Though I do say so myself, this one's a corker.
1. Xzibit - Intro
He did good intros. And outros, as you'll hear later.
2. Eric B & Rakim - Know The Ledge
By this time, the 92 release of 'Don't Sweat The Technique', Eric B & Rakim couldn't disguise their mutual loathing and the album only features a brace of absolute stormers. That inconsistency in comparison to the rock-solid 'Follow The Leader' and 'Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em' (which I'm assuming you have, and if you haven't CORRECT that collosal lack in yr life now) wasn't important when the album did light up and not alot else in 92 scorched and seared like this. Also seek out 'Rest Assured' & 'Casualties Of War'.
3. A Tribe Called Quest - Electric Relaxation
Awwman I miss Tribe. The warmth. The humour. The sudden jarring incisiveness. Ali's music. Phife's always-unforgettable rhymes. Tip's unique delivery. Pound for pound 'Midnight Marauders' is Tribe at the absolute toppermost of their poppermost game. Wierd hearing them now, rap music that itself has become primary source-material for rap music, every line a stone-cold classic, every moment reminding you of just how many crews have tried to capture Tribe's stealth and grace, how many crews can't even come close. What a track from What an album from What a band of genii.
4. Tha Alkaholiks - Make Room
It's the Liks baby, it's the Liks: the glorious gurning farting pissing smoking wonder that was 'Only When I'm Drunk' first hipped me to these blatherdy-blatherdy-shitfaced-blatherdy gods of the West Coast but it was 'Make Room' that made '21 & Over' an essential addition to my 93 birthday wish-list. BIG.
5. Wu-Tang Clan - Reunited
HOLY MOLY WHAT a fucking album. MM gave me 3 pages to write about it WITH NO INTERVIEWS. I could've carried on for a few hundred pages more, still could cos every time I hear it I hear new things, new spaces, new rhymes I haven't been able to process before. Many would say 'too much in one sitting' - I couldn't disagree more violently, it's precisely the cumulative overload and excess (of sound, atmosphere and sheer seething lividity) that makes 'Forever' so essential a primer in hip-hop's infinite possibilities. Listened to over and over again, letting it choke you until it mapped both the frightmare of wakefulness and the twitching daydream that was sleep. Perhaps the most sprawling, stunning masterpiece of 90s hip-hop. (Gratifyingly, when I did finally get to speak to the RZA he was one of the most inspirational motherfuckers I've ever spoken to in my life. I'll put that up here eventually if I can find it).
6. Terminator X & The Valley Of The Jeep Beats
ft. Sista Soulja & Chuck D - Buck Whylin
Yes yes yes he's an ostrich-farmer now but holy fuckabix Batman - remember the video for this molten monster of a track? For those of us waiting the next PE (and that's pretty much what I spent much of the 90s doing) this was manna from heaven. WE ARE AT WAR.
7. Beastie Boys - Jimmy James
On this I will brook no riposte, Check Your Head, more than anything that preceded or followed it is THEE best Beasties album by several country miles. What an amazing feel Mario Caldato Jr. cooked up on this - (Iboughtahotdogfromwho?George Drakoulias would be proud) - & what sublime music the Beastie Boys created in their little shack out in Cali. Love the way the keyboards from Money Mark & Hurricane's scratching became genuinely twisted-out psychedelic components of the sound, a sound to which you could link a billion antecedents but that was still entirely unique.
8. Gang Starr - Check The Technique
If you paid me in drugs and cold cash I would air-rap the entirity of the 'Step In The Arena' LP off by heart. In the words of Baloo - maaaan what a beat.
9. Big Punisher - Twinz
Once had to verbally reprimand a student for his insistence that Big Pun was 'the greatest of all time'. He wasn't, in fact, no dead rapper was. He was, like most dead venerated rappers (bar the rightfully venerated Guru) overated & sporadically great. Just being honest.
10. Show & AG - Add On
OK, I'll admit it, I was unhealthily obsessed with the 'Goodfellas' album. Sorry, I mean I AM unhealthily obsessed with the 'Goodfellas' album. DANK IN EXTREMIS.
11. Black Moon - How Many MCs
From the still-heartstopping, still-mindblowing, still-fiendishlyaddictive, still-dark, still-heavy, still-life of Nuyorican/Arctic heat that was the ginogerous 'Enta Da Stage'. Check the bass and the way it rides the kick here. As us musos say: FKNNNCREDIBLE
12. The Roots - Table Of Contents
Ugggh, reading (for want of a better, less offensive epithet) whitefolk on the Roots is an oft-nauseating experience, that whole grisly schtick thrown down on 'conscious' rap artists that they're somehow offering a righteous corrective to hip-hop's more mainstream excesses. That's the LAST reason on earth you should hear the Roots, you should hear the Roots because they're getting better and better at making pop music and also cos tracks like this, from their finest LP ( 'Things Fall Apart', alongside 'Illadelph Halflife' the only Roots I can still be arsed with) sound like no-one and nothing else.
13. Blazhay Blazhay - Long Winded
From the above-pictured massively underrated album by a massively underated duo: PF Cuttin's productions were always some of the most divinely deranged, exquisitely executed East Coast matrixes of madness that 90s rap ever gave us, perhaps reaching a pinnacle on this strung-out slab of wonder. 'Danger' was the party-starter, this was a bad-vibes dancefloor disperser par excellence.
14. Real Live - Pop The Trunk
From the above-pictured massively underrated album by a massively underated duo, touched by the hand of Marley Marl and until I actually went to New Yoik the sheer stifling stress and strangeness of this did my head in. Then I saw where it came from and it made even more perfect sense. In senses concrete and concrète, the sound of the streets of a city whose heart contains no love. No love at all.
15. Busta Rhymes - Abandon Ship
Startling really exactly how wicked-odd 'The Coming' was in places, even though 'WooHah' should've had Busta planning paydirt: this to me was the unquestionable highlight. Listened back to back with Stereolab this makes even more demented sense. Impossible to dislike Busta.
16. Raekwon - Criminology
Even beyond 'Liquid Swords', 'Tical' or 'The Dirty Version', 'Cuban Linz' was THEE finest solo outing any of the Wu have perhaps ever given us. As with 'Forever' this wasn't because it contained lots of individual highlights, rather it was the flow of the record, the way it held you there in its world, absolutely refusing to either talk down to you or plead for your affection, just stood with you, let you see it all, immersed you in it's universe. The definitive sound of Winter 1995.
17. De La Soul - My Brother The Basehead
De La at their best. i.e not happy
18. Pete Rock & CL Smooth - I Get Physical
Like B & Rakim, another duo who ended up hating each other. Like B & Rakim, the lingering suspicion that one was 'carrying' the other. Like B & Rakim so beautifully blended and blisteringly blissful when they DID work it was heartbreaking to realise eventually that things couldn't go on. Pete Rock makes beats so unforgettable even CL's half-decent rapping sounds like a testament from a god. 'Mecca & The Soul Brother, 'Main Ingredient' (and Pete's later 'Soul Survivor' ) are Biblical texts your blasphemious kindly-ass should own. A few months ago I had Pete on the phone barking: "My kids listen to Black Eyed Peas (long silence). I have to say to them. THAT IS NOT HIP HOP". Bless.
19. Das Efx - They Want Efx
"The boogedy-woogedly Brooklyn boy's about to get his" - Das Efx's uniquely twisted verbal style, a mix between kindergarten-style glossolalia and street-level lightspeed-wit made 'Dead Serious' a rap record in its way as off-kilter and special-needs as DC Basehead or Boogiemonsters. In an era when plenty of bad poetry was speaking for millions it was nice to hear lines like: "Bum stiggedy bum stiggedy bum, hon, I got the old pa-rum-pum-pum-pum/ But I can fe-fi-fo-fum, diddly-bum, here I come/ So Peter Piper, I'm hyper than Pinochio's nose/I'm the supercalafragilistic tic-tac proI gave my oopsy, daisy, now you've got the crazy/Crazy with the books, Googley-goo where's the gravy/So one two, unbuckle my, um shoe/Yabba Doo, hippity-hoo, crack a brew/So trick or treat, smell my feet . . . " and KNOW that they spoke a truth you weren't finding anywhere else.
20. Outkast - Skew It On The Bar-B
"Aquemini", now almost forgot after the monsters that came after it, was the moment where I realised that Outkast were something seperate not only from the Southern hip-hop scene they emerged from, but from hip-hop & the rest of US pop full stop. The first two albums, though containing moments of wonder, had done nothing to absorb me throughout, had been racked next to my Goodie Mobb & Roots records - 'Aquemini' insisted on being filed next to Jimi, Miles, Arthur Russell - 'Skew It On The Bar-B' is one of its more conventional tracks but jeez what a propulsive blast, and it was so cool to hear Raekwon stepping out down the Atlanta streets.
20. Xzibit - Outro