On this day in music history: September 16, 1988 – “Eazy-Duz-It”, the debut album by Eazy-E is released. Produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, it is recorded at Audio Achievements in Torrance, CA from Late 1987 – Mid 1988. Released on the heels of NWA’s first album “Straight Outta Compton”, the first solo release for the Ruthless Records founder has a similar trajectory to success. Masterfully combining Dre’s beats with Eazy’s distinctive voice and delivery (with lyrics mostly written by Ice Cube and MC Ren), it follows in the vein of NWA’s debut. In spite of receiving only minor radio exposure (due to the explicit language and violence depicted on many tracks) and play for the music videos, it goes platinum shortly after its release. It spins off three singles including “We Want Eazy” and the title track. It goes on to be regarded as a definitive hardcore rap album, and a classic of the genre. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2002, then again in 2013 with two additional bonus tracks. It is also reissued on vinyl as part of UMe’s “Respect The Classics” reissue series. And in 2016, the classic is reissued on cassette tape, with a 3D lenticular rendering of the cover artwork. “Eazy-Duz-It” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty one on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 13, 1988 – “Power”, the second album by Ice-T is released. Produced by Afrika Islam, it is recorded at Syndicate West Studios in Los Angeles, CA from Autumn 1987 – Summer 1988. While his debut album “Rhyme Pays” is still climbing the charts, Ice-T begins work on his sophomore release. Formerly a gang member and drug dealer, much like his first album, he paints vivid pictures of his former lifestyle in the lyrics of his songs, while also warning against the consequences of living a fast and violent lifestyle. A point that is misconstrued by many not looking beyond the surface, especially in songs like “High Rollers” (#9 Rap, #76 R&B), and the title track. The album attracts further controversy with its album cover art, featuring Ice-T’s then girlfriend (later ex-wife) Darlene Ortiz in a barely there white bikini, brandishing a shotgun, standing next to Ice and DJ Evil E. On the back cover, it is revealed that Ice and E are also holding guns behind their backs. In spite of the criticism, it becomes Ice-T’s biggest selling album, spinning off two singles including “I’m Your Pusher” (#13 R&B). Original US vinyl LP’s feature embossed cover graphics on the front of the jacket. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued by Rhino Records in 2014. “Power” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirty six on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 8, 1988 – “Straight Outta Compton”, the debut album by N.W.A is released. Produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, it is recorded at Audio Achievements in Torrance, CA from Late 1987 – Early 1988. The groundbreaking first album by the Compton, CA rap group introduce hardcore rap to the mainstream. Painting graphic sonic pictures of life in their native Compton and South Central Los Angeles, backed by samples of classic R&B and Funk, the album immediately strikes a nerve in the public conscious that spread far beyond the origins of its creation. The record receives virtually no mainstream radio airplay, video play, or tour support, yet it reaches multi-platinum status, through word of mouth creating a huge underground buzz at street level. It spins off three singles including “Gangsta, Gangsta”, “Express Yourself” and the title track. The album also receives a high profile boost when the FBI sends a letter to the head of NWA’s label Priority Records, warning and chastising them about the incendiary lyrics on the track “F*ck Tha Police”. In time, the album is regarded as a landmark release in Hip Hop, pioneering the “G-Funk and "gangsta rap genres. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2002 with four additional bonus tracks, including the 12” mixes of “Express Yourself, "Straight Outta Compton” and the single B-side “A Bitch Iz A Bitch”. The album is most recently remastered and reissued on vinyl in 2015, as a 180 gram LP, and limited edition picture disc. The album is also reissued on cassette, making it available in that format. for the first time in nearly two decades. “Straight Outta Compton” peaks at number nine on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirty seven on the Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: July 13, 1996 – “How Do U Want It” by 2Pac hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, with the B-side “California Love” peaking at #6 on June 22. 1996, also topping the R&B singles chart for 3 weeks on July 6, 1996. Written by Johnny J. and Tupac Shakur, it is the biggest hit for the prolific rap artist. Featuring K-Ci & JoJo Hailey of Jodeci on background vocals, it is the second single from Tupac’s fourth album “All Eyez On Me”. Co-written and produced by Johnny J (aka Johnny Lee Jackson), the track is based around samples of Quincy Jones’ classic “Body Heat” and Brian McKnight’s “Up Around My Way”. The single release of “How Do U Want It” also includes the original hit version of “California Love” featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman (of Zapp). When the album is released in February of 1996, it features a remixed version of the track. Entering the Hot 100 at #4 on June 29, 1996, it leaps to the top of the chart two weeks later. The single earns Tupac a posthumous Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1997. “How Do U Want It” also appears in the rapper and actor’s last film (though not the soundtrack album) “Gang Related”, released thirteen months after his death in October of 1997. “How Do U Want It” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 16, 1990 – “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”, the debut album by Ice Cube is released. Produced by The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube, Chilly Chill and Sir Jinx, it is recorded at Greene Street Studios in New York City from January – April 1990. Having departed from NWA months before over a financial dispute with the group’s manager Jerry Heller, Ice Cube makes plans to record his solo debut album with Dr. Dre producing. When Heller and Eazy-E prevent Dre from working with Cube, he instead begins working on tracks with Dre’s cousin Sir Jinx, as well as collaborating with Public Enemy’s production team The Bomb Squad. Cube goes to New York to record the album over a period of three and a half months. The album is groundbreaking both in its use of samples as well as lyrically, with Ice Cube’s lyrics touching on various social and political issues affecting the people around him. Featuring guest appearances by Chuck D and Flavor Flav, as well as introducing Ice Cube proteges The Lench Mob, Yo Yo, and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (Cube’s cousin). The finished album receives major acclaim from fans and critics alike. An instant classic, “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” in time is regarded one the most important and influential albums of the 90’s. It spins off three singles including “Who’s The Mack?”, “Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)” and the title track. The album is remastered and reissued on CD and vinyl LP in 2003, with both configurations including the EP “Kill At Will” as an additional bonus. The vinyl LP is reissued again as a stand alone release in 2013, as part of UMe’s “Respect The Classics” reissue series. “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, number nineteen on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 11, 1995 – “Friday – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Sam Sneed, DJ Pooh, DJ Muggs, Bootsy Collins, E-A-Ski, E-Swift, Mr. Mixx, Roger Troutman, Ronald Isley, N.O. Joe and CMT, it is recorded at Various Studios from Early 1994 – 1995. Issued as the soundtrack to the hit comedy film written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh and starring Cube and comedian Chris Tucker, the album features new tracks by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, The 2 Live Crew, Mack 10, E-A-Ski, Cypress Hill, The Isley Brothers, Funkdoobiest, Scarface Featuring CJ Mac, Bootsy Collins & Bernie Worrell, The Alkoholiks and Threat. Along side the new tracks, the album and film also feature several R&B and funk classics from Rick James, Roger Troutman and Rose Royce. Like the film, the soundtrack is a runaway success, fueled by Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” (#10 R&B and Pop, #1 Rap) and The 2 Live Crew’s “Hoochie Mama”. The main album also spawns an accompanying sequel titled “Old School Friday” with several more classic songs from the film, including tracks by Curtis Mayfield, Zapp, War, James Brown, Gladys Knight & The Pips and The Temptations. In 2005, both albums are combined into a double CD to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the release of the film “Friday – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” spends six weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, two weeks at number one on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: February 22, 1990 – “Livin’ Like Hustlers”, the debut album by Above The Law is released. Produced by Above the Law, Dr. Dre and Laylaw, it is recorded at Audio Achievements in Torrance, CA from Mid – Late 1989. Originally from Pomona, CA, Above The Law consists of group members Cold 187um (Gregory Hutchinson), Go Mack (Arthur Goodman), KMG the Illustrator (Kevin Gulley) and DJ Total K-Oss (Anthony Stewart). The group are signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records after the label secures a distribution deal CBS subsidiary Epic Records. ATL begin work on their debut album with Dr. Dre and Laylaw co-producing. Less than a year and a half after NWA’s landmark debut “Straight Outta Compton”, as well as solo albums for Eazy-E (“Eazy-Duz-It”) and The D.O.C. (“No One Can Do It Better”), Above The Law’s album represents another leap forward in Dre’s work as a producer. Anchored by Cold 187’s unique and forceful rhyming style, and with tracks sampled from a diverse array of sources, it stands out immediately from anything else happening in hip hop at the time. The ATL project serves as the prototype for what becomes known as the “G-Funk” sound that makes Dr. Dre a superstar on his solo debut “The Chronic”. The album is proceeded by the first single “Murder Rap” (#1 Rap) in January of 1990. Based around loops Quincy Jones’ classic television theme “Ironside Theme”, as well as backward masked drums from James Brown’s ubiquitous “Funky Drummer”, punctuated with Chuck D’s voice taken from “Bring The Noise” Flavor Flav’s from “Cold Lampin’ With Flavor” and Ice Cube’s from “Straight Outta Compton” (the latter two being the source of the songs title), its ominous and mesmerizing combination of funky noise and hard rhymes hits immediately with rap music fans. The album also spins off a second single with “Untouchable” (#1 Rap), shortly afterward, sampling Young-Holt Unlimited’s darkly funky instrumental cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire”. The latter is also released with a dramatically different remix by Dre that competes with the original album version in popularity. “Hustlers” becomes an instant classic at street level and is considered an important release in establishing the west coast rap sound as an influential and vital musical force.
Not long after the albums’ release, the song “Freedom Of Speech is featured in the film "Pump Up The Volume” on its soundtrack. “Murder Rap” later used in the video game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” and in the film “Pineapple Express”.
“Livin’ Like Hustlers” peaks at number fourteen on the Billboard R&B album chart, number seventy five on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.