Don’t tell me shit about his skill level, Tim Dog made one of the Top 5 rap albums of all time.
Think about it; rappers that are so bad, they‘re actually pretty damn good overall. As the poster child for unpopular opinion, I always felt that the downfall in the quality of rap music in recent years isn’t as much due to banal lyrics as it is to the fact that so many artists don’t have an iota of personality. To be honest, I’d rather hear a hilarious or unique artist with a questionable amount of skill than another lyrical lyricist spit 413 bars about "swag", sellin coke, or a food name for some clothing that I’m too old to understand -i.e ‘yo fam I got them Rocky Road and sweet potato Nike dunks on son!’- over whatever Jay-Z instrumental is popular at the time. Or somebody using Kraft Macaroni & Cheese as a metaphor for the United States’ foreign policy in some enigmatic attempt to be clever or lyrical. And if/when the said lyrical lyricist decides to drop an album the week after his 717th mixtape hits the streets, the subject matter never extends outside of the same Smack DVD hood/lyrical boasts he had on mixtapes 1-716. The freestyles over the Just Blaze instrumentals that anybody can sound good on got everyone excited, but the beats on the album will inherently suck, which will then be defended with an “I’m all about the lyrics” retort. After a few promo shows at the Remote Lounge NYC and an article in XXL, the said rapper will then fade into “bolivion” (sic, Mike Tyson tribute). How many hip-hop quotable rappers have fallen by the wayside because they chose to use the same confrontational tone they battled people in to rap about some Illuminati symbol on a dollar bill or their newly adopted vegan lifestyle? Only Willie D can get away with that shit.
I don’t give a fuck what anybody says, the missing piece in today’s rap world is really entertaining “bad rappers”; guys with laughable lyrics and styles that you knew they were dead ass serious about when they hit the studio. These artists were continually accused of ruining good beats, but in reality there’s nobody else that could’ve done a better job on them. Don’t get it twisted, though, bad rappers are in no short supply in 2009. But most of them just aren’t funny or entertaining. It’s not just about being a good MC, but making an album that transcends drink coaster usage and avoids getting dragged into the recycle bin for a change. People in New York always clowned Too $hort for being non-lyrical, but when one of these lyrical wizards has 18 albums in their catalog or makes a song as enjoyable as "Paula & Janet" or "Blowjob Betty" , somebody send me an e-mail. After talking to a few other avid rap fans I respect, I broke down my four personal favorite “bad” rappers of all time.
MALACHI THE NUTCRACKER (from GROUP HOME)
This will inherently be the one I catch the most heat over, but I’m not surprised. Hip-hop has absolutely no sense of humor, and when people couldn’t see the genius of Malachi The Nutcracker, I knew we were in trouble. I used to hear textbook dreck like this from hip-hop purists when the Group Home album came out 14 years ago, and still do today:
“DJ Premier wasted the greatest beats he ever made on the Group Home album. Lil Dap is cool, but Malachi is atrocious, Premier should’ve given those beats to Biggie or somebody.”
Or something to that effect. No. Malachi was an entertainer. His young teenage voice, his “see Spot run” simplicity, his threats of random and senseless violence against old people and his nonsensical sociopath rhetoric coagulated to make the perfect spouse for Primo’s gutter jazz thump. Whether it was intentional or not (I seriously doubt it was), Malachi injected humor into a Gangstarr Foundation that albeit great, never produced any funny records. Regardless of how many Malachi detractors pop up when discussing this album -usually in regards to its production brilliance and it being the apex of Primo’s career, but it going in vain because of the rhymes- he was a known tough cookie, so I seriously doubt anybody ever said anything to his face. Lines like these don’t grow on trees…
“I’m outta sight on the mic do what you like/ I beat your moms in the head with a metal pipe” (Was it in the Billiard Room? Did he use Colonel Mustard? Sounds like a Clue confession to me. Mothers are overrated anyway.)
“When I take flight (like who kid?) like Mike!!!!” (Best Jordan reference ever)
“Ya know how I rock, I rock, non stop/ jump on stage, you jump…on my jock!” (It’s just that simple…literally)
However, the prime example of Malachi’s good badness would surely be his verses on “Up Against The Wall”. I don’t even think you can freestyle rhyme gymnastics on this level (he comes in at 1:05)
“You stupid muthafuckaaaa my rhyme is fat!!!!!!!!”
When I said (and still say) that Group Home’s Livin Proof album is better than both Jeru albums, I’m met with accusations of not knowing music. Fuck that. Malachi didn’t do too much after this album, but wherever he is, he’s got a fan in me. His actual rap skill left a lot to be desired, but he was ahead of his time with the senseless violence and his through the roof passion in the face of his overt simplicity. I know there’s a lot of MCs who on paper would fit in the same category as Malachi, but they’re just not dope. Maybe it was just how Malachi did it, and style points are very hip-hop. I don’t give a fuck what anybody says, I want a Malachi solo album.
Disco Rick was Miami’s misogynist answer to Run from Run-DMC. He yelled with mass amounts of echo, but that’s where the comparisons stop. Disco Rick made his mark rapping about getting head from everybody from Nancy Reagan to girls he knew named Margaret, Sharon, Karen, Jackie, Tyra, Lana, Dede, Sherry, Mona, Lisa, Laverne, Shana, Keisha, Marie, Laura, Janice, Barbara, Maria and Tina.
Rick had a softer side though; fellatio wasn’t always his forte. He also rapped getting stopped by the fuzz in the deep south, trampy-looking broads in the flea market that needed to dress with more class, and why mothers who abandoned their kids in trash cans deserved a thrashing. The latter concept (on a song appropriately titled “Babies In The Trash Cans”) found Rick actually on the way to providing a serious and viable concept song on an album full of misogyny, but about 55 seconds in, the line “we got to educate the hoes” just foiled the plan. Rick’s skill level being applied to a concept like that is the moment of good badness that actually makes him more enjoyable to listen to than anybody I’ve heard in recent memory…
Tim Dog was widely recognized as being in the doldrums when it comes to rap skill in the early 90s. But that fact makes him even more incredible to me, because his first album (Penicillin On Wax ) is the greatest rap album of all time (I can hear myself getting roasted in cyberspace for this one). It’s insane to think that a guy who rhymes “(Why you dissin Eazy) cause the boy ain’t shit/ chew him with tobacco and spit him in shit” on his album is a damn genius. But when it comes to pure entertainment, it didn’t get any better than Tim Dog in 1991. I can actually go out on a limb and say that if he actually had superior rap skill, the album wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable. With the album artwork depicting Tim Dog in very early 90s NYC ’hide your Starter jacket’ mode and the inner sleeve showing a posse photo with some very angry and big bat wielding gentlemen with ski masks on, the image is not one of lyrical dexterity, but of brute force.
Tim is actually at his best (and funniest) when he’s really attempting to be on a Big Daddy Kane level of lyricism.
“So whether ya think that I’m just a myth/to riff/the gift/the if/the fifth/the shift/the spliff is in control I hold a bowl/and make an ache and take a fake/ WHEEEEEWWW, and I’m still too great…Fuck Compton!”
Huh? Wow. It gets even better when Tim uses his imagination to go hardcore.
“Imma step to a wack MC/and if he try to get beef with me/ I’mma wax his ass, I’mma tax his ass, I’mma fax his ass and cold lax his ass”
You get the message that Tim is pissed off and the said ass is in trouble, but I always wondered how you can fax somebody’s ass. How he’d lax his ass, I don’t wanna know either, as I’m assuming lax means laxative, or diarrhea. This album is probably the funniest hip-hop album ever made, but I think Tim Dog did it with a straight face, which makes it even funnier. Then there was the prime example of Tim’s good badness, “Dog’s Gonna Getcha”. It’s essentially a three minute sleigh ride into threats, screams, grunts and non-lyricism, but it sounds better than most of The Source’s picks for hip hop quotable in the last 15 years. Here’s the whole song, a simple quote can’t do it justice…
The song is so lyrically bad (meaning bad) that I actually have it in my personal top 20 greatest rap songs of all time. I’m as serious as cancer, that song is God damn unbelievable, just not lyrically skilled…if you know where I’m coming from. Example: KRS-One’s “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know” was OK, it was lyrically skilled, but it was nowhere near as good as “Dogs Gonna Getcha” when it comes to listening pleasure, not even close. Tim does actually have some decent rhymes on the album, but the majority is that rare display of unskilled hardness and humor that you just don’t witness anymore.
When it comes to bouncing ball phonetics and Speak n Spell southern drawl, nobody is coming close to Pat. Every word is seemingly broken into syllables and sounds, and the actual rhymes are exceedingly countrified. But what really puts Pat over the top is the fact that he not only admits, but brags about feasting on the hog. Pork is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but putting Pat up on the health benefits of Quinoa is useless…
“Buyin you/ taco bell/ but a pimp/ eatin steak/ corn bread, collard greens, chitaleeeeeens (chitterlings) on my plate.”
Or when he explains to a girl why his gas tank is empty, he has a worthy excuse.
“That’s just the meter broke/ u dontknawcha talkin bout/ anyway them new Jordan’s finna come out.”
Its safe to say that Pat isn’t the Pharoahe Monch of Memphis, but the absence of lyrical gymnastics in his style is what makes him as appealing as he is.
The pinnacle of P. Pat’s good badness would be the “Nature Of The Threat” level of depth he displays on “Gorilla Pimp” (You Tube is being soft, video clip won’t embed.)
"(I’mma call yo mama up), bitch that’s a no no!"
Tim Dog, Malachi The Nutcracker, Project Pat and Disco Rick…You can say what you want about their skill level (or lack thereof), but one thing is for sure. They’ll be remembered much longer than your latest rap wunderkind who made one crappy album.
This is merely the second part/ video installment of my two part homage to cassette tapes. Some of you saw where I was coming from with my dissertation in Part 1 (here’s the link) and some of you thought I was a dinosaur, and effectively living in the past. Look, I finally updated to Serato (more on that blessing/ curse soon) and got that damn Twitter account, that’s enough technology for me right now.
To answer a point made in a response to Part 1 of this feature…Does the audio quality of a cassette suck? Yeah it does, but CD’s and records skip and digital albums don’t have liner notes, pick your poison. That being said, here’s a video clip of a quick run through some of my tape collection. I did this earlier this year for photographer/video blogger Richard Ross (aka Rich Direction). This one is strictly for tape diehards, so if that means you, enjoy…if not, I’ll be back in a few days with a more universal thought. Peace.
J-Zone still owns and operates a cassette walkman. He also tried to have a tape player installed in his car, but he was laughed out of the dealership (seriously).
While sweatin to the oldies at Planet Fitness (a notoriously bootleg gym chain) not too long ago, some ragtag living room couch of a broad who was on the treadmill (and deservedly so) busted out laughing as I walked past her. I assumed I knew why, but sometimes I like to think that there’s really nothing wrong with using a cassette walkman in 2009. I guess there is, because the bitch shouts “you just get outta prison or something?!” I didn’t know what she meant at first, but when I got home later that night it hit me. If you went to jail in 1993 and just came home, you might not know that the Discman came and went and the ipod has made its way to the top as the standard portable medium of playing music. Look, I got off dial up internet in 2006, got a cel phone that was more than $14 in 2009 and have a vicious enemy in the form of mass text messages. I’ve always instinctively resisted every single technological advancement upon its introduction to popular culture, but eventually I’m backed into a corner and forced to get with the times. But the jury is in, and I don’t think I can ever make the switch to the ipod. For one, the look of it. When I think of ipods, I think of broads doing low-impact cardio on the elliptical machine at the gym, and that blood pressure taker looking Inspector Gadget arm sleeve holder that it sits in. They’re slim, frail and dainty. You can’t listen to Mob Style or Pretty Tone Capone on an ipod, it just doesn’t make sense, that‘s an oxymoron. I also can’t ride with the prospect of buying albums digitally and not getting any liner notes. Album art and liner notes/credits are just as a much part of the consumption of music as the music itself, and I just can’t get used to getting an album and being sent an 800×800 jpeg of the cover art. There’s nothing like buying a great album, then reading the liner notes and seeing Masta Ace playfully diss Mr. Cee for giving Big Daddy Kane the beat that was supposed to be his. Or seeing who produced track #5. Or looking at never seen before photos. Or reading Red Hot Lover Tone dissing all the people he’s supposed to be giving shout outs to. Or reading the credits for Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet and discovering new artists you’ve never heard of by the categories they were placed in for the acknowledgements. Or seeing shout outs to people who weren’t famous, but friends of the artist. These dudes had names like Big Ray Roll, Big Dog and Psycho Pimp, and you wonder where they are today. How about reading Kool Keith’s opinions on who the best producers in rap were at the time (of course he listed himself as #1). I got a shoutout out in one of the Eastern Conference Records’ albums back in the day, with "you should have signed with us" after my name in parenthesis, prompting folks to e-mail me to see if it was a snub, and if it was, would I come out and dis them on record. Imagine buying De La Soul Is Dead on iTunes…how can you enjoy the whole thing without seeing the cartoon artwork? I recently bought a CD re-issue of Kool & The Gang’s Live At PJ’s just for the bonus liner notes, because I already have the album. As fans, these are things we used to look forward to reading when listening to the music, but as for people coming up now, I guess you can’t miss what you’ve never been exposed to.
Does anybody remember this?…The closest thing we had to iTunes back then was the short-lived custom tape maker at Sam Goody record chain (if you actually remember that, you’re an OG). There would be a book of selected songs from current and popular artists, and you could order whichever songs you wanted and make a custom tape. I think the songs were $1.99 each. I’d bullshit around the Galleria Mall in White Plains for an hour while they prepared it, and come back to Sam Goody and my tape was ready. The first time I did it, I got Freshco & Miz’ "We Don’t Play" and Uptown’s "Dope On Plastic" and "It’s My Turn" on a custom tape, but only because those songs were never released on an album. Needless to say, the Sam Goody Custom tape machine only lived one year (1990) before it was given the axe, partly because most albums back then were decent enough all the way through to warrant the $10 price tag.
Speaking of which, the number of shitty albums released on tape was far less than the number of shitty albums available on itunes, especially with rap. People bitch and moan about having to fast forward through the tapes, but when tapes were in their prime, most albums didn’t have much in the way of fast forward material. Albums were -and sometimes still are- about peaks and valleys, you’d want to hear every nook and cranny of what an artist was doing. Besides, shit like "LOL Smiley Face" never came out on tape.
Tapes also hold a high level of significance in the landscape of hip-hop history, and that’s beyond capturing defunct radio shows and park jams. Cassettes took over as the primary medium for bonus cuts, like the “12 b-side did for vinyl. Albums like Stetsasonic’s Blood, Sweat & No Tears , Nas’ It Was Written , Digital Underground’s Sex Packets and Lord Finesse’s Return Of The Funky Man were all creatively marketed with tape only bonus cuts, which gave you an incentive to hunt down the album in each format. There were even albums that only came out on cassette (the elusive Baritone Tip Love Livin Foul album from ‘91 and numerous regional gangsta rap albums) or cassette with a limited dose of wax, but no CD (half of the Warlock/ Idlers Records catalog or AZ’s Streetwise and my debut album, Music For Tu Madre , before the reissues). If nothing else, I miss buying tapes and seeing the order forms for merchandise from the group and record label inside of the fold out liner notes. The cassette inserts of the Luke Records (2 Live Crew, Poison Clan, etc.) albums were always my favorite…
Luke was a visionary for racial harmony, as he’s got the junior high school cafeteria manager-looking middle aged brother standing side by side with the young trampy-looking white chick. These are epiphanies that you just can’t unleash in the milquetoast world of iTunes. Needless to say, I ordered a We Want Some Pussy t-shirt before I lost my virginity, but I don’t think the kid growing up in the world of iTunes can experience the same rite of passage and that’s a God damn shame. Raekwon had a purple tape, myself and Masta Ace had gold tapes, Illegal had a red tape, but I’ve never seen an MP3 with a color.
I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for the digital world when I speak from the view of the artist. Who really buys music in physical media form in 2009? A small number of folks, but pressing up music in any physical form is risky. There are enough copies of a few of my releases in my basement and in my distributor’s warehouse to re-open a Crazy Eddie chain. But then again, my first two albums are near impossible to find, and I get requests to re-press them. I put them on iTunes because it’s risk free and saves me the hassle of getting stuck with CD overstock, but sometimes I wish it wasn’t that way. It makes me seem like a hypocrite because I’m plugging these releases on iTunes, but I don’t even have an account there. It’s a catch 22 between things financially making sense and catering to the few fans like myself that still appreciate tapes, CD’s and LP’s as part of the full music buying experience. That said, for all looking for my first two albums, my Experienced EP or my Chief Chinchilla (Live @ The Liqua Sto ) album, if I ever re-issue them in physical form it will be on tape only. Call it the era I grew up in, call it stubbornness, but cassettes will always reign supreme in my book.
And don’t even talk about DVDs vs. VHS tapes. I didn’t see O-Dog passing around a DVD of the liquor store robbery in Menace II Society. Dig where I’m coming from? If that isn’t enough to convince you, here are some photos of my collection that explain why I refuse to switch…
Random Tapes: Some of my favorite flicks old and new, a bunch of obscure TV shows I taped on VHS over the years (Harry-O, McCloud, Surfside 6, Banacek, What’s Happening Now!!, Head Of The Class, 227, Amen, The Whiteshadow, etc.), the NYC Public HS B-Ball Championship Game (2001) and a bunch of other random shit.
Music Videos: Yo! MTV Raps Spring 1990 tape (gotta preserve that one), Sleeping Bag/ Fresh Records video comp, UBC "UB Style" video (EMI promo), Hendrix @ Berkeley
Radio show tape box: Stretch & Bobbito, Sunset & Mayhem (WNYU-FM), Martin Moor, Doo-Wop Mixtapes, Across 110th St. (Columbia University funk show back in the day), Do Or Die "Po Pimp" cassingle (Chi-Town love on that one).
More bugged movies, Ice-T’s OG Home Video (he did videos for the whole fuckin album, that’s hard), PE Fight The Power Tour Video.
Left: Kool & The Gang- Music Is The Message 8-track tape (it’s only right!) Right: Me and my pops jammin on drums and organ in the basement when I was 6 years old. Oldest tape I got and the first music I ever made…in the first grade! (no, I’m not digitizing that one).
Jeah. Sorry about the Flash, my camera was $120. If you need a title of a joint, let me know.
13 years of doing my own number series. Shits is hard. What do you think is on ohhh…Tape #14?
Like everything else that was popular 20-25 years ago, I’m thinking that there will also be a small resurgence in tapes at some point. They may wanna Do The Right Thing it all the way out and go get a ghetto blaster to be super-retro, but maybe tapes are too much of a hassle and somebody will make a an ipod that sits inside of a ghetto blaster frame, who knows. Just like I’m sure some fools will have the audacity to bring back Africa medallions, just to let them pass as a fad again after 6 months. But only real OG’s never stopped rolling with tapes and never will. I always tell people, hip-hop is a generational thing. You’ll always relate to the era you came up in above all, and some habits die hard. So until Disco Rick & The Dogs’ entire catalog is uploaded to itunes in the year 2047, I’ll keep being mistaken for an ex-convict.
Stay tuned for a future tape related entry that will include video footage of the collection…yeah, I’m getting hi-tech now.
Father Dom debut tape…NOT ON iTUNES!
I got auto-reverse on this bitch too…
Note: This week, I’m taking a brief break from clowning men with purses, Kanye’s shag, Nas & Kelis’ dummy vs. chickenhead war, the corniness of Twitter and rappers forcing their awful music on you in the streets instead of getting a job. That side of J-Zone will be back soon, but for now I’m gonna dip into the less curmudgeon-like side of myself. Can’t have this column being pigeonholed now, can we?
J-Zone @ Out Of The Past In Chicago, December 2007.
TOP 10 ADVENTURES IN DIGGIN’
Your girlfriend will never understand you dragging her into an asthma inducing dump of a store to sift through records. You then remind her to shut the fuck up, because every time she dragged you into some store in the mall to look at some Tarot cards or some draws that are just gonna come off anyway, you suffered through it like a man. When a man is into digging for records, he puts his health (and life) on the line. I haven’t known anybody to die in the line of duty, but some of us have knocked a few years off of our lives by inhaling mold and funny looking dusts that can’t possibly be OSHA approved. Some people fly to strange countries just to dig, but I never went that far. I’m not a digging nerd, I have actual bills to pay. Believe it or not, I’ve gone record hunting on three different continents and my best stories are from local spots and junk yards right here in America. Sometimes it’s all about the experience, not the records.
I started collecting in the fourth grade (1987). After discovering my folks’ old funk albums as a kid, I became a completist and tried to track down every record by every group. At the time, most of these records were 10-20 years old, but there was no internet and there were no high profile dealers, so joints that reside in the dollar bins -or even made their way to itunes- today were much harder to find then. I was spending all of my $10 a week allowance on records, and I also started playing bass guitar around this time, so of course funk records gave you the best shit to emulate and practice to. Anyway, here are 10 spots/adventures that stand out in my mind from my 22 years of record collecting.
10. GREENLINE RECORDS (Jamaica, Queens)…Defunct
This spot was dumpy as hell. It was the first record store I ever called “home”, which was from 1987-89. It was on Guy Brewer Blvd., about 3 miles from my house, and my pops used to go there to buy jazz when he was in high school. So when I was trying to find Bohannon’s Stop & Go album (which is hard to find to this day) and complete my collection for the group Slave and couldn’t pin down two of their releases, my pops suggested we try “a store I used to go to as a kid”. When you walked in there, it was just nasty. It had a big ass Ms. Pac Man arcade game in the front, and 2 shelf cases, one with cassettes and one with 8 track tapes for the local pimps that never updated their Cadillacs. There was an older man with glasses who owned it and another dude who looked like Lee Oskar from War. He took me to a Slave section that was about a foot thick. 3 and 4 copies of every album they ever did. It was like I asked him for a copy of Bigger and Deffer or something (that was the biggest rap record out that the time). He pulled the last copy of the Stop & Go record out of an even bigger Bohannon stack. For the next two years, every penny of my allowance was spent in Greenline. As I got older, I found other stores and got into the conventions, but Greenline remains king and every time I pass where it was, I stop and nod to it. Being that Studio 1212 was around the corner, a teenaged Large Professor, Ultramagnetic and the late Paul C all did work in that spot. The last time I was in there was 1999, when I was working on my Bottle Of Whup Ass EP. I got a few silly ass jazz records that I wound up using on there, and Dick Hyman’s Moon Gas LP for $10. Moon Gas now fetches for near $100. They closed a year later, RIP.
9. RECORDS UNLIMITED (New Rochelle, NY)…Defunct
RU was on a tougher section of the main drag (North Avenue) in New Rochelle. Back in ‘89, I would always get my hi-top fade cut at Al’s Barber Shop around the corner from this record store. It didn’t look too dingy, so I never went in there much. But when I started to collect hip-hop and hip-house around that time, I started to go in there to get “12 singles and tapes. That’s when I discovered the nice selection of funk they had. Along with my cameo haircut, I was also collecting the funk band Cameo’s early shit around this time, and RU had a nice selection of early Cameo. I also bagged Kool & The Gang’s Light Of Worlds LP in there for $6 after my first time seeing it a month prior at Colony Records in Manhattan -fuck Colony, rip off ass tourist trap- for $30. Every time I got a haircut at Al‘s -which was $8, damn, barbers are recession proof- I’d spend $10 on some records in there and use the other $2 to get back to my moms’ apartment on the bus. The last record I bought in there was Ohio Players’ Pleasure album. A month later, I passed by it on the Bee-Line 61 bus and it was boarded up. My next time over there getting a haircut, I walked over and asked some Jamaican dude standing in front of the neighboring Goffman’s bodega (a hood ass New Ro hangout) what happened to Records Unlimited. He shook his head and said “The IRS. They didn’t pay their bills, mon." Bloodclot!! I don’t know if that’s true, but from that day on I used the extra $10 I would spend on records to get my name shaved into the back of my head at the barber shop. By then I was 13, and had broads to impress, fuck a record.
I needed to get my moms a birthday gift, and I didn’t know what to get her. There was mad traffic on the Cross Island Pkwy, so me and my pops took the local streets through Queens and passed this shop. I had to stop and check it out. Glad I did, because not only did I find a Marvin Gaye LP for $3 for my moms, but I found Kool and The Gang’s Music Is The Message LP for $4. I was a Kool fan (their mid-70‘s stuff), but I didn’t know about their rarest (and best) material pre-Wild & Peaceful. This record is still a tough find today (goes for around $30 on average), and it’s also my favorite album of all time. On the back of the cover, they had pics of their previous 4 albums, and when I saw that they existed, the chase was on (it would take a year before I found them all in 1990). 20 years later, Breakdown is still standing. The owner, Anthony, is a cool ass dude, and every record in the store is $2, no exceptions. I also found a cover-less OG copy of Mulatu Of Ethiopia (it’s a serious and costly piece, google it) there in the late 90’s. It was in a junk crate by the door getting ready to be picked up by sanitation. Not only was it in good condition, but it was inexplicably en route to the garbage. Not to mention, the place is loaded with obscure VHS and cassette tapes. Yup, tapes, still. Ipods are soft and made for women on elliptical machines, it takes a real man to rock tapes, and not on no retro shit. Auto-reverse on a bitch. I even scored KMD’s Mr. Hood , Son Of Bazerk‘s album and the Big Mello and Choice albums (Rap-A-Lot Records) all sealed in the original CD long boxes (remember those?). I put both Pete Rock and Edan on to this place, and they each managed to walk out with a stack. It’s grimy and cluttered, but semi-organized, and chances are all these transient NYC overnight Brooklynites who don’t know who David Dinkins was will probably never see it. You’d have to hop the LIRR, drive or take a gang of buses to get out there, and as soon as you‘re talking 2 fare zones -if you don‘t know what they are, you‘ve never been in one and your one trip to JFK airport don‘t count- nobody wants to make the trip. Mo’ for me. The best that NY has to offer isn’t on the L train line, remember that.
7. NYC RECORD CONVENTION (Manhattan)…defunct
This wasn’t a spot, just an event that was held either at the Roosevelt Hotel or in Union Square a few times a year. By this point (1993-94), selling beats was big business. Dealers were already digging up samples to sell at a high price. The event was a crowded who’s who of producers, but the place was clean, organized and it wasn’t lining you up with a future bout of lung disease. I would engineer sessions for Vance Wright (Slick Rick’s DJ) my junior and senior years in high school, and my pops would roll down there with me and watch me blow the $300 I earned in the sessions the night before. When you’re 17 years old with no bills, so goes life. My best memory wasn’t a record I got, but the people I met. Godfather Don (who remains a cult classic producer/artist) and Herb McGruff (who rolled with Big L, Cam’Ron & Ma$e and later got a major deal with Heavy D) had done a 3 song demo tape together that never came out. They were two cool and humble dudes, and Don gave me his last copy of the tape because I actually knew about his barely known Hazardous LP. The demo was hard as hell, and I still have it today (apparently, neither Don or McGruff have a copy, or so I’ve heard).
6. FURNITURE SHOP ON WARBURTON AVE. (Yonkers, NY)…defunct
Yonkers should be the 6th borough of NYC. Right above The Bronx, It’s a racially segregated -they didn’t de-segregate their public schools until they fell under pressure to do so in 1986, word to Gorton HS- and corrupt place, and in the early 90’s, the Southwest part of town (Getty Square, Nodine Hill) wasn’t a place you’d wanna fuck around. Besides the fact that I found the entire Wildpitch catalog on cassette (for $1 each) in the old Getty Square Woolworth’s, there was a furniture shop/thrift store right on the grimiest part of Warburton Ave. I went in there dead in the middle of the Blizzard of 1996, and it was no warmer inside than it was outside. The inside was a dark, moldy, asbestos laden nightmare, but they had some serious funk 45’s in that bitch. I found just about every Kool and The Gang 45 worth a listen in one giant box. There were also a bunch of obscure jazz fusion records, but of course they were beat to shit. I think I may have been the only collector that saw that place, because I came back there in the spring (with a dust mask this time) and it had been closed. OSHA probably got notified when somebody croaked.
5. SHORT LIVED RECORD STORE, NAME UNKNOWN (New Rochelle, NY) …defunct
I don’t even remember the name of this joint, it opened in 1996 and it closed the same year. Owner was a coochie mouth who priced everything way too high and was a dick about people "manhandling" the records. But I was cool with one of the cats that was down with Roughhouse Survivors (a local Grand Puba mentored group) and his man was working there. One day I was just browsin through records I couldn’t afford when homie walks in. All he says is, "just get whatever you want Jay, its on me". I knew this dude was in grime mode, but fuck asking questions, I took a stack of records worth about $500 and put em on the counter. This dude took about 7 crates. All of a sudden, his other man pulls up in a big ass Sanford & Son pick-up truck and the dude just starts loading. The whole time, his man that’s workin there is like "y’all hurry the fuck up, the owner is comin back!". When I realized what was goin down, I grabbed some more over priced Blue Note shit I knew I could sell downtown, hopped in the truck and broke north. My man even gave me a ride home. A week later I went back to the spot and the shit was out of business. I took all the records I stole down to the city to sell and made a stack off of them. It was enough to pay for my last few driver’s ed classes and some new clothes and books for college in the fall. That’s what you get for trying to stick Manhattan tourist prices in New Ro.
4. INTEGRITY ‘n’ MUSIC (Weathersfield, CT)
My pops lived up in CT, and he put me on to this place when I went up there to visit. It was old, but clean and extremely organized. Maybe CT dudes hit this place up, but I never heard anybody from NY mention it. The owner didn’t seem to like rap, so he priced it dirt cheap. Better for me, I got The 5th Platoon’s “The Partyline” “12, The UBC’s 2 All Serious Thinkers LP, King Tee’s Tha Triflin Album and Intelligent Hoodlum’s “Black & Proud” “12 all for $1 total. Yes, $0.25 a piece. Those records (the first three in particular) are a bitch to find today, let alone cheap. They also had tons of dope childrens records -I copped a mint condition copy of the Roosevelt Franklin album in there for $1- and 70’s jazz fusion. If you like those late 70’s Blue Note “Who Got The Props?”, ‘throw a filter on it’, 1994 type of samples, you would’ve had a blast in there. Most records were $5 or less.
3. ADDICT EX-DJ (New Rochelle, NY)
One day in 1994, some dude (who was obviously on something) was outside Vance Wright’s studio on Main St. with a crate of about 300 45’s. Not sure if he was on his way to get a fix, but he had joints worth scrappin over. Not just standards like James Brown, but Ricky Williams’ “Discotheque Soul”, The Pazant Bros.’ “Chick-A-Boom” and a bunch of other limited press shit that costs a semester of state college today. Of course most of em were a bit fried, but I’m not a condition snob, just throw some alcohol on the shit and shut the fuck up. He asked us for $300, but me and Vance talked him down to $50. We gave him $25 a piece and of course, I took all the good shit, sorry Vance. Crack is a horrible drug, but damn did we get some joints. Hopefully that dude cleaned himself up.
2. OUT OF THE PAST (Chicago, IL)
AKA Don’t Go Into The Basement and Kill Yourself, Don’t Ice Grill Nobody Outside and Kill Yourself.
This may be my favorite record store in the world, but it’s not for the squeamish, the impatient, the overly health conscious or those that don’t like to go into the hood. My homie DJ Rude One put me on to this joint in the West Side of Chicago a few years back, and when I went in there, I didn’t know whether to turn my ass around or go get an OSHA mask and a sleeping bag and come back and live there for a year. Before you even get inside, you spot the gang activity cameras outside and usually 4-5 serious looking dudes out front grilling anybody that walks up in there. If you go in the winter, there may or may not be some ol school pimps on the grind in some furs that contain at least 8 or 9 endangered species. You have the option of buying one of the $2 tall white tees in the store windows, and when you get inside you’re bombarded with a 20% organized smorgasbord of cassettes, 8 tracks, defunct toys, VHS tapes, stethoscopes, fly paper hung from the ceiling, a James Brown 45 collage on the wall, random junk and about a zillion albums. The first time I saw it, I had 20 minutes to look around before my flight. I grabbed some super rare and regional gangsta rap tapes off the wall and a few local 500 press funk 45’s that were sitting on top of a discontinued board game with no board inside and broke out. I went back another time and took 3 steps into the infamous dungeon basement. The mold and ammonia stopped me in my tracks, but I did see a bunch of sealed Syl Johnson LP’s at the bottom of the staircase. Nonetheless, I valued my life too much to go all the way down. Every carcinogen known to man could be down there somewhere. I’ve also heard rumors of a dead bat (and a living one too), a truck that somehow managed to park down there and basically any album you want -if you’re willing to put in the time and get into a brawl with your respiratory system- are too. If I ever knew I had a month left to live, I’d go down there with no protection and go out with a bang. I went with Rude and Large Professor, and even Large (aka Digger Extrodinaire) took one look at the basement and said "fuck all that" and turned his ass around. Prices vary, but I don’t mind. The experience is as good as the selection, and my trip to Chi Town is incomplete without it. Every collector has to go there at least once or they haven’t experienced what record hunting is all about. On that note, if I ever heard they organized that place or brought it up to code, I’d never go back. Oh, and to OSHA, PETA and the CPD…ain’t no suckas live here!
1. ALL EARS RECORDS AKA “THE DINER” (New Brunswick, NJ)…defunct.
Damn, what a joint. After searching high and low for the first 4 Kool & The Gang albums to no avail, I resorted to the Yellow Pages (no internet in 1990 and I was depending on my pops to drive me around). This dude had his # in the Manhattan Yellow Pages for some reason, so I gave him a buzz. Not only did he have every record I was looking for, but the prices weren’t on the standard Colony/Bleeker Bob/Golden Disc/House Of Oldies tourist bullshit. Me and my pops took a ride out there and the dude is sitting in a record cluttered condemned diner in the middle of New Jersey. No browsing allowed. You call, he goes to his “warehouse” and gets the records and meets you at the “diner”. The first Kool & The Gang album for $20 was a steal even back then, but now the shit is over $100 and getting harder to find by the day. It’s the most valuable piece of wax I own, but more for sentimental reasons. He threw in Live At The Sex Machine, Live At PJ’s and the first Best Of … all for $80. I saved up for weeks for that trip, and he held the records for me too. Legend has it that Q-Tip, Juju (Beatnuts) and Large Pro got access to the “Warehouse”. Word also has it that all of these records were a front for some federal crime related shit the dude was doing, and he’s probably playing dominoes somewhere upstate now. Could just be a rumor though, who knows. Either way, I passed by the diner in 2007 and to my surprise, it’s still standing. It’s vacant of course, but it felt good in knowing gentrification didn’t wipe out my own personal landmark.
Sorry I don’t have any Egon-like stories of getting arrested in Peru while finding records, but I never had the money/time to really smash overseas. When I was there, it was always venue, hotel, airport and maybe the most common record spot in town if we had time. I don’t do it like I used to, but every once in awhile I’ll hit a dollar bin for sport. These are my standout memories, feel free to share yours….
10 UNPOPULAR HIP-HOP OPINIONS
Because somebody disagreeing with popular opinion ain’t being a “hater” …its called "having an opinion".
Hip-Hop opinions, I hate em. Why? Because hip-hop is the only form of music where your opinion will get your head blown off. Have you ever seen a Biggie vs. 2Pac argument in a barber shop? I rest my case. Well, hopefully the demographic that checks for this corny little blog I have is grown enough to accept clashing opinions on the world’s most violent genre of music, and they‘re too worried about their mortgages to care about something this trivial and silly. We need to argue this stuff out like the old men in the barber shop in Coming To America, not the dudes that will wait for you outside the Brooklyn barber shop for not being a Jay-Z fan. When I say things like “TROY” isn’t in my Top 5 favorite Pete Rock beats, I’m usually met with a screw face, but opinions are opinions, no more no less.
So here’s a fun little debate for all my fellow rap FANS (that means everybody‘s opinions are equal)…you all know that there’s an album that’s regarded as the Thriller (RIP MJ) of hip-hop, but you never really got into it. Stop frontin. Or maybe the album where MC Such and Such fell the fuck off to the general public is the only one you like by him. Whatever your oddball opinion is, put it out there, because I’m sick of the same lists of best albums in hip-hop history. Have some balls and stop being so damn textbook. Let’s have some friendly debate as rap FANS.
Here are my unpopular opinions. Please respond with yours. Argue as a FAN, not as a know it all. It’s all opinion anyway…or will someone get death threats?
I’VE ALWAYS FELT THAT…
10. M.O.P’s BEST ALBUM IS TO THE DEATH
It’s often written off as a demo by the group themselves (a la No More Mr. Nice Guy by Gang-Starr). And I KNOW, Primo and M.O.P go together like hot sauce and catfish. But those low budget, non-musical, semi-amateur rock demo beats on To The Death go so well with the uncouth, crass and barbaric image that embodies the M.O.P. we all love so much. Fame and Billy Danze sound like they just rapped over whatever the fuck was in the studio that day, but that’s what makes M.O.P so great. Just look at the Rugged Neva Smoove video with the OG version vs. the Primo remix. Primo’s remix is crazy, but the OG makes you want to go into one of those hipster loft parties in Williamsburg and just fuck it up for everybody.
9. EFIL 4 ZAGGIN > STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
OK, Cube was obviously the best MC in the group. Best MC leaves, rhyme content suffers. Given. But when the production quality goes up tenfold, the new album plays like a god damn Tarrentino film and the entertainment value goes through the roof, I think we have a new winner. And is it me, or is MC Ren one of the most slept on MC’s in history?
8. LEGAL > YOUNGEST IN CHARGE
Sometimes I wish that Legal came out in a donut hole album cover, then I may have a better chance when trying to win this debate. Like many albums in 1990, Legal suffers from it’s artwork (which features pics of Ed in some horrendous homemade gear and laid out in vogue shots). I remember going with my cousin to Music Factory on Jamaica Avenue when this dropped, and we’re standing in the store looking at the cover. Without hearing it, I assumed Ed went pop and I bought the K-Solo and Lord Finesse albums instead. My cousin had a crush on Ed, so she bought Legal anyway. When I heard her playing it, I stole the tape. I Like “I Got It Made” as much as the next man, but Ed’s performance on here crushes Youngest In Charge. And Howie Tee is slept on for no reason. The “Im The Magnificent” remix bodies the OG, and EVERY track on here was hittin. “Ready 2 Attack” and “Cmon Lets Move It” still knock hard, and I think “Ya Wish Ya Could” was the first to put “Superman Lover” to use. “5 Men & A Mic” is a Top 10 posse cut to me. Even the reggae cut was better than the one on Youngest In Charge. I like his debut, but it ain’t touchin Legal. Lets just hope they reissue it with different art.
7. BUSINESS AS USUAL IS EPMD’s BEST ALBUM, BY A LANDSLIDE
Here’s an example of a groundbreaking group’s debut overshadowing better albums in their catalog, simply because the first time you ever heard them you were blown away. This happened with Eric B. & Rakim and a few others, but we’ll examine the least controversial case first, EPMD. Nobody from NY rapped this slow and funky, nobody used Eric Clapton loops and nobody DARED use their government names to rap under. EPMD broke ground with their debut, Strictly Business. But their “reloaded” approach when they signed to Def Jam for their third album, Business As Usual, took the cake. EPMD were harder, smarter and more polished. It also helps when arguably the best all around DJ in hip-hop (DJ Scratch) is now in the group and you’ve added some subject matter besides “Jane” to your songs (“The Steve Martin” didn’t count and this album had the best “Jane“ story by far too). Pound for pound, Strictly Business ain’t comin close to Business As Usual. I’ll end this argument with taste of classic from a new, improved and more arrogant Parrish Smith on “I’m Mad”:
“In my 560, lampin on my Metro phone/ chrome kit beamin all off your dome/ like a sucker, yeah, you look the other way/ that’s how I know you’re on my dick, kid, but it’s OK/ it’s normal…” Mean. I won’t even mention his verse on “Rampage” or the fact that this album introduced the world to Redman, because then you wouldn’t have room to argue.
6. I LIKED A TRIBE CALLED QUEST’S ALBUMS IN DESCENDING ORDER
I may be the only dude on earth that liked People’s Instinctive Travels… the best. Tribe is a group that deviates from the norm, in that people seemed to like them the most mid way through their career as opposed to at the start. I remember goin crazy over the “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” video in 1990, but everybody I knew thought it was corny. Their debut album (Peoples Instinctive Travels…) was only trumped (at that time) by 3 Feet High & Rising and Paul’s Boutique as the most ambitious lesson in sampling ever assembled. I won’t snitch because I doubt all that shit was cleared, but not many people touched all the genres they did in 1990. It went on deaf ears until “Bonita Applebum” blew up, then every ensuing album was a bigger and bigger hit, leaving Peoples… in the forgotten files. I loved Low End Theory nearly as much, but I can accept a lashing from the entire rap world for admitting I only got into 3-4 songs on Midnight Marauders. I’m not a big Fender Rhodes fan, if that means anything. The same went for the two albums after. They had their moments, but “I don’t eat no ham n eggs, cause they’re high in cholesterol” may be the best/worst hook ever written. You gotta have a set of balls to do that.
5. LL COOL J’s SECOND BEST ALBUM IS WALKING WITH A PANTHER
There’s little doubt that Mama Said Knock You Out is LL’s best work. In 1990, a recharged LL and Marley Marl made 14 tracks of magic that were timeless (and he didn’t even curse on that album). But the great debate is always “what’s his second best album?” It usually boils down to Radio or Bigger and Deffer. I also know one psycho that insists its 14 Shots To The Dome, but he also still wears a Carhartt jacket in 90 degree weather and still says phrases like “catchin wreck”, “flip the script” and “keep it real” in regular conversation. Safe to say, he’s stuck in 1993, he don’t count. I always had love for Walking With A Panther, even when it was hated by the rap community at large. I read an interview with Bobbito and he said he was interning at Def Jam when it dropped and he thought it was “bone” (read: Trash). OK, so he had a few corny ballads, but what groups aside from PE, NWA and the Beastie Boys didn’t in 1989? LL murdered that god damn album, from start to finish. Bottom line, it has “Big Ole Butt” and “1900 LL Cool J”, case closed. Y’all were just jealous because it was 1989 and he was bangin high priced hoes over sinks in minks instead of buying Africa Medallions in Chinatown. Fuckouttahere, he was ahead of his time on this album and his staggering level of arrogance was beyond royal.
4. PAID IN FULL IS NOT ERIC B. & RAKIM’S BEST ALBUM, NOR IS IT THE SECOND, OR THE THIRD
Let The Rhythm Hit Em is the best album the group ever made. Not only is Ra in a zone, but the fingerprints of a late great Paul C and a still in John Bowne HS Large Professor are all over this one. The beats on this album are damn near flawless. “Mahogany” is Ra at his storytelling best, and “Run For Cover”, “Keep Em Eager To Listen”, “No Omega” and the title cut are all vicious. “In The Ghetto” could possibly be Rakim’s best song ever, so it leaves me to wonder why Paid In Full is always unanimously seen as the groups best offering. Nobody will deny how the algebra of taking 7 MC’s and putting em in a line re-invented the MC game, or how “I Know You Got Soul” and “Eric B Is President” still rock a party, but lets not clutch at straws for the sake of being Rooftop-era nostalgic. The album also had “Chinese Arithmetic” (say what?) and a handful of filler. Paid In Full was our first glimpse of somebody that would become a candidate for the best who ever did it, but a first impression, while the most lasting, isn’t necessarily the best impression. As far as the group goes (excluding Rakim solo efforts), I always felt Paid In Full was their weakest effort, essentially a collection of dope singles and a few filler tracks (which was the norm at that time). Go back and listen, and if you still feel that Paid In Full is actually better than Let The Rhythm Hit Em (or even Follow The Leader and Don’t Sweat The Technique for that matter), then we’ll agree to disagree.
3. FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET > NATION OF MILLIONS…
Hip-hop blasphemy, I know, but I always thought Black Planet was a much better album than Nation Of Millions. Nobody had done what PE did with Nation Of Millions, so the music world was in awe and the bar was set high. Black Planet took what they did 5 notches higher, but that’s such a tall order that when you actually do it, nobody notices . With the turmoil of 1989 (the Professor Griff drama, etc.), Chuck only had more ammo on Black Planet, and he matured as an MC. The conversational tone he used on “Pollywannacracka” was previously uncharted territory for him. “Weclome To The Terrordome” and “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” are the best examples I can come up with for a perfect hip-hop record and for Flav’s solo shot, “Can’t Do Nuthin For Ya Man” , has “Cold Lampin With Flavor” beat by a mile. If you’re talking production, nobody thought the Bomb Squad could take the wall-of-sound approach further than what they did on Nation Of Millions, and they did it with Black Planet. “Revolutionary Generation” and the use of the Prince guitar riff for “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” will either make you want to re-invent the wheel or give up producing altogether. They took this style to the max on the Son Of Bazerk album, but Black Planet was so focused and cohesive, yet so cacophonic, that all you can do is sit there and wish you made it. As amazing and epic as Nation of Millions was, it didn’t give me the frustrated motivation that Black Planet did, if that makes any sense. Add to all this that it was made in the same sessions as Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison albums (two more of my favorites), its no wonder why I prefer it. Speaking of Cube, his verse on “Burn Hollywood Burn” had nothing to do with the song, but it was the hardest 8 bar verse ever. That’s all the more reason Fear Of A Black Planet was a better album than Nation Of Millions.
2. TOUGHER THAN LEATHER > REST OF RUN-DMC’s CATALOG
Let’s face it, Run-DMC’s fame was declining in 1988, so they took the approach of the most popular group of the time (Public Enemy) and tried a sample stacked production style…and the result was this amazing and unfairly panned album. As a kid, I sang “Sucker MC’s” every day walking to school, “My Adidas” was my shit and “You Talk Too Much” was a favorite quote of mine, but I was never floored by a full Run-DMC album until Tougher Than Leather came out. The debut was OK and Raising Hell was the best rap album up to that time, but King Of Rock was weak to me. I support musical growth and all, but I never bought into therap/rock thing I thought it was corny (I still cant listen to “Walk This Way” or “Rock Box”). Adidas endorsements and Aerosmith collabs helped give em the worldwide love they deserved, but I always felt that Tougher Than Leather was the best they had to offer. “Beats To The Rhyme” is just insane, as is “Run’s House”. “How You Do It Dee?” is the best use of a Meters sample I’ve ever heard, and the use of pan mixing and sample chopping on “I’m Not Goin Out Like That” was ridiculous. JMJ (RIP) and David Reeves went all out on this one production wise. This is all producer nerd shit, but so be it. All of their auto-biographies (and JMJ’s biography) allude to a mound of personal problems and lack of focus during the making of this album, but I always felt Tougher Than Leather was Run and them at their best. Their debut was the ground breaker, King Of Rock pushed them up a notch and Raising Hell had the hits, but I cant be textbook in saying that any of those were realistically their best albums, especially the first two.
1. IT WAS WRITTEN WAS LYRICALLY BETTER THAN ILLMATIC
I’m expecting to be ambushed by keep it realers for this but, fuck it. The producer line up of Illmatic was the god damn dream team and the flossy and jiggy Trackmasterz handled It Was Written, so I’m not talking production here. But that, fact plus the fact that Nas traded in his Columbia rain suit (them shits made you sweat your balls off) for an Armani sweater pissed everybody off. What the fuck do you expect? The dude left Queensbridge, he can’t front like he’s still there. Anyway, It Was Written was crushin Illmatic on the rhyme tip, but I felt the image, style and beat changes threw everyone for a loop. “I Gave You Power”, “The Message”, “Black Girl Lost”, “Shootouts”, “Suspects” and the tape only “Silent Murder”? Those repped Nas at his best. Illmatic represented a return to rapping for real after a year of gimmick rap where nobody could complete a sentence. 1993 was more about onomatopoeia, screaming and "flipping ill styles". Let’s be for real, if your name wasn’t Sticky Fingaz, it wasn’t working for you. Even pretty boy rappers bought field jackets and went that route. It was corny. Illmatic was a breath of fresh air (in the same boat as Resurrection and Word Life…albums with major distro that actually featured people rappin for real), but was Nas’ performance better on there than It Was Written?…hell naw!
P.S…I liked Wu-Tang Forever better than 36 Chambers and Words From the Genius better than Liquid Swords, but arguing those is pointless, LOL. Especially the latter.
Grow a set of balls and list your unpopular rap opinions!