Category: rap

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.

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LL Cool J and Kidada Jones 

LL Cool J and Kidada Jones dated from 1992 to 1994. In his book I Make My Own Rules, LL said he cared about

Kidada

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.”

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The Beastie Boys photographed by Deborah Feingold, 1987.

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.

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LL Cool J with Cut Creator, E Love and B-Rock photographed by Janette Beckman for the British music weekly Melody Maker, 1987.

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”. Featured on “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 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 by Death Row Records, a limited edition vinyl LP 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 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.

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On this day in music history: November 18, 1985 – “Radio”, the debut album by LL Cool J is released. Produced by Rick Rubin and Jazzy Jay, it is recorded at Chung King House Of Metal in New York City from Late 1984 – Mid 1985. A talented young MC with a prodigious gift for writing sharp and concise rhymes, delivered with plenty of B-Boy attitude, LL Cool J stands out immediately from his contemporaries. Looking to make it in the music business, the teen aged rapper makes demos at home and sends them out to various record labels. After calling Rick Rubin, the co-founder of Def Jam Records numerous times, he listens to LL’s demo tape at the urging of King Ad Rock of The Beastie Boys. Impressed with what he hears, Rubin signs the then sixteen year old rapper to the label. LL Cool J’s first single “I Need A Beat”, released in 1984, is an immediate smash on the street, selling over 100,000 copies. By the end of that year, Def Jam has secured a major label distribution deal with CBS/Columbia Records. LL Cool J is the first artist on Def Jam given the green light to record a full length album. Aided by Rubin’s stripped down, minimalist production, the finished album does not take long to make a major impact. An instant classic, “Radio” quickly establishes LL Cool J as a force to be reckoned with, and as one of hip hop’s first bonafide mainstream superstars. It spins off four singles including “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” (#15 R&B), “Rock The Bells” (#17 R&B), and “You’ll Rock” (#59 R&B). In time, it is regarded as a seminal album of rap’s “Golden Age”, becoming one of Def Jam’s all time best selling albums. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued in 2014, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Def Jam Records. “Radio” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty six on the Top 200, and it is Def Jam’s first album to be certified Gold just five months after its release. “Radio” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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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.

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On this day in music history: November 16, 1999 – “2001 (aka "The Chronic 2001”)“, the second album by Dr. Dre is released. Produced by Dr. Dre, Mel-Man and Lord Finesse, it is recorded at Dre’s Crib in Los Angeles, CA, Larrabee Sound Studios, A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA, Can-Am Recorders in Tarzana, CA, Encore Studios in Burbank, CA, Record One, Los Angeles in Sherman Oaks, CA, Skip Saylor Recording in Northridge, CA, Sierra Sonics Studios in Reno, NV and D&D Studios in New York City from Early 1998 – Mid 1999. Making a huge impact with his landmark solo debut "The Chronic” in late 1992, nearly seven years passes before the producer and rapper follows it up. In spite of the prolonged silence between albums, Dre is far from idle during this time. He produces protege Snoop Dogg’s multi-Platinum debut “Doggystyle”, tracks for the soundtracks of “Murder Was The Case”, “Above The Rim” and “Friday”. Dre also issues the compilation album “Dre Presents The Aftermath”, appears on Blackstreet’s Grammy winning chart topper “No Diggity” as well producing tracks for 2Pac and for Emimem’s major label debut album. By 1998, Dre begins working on his long awaited sophomore release. The producer pulls together an elite crew of talent including Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Kurupt, Xzibit, Eminem, Devin The Dude, Knoc-turn’al, King T, Defari, Kokane, Hittman, and Mary J. Blige. Any talk of Dre having lost his touch is quickly silenced with the release of the first single “Still D.R.E.” featuring Snoop Dogg (#11 Rap, #32 R&B, #93 Pop), anchored by samples of ominous sounding strings and a piano vamp played by keyboardist and producer Scott Storch (Beyonce, 50 Cent, The Roots). The album is an immediate hit, spinning off two more singles including “Forgot About Dre” (#14 R&B, #25 Pop) and “The Next Episode” (#11 R&B, #23 Pop). Other tracks including “The Watcher”, “F*** You” and “Xxplosive” also become favorites, with the track from the latter being sampled as basis for the hit remix version of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” (#1 R&B, #6 Pop) in 2000. “2001” is nominated for three Grammy Awards, winning Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for “Forgot About Dre” in 2001. “2001 (aka "The Chronic 2001”)“ spends four weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number two on the Top 200, and is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 16, 1993 – “Hand On The Torch”, the debut album by Us3 is released. Produced by Mel Simpson and Geoff Wilkinson, it is recorded at Flame Studios in London from Early 1992 – Mid 1993. Formed in 1992 by producers Geoff Wilkinson and Mel Simpson, their first release under the Us3 name titled  "The Band Played The Boogie" becomes an underground hit in the UK after its picked up by Ninja Tune Records. It receives unexpected widespread exposure when radio station Kiss FM in London begins playing it. The record which samples jazz guitarist Grant Green’s classic “Sookie Sookie” also attracts the attention of Blue Note Records, the label that released Green’s original recording. Having sampled the Green record without authorization, Wilkinson and Simpson are initially fearful that they are going to be sued by Blue Note when they are called to the label’s London office. Instead, they are surprised when the label not only offers to sign them, but also gives them unlimited access to the company’s vast archive of landmark jazz recordings. Recruiting rappers Rahsaan Kelly, Kobie Powell and Tukka Yoot, the group begin recording their first album. Among the songs cut is “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” (#9 Pop, #21 R&B), sampling Herbie Hancock’s  "Cantaloupe Island" and Birdland MC Pee Wee Marquette’s voice from jazz drummer Art Blakey’s “A Night at Birdland Vol. 1” album. The song is released as a single in September of 1993, and becomes a major hit, also going Gold. The success of the song propels “Hand” to Platinum status in the US, becoming the first album in the history of Blue Note Records to achieve sales of that level. It spins off another single with “Tukka Yoot’s Riddim” (two other singles in Europe). “Hand On The Torch” peaks at number thirty one on the Billboard Top 200, number twenty one on the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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