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 9, 1991 – “We Can’t Be Stopped” the third album by Geto Boys is released. Produced by Bushwick Bill, James Smith, John Bido, Johnny C., Roland, Scarface, Simon and Willie D, it is recorded at Rap-A-Lot Studio in Houston, TX in Mid 1991. Having sparked a virtual firestorm of controversy over their self-titled 1990 album, The Geto Boys’ label Rap-A-Lot Records returns to being an independently distributed entity. The group return to the studio, quickly writing and recording a new album in just a few short weeks. After it’s completed, founding member DJ Ready Red leaves the group. The DJ departs the Geto Boys, amidst tension with the other group members as well as feeling uncomfortable with the graphic and misogynistic nature of their music. Before the completed album is released, one of the other members nearly meets his maker. Stuggling with alcohol and substance abuse as well as depression, rapper Bushwick Bill asks his girlfriend to kill him with his own gun. Extremely inebriated on the potent liquor Everclear, orders her to take his life. Refusing to do so, Bill’s girlfriend attempts to take the gun away from him. In the tussle to get the weapon away from him, the gun goes off, hitting the rapper in his right eye. Rushed to the hospital, the injury from the gun shot wound makes it necessary for his eye to be removed. The bullet is lodged in his brain and cannot be removed, in order to avoid further injury or death. Scarface, Willie D. and their management team, rush to the hospital to see about Bill. Their managers take Bill out of his hospital room on a gurney, and ask the other two take a picture with him. Having him remove his eyepatch and intravenous drip from his injured eye, results in the graphic cover shots used for the Geto Boys new album. The group later express regret over the pictures, feeling it was exploiting a tragic event in order to sell records. However, album proves to be strong enough on its own merits. The first single “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” (#10 R&B, #23 Pop, #1 Rap) becomes an instant classic. Featuring a sample of Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up On My Baby” (from the “Tough Guys” soundtrack), the song represents a major departure from the Geto Boys previous work. The song was originally intended for Scarface’s first solo album, but is kept for the group instead. The lyrics mediate on images of fear and paranoia, in part being inspired by Scarface’s own struggles with mental illness, and wanting to escape the streets. The single is accompanied by a music video that also propels it up the charts. Receiving major play on MTV, “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” earn the group crossover radio play, and give them their biggest hit. Regarded as one of the best singles of the 90’s, “Mind” propels “We Can’t Be Stopped” pass the Platinum mark in sales in the US, with the single itself selling nearly a million copies. The song is later featured on the video game “Grand Theft Auto V”, and on the Netflix series “Maniac”. The album spins off one further single with “I Ain’t With Being Broke” in early 1992. “We Can’t Be Stopped” peaks at number five on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty four on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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On this day in music history: March 14, 1995 – “Me Against The World”, the third album by 2Pac is released. Produced by Easy Mo Bee, Sam Bostic, D-Flizno Production Squad, Brian G, Shock G, Johnny “J”, Mike Mosley, Tony Pizarro, Soulshock & Karlin, Le-morrious “Funky Drummer” Tyler and Moe Z.M.D., it is recorded at Enterprise Studios in Burbank, CA, Soundcastle Studios in Hollywood, CA, Pure Studios in San Diego, CA, Unique Recording Studios, Quad Recording Studios in New York City, Mobboss Studios in Oakland, CA, Westlake Audio and Echo Sound Studios in Los Angeles, CA from Late 1993 – Mid 1994. Coming off the success of his first Platinum selling album “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.”, various incidents in the prolific rapper and actor’s personal life during 1993 and 1994 threaten to upend his career, but does not slow down his creativity. The tone of the material 2pac’s third release is more personal and introspective than the previous two, dealing with his struggles growing up and the ones he faces during its creation. The album is led by the single “Dear Mama” (#1 Rap, #3 R&B, #9 Pop), written for and dedicated to Tupac’s mother, former Black Panther and political activist Afeni Shakur. The single becomes 2Pac’s biggest hit to date, and in 2010 is selected for preservation by the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, becoming only the third hip hop single to receive that honor. It also spins off two other singles including “So Many Tears” (#6 Rap, #21 R&B, #44 Pop) and “Temptations” (#13 Rap, #35 R&B, #68 Pop). The album enters the R&B and pop album charts at number one while Tupac is serving time in prison, making him the first artist to ever have a chart topping album while incarcerated. The album is regarded by many as one of 2Pac’s best and most personal works. “Me Against The World” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart and Top 200, and is certified 3x 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 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”, it’s 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 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.
On this day in music history: December 15, 1992 – “The Chronic”, the debut solo album by Dr. Dre is released. Produced by Dr. Dre, it is recorded at Death Row Studios in Los Angeles, CA from June – November 1992. The album is first release from the former producer of NWA, and introduces rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg (aka “Snoop Dogg”, aka “Snoop Lion”) to the public. The title comes from a particularly potent strain of marijuana, also being referred to subtly on the album’s cover artwork, which is modeled after Zig Zag brand rolling papers. It receives great acclaim both within and outside the rap music community upon its release. It establishes Dre’s trademark “G-Funk” sound with a wide mainstream audience, and goes on to be one of the most popular and influential albums of the 90’s and beyond. It spins off three singles including “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” (#1 R&B, #2 Pop) and “Dre Day” (#6 R&B, #8 Pop). Dre wins a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance for “Let Me Ride” in 1994. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2002, with enhanced content, including the music video for “Dre Day”. Originally issued on vinyl as a single LP, it is also remastered and reissued in 2002 as a double LP set by Simply Vinyl for improved fidelity. It is remastered and reissued a second time in 2009 under the title “The Chronic Re-Lit & From The Vault”, with slightly altered cover artwork, and with two previously unreleased tracks featuring Snoop Dogg and The Lady Of Rage are added. A second edition features bonus DVD with music videos, interviews, promotional spots and DVD-ROM content, and is sold exclusively through big box retailer Wal-Mart. “The Chronic” spends eight weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number three on the Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 23, 1993 – “Doggystyle”, the debut album by Snoop Doggy Dogg is released. Produced by Dr. Dre, it is recorded at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, CA, The Complex Studios in Los Angeles, CA, Larrabee Studios North and Larrabee Studios West in North Hollywood, CA from January – October 1993. Born Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., he is given the nickname “Snoopy” as a child by his parents. Involved in music from a young age, Broadus becomes obsessed with rap music during the 80’s. Though not officially a gang member, Snoop becomes friends with members of The Rollin’ 20’s, one of the most notorious sects of the Crips street gang. After scrapes with the law, it leads him to pursuing music more seriously. Paring up with his cousin Nathaniel “Nate Dogg” Hale and friend Warren “Warren G.” Griffin, the trio form the group 213. Griffin is the stepbrother of N.W.A. producer and rapper Dr. Dre, who hears 213’s demo at a house party. Dre is immediately impressed with Snoop, and wants to work with him. Snoop makes his recording debut in 1992 on the single “Deep Cover” (#4 Rap, #46 R&B, #57 Pop). It’s followed by his appearance on Dr. Dre’s debut album “The Chronic” in December of 1992. Featured on the singles “Nuthin’ But A G Thang”, “Dre Day” and “Let Me Ride”, it stokes the public’s anticipation for Snoop’s own album when he is signed to Death Row Records, co-founded by Dre and “Suge” Knight". Spending much of 1993 in the studio, the rapper’s former life on the streets threatens to end his career just as it is beginning to take flight. Snoop ends up an accessory to murder when his bodyguard McKinley Lee kills gang member Philip Woldemariam, after an altercation near the rapper’s apartment. The track “Murder Was The Case” eerily mirrors real life, with the song depicting Snoop being murdered in a drive by shooting. “Murder” is later remixed and becomes the centerpiece of a short film and soundtrack album released in October of 1994. “Doggystyle” is an immediate smash upon its release, selling more than 800,000 copies in its first week. It spins off three singles including “Who Am I (What’s My Name?)” (#8 R&B, #8 Pop), “Gin And Juice” (#13 R&B, #8 Pop) and “Doggy Dogg World” (#25 R&B). As part of the promotion of the album by Death Row Records, a limited edition vinyl LP pressing is issued for the Christmas holiday. The LP is pressed on green vinyl, and is packaged in a custom die cut sleeve with “Merry Christmas Muthaf******” on the front. The CD is later reissued as a DualDisc with the DVD side featuring the albums four music videos. It is also reissued as a double vinyl LP set in 2002, and as a limited edition colored vinyl pressing by Vinyl Me, Please in 2018. “Doggystyle spends five weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, three weeks (non-consecutive) on the Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 17, 1992 – “The Predator”, the third album by Ice Cube is released. Produced by Ice Cube, DJ Pooh, Sir Jinx, Torcha Chamba, and DJ Muggs, it is recorded at Echo Sound in Glendale, CA and The Hit Factory in New York City from Late 1991 – Mid 1992. Issued as the follow up to the platinum selling “Death Certificate”, the L.A. born rapper/actor writes many of the albums’ songs in the wake of the LA Riots in the Spring of 1992 and reflects those events and the aftermath. It spins off three singles including “Wicked”, Check Yo’ Self" and “It Was A Good Day”. Well received by fans and critics upon its release, the album is Cube’s most commercially successful. The album cover photo is taken by photographer Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s younger sister). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2003, with four additional bonus tracks, including the remixes of “Check Yo’ Self”, “It Was A Good Day”, and the B-sides “24 Wit An L” and “You Ain’t Gonna Take My Life”.
Issued on vinyl in limited quantities during its original release in 1992, it is remastered and reissued as a double LP pressing in 2003, and as a single 180 gram LP in 2016.
“The Predator” spends one week at number one on both the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.