Things Done Changed: Hip-Hop In 1988
– Written By grYmes
Many consider 1988 the greatest year in hip hop because of the innovative & classic albums that dropped that year. There are so many records that gave you a variety of styles, concepts, & just ill rhyming. Material that nearly 30 years later people can listen to & be amazed. The views expressed here politically with certain acts alone are relevant STILL in 2018. ’88 is one of those years where lightening was caught in a bottle. I hear so many stories from older cats about how it was the greatest time to be a hip hop fan & I envy them..
Top 10 Albums
Eazy-Duz-It – Eazy -E
Eazy-E was & is the face of N.W.A. The lil’ man with a big mouth that can back up the talk was truly raps breakout star in ’88. He brought an energy to gangsta rap that made the sh*t fun. He drew you in with his delivery & charisma. It was only right that he would have the first solo album. While its true that The D.O.C., Ice Cube & MC Ren did the bulk of the writing, only Eazy could of added the twist that be brought to the table. His voice is perfect for the bumpin West Coast sound Dr. Dre & DJ Yella produced.
Even with ghostwriting from the best the west had to offer, you won’t mistake Eazy for a lyrical giant. He doesn’t have to be though. This isn’t for that. This album like Straight Outta Compton before it takes you to the wild environment that is Compton through Eazy’s eyes. Standout tracks like the title track, “We Want Eazy”, “Easier Said Than Done” & “Radio” is flooded with great beats. With Eazy taking you on a wild journey guns blazing. While there are some drop offs that show’s Eazy’s limited ability to carry some of the lesser beats of the album, overall this was fun. N.W.A was at full strength at this point. This along with the groups first album & The D.O.C.’s debut the following year is a lasting legacy that made the west coast arguably the best coast for hip-hop.
Straight out the Jungle- Jungle Brothers
The Native Tongues collective all began with this album. The Jungle Brothers were known for they’re own unique sound. A mix of Jazz, Hip-Hop & House Music that was unlike anything else during this time. Mike Gee & Afrika Baby Bam had some pretty good chemistry on the mic together as well. Positive down to earth rhymes that kept things simple yet never seemed too dumbed down or unpolished. The albums title track serves as a perfect inro to what they’re about. Reppin’ their black medallions as the Afrocentric era of hip hop was in full swing in ’88. This is immediately followed by two dope tracks dealing with the pitfalls of crime & race relations in general. The later (“Black is Black”) featuring a pre “Peoples Instinctive Travels” Q-Tip.
“Jimbrowski” is a funny track about the benefits of rubbers for those not aware. The rest of the album seems to be a mixed bag. There’s great highlights like the the hip hop/house music influx “I’ll House You”. Fun tales of being on the road & the fairer sex (“On the Run”/”Because I Got It Like That”). Other songs dealing with the females (“I’m Gonna Do You”/”Behind the Bush”) haven’t aged very well & come off a lil corny. It may of been its intent but compared to the other great tracks its average. The closer “The Promo” boasts another Q-Tip feature & feels like its a bridge to Tribes debut. This album has been hailed as a classic in some circles. I personally don’t think so, but its a good debut with fresh bouncy beats & engaging lyrics. Laying the foundation for other great Native Tongues joints to follow.
Critical Breakdown – Ultramagnetic MCs
Critical Beatdown is without a doubt an influential showcase of lyrical dexterity. The terminology & rhyme schemes used in this album are innovative. Kool Keith & Ced-Gee’s rap styles are second to none when together & they complement each other extremely well. The beats on this album are top shelf without a doubt. Ced-Gee takes production credit for the majority & I commend him. The tracks on this album alone have been cut & pasted onto many great songs throughout the 90’s. Kool Keith in my opinion shines on this album lyrically. Of course this would pave the way for his very much successful string of solo joints later on. Ced-Gee is no slouch either on the mic, good for droppin heavy hittin punchlines.
The original 12” cut of “Ego Trippin” is legendary & surprising to think this dropped a full two years before this album was released. You’d be hard pressed to find a track that’s at the very least average. I guess the only major fault is that if a album full of battle rhymes & male prov-ado isn’t for you then you might be turned off by it. Plus the second to last track “When I Burn” is probably the weakest song (the title does it no favors). This album set the bar high as far as lyrical groups in hip hop. Unless you’re down with more underground stuff you won’t see a lot of mainstream rappers with this type of style. Nothing wrong with that. However, if you desire using the seek button on your smartphone or tablet or whatever multiple times to catch the subtle wordplay ya missed, this is the album for you.
Strictly Business – EPMD
EPMD was at one time the quintessential rap duo. Parish Smith & Erick Sherman in their first four albums had classic upon classic songs where they traded hardcore rhymes. This debut started it all. The title track kicks this off (as most albums do during this time I noticed) & it’s on point. Taking samples from “I Shot the Sheriff” & their own joint “It’s My Thing” to craft a banger. Sampling is heavily throughout this album & it’s done masterfully. EPMD both built these beats from the ground up (Erick Sherman flourishes as the better producer). At a tight 10 tracks EPMD put the cream of the crop on this release. Full of lighthearted but never dull party jams & battle raps.
Other highlights include the base thumpin classic “You Got’s to Chill”. Complete with the cold “Jungle Boogie” sample. “You’re a Customer”, which features the infamous “smack me & I’ll smack you back” line that may or may not of been directed at Rakim (I’m sure this was cleared up on an episode of Drink Champs). While I’m not a big fan of “The Steve Martin”, the duo still provides some entertainment to keep it from being a complete dud. The album closes out with the first installment of “Jane”. I’m sure every pussy lovin’ individual had a Jane at some point so the joint resonates. The flipped “Mary Jane” sample keeps it funky throughout. Before Mobb Deep, OutKast, the Clipse, & other great duos in Rap.. EPMD was their father. This album began a 5 year or so run that few duos can ever equal.
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
The West has had some acts drop before them, but none was more ground breaking and controversial than N.W.A.The collective is legendary. I’m not gonna bore you with the backstory, if you’re reading this I’m sure you’re well aware. We’re just gonna take the time to look at this classic that shook hip-hop up and put many outsiders on notice. The title track is probably the greatest introduction to any group ever. Its one of those songs that you can put on anywhere at anytime & it’s bound to get a response. You can definitely say the same for “Fu*k the Police”. One of the many songs from this era that can come out today & be just as divisive & thought provoking as it was then. Dr. Dre early on had established a seal of approval when it comes to beatmaking that’s nearly unparalleled. DJ Yella & himself crafted the perfect backdrop for the aggression of Cube, Eazy, & Ren. Aggression that every young minority out West was feeling but didn’t have a voice in rap until then.
MC Ren is underrated. This album IMO shows that clearly with the solo cut “If it ain’t Ruff”. The D.O.C. as well is all over this album. With writing credits & a scene stealing lyrical performance on “Parental Discretion Iz Advised”. The star of the show on the mic tho is Ice Cube. Supplying Eazy & Dre with rhymes that fit with they’re flow & attitudes (“8-Ball”, “Express Yourself”). As well as lettin the ladies know he ain’t down for that sucka sh*t with “I Ain’t tha 1”. The album is a non stop thrill ride.. that kinda grinds to a halt with the outta place “Something 2 Dance 2”. I let it slide cuz, well it was the 80’s. If Schoolly D, Ice-T & Just-Ice laid the ground work for gangsta rap, N.W.A bust it wide open. Hip hop as a whole was never the same again after this classic.
To Be Continued…