On this day in music history: April 17, 1990 – “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm”, the debut album by A Tribe Called Quest is released. Produced by A Tribe Called Quest, it is recorded at Calliope Studios and Battery Studios in New York City from Mid 1989 – Early 1990. The group has its beginnings in 1985 with Q-Tip (born Jonathan William Davis, renamed Kamaal Ibn John Fareed) and Phife Dawg (born Malik Izaak Taylor), who are childhood friends growing up in the same Queens neighborhood. While attending high school, they are joined by DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and fellow MC Jarobi White. First known as Crush Connection, they are given the name A Tribe Called Quest in 1988 by members of The Jungle Brothers. Tribe begins to record demos that are heard by legendary Hip Hop figure Kool DJ Red Alert of the Universal Zulu Nation (also JB’s member Mike Gee’s uncle). Red Alert takes Tribe under his wing, assisting them in landing a demo deal with Geffen Records in 1989. Tribe record a five song demo for the label who pass on signing them, leaving them free to shop the tape elsewhere. They attract offers from other labels, but go with RCA distributed Jive Records based on their past track record with other rap acts such as Boogie Down Productions and Too Short. Having learned how to make beats from Large Professor (Main Source) and recording engineer Shane Faber, Q-Tip puts the tracks together with assistance from Shaheed. They sample from a wide and eclectic mix of jazz, R&B, funk, rock and pop records. The groups unique approach to writing rhymes also stands apart from other rappers, proving to be an excellent compliment and counterpoint to the music. Proceeded by the single “Description Of A Fool”, the album spins off three other singles including “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” (#9 Rap), “Bonita Applebum” (#4 Rap, #56 R&B) and “Can I Kick It?” (#8 Rap). “People’s Instinctive Travels” receives praise from both music critics and within the Hip Hop community for Tribe’s fresh perspective and musical vision. Though just a modest seller at the time, its stature grows in exposure and influence in later years. For its twenty fifth anniversary in 2015, it is remastered and reissued on CD and vinyl, featuring three additional bonus tracks. The same year, Get On Down Records releases a limited edition eight disc vinyl box set, with the full album (plus non-album B-sides) pressed on 7" 45 RPM discs. The set is limited to only 1,000 numbered sets and sells out almost immediately. Due to popular demand, another small run of the set (non-numbered) are released in 2016. “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ninety one of the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 10, 1990 – “Fear Of A Black Planet”, the third album by Public Enemy is released. Produced by Carl Ryder (Chuck D.), Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler (aka “The Bomb Squad”), it is recorded at Greene Street Studios in New York City, Spectrum City Studios and The Music Palace in West Hempstead, L.I., NY from June – October 1989. After the critical and commercial success of their second album “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”, Public Enemy return to the studio in mid 1989 to begin work on the follow up. Before that happens, the group become embroiled in controversy when Minister Of Information Professor Griff is interviewed by the Washington Times in May of 1989. In the interview, Griff makes anti-semitic remarks which erupt into a media firestorm, leading to his dismissal from the group. The controversy becomes so intense that Chuck D. announces that P.E. is disbanding just as “Fight The Power” (#1 Rap, #20 R&B), from Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing” is being released. In truth, the statement is made in order to take the media scrutiny off of them, and to be able to work in relative peace. Much like previous album, P.E. seizes the opportunity to make statements about issues affecting the African American community, primarily “the state of race relations” in the United States. Like its predecessor, “Planet” weaves a musically dense fabric of samples for each track, utilizing various tools including the E-mu SP-1200 sampler/drum machine, Akai S9000, and a Apple Macintosh computer to create the tracks. Due to the complexity of synchronizing the large number of samples, and the time limitations of the samplers, The Bomb Squad layer them on multi-track tape by recording a SMPTE time code (used for synchronizing film and sound) on to the tape, in order to properly synchronize all of the samples. Proceeded by the single “Welcome To The Terrordome” (#3 Rap, #15 R&B, #31 Pop) in January of 1990, chronicling the recent controversy with Griff (who is quietly reinstated), anticipation for the album is high. When “Fear Of A Black Planet” is released, it is a major success with fans and critics alike. It spins off a total of five singles including “911 Is A Joke” (#1 Rap, #15 R&B, and “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” (#22 Rap, #20 R&B). “Black Planet” is regarded as one of the best albums of the 90’s, and is added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress in 2005. In 2018, “Fight The Power” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame, becoming the first of P.E.’s seminal and influential recordings to be recognized by NARAS as being “culturally and historically significant”. “Fear Of A Black Planet” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ten on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 9, 1984 – “Hey DJ” by The World’s Famous Supreme Team is released. Written by Ronald Larkins, Jr., Larry Price, Malcolm McLaren and Stephen Hague, it is the debut single release and biggest hit for the Rap/Hip Hop music duo from New York City. Featuring Se’Divine The Mastermind (Larry Price) and JazzyJust The Superstar (Ronald Price), The World’s Famous Supreme Team begin their careers in the late 70’s. Hosts of the pioneering radio show that bares their name, it broadcasts on WHBI in Newark, NJ. One of the first stations in the country to give rap music and Hip Hop culture a voice on the airwaves, the show also includes fellow DJ legend Mr. Magic. He eventually leaves the Supreme Team to host his own highly successful and legendary radio show Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack on WBLS in New York. In 1982, Larkins and Price meet Malcolm McLaren. He invites the pair to collaborate with him on his debut album “Duck Rock”. Co-produced with Trevor Horn, The World’s Famous Supreme Team rap and scratch on the tracks “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch”. Both regarded as Hip Hop classics, the two singles expose rap music to a wider, international audience. After this, they collaborate with McLaren on “Hey DJ”, produced by Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, OMD). Featuring Se’Divine and JazzyJust’s smooth rap verses, along with it’s hooky sing-a-long chorus, “Hey DJ” is the perfect mix of street and crossover appeal. Issued in the UK by Charisma Records (Virgin) and in the US by Island Records, it takes off in the clubs and on US R&B radio. “DJ” peaks at #15 on the Billboard R&B singles chart on July 7, 1984, and at #24 on the Club Play chart on May 19, 1984. They follow it up with “Radio Man” in late 1984. Unfortunately, it fails to grab listeners ears, and the duo are dropped from their respective record labels. However, that isn’t the last time the rap/DJ duo are heard from again. Their one and only album titled “Rappin’” is belatedly released in Europe only in 1986. The Supreme Team collaborate with Malcolm McLaren again in 1990 on the album “Round The Outside! Round The Outside!”. In the meantime, “Hey DJ” resurfaces in the late 80’s, when the Beastie Boys sample the lyric “Hey DJ, a-get funky!!!” on the track “Hey Ladies”. They use another piece of the song a few years later on “Alright Hear This” on “Ill Communication” in 1994. Also in 1994, the rap duo A Lighter Shade Of Brown record a cover version of “Hey DJ” (#67 R&B, #43 Pop) for the soundtrack of the Allison Anders’ film “Mi Vida Loca”. The Supreme Team classic also becomes the basis of Mariah Carey’s hit “Honey” (#1 Pop, #2 R&B, #1 Club Play), with Carey citing the original as one of her favorite songs. “DJ” is also sampled by AZ (“Hey AZ”), Warren G. (“To All DJ’s”), and Silkk The Shocker (“All Night”).
On this day in music history: March 26, 1990 – “Sex Packets”, the debut album by Digital Underground is released. Produced by The Underground, it is recorded at Starlight Sound Studios in Richmond, CA, Alpha And Omega Studios in San Francisco, CA and J-Jam Studios in Oakland, CA from Early 1988 – January 1990. After creating a buzz with their independently released debut single “Underwater Rimes”, Oakland, CA based hip hop group Digital Underground is signed to Tommy Boy Records. Led by musician and rapper Greg “Shock G.” Jacobs, the group consists of rappers Money B., Sleuth, Schmoovy-Schmoov, drummer Chopmaster J and DJ’s Kenny K. and DJ Fuze. Taking inspiration from Parliament-Funkadelic, the group create a unique musical style (combining samples and live instrumentation) and image that sets them apart from their contemporaries. And like George Clinton adapting the personas of “Dr. Funkenstein”, “Starchild” and “Sir Nose D’VoidofFunk”, Shock G. creates the alter ego of Humpty Hump, often dressing in suits, fake glasses and an over sized brown nose. “Sex Packets” is a concept album with its main theme centering around the creation of a pill (also known as “Genetic Suppression Relief Antidotes”) that when taken, allows the person to have a sexual encounter with the object of their desire, but is actually a chemically induced simulation while in a dream like state. As part of the unique marketing of the album, Tommy Boy sends out “sex packets” to radio programmers and DJ’s (actually Necco Wafers vacuum sealed in a custom wrapper, with a picture of your potential sex partner on the outside) as a item to promote its release. The album is a critical and commercial success upon its release, praised for its sharp and clever rhymes and tight production. It spins off a total of four singles including “Doowutchyalike”, “The Humpty Dance” (#7 R&B, #11 Pop) and “Packet Man”. Though not issued as a commercial single, one of the albums stand out cuts “Freaks Of The Industry” quickly becomes one of DU’s most popular and enduring songs. Tommy Boy Records issues it as a promotional only 12" single, pressed on red clear vinyl. It features the original mix sampling Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby”, and two remixes one sampling Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover”. The third mix features multiple samples including “Love Hangover”, and snippets of George Benson’s “This Masquerade”. “Sex Packets” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty four on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
LL Cool J and Kidada Jones dated from 1992 to 1994. In his book I Make My Own Rules, LL said he cared about
and respected her but he broke up with her because of her spirituality beliefs.
“She would go to an ashram, consult a guru, and pray to statues… Before my album 14 Shots to the Dome dropped, Kidada told me she threw some kind of stick into the eternal fire for my album. I was like ‘Yo why did you do that? I didn’t ask you to do that!’ That joint flopped crazily. ‘Oh, well, I’m sorry I cared!’ she said. I had hurt her feelings, but she had hurt me too. I know she meant well, but I just couldn’t get with that. She took me to her guru once and I remember kneeling before this strange young woman who was touching feathers.”
On this day in music history: December 4, 1990 – “One For All”, the debut album by Brand Nubian is released. Produced by Brand Nubian, Dante Ross, Skeff Anselm, Dave “Jam” Hall and Stimulated Dummies, it is recorded at Calliope Studios in New York City from Mid 1989 – Late 1990. Formed in their hometown New Rochelle, NY in 1989, Brand Nubian consists of group members Maxwell “Grand Puba” Dixon, Derek “Sadat X (formerly Derek X)” Murphy, Lorenzo “Lord Jamar” Dechalus and K.A. “DJ Alamo” Jones. The group are signed to Elektra Records by label A&R man and producer Dante Ross (De La Soul). With group members aligned with the Five Percenters sect of the Nation Of Islam, some of their songs sport a militant pro-black stance and politically conscious lyrics which draws some controversy, leading MTV to ban the video for the single “Wake Up” (#5 Rap, #92 R&B) featuring a black man wearing white face make up. The album is also praised for its production, innovative use of samples, and the lyrical prowess and MC skills of Grand Puba, Lord Jamar and Sadat X. An immediate hit at street level, the album spins off a total of four singles including the anti drug anthem “Slow Down” (#3 Rap, #63 R&B), and “All For One” (#17 Rap). Regarded as a classic of hip hop’s golden era during the first half of the 90’s, the albums’ sales do not match the major praise and acclaim given to it, with heavy bootlegging taking a huge chunk out of actual sales. To date, “One For All” has not reached Gold status in the US, with current Soundscan sales just north of 400,000 units in spite of never going out of print. “One For All” peaks at number thirty four on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number one hundred thirty on the Top 200.