As you may have gathered from the recent batch of Throwback Thursday posts, our influences in Dual Core come from various corners of the hip hop world. From last week’s west coast underground special, to UK hip hop, smooth jazzy rap, and down south crunk, this week we get down and dirty with some ‘90s gangster rap.
This is a special post for me (c64), as we focus on the first three hip hop albums I ever heard, and consequently fell in love with. They remain in my top 10 to this day.
Back in my early teens, I used to hang out at my friend Ben’s house after school, doing crazy teenage things like drinking sugary drinks and eating Mars Bars. He shared a room with his older brother, and when the house was empty, we used to play a bunch of his (usually off-limits) CDs. Some had Parental Advisory stickers – a new concept to me at the time, and naughty words in the song titles. Naturally, we started to listen to these CDs. Over and over again.
In what seemed like no time at all, I had learned step by step instructions on how to pack a bong, the reasons why hoes are unsuitable for long term relationships, and lots of useful pointers on using my AK-47. However, I had yet to grasp what these words actually meant.
Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle (1993)
Snoop’s debut release introduced me to the G-Funk production of Dr Dre, a distinctive California sound which borrowed heavily from the ‘70s P-Funk scene. The beats on Doggystyle sounded incredible. Heavy, funky and catchy. Snoop’s rhymes were the perfect fit – super smooth, yet at the same time gritty and evocotive.
When I first heard the start of Gz and Hustlas, the juxtaposition of a six year old kid against the dirty beat and explicit rhymes blew my simple little mind. And then there were the collaborations – Daz, Kurupt, Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg. I hadn’t heard music like this before.
At the time, gangster rap was getting a lot of bad press, and no doubt our parents wouldn’t want us to be guided by the questionable morals. But it was the beats, melodies and rhythm of the music that stuck in my mind. A mix of aggression, funk and rapid fire flows.
I still love this album. It was great to get to actually see Snoop perform all my childhood favourites in full a couple of years ago, for the album’s 20 year anniversary.
Cypress Hill – Black Sunday (1993)
Another 1993 album from the west coast, Black Sunday brought a wicked concoction of bass-heavy beats, laid back loops and eerie samples from DJ Muggs. Topped off with raps from B-Real – a guy who seemed to have a bad cold and gun fetish, and rhymes from his constipated sidekick, Sen Dog. It was an unorthodox, yet somehow perfect mix.
Mostly dealing with subjects such as getting stoned, shooting guns, and disliking the police, this was another album that you probably wouldn’t recommend to a 12-13 year old. But once again, it was the production aesthetic that stayed with me. Sometimes hazy and psychedelic, sometimes edgy and dangerous. I was infatuated.
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
The Wu’s debut album is largely considered a hip hop classic, with numerous soundbites and quotables that have since been sampled and re-assigned by other artists. Pretty much all of the members have gone on to be successful in their own right.
When I first heard this album, I was a little overwhelmed. RZA’s east coast beats were moody, purposely off-key and rough-edged, interspersed by odd kung fu samples and rambling interludes. The tracks featured a huge gaggle of different rappers with their own distinct styles. From Method Man’s smooth voice and charismatic flow, to the sloppiness of ODB, Ghostface Killah’s abstract visuals, and several other rappers that I still can’t fully tell apart, it was all pretty full-on.
I didn’t find this album as instantly gratifying as Doggystyle or Black Sunday, but over time started to appreciate the Wu-Tang sound more and more, to the point of 36 Chambers becoming a personal favourite.
In relation to our own music, RZA’s beats were a big influence in my early days of studying hip hop drum patterns. I remember noting that he only dropped the kick and the snare where really necessary to keep the music flowing. This minimalist approach helps his numerous layers of weird samples breathe, and leave adequate room in the mix for vocals and sword fights.
There’s so much more music that I’ve discovered off the back of these three albums, that I’m sure we’ll have a bunch of related posts in the future.