Sunday, August 26, 2007

My 25. Finally.

I know I'm late with this, but my access to the internets is restricted at the DBC, outside of these mandatory posts. My tardiness can't be argued, but my choices are up for discussion.

1. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back/Public Enemy
Conceptually sound, impeccable production and powerful lyricism. I memorized every word, sample and sound of this record. I might still know it, too.

2. 3 Feet High and Rising/De La Soul
A groundbreaking declaration of individuality and creativity. The album proved that its okay to be different, as long as you're dope.

3. Amerikkka's Most Wanted/Ice Cube
Anchored by Bomb Squad production, Ice Cube make one of the edgiest records of his time. Nothing set me off like hearing these songs back in the day.

4. Black Star/Mos Def and Talib Kwelli
Indisputable proof that real hip hop can still be made, if you're willing to try.

5. Ilmatic/Nas
Perfect poetry and production from hip hop's greatest beat makers. No one tells a story like Nas.

6. Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk/Son of Bazerk
I've already written a lot about this group on this site. The most explosive release of the '90s.

7. Criminal Minded/BDP
KRS-One's voice was the primary instrument of the minimalist production of BDP's debut. His timing, inflection and emphasis are impeccable. The politics and philosophy were often confusing, but that only made things more interesting.

8. The Cactus Album/3rd Bass
Deadly serious and seriously funny at the same time. The best hip-hop duo, pre-Outkast.

9. De La Soul is Dead/De La Soul
A skillful reinvention complete with a read along storybook. I listened to this so much, the lyrics became part of my everyday conversation. Sometimes this manifests at inopportune moments, like when we group last week, and there was a debate over seating arrangements, and I said "I'm Hemroid! I'm the leader!"

10. Hard to Earn/Gangstarr
Consistently indestructible beats and rhymes. It took a guy from Boston and another from Texas to make some of the best NY hip hop ever.

11. And The Winner Is .../Chubb Rock and Hitman Howie T
Chubb Rock's compelling delivery belies his intelligence and sharp sense of humor: "Some artists mix me with go-go/Def lyrics but it sounds so-so. Howie T's production chops were at their apex here and the Chubbster was in rare form.

12. Young Black Teenagers/Young Black Teenagers
The Bomb Squad and four guys rapping at once, none of them black or in their teens. That's keeping it real. The Bomb Squad nearly outdid themselves here, giving the YBT a potent sonic landscape that matched frustration and rage of their lyrics.

13. All Hail the Queen/Queen Latifah
One of the best releases from the Native Tongue collective. The Queen rapped and sang over beats from hip hop's A-List of producers with gratifying results. The chorus of Wrath of My Madness still haunts me. What is she saying?

14. Straight Out The Jungle/Jungle Brothers
I really got into this after the Native Tongue had begun. I was aware of it when it came out and I was attracted to their laid back style. This was an innovative record that launched a musical movement and the first rap hybrid - hip-house.

15. Blue Funk/Heavy D
The Heavster didn't make this one for the ladies who loved Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown. Blue Funk, with production from Pete Rock, DJ Premier, was for the heads. Classic material.

16. Sex Packets/Digital Underground
The closest any hip-hop group got to the conviction and spirit of P-Funk. Shock G came with dual identities, tales of fictitious sex drugs and everything on the one. I still have my ticket stub from Gutfest '89.

17. Outkast/Aquemini
Hip-Hop's most consistent duo proved they were here to stay with their third solid release. The ultimate Oukast record is tainted only by the ungroovable "Mamacita."

18. Brand Nubian/One For All
Politics, religion and social commentary over phat loops and inspired production. Puba, Derek X and Lord Jamar's relaxed deliveries made making a classic look real easy.

19. Eric B & Rakim/Follow the Leader
Rakim's verbal dexterity grew more complex on their second album. The instrumental tracks, a rap rarity these days, were needed to digest Ra's vigorous wordplay and furious styles.

20. Run-DMC/Raising Hell
This record is so full of timeless tracks, it sounds like a compilation of hits. Raising Hell was a landmark moment for hip hop, after "Walk This Way," there could be no turning back.

21. The Notorious B.I.G./Ready to Die
Radio friendly hip hop with a street edge from Brooklyn's finest. This record would be the blueprint for any rapper dreaming of commercial success. But nobody could do it like Biggie.

22. Dr. Dre/The Chronic
The Doctor prescribed a heavy dose of funk, replaying the sounds of soul hits interspersed with the original voices. Rhymes from Snoop Dogg and humor from the D.O.C. made this operation a success. Dre created a professional reputation with this record that remains unshakable. However, his personal reputation ... let's just say were it not for Dre, the would be no DBC.

23. Pharcyde/Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
The Pharcyde rapped songs about lost love, regret, drugs and ya mama. J Swift's production on this record was jazz-influenced by it's samples and spontaneity. It was the roller coaster ride the record cover promised, thrilling from end to end.

24. Redman/Whut? Thee Album
Redman introduced the WTFF factor to hip hop. He steered clear of preset categories of rap music and created a lane for himself, with fearless approach to making songs. He even freaked in Korean.

25. A Tribe Called Quest/The Low End Theory
The promise of "People's Instinctive Travel ..." was fufilled on this release. The sounds were sparse, yet more effective and integral to the work as a whole. Phife came into his own as Q-Tip continued to perform at the top of his game.

Anyone surprised?


Anonymous said...

Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk/Son of Bazerk
and i quote Redman Whut?
What about...Eazy-E, Wu-Tang 36-Chambers,DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Pete Rock Cl-Smooth, Slick Rick,and on that 3rd base is that the album with step into the AM and gas face if it is i'll let that slide
1# fan

Craig Belcher said...

I'll address your comments as best as I can, since you didn't mention any actual album that should be on the list.

Eazy-E was a studio rapper who made good singles but not solid albums. The fact that most of this stuff was ghost written and he likely used guide vocals makes me question his artistic merit.

The low budget production of 36 chambers kept it off the list. It's landmark record that sounds like it was recorded in a damp basement.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince Another group that was known for it's signature songs, but not for classic albums.

Slick Rick probably shoulda made the list.

Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's Mecca and the Soul Brother is an embarrassing omission.


Mello Melanin said...

Craig, You Da Man!

This list took me back to high school and my college days! I think anyone that is serious about Hiphop as a culture and the Rap music industry should have all of these in their collection or at least find a way to listen to them.

What's krazy is what you said about how you still quote the De La Soul is Dead album. Me and some of my homeboys still quote it too!

You picked a good 25 albums. I'm sure there are more I can think of but why??? A novice can start here and an expert will consider this list sort of a homecoming. That's what's up!

I actually toured with KRS-ONE a few years ago and had a great time being onstage performing some of those classics from Criminal Minded and By All Means Necessary. Again man, the list is dope. I'm going to build on it at my blog at:

Have a great day.

Mello Melanin

P.S. The Dee Barnes Center name and theme is nuts! LOL!

Craig Belcher said...

Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I know I'm not the only one who's life was changed by this music and its good to hear from people feel strongly about it.

Machiventa said...

Dope list, damn near perfect. Definitely missing Slick Rick (toss up between the first 3), Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane & X-Clan - To The East, Blackwards. But of course that's your list. I'm gonna have to give Son Of Bezerk some more listens, I bought it back in the day but didn't listen to it much at all.

Mine would also include Black, Rock & Ron - Stop The World although I think I'm the only person in the world that would include this lol. Shit, I'd probably include Stet's In Full Gear too, I love that album to death, even the cheesy Force MD's joint - my wife even likes that. I've thought about doing a top 25 list too but these lists are always so hard, cause you end up leaving out some essentials.

I personally enjoy People's Instinctive Travels over any of Tribes other work. Also I prefer the JBeez second album, much better production, but again this is your Top 25. Great post!

d.l. said...

I began reading your 25 with the stone firmly in hand, positioned for the throw. Surprisingly, I cannot disagree with your choices. Well done Mr. Belcher. Any 25 with "De La" rating that high has my vote.

C.R. said...

wow, nice list.

surprise: someone actually admitting to like YBT ... i do too. their whole concept is flawed but i like the beats (the most understated bomb squad production i ever heard) and the rapping is ok.

you seem to be a fan of the bomb squad, so why isn't terminator x's first album on the list? just curious ... i think that one is well underrated and would probably even be in my top 10.

Craig Belcher said...

Thanks for your kind words.

I am a fan of the original Bomb Squad and Terminator X's first album has some great moments.

I don't think the talent behind the mics matched the talent behind the boards, however. Did any of those emcees ever come out?

If Terminator X was too busy to scratch on the song from P.E.'s second album that bears his name, what did he contribute to this or his second album? And why is raising ostriches?

C.R. said...

i'm not a native speaker, so i guess i tend to focus more on the production anyway. and i liked the diversity of mcs on the record, and to me the rapping just sounded good.

"If Terminator X was too busy to scratch on the song from P.E.'s second album that bears his name, what did he contribute to this or his second album? And why is raising ostriches?"

Man, all that Johnny Juice vs. TX stuff is still a mystery to me (and I haven't even begun wondering about the ostriches lol).

It says "produced by TX" and if you listen closely it does have a characteristic sound: the kicks have a LOT of bass but at the same time the sound is clearer than your usual Bomb Squad record.

And I really like that glitchy, stuttery type of scratching and I just want to believe it's TX ;)