Wednesday, April 23rd 2020:
Are we having fun yet? NO. We are not. As the economy still seems to be tanking and as more Americans are loosing their jobs and filing for unemployment, I can’t help but think about the time back when I was laid off. I have been laid off twice and furloughed before and it is not fun. I feel for all the friends and relatives that I know that have lost their jobs. My thoughts and love goes out to them and anyone else who has lost their job due to this pandemic. If things stay this way, then it won’t be long until I join the rankings of the unemployed. But we can chat about that a different day. For now, it is time to continue my exclusive blog series titled “The SoundTrack Of Life?”. 1993.
Welcome to the Golden Years of Hip Hop! If you were fortunate enough to be a teen or young adult during this year, consider yourself blessed. In the year 1993 just about every other month a Hip Hop album would drop that would live throughout the ages. Even now in 2020, some of the music that came out in 93 is just as hot as it was back then. I was a sophomore in high school this year. I was playing varsity soccer, becoming a better DJ, my friends and family were very supportive of me, and even the girls were liking me now! I know how that sounds but again, I was a shy kid back then. My 1993 was full of good times, a full academic load of school work, lots of extra activities after school like sports, and then another part of my life was revealing itself slowly to me. That was the active social life I was about to embrace. Which included parties and gatherings, and learning how to DJ in front of a crowd. I was heavy into music at this point in my life. I probably listened to music more than watching TV. And the only thing I was doing more than music was probably my school work. Without that I couldn’t play soccer for my high school. And trust me, that was very important to me back then. It was everything one might argue. I would listen to music in the mornings getting ready for school, in the car to school, in-between classes, during lunch, after school before practice, after practice, and then at home. I had many different devices to listen to music. I had my Sony discman walkman. I had a tape deck walkman. CD player at home. Turntables for the vinyl at home. And of course at friends house or in my sister’s car or my moms car. My music meant a lot to me. It was my identity, and in 1993 it was peaking for my young manhood.
I am going to name 3 albums that moved me the most and I will explain why. And like yesterday, I will put my favorite track and my favorite rhyme as well with explanation.
First up….Snoop Doggy Dogg – DoggyStyle. Yes. The first solo album and probably the most anticipated album to drop on Dr Dre new label since The Chronic came out. In a lot of ways, this album was like The Chronic part 2. It had all the familiar beats and sounds of Dr Dre but this time Snoop was rapping on every track and he brought some friends along we never had heard of. He brought along “Tha Dogg Pound” which was Korrupt and Daz Dillinger. Also was Warren G, Snoops DJ from his old hip hop group named “213”. Nate Dogg was also featured on a number of tracks and that just gave the songs so much new type of soul to hear Nate’s smooth melody voice bless the track “Ain’t No Fun”. But this album just brought hit after hit. “Gin and Juice”, “Murder was the Case”, “Doggy Dogg World” and of course my favorite song of all time…”Who Am I? (What’s my name?)”. Dre’s beats were just getting better and better with each album. Some people would listen Dre’s Chronic and then rotate in “DoggyStyle” and it would provide like 2 hours of great west coast hip hop music. As a DJ, it was easy to spin these songs at a party and everyone would get up and dance. You couldn’t escape the hooks on some of these tracks. When this album was released in 1993, it was during the month of November. I was already a junior this year and I could drive so it was fun driving around listening to this album. That winter season in 1994, I would listen to the track “What’s my name?” before a soccer game. It would get me focused and hyped. While I warmed up and got ready, it relaxed me to have it blasting in my headphones. Even at school, listening to it on stressful days of tests and work, I found peace and a sense of calmness as Snoop’s flow was just so original and I knew I was enjoying some of the best music I might ever listen too. On top of that I would say that this album was the first CD I ever bought. CD’s had replaced tapes at this point at music stores and it was so clear and better sounding than anything I had ever heard before. I was super impressed and it was easily a good time all the way around.
My second album for the soundtrack of my life is….Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers. Talk about ever last. This album is still one of the most popular and best selling hip hop albums ever made. And when I first got my hands on it, I must admit that I thought it was gonna be crap, but here is how it happened for me. In the spring of 1993 I was on the varsity track and field team for my high school. I did the long jump and triple jump. On our way to track meets, it was a lot like a long field trip. The boys and girls track teams would pile into a bus and that bus would drive on the freeway all slow to a school campus far away for us to compete in a track and field event. As a jumper, I worked out with the sprinters and hurdlers both boys and girls. One of the sprinters was a good friend of mine named Andrew Brewster. He was quiet, a great fast sprinter and he also loved hip hop. There was this thing we would do on the bus where we would trade CD’s with someone to listen to on the way to the track meet. We would swap and share and then return the disc once we arrived. This one day I was listening to my Dre CD and Andrew was like “trade you?” And he leaned over towards me and handed me his Wu-Tang CD. Now at this point in time I had no idea who this group was and I had never heard of them. I asked Andrew “who the eff is this?” and he smiles and goes “dude, this CD will change your life. I’m serious”. I thought I had nothing to loose so I agreed and I gave him my Chronic CD and put in the Wu-Tang and pressed play. My life was never the same. This music was INCREDIBLE! I had never heard beats like this. And all the rappers who were flowing were just amazing. The rhymes and beats were just taking me away. When we arrived at the track meet, Andrew allowed me to keep the CD at the track meet and I listened to the entire thing at least 3 times. When we got home later that night, I asked my mother to stop by Sam Goody music store and when she did I quickly ran in there, found the Wu-Tang album, and purchased the CD. Then that night, I listened to this album non stop for days and days to come. The group was amazingly talented and RZA on the beats was light years ahead of anyone else. I studied that CD. I learned all the members names, how they dressed, where they form etc. Each track told a unique story. I was just blown away, I had never heard any group like this before. It was like a cipher but masterful. And the fact the layered this stuff over some old kung fu videos was just so original. “Shame On A N**a” and “Da Mystery of Chessboxin” were absolute heaters! Method Man, U-God, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, Ol’Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, and Masta Killa. Some of the best lyricist I had ever heard in a long time. RZA and GZA also brought in good rhymes and even harder beats. Top to bottom, the production value of this album was superior to anything I had ever heard coming out the east coast. I would like to say this album opened me up to new and different types of music. Reason why is because unless Andrew didn’t hand me this disc and insist on me to listen, I would have never found it. After that I started to keep my ears open to different types of hip hop music and not just what I thought was good. My love and respect is limitless for RZA. A man that was responsible for making some of the greatest hip hop music ever engineered.
My final album I want to discuss is “A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders”. At this time I was already a big TCQ fan. “The Low End Theory” back in 1991 first turned me onto this group after hearing about them in other rap songs from De La Soul and Black Sheep. But when the group dropped that first album, I was all over it. Then when Midnight Marauders came out, it was an automatic choice to listen too. And it didn’t disappoint at all. Q-tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad brought us a polished gem of an album. Q-tip was a DJ by heart and had a great ear for jazz music. Lots of TCQ tracks are influenced by great jazz songs. Tribe also brought some familiar friends along as well like Busta Rhymes and Large Professor. “Electric Relaxation” and “Award Tour” were my favorite tracks. The smooth jazz horns and perfect underlying bass just made these tracks pop right out. I loved how Q-tip and Phife could just feed off each others flow on almost every track. Some duo groups have one of the artists outshine the other but not with TCQ. Both artists were masters of he microphone. Their lyrics were easy to follow, and had a certain groove and rhythm to it that just made you want to dance and feel good. TCQ made that feel good music, that music that you can just kick back and listen to and let your worries just run away. Ali Muhammad was a great DJ for this group too. He brought balance and his ear for music was unlike any other DJ of his time. When Phife Dawg passed away many years later, I realized just how great of a time it was to have him deliver his art to us. I felt that this album established Tribe as a mainstream almost pop group, and got them out of that underground sound that had made them big in their first album. Just great music.
Hard to believe that these three albums came out the same year, in fact there are plenty others this same year that are instant classics. Digable Planets, Souls of Mischief, Black Moon, and KRS-One all dropped some masterful albums in 1993. It was truly a golden age of hip hop.
Snoop Dogg – Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) – “From the depths of the sea, back to the block, Snoop Doggy Dogg , funky as the, the, The D.O.C.” Snoop in his first single off his first solo album, on his first rhyme, the one that would introduce him to the world as a solo artist, he gives props and thanks to his teacher, the man who taught him how to write. The D.O.C. D.O.C. was a solo rapper who was part of NWA. He didn’t rap much on NWA albums because he was a writer like Ice Cube and MC Ren. Doc would wrote and co-wrote a lot of NWA hits. He had one solo album that came out in 1989 titled “No One Can Do It Better”. And it was produced by Dr Dre. First single off this album was a track named “Its Funky Enough”. And this song was a massive hit….on the west coast. It got lots of radio play and as a DJ, it was always in rotation at any party I spun at. 6 months after his album came out, D.O.C. was in a horrible car accident. He was ejected from his car on the freeway and he was found hanging from a tree on the side of a free way after bouncing up and down off the pavement on the freeway. His face needed many hours of plastic surgery to put him back together and his thorax was destroyed and he had lost his voice. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time and he fell asleep at the wheel. With his voice now different, it was more raspier and deep. He couldn’t rap anymore. His career as a rapper was over. So the next thing he turned to was writing. He was already a writer but now he was writing only. And when Snoop came along, Snoop didn’t write any lyrics down. He was all about “freestyle”. And that got him far but not as far as Dre could take him. Snoop needed to learn to write songs. And the D.O.C. took Snoop under his wing and taught him how to write. Snoop would openly thank D.O.C. for teaching him and showing him how to put rhymes and hooks together. And this is why Snoop thanked him on this lyric from his first rhyme, from his first solo album. Well done Snoop. Well done.
Wu-Tang Clan – Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ “Comin’ to buy grocery from me, trying’ to be a hip-hop MC/The law, in order to enter the Wu-Tang, You must bring the Ol’Dirty Bastard type slang. Represent the GZA, Abbot RZA, Shaquan, Inspectah Deck, Dirty Ho gettin’ low with his flow, Introducin’ the Ghostface Killah!!!! NO ONE could get iller!” Oh my goodness. ODB here rapping about how he used to work in a grocery store when his friends would come around and get groceries from him and he would say a rhyme or two to them and they would like it or make fun of him. The ones who loved it were his friends like RZA and Method Man whose real name is Shaquan. ODB shouts out all his fellow Wu-Tang crew members in one unique flow that just puts a stamp on this track. I always loved ODB’s style of rapping. Like Snoop it was just a whole different type of flow. I thought it was just masterful and so raw how he made his lyrics rhyme together because as you heard them it would sound like they wouldn’t rhyme. I could go on and on about this track but let me move on to the last one.
A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour “See, lyrically I’m Mario Andretti on the MOMO, Ludicrously speedy, or infectious with the slow-mo. Heard me in the eighties, J.B.’s on “The Promo” in my never-ending quest to get the paper on the caper” Q-tip is saying how fast his rhymes can be just like the formula one car racer Mario Andretti and MOMO is a company that makes steering wheels for formula racing cars. Then he says about how we heard him in the eighties on the promo. The Promo was a song on The Jungle Brothers album back in 1989. Native tongues movement was a group that Q-tip would run with and he first made an appearance as a guest artist on this track. Tip is describing that since that appearance until this album, he has been on a non-stop quest to not only get paid but be the best rapper he can. And he did achieve this. Q-tip’s style of rap was unique and delivered nothing but flavor. It almost seemed like any track he would rap on would be a hit. I admire rappers like Tip. Just having a strong passion for music and putting himself into his own music so much that he knows it could explode into something good or fail and fall down. But he never backed down, and even after TCQ broke up, Tip kept on with a strong solo career. He is still relevant today in the industry and it is always nice to hear his music surface every now and then.
Okay, another long blog right? Well I have a lot to say about the soundtrack of my life. Each one of these songs takes me away to a special place and memory. Snoops song takes me back to high school, listening to that album during warm ups before important games. Listening to the Wu-Tang clan for the first time on my way to a track meet in the back of the bus with my man Andrew. Head nodding and just smiles all around my face as each track just lifted me to a better place. And last but not least Award Tour. A song I would always play in my car or at parties because it was so easy to mix and dance too. The memories of my friends house parties and hours and hours of practicing in my bedroom Dj’ing playing this song almost like everyday as it always found a way to get in my mix.
Great memories, great music, and an even greater year. Now, 1994 is up next. This one may take me a few days to write so I will post this year over the weekend along with the final year of 1995 which is by far one of the greatest years of my life. Until then….peace.