We kick off our 12 Days of Early 90’s Hip Hop with a look at a 1991 classic.
The early 90’s was a golden era for hip hop. Some of the most impressive music of all time was created within a three or four year period (1993 in particular yielded an unprecedented body of work). Rap music made during this time consistently makes it not only onto the Greatest Hip Hop Album lists of all time, but also onto greatest album lists in more general publications, such as Rolling Stone and NME. I turned 14 in 1993 and would like to share my experiences, and responses to, some of those great albums. And whilst being old clearly sucks donkey cock, I would not have missed being a teenager during that time for anything. I am not choosing the best albums necessarily from that era. I am choosing the albums that had the greatest impact on me, and in the process I have to leave out some incredible joints such as Liquid Swords, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, and What’s My Name? Merry Christmas and get these fucking records!
De La Soul is Dead – De La Soul (1991)
Produced by Prince Paul and De La Soul
This album is the first on my list featuring the producing talents of Prince Paul. This difficult second record from De La came off the back of their debut: the critically acclaimed and hugely successful 3 Feet High and Rising. As three young (four if you count Prince Paul, who was also incredibly young) kids from New York, their first record had been an incomparable work of energy, positivity and depth – incorporating the D.A.I.S.Y theme, littered with technically impressive sampling and hooks, and held together by an edgy comedic game-show skit – the album consistently makes Greatest Album lists, something that is rare for rap. But it is this degree of fame, along with some criticism from elements of the Hip Hop fraternity that the album was “too hippy”, that served as the backdrop for this sophomore record that become –in an overt sense – a response.
From the artwork, featuring an upturned, and broken flowerpot with daisies in it. Right through to the skits that include a character dissing the group, before proclaiming. The group has an entirely harder edge in this record, but this in no way compromises the quality of the music. On the contrary, in this album Prince Paul makes true headway in solidifying the beautiful Jazz Rap sub-genre (along with Tribe etc) and confirms himself as a true master in production. In addition, the album takes swipe at the vulgarity of the Vanilla Ice success story, record executives and Arsenio Hall – who’d introduced them as Hip Hop Hippies on his show.
Stand out tracks include the commercially successful Ring, Ring, Ring (Ha Ha Hey) – prompting the same annoying voicemail message recording for everyone you ever knew – and Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays”. The best single on the album is, however Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa about a girl who is sexually molested by her father, before killing him, then falling to her death on the run from the police. It’s a well-accomplished single, which further typifies the edgier content on the record. Interestingly, a sample from this song features on Mommy, What’s a Gravedigga? on theGravediggaz debut record (which features later on this list).
Every successful businessman will tell you not to fuck with a winning formula, and yet this album did precisely that. Deliberately. As a response to extreme fame and scrutiny, it not only beats suicide but has left an indelible print on the music industry. It is also cool as fuck to retain your integrity. De La Soul is dope.