in many ways, but they are a great band and this tune still rocks clubs to this day. It is important to document any kind of music form, and since this was the first conventional rap record (leaving aside Gil Scott Heron, Last Poets, James Brown et al), it deserves it's place

The Sugarhill Gang-Rappers Delight

I prefer the longer version but this will do. Okay, many of the raps were lifted (props to Grandmaster Caz) and okay some of the purists were upset but this was raps breakout hit, coming only months after Fatback Band and bringing hip-hop to the wider world. A well documented Chic sample of "Good Times" by Chic provided the backbone, and the rest is history. I caught up with Nile Rodgers of Chic recently and he is understandably proud that the monster groove created by himself and Bernard Edwards plus Chic helped create even more music history with the devlopement of hip-hop.

Kurtis Blow-The Breaks

Okay i'm not gonna lie. I was gonna include some of the pioneering cut n'paste records by the likes of Steinski and Double Dee but youtube hasn't got the audio so I reckon Kurtis Blow deserves a mention. Remember in 1980 rap was seen as a fad but Kurtis Blow "became the first rapper signed to a major record label, Mercury Records, where "The Breaks" becomes a certified gold record. He is the first to release a Hip Hop album, to embark on a Hip Hop tour, to be featured on television ("Soul Train" in October), and the first to give rap mainstream marketability (he also opened up for The Commodores and Bob Marley on tour)"
Nuff Respect this joint still bangs in 2010 and is always in my box!

Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force-Planet Rock

Another massively influential track, this time sampling the mighty "Trans Europe Express" by Kraftwerk. I always maintain that Kraftwerk still sound like the future and this tune to me reflects the DJing scene where Bambaataa, Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Flash came out of in the 70's. Musically anything went and hip-hop was born as the bastard child of rock, soul, latin, jazz, reggae and many more styles, including the experimental electronic sounds coming from Kraftwerk in Europe. The DJ's were open-minded and saw funk in everything; to me this was the true spirit of hip-hop. The influence of this record on Electro, Techno, dubstep and house is immense. Bambaataa's place in hip-hop history was always secure, but this record made it even more so. Arthur Baker was on the boards too and I was honoured to have them both DJ together at my Jam night in Cork on Tommy Boy's 20th anniversary a good few years ago. Dan the Automator and Maseo from De La Soul also spun at an amazing night. The funny thing was, many in the crowd thought Arthur Baker was a roadie or something, and didn't realise that the old guy with the ZZ Top beard was a music pioneer who brought the world everything from Freeze and New Order to hip-hop and electro classics like this!

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five-The Message

Grandmaster Flash doesn't even appear on it, and Melle Mel and Duke Bootee wrote it, but this is one of the most important records of all time as it brought the prevailing party of the time into a more socially conscious edge and set the scene for the golden era of hip-hop that began soon after. Chuck D, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Guru, Krs-One, Ice T and many more were listening, and while it was hardly the first record to talk about life on the streets, it was certainy the most influential and most important at the time

Run DMC-Rock Box

"Walk This Way" was bigger but this was the first rap video played by MTV. There was pretty much an unwritten blacklist against black music videos in the early years of MTV despite the best efforts of Rick James and co (see this article here which explains the background well) "Rock Box" helped break rap through and in my opinion it was no coincidence that the early rap hits on MTV featured rock guitars that made the format fit in more with white audiences (ironically, rock music comes from the blues and r&b and black music anyway originally, but that's a story for another day!) These guys also played my Jam night in Cork just a few months before the tragic death of Jam Master Jay. They remain one of the most important hip-hop groups. To me Run DMC IS HIP-HOP!
The OG video is not embedded but here it is Here

Beastie Boys-No Sleep till Brooklyn

Not my favourite by any means but check the thread title. This was massively influential and like other rock orientated rap hits by Run DMC and LL Cool J it was hugely popular. The reason why the Beastie Boys are included here though is because the sales of "Licenced to ill" went through the roof and the album stood head to head in 1987 with U2's "The Joshua Tree" and Michael Jacksons "Bad". Hip-hop, the music that was written off as a fad, had arrived fully as a commmercial entity and record companies were suddenly taking note. Another big irony is that this was a bit of a fad album, and the band with punk rock roots were helped in many ways by both the immediacy of the music and the controversy which followed them everywhere as they took fellow Def Jam legends on tour. The Beastie Boys created music that parents would definitely not like. All over the world, white teenagers embraced it and the eventual chart domination of hip-hop and r&b ten or fifteen years later had a platform. The Beastie Boys themselves did something far more interesting however. They dipped further into obscure soul, reggae, funk and jazz territory and alongside the Dust Brothers created the seminal "Paul's Boutique" soon after, alienating most of those who made "Licenced to ill" global, but cementing their reputation as a credible hip-hop crew who are still relevant today!

Public Enemy-Rebel without a Pause

The golden era brought so many classics over such a short space of time that it is almost impossible to pinpoint one. For me, the period between about 1987 and 1991 was amazing and the background of this record shows how the intense competition at the time, between some of the great groups, led to some amazing music. Chuck D famously admitted that Public Enemy's previous album, "Yo! Bum Rush the show!", had already sounded dated by the time they went to record "It Takes a Nation of Millions" but it was the recording of another masterpiece that really got him hyped. Eric B and Rakim had already come through with "Eric B is President" but it was there use of Bobby Byrd's "I know you got Soul" that made Chuck realise he had to take it to the next level. I remember reading that he came to the conclusion that rap had more or less reached it's next level with "I Know you got soul", but "Rebel without a Pause" was just as good. The Bomb Squad are an amazing production team and the intense use of "The Grunt" by the JB's added to one of hip-hop's most important tracks ever. Also from this era we should mention KRS-One of BDP, MC Shan, Ultramagentic MC's, EPMD, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Big Daddy Kane and many many more!

De La Soul-My Myself and I

Now it gets tough. Two choices left to go how do I cut it down to two? Well this is tinged with personal bias a bit because in my opinion, the Native Tongues posse of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and Monie Love (plus more), brought hip-hop into even other realms still. The aggression of the prevailing militant rap on both east and west coasts was changed up big time as more soulful samples and rhymes entered the mix. Written off as a novelty hippy vibe by many, De La Soul proved throughout their career that they were as hip-hop as anyone and to this day they are cutting edge and ironically, seen as an underground hardcore crew themselves! "Three Feet high and Rising" was produced by Prince Paul and it captured one of the last innocent eras of hip-hop, where the Long Island youngsters kicked playful rhymes over everything from Jimi Hendrix and Hall & Oates to the Steely Dan and (on this track) Funkadelic.
Hip-hop once again, had no boundaries, and the influence of this record on the 90's and beyond was profound. Rapping about relationships and everyday life had been there since the start, but this took it into more sophisticated territory and was proudly non sexist, non homophobic and non macho in an era where male posturing was as usual to the fore. Jazzier crews such as Camp Lo, the Pharcyde and Digable Planets emerged, while the likes of Gang Starr, Black Sheep, Biz Markie, De la, MC Lyte, Masta Ace, Main Source, Brand Nubian and A Tribe Called Quest also helped create what i still feel was hip-hops golden era. "De La Soul" is dead was even more ambitious for me, and criminally under-rated at the time, but the critics and fans alike had caught up with De La Soul again by the time "Stakes is High" came out in 1996. It's important to mention that the Jungle Brothers helped pave the way by becoming the first of the Native Tongues to release music, and A Tribe Called Quest became arguably the best of the lot with a string of amazing albums too, but I've selected this cut from "Three Feet High and Rising" against stiff competition once again! The Native Tongues got myself and millions of other young rap fans into soul and jazz and for that i'll forever be grateful.

N.W.A.-Straight Outta Compton

Hip-hop had stopped being a New York thing many years before "Straight Outta Compton" dropped. Philly was there practically from the start with Lady B, Schoolly D and of course Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and many more. Miami and 2 Live Crew were making moves with Miami Bass and "As Nasty as they wanna be", a controversial album that was huge when i was a teen. Freestyle had also developed in not just New York but L.A. and Miami too while globally the UK, France, Japan, Germany and here In Ireland were all on board. It was on the West Coast of the U.S. where the next big growth happened though.
The origins of West Coast hip-hop are said to go right back to the 70's and back in the early 90's the amazing "It's not about a Salary" book by Irishman Brian Cross, who has become one of the most important photographers in hip-hop history over the last 20 years while living in the States, detailed this growth superbly. The likes of Too Short had been making gangster styled rap in Oakland for many years while Toddy Tee came through with the massive "Batterram" but it was Ice T, who was busting rhymes at the Radiotron nightclub where kids attended, who became perhaps the best known at the time. Ice T was quite open about the East Coasts influence in a recent Wax Poetics interview, but for my last pick i'm gonna pick another track and album that also had an east coast sound.
"Straight Outta Compton" could easily have been a New York production, but it's rhymes were most definitely from the West Coast. Eazy E brought the gangster thing to the next level in that he quite plainly was one, while Dr Dre's days wearing jumpsuits with the "World Class Wrecking Cru" (they made important music in their own right, as did NWA associate Arabian Prince and Egyptian Lover) were soon put behind him. Eazy E, Mc Ren, Dr Dre and Ice Cube created one of the most incendiary albums of all time in "Straight Outta Compton" and I can still remember vividly the day I was walking down Oliver Plunkett St in Cork after school and I heard it first. About a 100 yards from Comet, which was then located there, I could hear the music blasting loud and I literally ran up the stairs to find out what it was. I was on my way to get my daily vinyl fix and I bought this album straight away. I was never the same since and though i had problems with one or two lyrics, I had never experienced music so intense. At the time music like Public Enemy, Stiff Little Fingers, Dead Kennedys, The Ramones and Sonic Youth were my favourites, and like with PE this was music made it feel good to be a teen in 88! I had always regretted that i was to young to experience punk as it came out but it was an amazing feeling to be around when NWA and Public Enemy plus hundreds of more artists released their albums. The excitement and anticipation is something that will never leave me and later on as a DJ I was really lucky to be able to break debut albums by the Pharcyde, Paris, Nas, Biggie, Dj Shadow, Jay Z and many more in Cork at my clubnight in Sir Henrys.
NWA paved the way for Ice Cube and Dre and Snoop and subsequently 50 Cent and Eminem as "The Chronic" slowed things down into a P-Funk stoned out drawl but this song and album was massive. It's controversy with "Fuck the Police" came before Ice T's "Cop Killer" by a few years, but it was a sign of things to come as hip-hop crept into the mainstream bedrooms of teens not only in the US but all around the world. Ice Cube's first two solo albums are arguably better, "The Chronic" sold more, and Cypress Hill, The Pharcyde, Freestyle Fellowship, Del tha funkee Homosapien, House of Pain and later Jurassic 5, People Under the Stairs, Madlib and more went on to have varying degrees of success, but for me NWA's "Straight outta Compton" was the major moment in West Coast hip-hop.

The Old Skool Party mix volume 1

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Plenty of big tunes from the era that hip-hop often forgets; if it wasn't for these guys the music we love would never have developed. Many of these artists pioneered the genre and ended up broke or obscure, but the streets knew better. The likes of Run DMC, Salt n'Pepa and LL Cool J blew up as rap exploded, and later on Eric B and Rakim and a few more ushered in the new skool, but for a time, rap was an underground movement with a freshness and innocence that still sounds great today. I threw one or two early breaks on here too as it is impossible to measure the importance of rap without talking about the likes of Kraftwerk, Bob James, Chic, Grover Washington etc, but on future volumes i'll explore the breaks more. I've already done a James Brown documentary but the likes of the Godfather and George Clinton plus many more also deserve homage; this is gonna be the first volume of many Old Skool tributes. It is far from definitive and merely a snapshot of an era and some records that need to be heard by those who don't know! Also, note that there are plenty of fly girls in the mix too, i've always been a huge fan of females bustin' loose on the mic and there have been ladies at the forefront of rap since day one. Feel free to break out the lino and take it back to the days where just two turntables and a microphone could create musical magic that stands strong 30 years later.

Rappin Ain't No Thing Boogie Boys
On the Radio Crash Crew
Weekend Cold Crush Brothers
The Old School Kool Kyle & Billy Bill
Brooklyn's In The House Cutmaster DC
The Show (ft Slick Rick) Doug E Fresh
PSK (What Does it Mean) Schooly D
Sucker MC's Run-D.M.C.
Sucker DJs Dimples D.
Kill That Noise MC Shan
Rockin' It Fearless Four
Cha Cha Cha MC Lyte
The Man Machine Kraftwerk
I Can't Live Without My Radio LL Cool J
Let's Jam D.J. M.A.T.E. & The Latin MC's
Body Rock Treacherous Three
My Mic Sounds Nice Salt-N-Pepa
Mister Magic Grover Washington Jr.
Nautilus Bob James
It's Yours T La Rock & Jazzy Jay
Fresh Is The Word Mantronix
Change The Beat Fab Five Freddy
Eric B. Is President Eric B. & Rakim
Hey DJ The World's Famous Supreme Team
Bang Zoom (Let's Go-Go) The Real Roxanne With Hitman Howie Tee
B-Boys B-Girls Rock Steady Crew
B-Boy Style Lil' Jazzy Jay & Cool Supreme
Stick 'Em Fat Boys
Funkbox Party The Masterdon Committee
Rhymin' and Rappin' Paulette & Tanya Winley
To The Beat Lady B
Freedom Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
Get Up And Dance Freedom
High Power Rap Disco Dave & The Force Of The 5 MCs
Funk You Up The Sequence
Whipper Whip/Dota-Rock/Easy AD (High Society) Fantastic 5 - Cold Crush
High Society Norma Jean

Tru Skool Hip-hop Volume 1

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Tru Skool Hip-hop Vol 1
Nas-The World is Yours
Jay Z-Dead Presidents
Mobb Deep feat Q Tip-Drink Away The Pain
Common-I Used To Love Her
Gang Starr-Take It Personal
Gang Starr-Step In the Arena
2 Pac-I Get Around
Showbiz & AG-The Next Level
ED OG & The Bulldogs-I Got Ta Have It
De La Soul-Plug Tunin'
Chi Ali-Age Ain't nuthin but a Number
Masta Ace-Sittin On Chrome
A Tribe Called Quest-God lives Through
Black Sheep-Flavour of The Month
Biggie-Machine Gun Funk
Craig Mack-Flavour in Ya Ear
Wu Tang Clan-Can it be that it was all so Simple
OC-Times Up
Beatnuts-Props over Here
The Goats-Hip-Hopola
Gang Starr-Words I Manifest
Boogie Down Productions/KRS One-My Philosopy
Masta Ace/Biz Markie-Me & The Biz
MC Solaar-Bouge De La
Brand Nubian-Slow Down
Special Ed-I Got It Made
A Tribe Called Quest-Clap Your Hands
Paris-The Days of Old
NWA-Express Yourself
Souls of Mischief-93 Till Infinity
Show & AG-Soul Clap
Naughty By Nature-Uptown Anthem
Lordz of the Underground-Chief Rocka
EPMD-Give it to the people
Nice & Smooth-Hip-hop Junkies
The Jungle Brothers-Straight Out The Jungle
Main Source-Lookin at The Front Door
ADOR-Let It All hang Out
Pete Rock & CL Smooth-They Reminisce Over You
House of Pain-Jump Around (Pete Rock mix)

Tru Skool Hip-hop volume 2

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Tru Skool Hip-hop Vol 2
Das EFX-Real Hip-hop
EPMD-Your A Customer
INI-Think Twice
KRS ONE-Hip-hop Vs Rap
KRS ONE-Mc's Act Like They Don't Know
Smif n Wessun-BuckTown
Nine-Whatcha Want
Black Sheep-Similak Child
Masta Ace-Saturday Night
Big L-Street Smart
Easflashbush Project-Tried By 12
Jeru the Damaja-Come Clean
Biggie/Method Man-The What
AZ-Rather Unique
Nas/Az-Life's A Bitch
Lord Finesse-
Alkaholics-Next Level
INI-Fakin Jaxx (Remix)
Public Enemy-Shut Em Down (Pete Rock Remix)
Naughty By Nature-Hip-hop Hooray (Pete Rock Remix)
A Tribe Called Quest-Oh my God (Remix)
Gang Starr-Code of the Streets (Kenny Dope Remix and original)
D&D Project-1, 2 Pass It (Remix)
Blazhay Blazhay-Danger
Mama mystique-Tremendous
Wu Tang Clan-C.R.E.A.M.
Raekwon-Incarcarated Scarfaces
Method Man/Redman-How High (Remix)
Redman-Can't Wait
Big daddy Kane-Smooth Operator
Pharcyde-Passin Me By (Fly as pie Remix)
Jungle brothers-My Jimi Weighs A Ton (Remix)

Tru Skool hip-hop volume 3

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Finally it's part 3 of the mix that is gonna make the fans of golden era hip-hop go crazzzzy! How many real hip-hoppers are in the place?

As I Reminisce Master Ace
Funk Wit Da Style Craig Mack
Playin the Game Grand Puba
Shakiyla Poor Righteous Teachers
Fall-N-Love (Jay Dee Remix) Slum Village
No Equal The Beatnuts
Stop Ed Og & Da Bulldogs
Brooklyn's Finest Jay-Z Feat. Notorious B.I.G.
Everyday Struggles The Notorious B.I.G.
East Coast Das EFX
Ya Wish Ya Could Special Ed
Check The Rhime (Mr. Muhammad's Mix) A Tribe Called Quest
On The DL The Pharcyde
Keep 'em Eager To Listen Eric B.& Rakim
Flip The Script Gang Starr
Isn't He Something Lord Finesse
Think Main Source
DJs Get No Credit Big Daddy Kane
If It Aint Ruff N.W.A.
If It Ain't Rough, It Ain't Right Pete Rock & CL Smooth
No Delayin' Nice And Smooth
Cha Cha Cha MC Lyte
Kill That Noise-MC Shan
Poetry Boogie Down Productions
Jam Master Jay Run D.M.C.
We Can't Be Stopped Geto Boys
The Wrong N**** To F*** Wit Ice Cube
heed the word of the brother X Clan
Crossover EPMD
Mamma Feel Good Schoolly D
Yes You May Lord Finesse
Poison Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
One Time's Got No Case Sir Mix-A-Lot

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    About Me

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    I'm a DJ from Cork in Ireland. I work with RedFM, presenting Red Drive, The Hitlist and my specialist show, Black on Red. I'm probably best known for being one of the main hip-hop/soul DJ's in Cork and Ireland. I've been DJing in Cork since the early 90's in legendary clubnights such as Sweat in Sir Henrys, Mor Disco, Free La Funk, Yo Latino and also Jam and Jam Junior at the Savoy and the Pavilion. I've also held down long term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin, U-Turn at Ri Ra in Dublin, Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway, Thompson Garage in Belfast, the Soul Clinic, Dee-Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce in Limerick and i've played abroad in the United States and the U.K. on numerous occasions. I also write a music column for the Evening Echo and i'm a regular contributor to the U.K.'s Blues and Soul, the longest running black music magazine in the world. These days i run the Pavilion, a music venue in Cork, which hosts my Jam night every few Fridays also you can catch me at