I love to tell the story of how Hip Hop entered my life in 1988. Since L.L. is the first rapper i’ve ever heard, he deserves to be considered as the one who started it all for me, the trigger that set it off. However, even though i listened to Bigger And Deffer multiple times that year, it was actually released in 1987. What i’d like to do right now, as a simple celebration of the year which saw the birth of a near invincible love for a musical genre, is share with you my Top Five Album Releases from1988. These are personal choices, based on how obsessed i became with each of them, how much impact they had on my appreciation of the art, of music in general, as well as my understanding of the world. Please keep in mind that at the time, i was listening to these with the ears of a twelve, maybe thirteen year old. Here are my choices, in no particular order.
Ice T’s Power.
Darlene… Darlene in a bathing suit on the cover was reason enough to buy the album. Ice T’s rap skills were a bonus. The reality depicted in Ice T’s music was so far from my own that it was impossible to relate to it. However, the man knew how to paint a picture. Tracks like High Rollers and I’m Your Pusher were prime examples of gangster music being beautifully written, if that makes any sense. Oh, and let’s not forget, Darlene…
Favourite cut : High Rollers.
Boogie Down Productions’ By All Means Necessary
The first cassette tape i ever purchased. I didn’t know much about KRS One’s group. I’d heard My Philosophy on the radio and liked it. I’d read about the group in magazines and they seemed well respected. There was also something very cool about the cover art. This was a « complete » piece of work. It touched on politics, social issues and of course, wack rappers.
Favourite cut : I’m Still # 1.
Eric B and Rakim’s Follow The Leader
I heard Microphone Fiend for the first time and understood something i couldn’t put into words at the time. I now know what it was. It was the realization that i would crave that « hard » sound for as long as i lived. That album was a blessing in the sense that all the tracks matched Microphone Fiend’s ominous vibe.
Favourite cut : No Competition.
NWA’s Straight Outta Compton
How a single group could have Ice Cube, Dr Dre, MC Ren AND Eazy E in it doesn’t even make sense to me. Let me tell you something : it worked. Well. Sound wise, on the mic, these dudes brought agression ot another level and found a way to commercialize it. Quick anecdote. In 2010 i was in New York with my guys for a weekend. We hear about a party happening where Q-Tip would be the DJ(yes, that Q-Tip). We get to the party and there’s reggae playing. No Q-Tip, no hip hop. About half an hour in (i was quite tipsy), i notice that there are stairs going up and people are using them. I walk up to a dude standing at the bottom of the staircase and i ask him what’s upstairs. Q-Tip was upstairs. I motioned for my guys to follow me, i got upstairs and witnessed something i would never witness again : an ocean of people dancing, grooving and having a blast to Straight Outta Compton… easily the best hip hop party I’ve ever been to.
Favourite cut : Parental Discretion Iz Advised.
Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Damn! That’s what this album should’ve been called. DAMN! Public Enemy did not care about most of the subjects rappers were touching on in their music at the time : parties, women, gangs. P.E was concerned with one thing and one thing only : the elevation/liberation of black people. They had the agressive militant image; they had the lyrical expert; they had the agressive soundmaker. It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is a soundtrack to a Civil Uprising and it is fascinating.
Favourite cut : Night Of The Living Baseheads.
So there you have it guys! Now tell me, what were your favourites from that year?