Category: rap

On this day in music history: November 9, 1993 – “Midnight Marauders”, the third album by A Tribe Called Quest is released. Produced by A Tribe Called Quest, Large Professor and Skeff Anselm, it is recorded at Battery Studios, Platinum Island/Mastermix Studios, Sorcerer Sound in New York City from November 1992 – September 1993. Following the critical and commercial success of their sophomore album “The Low End Theory”, A Tribe Called Quest return to the studio in late 1992 to begin work on their third album. Like before, they produce much of the album themselves, but work with Large Professor of Main Source, and previous co-producer Skeff Anselm. Picking up both musically and lyrically where they left off, the group spend almost an entire year working on the album before finally handing it in to their record label. Many of the tracks are linked together by the voice of a woman speaking in a robotic voice (performed by Laurel Dann), describing the meaning and concept of the album’s title and the songs. The album is a major critical and commercial success upon its release, becoming Tribe’s fastest selling release to date, and is regarded as one of the best rap albums of the era. It spins off three singles including “Award Tour” (#7 Rap, #27 R&B, #47 Pop), “Oh My God” (#15 Rap, #69 R&B), and “Electric Relaxation” (#13 Rap, #38 R&B, #65 Pop). The cover artwork (presented in three different color variations) features a series of head shots (seventy one in all) of numerous influential and iconic hip hop artists and DJ’s (most wearing headphones) including Chuck D., The Beastie Boys, Heavy D., Kid Capri, MC Lyte, Large Professor, Grandmaster Flash, Dr. Dre, and Too Short. Released on vinyl on a limited basis in 1993, it is reissued in 2004, and again in 2014 on split red and green vinyl as an exclusive through Newbury Comics (limited to 1,000 individually numbered copies). “Midnight Marauders” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number eight on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 9, 1993 – “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, the debut album by the Wu-Tang Clan is released. Produced by RZA, it is recorded at Firehouse Studios in New York City from Late 1992 – Mid 1993. Formed in the New York City borough of Staten Island in 1992, the group is put together by RZA (birth name Robert Diggs) and GZA (birth name Gary Grice), after both have recorded unsuccessful solo efforts (as Prince Rakeem and The Genius respectively) for Tommy Boy and Cold Chillin’ Records. The nine member group also features Method Man (Clifford Smith), Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Russell Jones), Raekwon (Corey Woods), Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles), Inspectah Deck (Jason Hunter), U-God (Lamont Hawkins), and Masta Killa (born Elgin Turner name changed to Jamal Arief). The group record and release the single “Protect Ya Neck” on their own Wu-Tang Records label before signing with Steve Rifkind’s Loud Records (distributed by RCA/BMG). United by their mutual love of martial arts movies, their debut album’s title is inspired by the title of the kung fu film “The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin”, and that the nine members “each having four chambers of the heart”, equaling (9 x 4 = ) 36. The finished album is unlike anything that has come before it, marking the resurgence of East Coast Rap in popularity and influence, after West Coast Rap has dominated the genre for much of the past several years. Though raw and underground in its sound, it breaks through to a mainstream audience to become a commercial success. It spins off four singles including “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” (#8 Rap, #32 R&B, #60 Pop), “Method Man” (#17 Rap, #40 R&B, #69 Pop), and “Can It All Be So Simple” (#24 Rap, #82 R&B, #116 Pop Bubbling Under). Issued on vinyl on a limited basis in 1993, it is reissued in 2000 by both Loud Records and Music On Vinyl. A limited edition pressing on yellow and black swirled vinyl is issued as an exclusive through Newbury Comics in 2014. The album is also released as a limited edition box set, pressed on six 7" vinyl discs with a 56 page book by Get On Down Records in 2016. The set also comes with a bonus 7" featuring a remix of “Protect Ya Neck”. “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty one on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 7, 1989 – “All Hail The Queen”, the debut album by Queen Latifah is released. Produced by DJ Mark “The 45 King”, Louis “Little Louie” Vega, KRS-One, Prince Paul, Daddy-O, it is recorded at Calliope Studios, Greene Street Recording Studios in New York City, Power Play Studios in Long Island City, NY, Island Media Studios in West Babylon, NY and Studio 1212 in Jamaica, Queens, NY from Late 1988 – Mid 1989. The daughter of a school teacher and a police officer, Dana Elaine Owens is born in East Orange, NJ and raised in near by Newark. Her stage name Latifah, a word meaning “delicate and very kind”, comes to her when she sees it in book of Arabic names. Excelling at both sports and music, Latifah plays basketball while attending a Catholic high school, and singing in various shows and plays. While in her teens, she discovers Hip Hop, becoming a member of a group called Ladies Fresh. Latifah also becomes part of the DJ and MC collective known as The Flavor Unit. One its key members is DJ Mark The 45 King, who’ll be a central figure in Latifah’s rise to Hip Hop glory. With the help of DJ King Gemini, she records a demo of the song “Princess Of The Posse”. Impressed with her MC skills, he passes on the demo to Yo, MTV Raps host and hip hop renaissance man Fab 5 Freddy. The same demo is heard by Tommy Boy Records A&R man Dante Ross, who quickly signs her. Her first single “Wrath Of My Madness”, performs well enough to OK a full album. Now re-dubbed “Queen Latifah”, she also works with KRS-One (BDP), Daddy-O and Prince Paul (Stetsasonic), and house music DJ and remixer “Little Louie” Vega. Titled “All Hail The Queen”, one of the immediate standouts is the duet “Ladies First” (#64 R&B, #38 Club Play), with UK born MC Monie Love. With the two ladies trading off verses with finesse and deft skill, the single not only becomes a street and club hit. Its message of female empowerment and Afrocentric positivity, becomes an anthem. The music video directed by Fab 5 Freddy, which features images of strong black heroines including Harriet Tubman, Winnie Mandela and Angela Davis, is rotated heavily on MTV. It spins off three other singles including “Dance For Me”, “Mama Gave Birth To The Soul Children”(w/ De La Soul) and “Come Into My House” (#81 R&B, #7 Club Play). “All Hail The Queen” establishes Queen Latifah as one of the most influential women in rap. The original CD and cassette come with additional remix versions of three tracks. Out of print on vinyl since its initial release, it is reissued by the subscription service Vinyl Me, Please in 2018. It’s is pressed on clear vinyl with red, black and green splatter colors, and contains a custom punch out stencil. “All Hail The Queen” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number one hundred twenty four on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: November 6, 1987 – “N.W.A. And The Posse”, the first compilation album by N.W.A. is released. Produced by Dr. Dre, it is recorded at Audio Achievements in Torrance, CA from Mid 1986 – Early 1987. Proceeding N.W.A. and Eazy E’s debut albums “Straight Outta Compton” and “Eazy Duz It” by nearly a year, the eleven track compilation features previously issued material by both artists originally released N.W.A.’s “Panic Zone” 12" EP and Eazy E’s debut single “Boyz In The Hood”. The album also included cut by other acts that are part of the N.W.A. posse including The Fila Fresh Crew and Rappinstine. Originally released on Los Angeles based indie label Macola Records, the album is reissued by Priority Records in 1989, but the reissue deletes the Rappinstine track “Scream”, replacing it with N.W.A.’s “A Bitch Iz A Bitch” (also issued as the B-side of “Express Yourself”). In 2002, the tracks from the original LP are incorporated into a remastered reissue of the “Straight Outta Compton” album. The original vinyl LP configuration (with the amended track listing) of “N.W.A. And The Posse” is reissued by Universal Music Group’s UMe imprint in May of 2015 as part of their “Respect The Classics” reissue program. The vinyl also features a 3D lenticular rendering of the original cover artwork. “N.W.A. And The Posse” peaks at number thirty nine on the Billboard R&B album chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 3, 1987 – “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa is released. Written and produced by Hurby Azor, it is the fourth single (fifth overall) for the Hip Hop/Rap trio from Queens, NY. In mid 1985, Cheryl James and Sandra Denton meet while attending Queensborough Community College. The pair also work at Sears along with another mutual friend named Hurby Azor. He asks the pair if they can rap on a project he is doing for an audio production course he’s taking. James and Denton agree, recording an response to Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show”. Dubbing the duo Super Nature, “The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)” (#46 R&B) soon makes its way on the radio in New York City. The response is so strong that it’s released by Philly based Pop Art Records. Cheryl and Sandra are then signed to fledgling New York based dance and rap label Next Plateau Records. With this, the group change their name, becoming Salt (James) -N- Pepa (Denton), also adding Latoya Hansen (“Spinderella”) as their DJ. The trio stand out immediately, and don’t take long to make an impact. The singles “My Mic Sounds Nice” and “I’ll Take Your Man” perform well enough to warrant a full album. Before that happens, Hansen leaves and is replaced by Deidra “DeDe” Roper who becomes the new Spinderella. One of the tracks recorded for their debut album “Hot, Cool & Vicious” is a rap cover of Otis Redding and Carla Thomas’ soul classic “Tramp”. Needing a “throw away” B-side, they quickly record the up tempo track “Push It”. Initially released in March of 1987, “Tramp” becomes a sizable R&B hit, peaking at #21, but at first most pay little attention to the B-side. By Summer, “Push It” begins getting play in clubs, but doesn’t truly go overground until fate intervenes. In San Francisco, CA, a club DJ named Cameron Paul begins spinning it during his weekly gig at City Nights, and on his mix show on urban crossover power house KMEL. Paul creates his own remix, adding keyboards, another drum track and edits. Already gaining popularity in its original mix, “Push It” explodes on local Bay Area radio with Paul’s remix. It is first issued by the DJ subscription service Mixx-It Records, Next Plateau then buys the rights to Cameron Paul’s remix, adding it to the album and releasing it as a single. “Push It” becomes a radio smash, peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 and #28 on the R&B chart. It propels “Hot, Cool & Vicious” past the Platinum mark in the US, and Salt-N-Pepa make further history when they are among the first group of artists nominated for the first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance in 1989. “Push It” is later parodied on the comedy series “In Living Color” in a sketch called “Cookin’ With Salt-N-Pepa”, and is used to great comic effect when Salt-N-Pepa and Spinderella appear in a commercial for Geico Insurance in 2014. “Push It” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 23, 1989 – “The Cactus Album”, the debut album by 3rd Bass is released. Produced by Pete Nice, MC Serch, Sam Sever, Prince Paul and The Bomb Squad (Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler), it is recorded at Chung King House Of Metal, Greene Street Studios, and Island Media Studios in New York City from Mid 1988 – Mid 1989. Hailing from Queens, NY, MC Serch (Michael Berrin) and Prime Minister Pete Nice (Peter Nash), begin working together in 1987 when they are introduced to each other by producer Sam Sever (Sam Citrin).  Along with DJ Richie Rich (Richard Lawson), they adapt the name 3 The Hard Way (after the 70’s Blaxploitation film with Jim Kelly, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, and Jim Brown), and begin working on material. The group attracts interest from Def Jam Records after Sever tells label executive Lyor Cohen about them. But when Cohen discovers that an A&R rep from a rival label is checking them out, he withdraws from offering them a deal. It is only after Russell Simmons sees the group at the Battle for World Supremacy in 1988, that they are signed to Def Jam. Along with Sever, the group also works with Prince Paul (De La Soul, Stetsasonic) and The Bomb Squad. The album also features guest appearances by Zev Love X and DJ Sub Roc from KMD. For legal reasons, they are forced to change their name from 3 The Hard Way to 3rd Bass. A critical and commercial success upon its release, it spins off four singles including “Steppin’ To The A.M.” (#5 Rap, #54 R&B), “The Gas Face” (#5 Rap), and “Brooklyn-Queens”. Originally issued as a single vinyl LP  (along side the CD and cassette versions) in 1989, the first pressings suffered from poor fidelity due to the album’s sixty five minute plus running time. It is remastered and reissued as a double vinyl set in 2000, and reissued again in 2014, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Def Jam Records. “The Cactus Album” peaks at number five on the Billboard R&B album chart, number fifty five on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 22, 1991 – “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”, the debut album by Black Sheep is released. Produced by William McLean and Andres Titus, it is recorded at Calliope Studios in New York, NY from November 1990 – August 1991. Originally from Queens, NY, William “Mista Lawnge” McLean and Andres “Dres” Titus meet each other while living in Sanford, NC with their families. While in North Carolina, Lawnge meets Hip Hop icon DJ Red Alert while spinning at a show featuring Sparky D. and The Real Roxanne. That meeting leads to Lawnge becoming friends with The Jungle Brothers (group member Mike Gee also being Red Alert’s nephew). Once both are back in New York, Dres and Lawnge form Black Sheep in 1989, and within a year are signed to Mercury Records. Associated with the Native Tongues clique that also includes De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest, share the same musically eclectic sensibility as their contemporaries, but carve out their own unique personality from the pack. Recorded over a period of ten months, Black Sheep’s debut samples from a wide palette of music from jazz and rock (Les McCann, Ramsey Lewis, Jimmy McGriff, Eddie Harris, Joe Farrell, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gary Bartz, Rare Earth, Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly, Three Dog Night) to R&B, Funk and Disco (The Bar-Kays, Funk, Inc., Millie Jackson, Luther Vandross, Roger Troutman, Vaughan Mason & Crew, The SOS Band, Change).  The duo also spoofs gangsta rap (“You Mean I’m Not”) and misogyny in hip hop (the skit “L.A.S.M” (Ladies Against Sexist Muthaf*ckas)), and “Strobelite Honey” (#5 Rap, #1 Club Play,  #36 R&B, #80 Pop), backed with tight production and whip smart, wryly humorous lyrics. The album also features guest appearances by Q-Tip on “La Menage” and introduces (then) fifteen year old rap protege Chi Ali (on “Pass The 40”). An instant classic, the album is widely praised by fans and critics upon its release, being regarded as one of the best rap albums of the era. It spins off four singles including “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” (#1 Rap, #9 Club Play, #21 R&B, #57 Pop), “Flavor Of The Month” (#2 Rap), and “Similak Child”. “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” peaks at number fifteen on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirty on the Top 200, number one on the Heatseekers chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 19, 1993 – “Enta Da Stage”, the debut album by Black Moon is released. Produced by DJ Evil Dee and Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz and Buckshot, it is recorded at D&D Recording Studios in New York City from Early – Mid 1993. Formed in Brooklyn in 1992, Black Moon comprises of 5ft. Accelerator (Kasim Reid), DJ Evil Dee (Ewart Dewgarde) and Buckshot (Kenyatta Blake). The groups name is actually an acronym that stands for “Brothers who Lyrically Act and Combine Kickin Music Out On Nation”. They quickly make a name for themselves, and with the assistance of legendary DJ Chuck Chillout, land a record deal with New York based label Nervous Records. Black Moon makes their debut in late 1992 with the single “Who Got Da Props” (#28 Rap, #60 R&B, #86 Pop), quickly becoming a sensation in the hip hop community. Anchored by a sample of Ronnie Laws’ cool jazz-funk track “Tidal Wave”, the song is lauded as an instant classic the album spins off three singles including “I Gotcha Opin” (#15 Rap, #55 R&B, #93 Pop)  and “How Many MC’s” (#97 R&B). The album itself receives widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike upon its release. Specializing in house and other forms of dance music, Nervous Records lack of experience with marketing and promoting rap records, hinders the albums sales and chart performance. In spite of this, it becomes widely regarded as a classic Hip Hop album of the era (particularly among releases by the groups other East Coast contemporaries). “Enta Da Stage” peaks at number thirty three on the Billboard R&B chart.

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On this day in music history: October 17, 1990 – “The Geto Boys”, the third album by The Geto Boys is released. Produced by DJ Ready Red, Doug King, John Bido and Johnny C, it is recorded at Rap-A-Lot Recording Studios and Rivendell Recorders in Houston, TX from Mid 1988 – Mid 1990. Making their debut around the same time as N.W.A., The Geto Boys from the notoriously rough Fifth Ward in Houston, TX, quickly become underground gangsta rap icons thanks to their first two albums “Making Trouble” and “Grip It! On That Other Level”. Featuring gritty and funky beats made on an E-mu SP-1200 sampler/drum machine, the rhymes of Scarface, Willie D. and Bushwick Bill contain often violent, profane, sexually explicit and misogynist imagery with elements of horror or gore. Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin is a fan of the group and offers to sign them to his label Def American, at the time being distributed by Geffen Records (then part of Warner Bros). Rubin along with engineer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots) remixes all twelve tracks from “Grip It!” (also re-recording the vocals on several songs) along with “Assassins” from their debut. When the finished album is turned in to Geffen, the sh*t literally hits the fan, with executives at the label being highly offended by its lyrical content, especially the tracks “Mind Of A Lunatic” and “Assassins”. Geffen’s CD manufacturer Sony DADC (Digital Audio Disc Corporation) also refuses to press CD’s of the album for the same reason. Rubin instead arranges for Warner Bros subsidiary label Giant Records to handle distribution and marketing, with WEA Manufacturing pressing the CD and manufacturing cassettes. In addition the Parental Advisory sticker on the front cover, an additional disclaimer is added, baring the legend, “Def American Recordings is opposed to censorship. Our manufacturer and distributor, however, do not condone or endorse the content of this recording, which they find violent, sexist, racist, and indecent”. Though most mainstream critics react negatively to the content of the album, on the opposite side, many in the rap music community praise it for its inventive use of samples (considering the limitations of the technology used), and the authoritative vocals of the groups three principal members. Not long after the album is released, The Geto Boys run into a problem with musician Steve Miller, who objects to the use of his song “The Joker” on the track “Gangster Of Love”. The original pressing is deleted and reissued with the sample being replaced by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” in its place. This turns the original CD, cassette and rare vinyl pressings into expensive and sought after collector’s items. “The Geto Boys” peaks at number sixty seven on the Billboard R&B album chart and number one hundred seventy one on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: October 15, 1991 – “Fruits Of Nature”, the debut album by The UMC’s is released. Produced by RNS, Hass G., Shlomo Sonnenfeld and Young Technique, it is recorded at Such A Sound Studio in Brooklyn, NY from Late 1990 – Mid 1991. Putting the NYC borough of Staten Island on the map even before The Wu Tang Clan, the duo consists of Hass G. (Carlos Evans) and Kool Kim (Kim Sharpton). Both have been rapping since their pre-teens, that are honed to a sharp edge by the time they are signed to Wild Pitch Records. Possessing the gifts of writing smart and colorful rhymes, filled with metaphors and pop cultural references, backed by solid, funky beats drawing from classic R&B, funk and jazz, without using the same old overused samples. The first taste of UMC’s unique sound comes with the release of their debut single “Blue Cheese” (#1 Rap). The title “blue cheese” is a clever dis pointed at “cheesy rodent MC’s”, and calling them out for their weak rhyming skills, and not being true to the music and culture. Even cooler still is the track itself, featuring a sped up sample of the R&B group Delegation’s 1979 hit “Oh Honey”, augmented with samples taken from Solomon Burke’s 1968 single “Get Out Of My Life Woman”. Infectious and razor sharp, the single flies to the top of the rap singles chart, paving the way for the rest of the album. For the follow up, The UMC’s pull another extremely cool and unlikely rabbit out of their hat, with the follow up single “One To Grow On” (#2 Rap). The song summarizes their modus operandi and philosophy with lyrics like: “I frame my method; my method is apparent, I see clearly this world’s transparent. So I reach down deep, deliver salvation to the hands of the weak”. The main body of “One To Grow On” is sampled from jazz trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s song “Good Humor Man”, with the breakdown sampling comedian Bill Cosby’s funky “Ursalena” from his second non-stand up vocal album “Hooray For The Salvation Army Band!”. By the time that second single is released, the formerly independent Wild Pitch Records is picked up for distribution by EMI Records. “Fruits” spins off a third single with “Never Never Land”. The album is regarded as one of the best “golden era” of Hip Hop during the 90’s. In spite of this, The UMC’s time in the spotlight is brief, when their second release “Unleashed” in 1994 produces no hits and sells poorly. The duo split shortly afterward, but move on with their music careers. Haas G. becomes a successful producer, working with major rap artists including 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Ghostface Killah. Kool Kim records as a solo under the moniker NYOIL. Falling out of print for a time, The UMC’s classic debut album is reissued on CD through UMe’s Fontana Distribution in 2008. “Fruits Of Nature” peaks at number thirty two on the Billboard R&B album chart.

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