1993 was the greatest year in the history of rap music - the year that Snoop Dogg released the greatest rap single of all time:
But how could a 22-year-old from Long Beach who had until that point spent his adult life in and out of prison release the greatest rap party jam of all time? Give me 93 DAZE to explain.
I'll try to connect the dots by starting with Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's drummer who more or less invented the funk drumming that became the first drum breaks that were ever played on tandem records by Kool DJ Herc at his Bronx warehouse parties in the 1970s. I'll jump across the Caribbean to Jamaica, the birthplace of rapping and sampling, then back to America, where funk music was evolving into Blaxpoitation, jazz fusion and disco. We'll talk about the influences that Afro-futurism, gay club culture, and Italo-disco had on hip hop. Then we'll delve into the history of hip hop and the cuts that were sampled.
*this was originally a Tumblr (which took me more than 93 daze to complete). See it in its original form here: http://93daze.tumblr.com/
Day 1: Funkadelic - (Not Just) Knee Deep (1979)
Here it is: the backbone of "Who Am I (What's My Name?" - just a couple bars of synth bass breakdown at 0:52, and throughout (with a good, clean sample at 13:24).
"(Not Just) Knee Deep" was sampled in 110 songs - most notably De La Soul’s "Me Myself and I," Dre’s" Fuck Wit’ Dre (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)", 2Pac’s "Can’t C Me," and of course Snoop's "Who Am I (What's My Name)?"
I particularly appreciate two things about Dre and Snoop’s use of this song:
#1: (They continue with) Funkadelic's parentheses thing.
#2: Dr. Dre had the humility to try this sample a second time for the production of Who Am I, after his - let’s say - not quite bangin’ song.
De La Soul uses the beginning. Dre/Snoop/Pac use 0:52.
Day 2: The Honey Drippers - Impeach the President (1972)
"Impeach the President" was named by WhoSampled.com as the most sampled drum break of all time.
It seems like this information might have changed, but the message is clear: this is a crucial break and the backbone of hundreds of hip hop tracks from the 1980s to today.
I don’t want to harp too much on the “crucial drum breaks” because I’ve only got #93DAZE, I’m not a hip hop producer, there are MUCH better sources out there, and honestly a lot of the important drum breaks appear in songs that aren't that aren't as good as the tracks that sampled them.
This track is not only a great break, but a great track. Enjoy!
Day 3: James Brown/Clyde Stubblefield - Cold Sweat (1968)
"Let’s give The Drummer Some!" James proposes at 2:15.
And the drummer takes some, laying down a boom-bap drum break that anyone could have rapped over anytime from 1977 to 2077.
Clyde Stubblefield was fundamentally responsible for funk music. When he started playing for James Brown, there was a new rhythm.
Stubblefield played on what were considered to be the first funk tracks, and he played many of what would become the most important drum breaks in hip hop like “Funky Drummer" and "Cold Sweat."
Day 4: Count Machuki - More Scorcher (1969)
Funk was the original beat for hip hop, but "Toasting" was the original rapping. And Count Machuki was the original "deejay" - toasting over Coxsone Dodd’s Sound Dimension.
Toasting came into existence the same way as any other great invention: at the spur of the moment, out of necessity. Traveling “sound systems” were a major phenomenon in Jamaica, touring Kingston’s ghettos in trucks with huge speakers. “Selectors” (DJs) played the records and “deejays” (MCs) were the hype men. The sound systems were highly competitive, and a good deejay was indispensable. They’d call people out, make jokes, talk jive, and rap over the “version” (the instrumental side).
This was unfortunately not a genre that was recorded until the later 1960s as the deejay’s job was to work a crowd, but here’s a classic early Machuki jam recorded in 1968.
Day 5: Lee Perry - Kimble the Nimble (1968)
Here’s Lee Perry toasting over Stranger Cole’s “Seeing is Knowing.” According to a commenter, Lee Perry may have been directing this as a “diss track” at Stranger Cole after a dispute about money after Perry produced this record. Damn, getting dissed over your own track! Only the Upsetter..
Day 6: The Upsetters - Shocks '71 (1971)
Lee Perry was to Bob Marley what Lou Reed was to The Beatles: a meaner, more mocking view of the world at a time where “peace and love” sold records.
I could easily post #93DAZE of Lee Perry + Upsetters songs, but that wouldn’t get us to our goal of 1993 and Snoop. Lee Perry didn’t invent dub, but he was certainly the most successful at turning it into its own “thing.” Lee’s spirit of experimentation had a massive effect on the future of electronic music and hip hop.
Here’s Dave Barker and the Upsetters over Small Axe.
Day 7: John Holt - Ali Baba (+ versions)
John Holt’s song is just great on its own (particularly when accompanied by this wacky video someone made). But the beautiful thing about Jamaican music in the 60s, 70s, 80s (and so on), was that when a good record came out, there might be countless "versions" of the same tune made by other artists. In fact, playing songs over an existing song became such a standard practice that the concept of "riddims" exists in Jamaica, meaning essentially the same thing as a jazz standard (e.g. here's a playlist of songs over the Ali Bab riddim). There is no doubt that hip hop and its founder, Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc were influenced by Jamaica's limitlessly creative recycling of records.
Ali Baba versions:
Day 8: Dave Barker - Funky Reggae
Funk hits Jamaica. Jamaica hits back.
Day 9: The Heptones - Suspicious Minds (1971)
Covering American songs was HUGE in Jamaica! The majority of covers were Motown and other soul hits, but anything was fair game, as we see here with the Heptones doing Elvis.
I will reiterate: the Jamaicans’ creativity with covering, sampling, dubbing, and generally messing with existing recordings was FUNDAMENTAL in hip hop!
Day 10: Marva Whitney - Unwind Yourself (1968)
Meanwhile in America..
Soul Sister #1, Marva Whitney, joined the James Brown Revue in 1967, and was cranking out hits under her own name within the year. Here’s her 1968 hit Unwind Yourself, which was sampled by DJ Mark the 45 King in “The 900 Number” - which served as the basis for DJ Kool’s hit “Let Me Clear My Throat.”
I could post a bunch of Marva tracks, but I'll keep her to one day. Check her out!
Day 11: Dyke and the Blazers - Funky Broadway (1967)
This is apparently the first charting single to ever have the word “funk” in it. Thankfully there were more to come.
Day 12: Lee Dorsey - Give It Up (1969)
I'll let the guitar do the talking on this track.
Day 12: Ernie K. Doe - Here Comes The GIrls (1970)
Day 13: Sly & The Family Stone - Trip To Your Heart (1967)
Psych-funk at its best, this track is best know to us as the basis of L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out."
Day 14: The Mohawks - The Champ (1968)
I’m not sure if the Mohawks replayed or just sampled Otis Redding’s Tramp, but the Mohawks' tune was samples in "Eric B. is President" (1986), Onyx's "Slam" (1993), and most recognizably in KRS-One's "Step Into the World" (1997).
And if you made it this far, you might as well listen to Salt 'N' Pepa's version of "Tramp" (1986).
Day 15: Melvin Van Peebles & Earth, Wind and Fire - Sweetback's Theme (1971)
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: DIrected by Melvin Van Peebles. Starring Melvin Van Peebles. Music composed by Melvin Van Peebles. Produced by Melvin Van Peebles. Edited by Melvin Van Peebles. Funded by Melvin Van Peebles (plus a loan from Bill Cosby). Stunts by Melvin Van Peebles. Unsimulated sex scenes performed by Melvin Van Peebles.
Without even trying, Melvin Van Peebles single-handedly invented Balxpoitation film. And without any music education, Van Peebles scored the soundtrack using a numeric code on his piano. He got the not-yet-well-known Earth, Wind & Fire to play the soundtrack. Baadasssss indeed!
Day 16: Isaac Hayes - Shaft (1971)
If we’re going to talk about Blaxpoitation, we need to talk about Shaft. Shaft came out hot on the heels of Sweetback and cemented the Blaxpoitation genre. Of course, Blaxpoitation film would be nothing without Blaxpoitation soundtrack, and the Shaft theme lives on in history alongside Shaft the film. In fact, when I think of Shaft, I think of Isaac Hayes, not of Shaft’s actor Richard Roundtree.
Day 17: The Rimshots - Neighbor! Get Your Own (1972)
-Valentines Day Sexploitation Interlude-
Day 18: Big Jim “H” & His Men of Rhythm - Jungle Fever (1972)
Today we take a step back in time from Blaxploitation to Sexploitation - the film genre from which Blaxploitation got its name.
Sexploitation film owes much to funk music, and it is from sexploitation film that we get the “bow chicka bow wow” grooves associated with porno today.
Happy Valentines day and be careful about where your “men of rhythm” are swimming. Don’t let it hit the conga drum or your days on tour are OVER!
Day 19: The Ray Brown Orchestra w/ Quincy Jones - Go Down Dying (1970)
The Ray Brown Orchestra with Quincy Jones doing a funked-up cover of the entire Antonio Carlos Jobim score to the the sexed-up The Adventures - and this standout track is the sample used to create Bjork’s “Human Behaviour” (released in 1993)?!
That’s what we call a #93DAZE GRAND SLAM!
(in case you need a refresher, here's the Michel Gondry-directed video for "Human Behaviour")
Day 20: Blowfly - Hole Man (1971)
There is sexploitation, then there is Blowfly.
No history leading to Snoop Dogg would be complete without a Blowfly chapter, so here it is: Blowfly doing his dirty version of Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man (did you know Isaac Hayes wrote Soul Man?).
Blowfly has done scores of albums of this stuff. He’s done raunchy versions of songs from just about every genre, and he was rapping in the 1970s. Here's a tune from his first full album.
Day 21: Bill Cosby - Martin’s Funeral (1971)
Bill Cosby is as good a place as any to start on Jazz Fusion. This track is most famous among my generation for being the sample to A Tribe Called Quest’s “We Can Get Down,” but Cosby released a bunch of music - mostly sorta funny stuff, but a lot of it very good.
Day 22: Billy Brooks - Forty Days (1974)
Another Tribe sample - this time the instantly recognizable start to “The luck of Lucien.”
This track REALLY holds up on its own too.
Man, Tribe had the best jazz fusion samples.
Day 23: Weldon Irvine - We Gettin Down (1975)
The sample from Tribe’s “Award Tour" (1993).
Day 24: Herbie Hancock - Chameleon (1973)
Day 25: The Blackbyrds - Rock Creek Park (1975)
Day 26: Steely Dan - Peg (1977)
Used in De La Soul’s “Eye Know,” plus, I mean, that shit’s a banger!
Day 27: Placebo - Humpty Dumpty
Day 28: Bob James - Take Me To Mardi Gras (1975)
Sometimes I ask myself. "did this musician know that there would soon be a thing called rap and that rap would need them to record that percussion?" Because that's sort of what this track seems like. It was sampled in 251 songs, most notably in Run DMC's “Peter Piper" (1986).
Day 29: David Axelrod - The Edge (1968)
There are so many good David Axelrod songs, but this is probably the most recognizable sample, from Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” (which of course has Snoop on it).
Day 30: Little Sister - You’re the One (1970)
OK, moving back to funk from fusion, here's a track form Little Sister, Sly Stone's backup singers.
Day 31: Bobby Byrd - I Know You Got Soul (1971)
As sampled by the Eric B. and Rakim:
Day 32: The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It’s Just Begun (1972)
Jimmy Castor couldn’t have possibly conceived of breakdancing and the culture surrounding it, but in 1972 he was unwittingly making a B-boy anthem. It’s easy to hear why his song made it through the decades.
Day 32: The Incredible Bongo Band - Apache (1973)
The Bronx Anthem. Also one of the most important drum breaks of all time.
We all know the Sugar Hill Gang version:
But this song has been sampled hundreds of times, and it was one of the very first breaks used by Kool DJ Herc in his original breakbeat DJing. It's a song so important that the New York Times wrote an article about it.
What's more? Apache was its self a cover of a surf tune by The Shadows (1960):
Day 33: The Last Poets - Mean Machine (1971)
The Last Poets paved the way for the emcees almost a decade later.
Day 34: Donny Hathaway - The Ghetto (1970)
Day 35: The Watts Prophets - Part, E-S (1969)
Day 36: Eddie Kendricks - My People, Hold On (1972)
Day 37: Curtis Mayfield - Power to the People (Demo) (1970)
Day 38: Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Song of the Second Moon (1957)
Meanwhile in the Netherlands.. some of the first electronic music was being recorded in the late 1950s.
Influenced by Stockhausen, Tom Dissevelt was invited to Philips’ Natuurkundig Laboratorium (Natlab) to record electronic music. Here’s an early synthesized track that sounds VERY future for 1957.
Day 39: Kraftwerk - Autobahn (1974)
Electronic music pioneers, Kraftwerk influenced disco, hip hop, techno and dance music, and pop. This is one of the great leaps forward in music, so I'm posting the entire album.
Day 40: The O’Jays - Love Train (1972)
Disco: the building block of hip hop and house music.
Love Train is considered by many to be the first true disco hit. You can hear the latin percussion influence in the beat and and psychedelic/hippy/Sly Stone influence in the subject matter.
Day 41: Barry White & The Love Unlimited Orchestra - Love’s Theme
It’s not hard to see how disco became to the 70s what The 101 Strings were to the early late 50s/early 60s. It's romantic. It's vaguely exotic. It's happy, but hip enough for your dinner party. It's perfect!
How could you not love this? Barry white conducting a funky, “peace and love” orchestra. Latin drums? check. Strings? check. French horns? Check MATE!
Day 42: Giorgio Moroder - From Here To Eternity (1977)
1977 - what a year to have lived in!
The Punk Rock Great Leap Forward happened and virtually every punk/new wave/no wave/art rock band formed simultaneously.
And disco went from Blaxpoitation’s family-friendly little brother to THIS!!!!!!!
Oh and by the way: if you think Moroder came from outer space and rode to earth on a synthesizer, this video from 1969 should prove his humble, terrestrial beginnings.
Day 43: Donna Summer - I Feel Love (1977)
It sounds bizarre now, but before “I Feel Love,” there had never been an entirely electronically-produced disco song.
Giorgio Moroder’s production changed the course of disco music and all dance music afterward.
Here’s a quote from David Bowie:
"One day in Berlin … Eno came running in and said, ‘I have heard the sound of the future.’ … he puts on "I Feel Love," by Donna Summer … He said, "This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years." Which was more or less right."
Day 44: Sylvester - You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (1978)
There are Italo-disco songs that are hipper, space-disco songs that are more far-out and Bee Gees/Abba songs that are more iconic, but there is no disco song better than Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”
Sylvester is the Queen of Disco. Patrick Cowley, who produced the song, is the king of Hi-NRG.
Stick around through 2:00 and 4:30 for drugged-up 70s disco club footage!
Day 45: Kano - I’m Ready (1980)
This track is about as crucial as it gets: it’s one of the first Italo-disco hits, and it’s the fucking sample for Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)”
Anyone want to guess what year “Whoomp!” came out?
Throw in a Parliament-syle title (with a parenthetical statement) and we've got another #93DAZE grandslam.
Day 46: Cerrone - Supernature (1977)
I’d like to think that Cerrone was important to Space Disco and Space Disco informed Cosmic Funk and Cosmic Funk influenced George Clinton.
The reality is that George Clinton was probably influenced by cosmic voices that came to him straight from the Funk Gods. If anything, Cerrone was influenced by CLINTON. But the spacey sounds of the 70s were swirling all around. Who knows who was listening to who.
Day 47: Space - Magic Fly (1977)
More from 1977, and with an incredible video (move over Daft Punk!).
It’s hard to think of a more important Space Disco track than “Magic Fly” by SPACE.
Day 48: Sho-Nuff/Fern Kinney - Love Me Tonight (1980/1981/2009)
OK, so this is actually a 2009 edit by Channel 83, but it’s mostly made out of Fern Kinney’s 1981 cover vocals over the music from Sho-Nuff’s original.
Day 49: Paul Parker - Right on Target (1982)
Written and produced by Patrick Cowley.
Day 50: Charlie - Spacer Woman
This is still "Italo-Disco," but the beat sounds indistinguishable from electro/electro-rap. Couldn't you see some kids breakdancing to this?
Day 51 - Lonnie Liston Smith - Cosmic Funk (1974)
Cosmic funk: just a song or an entire genre? I choose to believe that Cosmic Funk is an entire universe and George Clinton is receiving messages across space and time from its High Council of Funky Representatives.
Day 52: Sun Ra - Space is the Place (1972)
"Afrofuturism" was a term coined in 1993 to describe an aesthetic that had pervaded black literature, music, art, and photography for decades. The term Afrofuturism seems self-evident, but it specifically addresses the African diaspora through a technoculture and science fiction lens (I’m paraphrasing Wikipedia).
(do I need to explain how Sun Ra fits within this aesthetic?)
Day 53: Funkadelic - What Is a Funkadelic? (1970)
"If you will suck my soul, I will lick your funky emotions."
You have a deal, George Clinton, and we've been making good for 44 years!
This is the song that really began to establish the P-Funk cosmology: funk music came from outer space and was delivered to humankind by aliens. What is a Funkadelic? A Funkadelic is not of this world.
Day 54: Funkadelic - Cosmic Slop (1973)
The P-Funk cosmology was in place and beginning with Cosmic Slop, the P-Funk aesthetic came into place with the first album cover by Pedro Bell.
ccording to George Clinton’s website, Bell’s “stream-of-contagion text rewrote the whole game. He single-handedly defined the P-Funk collective as sci-fi superheroes fighting the ills of the heart, society, and the cosmos…As much as Clinton’s lyrics, Pedro Bell’s crazoid words created the mythos of the band and bonded the audience together.”
Day 55: Parliament - Flash Light (1977)
THERE's that bass that so many hip hop producers would sample!
Day 56: Leon Haywood - I Wanna Do Something Freaky to You (1975)
This track should have probably made it within the first 30 #daze or so, but here it is. Nothin’ but a Lee thing, baby.
Day 57: Zapp - More Bounce to the Ounce (1980)
Roger Troutman was a protege of Bootsy Collins before he and his four brothers made their first Zapp album, but Zapp ended their P-Funk ties when they took their Bootsy-produced, George Clinton-funded album and sold it to Warner Brothers instead of George Clinton’s short-lived Uncle Jam records.
That’s pretty gangster, I guess, and maybe part of the reason why every West Coast gangsta rapper sampled Zapp (Tupac has something like a 1.3:1 Zapp sample per track ratio).
It’s kind of a shame that Zapp’s first track on their first album is their most-remembered song but I guess that’s what you get for leaving the mothership..
Day 58: Roger Troutman - Do it Roger (1981)
Day 59: Hot Chocolate - Every 1’s A Winner (1978)
Day 60: Ebonee Webb - Anybody Wanna Dance (1981)
Day 61: Eddy Grant - Electric Avenue (1982)
I’m not sure what my angle is with this track, but it’s an undeniably vicious tune so it goes up.
Day 62: Ronnie Hudson and the Street People - West Coast Poplock (1982)
Ronnie Hudson simultaneously released West Coast Poplock and East Coast Poplock. Nice one, Ron.
Day 63: Mtume - Juicy Fruit (1983)
This is one of the most crucial samples in the history of rap. Notorious B.I.G. took the sample, re-recorded the vocals with new lyrics, and turned a pretty sleazy funk jam into an uplifting hip hop anthem.
Day 64: Kool DJ Herc’s Merry Go Round (1973)
Kool DJ Herc never released a single. He was just a DJ trying some weird shit. In 1973, he tried a technique that he called the “Merry Go Round,” playing only the drum break over and over on two turntables, then going into another drum break at the same tempo, then another.
This was Hip Hop’s big bang.
Day 65: Coke La Rock, The Original MC
Coke MCed for Kool DJ Herc during the beginning of hip hop, breakdancing, and B Boy culture. Apparently he invented the phrase “Rock.. you don’t stop,” repeated by hundreds of MCs throughout history.
Day 66: Spoonie Gee - Love Rap (1979)
Day 67: The Sugar Hill Gang - Rapper’s Delight (1979)
In September 1979, Blondie, Chic, and the Clash were playing a show. When Chic played “Good Times,” The Sugar Hill Gang bum rushed the stage and started rapping over the music. A record was released shortly after with a preliminary version of “Rapper’s Delight” over the music from “Good Times.” Chic and their label ended up suing the Sugar Hill Gang, making a deal with them, and re-recording the version of “Rapper’s Delight” that we all know and love - with a share of the royalties.
…or so the story goes.
"Rapper’s Delight" was the first true rap hit, which was funny because the Sugar Hill Gang, according to the heads of the time, were not really part of the scene.
Day 68: Spyder D - Big Apple Rappin’ (1980)
Day 69: The Sequence - Funk You Up (1979)
Angie Stone was in The Sequence - the first female hip hop group, or at least the first to have a hit with “Funk You Up” for Sugarhill Records.
(rapping finally starts at 5:40)
Day 70: The Universal Two - Dancing Heart (1981)
Day 71: Liquid Liquid - Cavern (1983)
Hip hop was already sampling disco extensively, but a surprise to me was finding out that Grandmaster Flash + Melle Mel took the bass line for “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” (also ‘83) from a post-disco/art rock/disco-punk bang - New York’s Liquid Liquid.
Rather than sampling Cavern, the Sugargill Records band recorded it themselves. But there’s no question where the inspiration came from: a bunch of white hipster kids.
Another funny note: unlike Flash + Mel’s anti-drug anthem, Cavern sort of makes you want drugs..
Day 72: Grandmaster Flash - The Massage (1982)
Whether or not “The Message” was a departure for hip hop at large, it was certainly a departure for the Furious Five or anything on Sugar Hill Records. No more disco/party/”come on Hank, sing that song” rapping - Grandmaster Flash tells a story of inner-city desperation, a message still told to this day in rap music.
Day 73: Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock (1982)
Kevin Donovan was a Warlord of the New York gang the Black Spades - which ballooned during his time to the largest street gang in New York.
His worldview shifted, however - around the same time he won a UNICEF essay contest that gave him a trip to Africa - and he ended up founding the Universal Zulu Nation, a hip hop and B-boy cultural organization comprised initially of many former Black Spades.
Bambaataa was known as the godfather of electro funk and also reputed to be one of the original crate diggers.
Planet Rock samples two Kraftwerk songs, Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican,” and a 1982 computer sound effects program.
Day 74: Jonzun Crew - Space Cowboy (1983)
Four brothers from Boston (actual brothers), the Jonzun Crew rapped over electro-funk with an afro-futuristic theme. And they were bad (as in good)!
However, the Jonzun Crew’s biggest contribution to pop culture was founding member Maurice Starr going on to manage and produce New Edition (before they went on to their own respectively successful careers). When New Edition and Starr parted way, Starr attempted to assemble and produce a version of New Edition with white kids.
"I honestly believe that if they’d been white, (New Edition) would have been 20 times as big." Starr said in a 2013 Entertainment Weekly article.
Starr found Donny Wahlberg who impressed him with his rapping and dancing skills. Wahlberg recruited his little brother Mark, his best friend Danny Wood and some schoolmates who knew how to sing, Jordan and Jonathan Knight. The result was New Kids on the block and indeed they were 20x as popular as New Edition.
Day 75: Cybotron - Clear (1983)
There are so many electro tracks I’d like to play, but I’m running out of time and we aren’t even close to the ’90s yet, so just the best from here:
Influenced by P-Funk, Kraftwerk, the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Italo Disco and Alvin Toffler’s books “Future Shock” and “The Third Wave,” Cybotron was formed in Detroit in 1981.
Cybotron, and especially founding member Juan Atkins, are considered to be among the founding fathers of Detroit Techno.
of course, this track was sampled in Missy Elliot’s 2005 hit “Lose Control”
Day 76: Ice T - The Coldest Rap (1983)
Meanwhile on the West Coast…
Ice T was one of the first “hardcore rappers” and one of the founding fathers of West Coast Hip Hop.
Day 77: World Class Wreckin Cru - Surgery (1984)
Calling Dr. Dre to surgery...
Day 78: Chris “The Glove” Taylor - Scratch Dance (1984)
Ice T’s first recordings were on Glove records, but for my money those tracks sound like anything that could have come out of NYC or anywhere else. This track, though, just sounds West Coast, undeniably, from 0:42-1:15.
Day 79: Egyptian Lover - Freak-a-holic (1986)
Day 79: Egyptian Lover - Freak-a-holic (1986)
The Egyptian Lover might have been more hip hop in his earlier recordings or while he was a member of the Radio Crew or Uncle Jam’s Army, but Freak-a-holic is my personal favorite (and best video).
The Egyptian Lover wouldn’t be the only rapper to need a 12-step recovery program for freaks, though, as the Arabian Prince wound up in Big Posse Anonymous three years later.
Day 80: J.J. Fad - Supersonic (1987)
Supersonic was one of the first albums on Eaze E’s Ruthless Records label. And who was the album produced by?
Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and the Arabian Prince.
Day 81: N.W.A. - Panic Zone (1987)
The original N.W.A. album was pretty developmental, with a different songs being credited to different people. This is an Krazy Dee track that was originally called “Hispanic Zone.” Dre advised against the title, as he thought it would hinder sales, so it became Panic Zone and sort of turned into an Arabian Prince song - N.W.A.’s first single.
Day 82: N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (1988)
In the modern context, it doesn’t seem surprising that an album with a title track that says the word “fuck” 21 times could go double-platinum. But in 1988, this was a brand new phenomenon. Straight Outta Compton was the first album to ever go platinum with no radio play.
N.W.A. ushered in the “Gangsta Rap” era and Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E became its kings.
Day 83: South Central Cartel - Ya Getz Clowned (1991)
I won’t play much “Gangsta Rap” because I’m running out of time. But this cut from the SCC is both gangster as fuck AND over Zapp and Roger.
Day 84: X Clan - Funkin Lesson (1990)
Three years before “Who Am I (What’s My Name)” and its (to me) “West Coast sound,” the X Clan was rapping Black Nationalism over practically the same beat, but with even MORE George Clinton samples!
Day 85: “Dr. Dre introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg” - Deep Cover (1992)
"Deep Cover" was the first Dre track after his breakup with N.W.A. and it featured the first appearance on record of Dre’s new protege, Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Note Snoop’s comparatively silky flows: “And now they wanna make a deal wit me/scoop me up and put me on they team and chill wit me.”
Who WOULDN’T want to scoop Snoop up and put him on their team and chill with him?! Dre had clearly found the right dogg.
Day 86: Mac Dre - California Livin’ (1991)
Mobb Music came out of the Bay in the late 80s with P-Funk samples, sine wave synths, and a whole lot of bass. Artists like Too Short, Mac Dre and Spice 1 were hugely influential in the G Funk style that would soon dominate the airwaves worldwide.
Day 87: Dr. Dre feat Snoop Dogg - Nothin’ But a ‘G’ Thang (1992)
This is the video that implanted in my suburban 5th-grader mind what “gangsta” culture looked like. Sure, Dr Dre might have been rocking a decidedly "less gangsta" look in 1985 - as Eazy E LOVED to point out - but who wasn’t less gangsta in 1985?
Thankfully the tide of violence and misogyny in rap hit a high water mark in the 90s, and receded back into the ocean of pop music. But let us remember this era for Dre’s production and Snoop’s flow rather than Suge Knight and East Coast-West Coast Beef.
Day 88: Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day (1993)
Ice Cube laid down his greatest hit over the smoothest of beats by DJ Pooh, based on “Footsteps in the Dark” by Isley Brothers. It’s an almost shockingly smooth jam - equating the listener’s surprise at such a mellow “gangsta rap” song with Ice Cube’s own disbelief that everything is going so well.
'93 is off to a good start as of February.
Day 89: Naughty By Nature - Hip Hop Hooray (1993)
No document about 1990s hip hop would be complete without mentioning Naughty By Nature.
"O.P.P." might be their most memorable single, but "Hip Hop Hooray" was their peak. Spike Lee directed the video. Eazy E produced it (and appeared in the video). They lived in New Jersey but were homies with Tupac. They even had their own bedsheets (1:25). 1993 was a good time to be alive for the boys from East Orange, NJ.
Day 90: Tag Team - Whoomp! (There It Is) (1993)
Whoomp is probably the first international Miami Bass hit, following 2 Live Crew getting close (but too explicit for mainstream success), and followed by the Quad City DJ’s crossover success with Space Jam.
Whoomp samples Kano’s “I’m Ready” - and in my opinion improves dramatically on that already-remarkable song!
As much as I love the fact that DC and Steve Roll’n are from Denver, Colorado, I’ve got to say that their other singles are super wack and it’s no surprise that they only had one hit.
If you don’t already know, there was a similar Miami Bass song called “Whoot There It Is” by 95 South that came out one month earlier. But since this was already a sort of Miami club call-out with two groups capitalizing on it, there is no animosity between the two groups.
Day 91: Wu-Tang Clan - C.R.E.A.M. (1993)
Wu-Tang was like nothing before. The RZA’s sinister production gave a sound to the truly dangerous, gritty experience of life in “Shaolin” - sampling his own world-class import kung fu film collection and various brooding, mid-60s soul singles.
And the collection of personalities that made up the clan - then their excellent and perfectly-timed subsequent solo albums - was a phenomenon that won’t be repeated anytime soon.
C.R.E.A.M. samples a couple very short snippets of the Charmels’ "As Long As I’ve Got You"
Day 92: A Tribe Called Quest - Award Tour (1993)
I’m probably ascribing a historical connection to two events that didn’t have a damn thing to do with one another, but here goes anyway:
On November 9th, 1993, two crucial hip hop albums were released: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Midnight Marauders.
The Wu Tang Clan sounded like the future. A Tribe Called Quest.. more like the past. If you want to pull out one single event from 1993 to create the supporting towers for the bridge to post-1993 rap, look no further. This was the last great Tribe record and the very beginning of a million great Wu-Tang spin-offs.
None of this should take anything away from Midnight Marauders, though, because Midnight Marauders is undoubtedly one of the essential albums that made 1993 the pinnacle of rap music!
Day 93: Snoop Dogg - Who Am I (What's My Name?) (1993)
From the Counts’ ultra-hype hook, into the best use of the Not Just Knee Deep (Day #1) bass of all time (and that’s REALLY saying something!), Dre piles on FOUR P-FUNK SAMPLES, punctuated by some high-pitched synth strings over a chorus of angels, or maybe witches, singing their siren incantation,
"Snooooop Doooawggeeh Daaaaaawwww-ooh-aw-ah-oggg"
This is already the best rap song of the 90s before Snoop opens his mouth. Dre must have re-recorded the bass or put it on the P Funk Mothership, sent it to a funkier galaxy for remastering, then sampled it a second time!
Meanwhile Snoop waits out his ten perfect measures, then LAYS THAT SHIT DOWN!
Those relaxed rhythms! Those flamboyant flourishes! That stylized pronunciation! Over that beat!
This is the Snoop we know and this is where it all happened.
1993 ended a month later but it lives on forever as the pinnacle of hip hop's golden age.