On the heels of the 25th anniversary of Wu Tang Clan's "Enter Da 36 Chambers" I am going to talk about the five songs that changed my life musically and culturally. And yes, these songs are in order.
Honorable Mention: Little Brother "The Way You Do It"
This song and album, "The Listening", came along when I was losing my faith and patience with Hip Hop music. At this time ringtone rap was taking over and substance was quickly fading away in Hip Hop and style was the new criteria for being a good rapper. Who knew that a trio from North Carolina would be the torch carriers at the time. In fact, after a while, they were no longer torch carriers to me. They became trailblazers. They created their own lane and didn't care if you liked it or not. They did them to the fullest. They created relate-able Hip Hop music for those of us that were out of the young trendy fads of the time and although they have better songs both as a group and individually that are far, far superior to this, this is the song that cemented them as my second favorite group of all-time.
5. Jill Scott "Gettin' In The Way"
A non-Hip Hop song made my list???? Nah, there is a Hip Hop element to this song, but that's not what drew me to it. To me everything about this song is perfection. The artist. The voice. The harmony. The music. The concept. The lyrics. The homage to Sesame Street. The video. I mean the vibe of this song is just so much to me. After hearing this song (and album) I was mesmerized by Jilly from Philly. This was a fusion of modern soul with a jazzy Hip Hop vibe to it. Definitely a huge inspiration when creating more chill type, jazzy beats.
4. Madvillian "ALL CAPS"
I'll never forget hanging with my man Fathom 9 (RIP) and he showed me this video. My eyes and ears had never heard such witchcraft before from these two guys I had no idea about (actually I did...I was aware of Lootpack and KMD, especially knew who Zev Love X was). This was a brand new sound in both beats and rhymes. The witty word play (MF) DOOM was giving and the gritty-ness of the "Loop Digga" was a perfect marriage over a full album. This album is like if two top tier athletes at the prime of their careers playing on the same team and put together a flawless season. One of a few albums I can just hit play on and let it ride and not skip a song (hmmm...another blog post???)
3. Common f. Slum Village "Thelonious"
This is where I was introduced to the brilliance of Jay Dee aka J Dilla. Although this song was originally on Common's "Like Water For Chocolate" album, it appeared as a hidden song on Slum Village's "Fantastic Vol. 2" album as well. I was well versed in Common, but I had to figure out who these new (not really) guys were. I was aware of Dilla from the Busta Rhyme and ATCQ days, but honestly he really never did anything on those albums that WOW'd me like "Thelonious" did. The bassline and the drums were Deity-like and had a simple complication to them. It felt too live to be programmed, but that's how Dilla manipulated his MPC. It was definitely this song that made me go and become a student of the beat making.
2. Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Blackstar "Definition"
So around this time I was heavy into the No Limit, Prophet Entertainment, Suave House, southern sound. Huge Ball and G fan, huge 'Kast fan and huge UGK fan. I'm a southerner and I was introduced into Hip Hop/Rap first by the Geto Boys then I migrated to listening to LL, the Native Tongues, BDP, Rakim, Kane...traditional Boom Bap Hip Hop. But at this time I was No Limit 80% of the time. I remember where I was when I heard this song/video. I was in my dorm room in 1998 attending Arkansas State University. I just came back from class and I laid on my bed and turned on Rap City. Juvenile's "Ha" had just went off and of course I was digging that junt. So I started just fumbling around doing something else and this song came on and I got caught up in the moment. I stopped what I was doing to listen to these two cats spit some heady, articulate, dope shit and they held my attention. Being able to decipher what you are saying helps, lol. They returned substance to the game and I became a big fan of all three (Hi-Tek on the beat) shortly after. "The Blast" is a top five song of all time in my book and "Black on Both Sides" is in my top 20 Hip Hop albums list.
1. Wu Tang Clan - C.R.E.A.M
If not for this song I don't know how my music taste would have panned out. THIS is the song that made me want to get deeper into Hip Hop. THIS was the song that made me want to rap. THIS is the song that made me want to make beats. THIS is the song that made ME. Kevin Youngblood. MaxPtah. Wu Tang created me. 1993 is when I was baptized into the culture of Hip Hop. The beat (a Stax sample, so there is a Memphis connection) was so dirty but sounded so fresh. The lyrics were strong, grimey, cloaked in reality and detailed to a point where if you closed your eyes you were with them. The hook, iconic. The title of the song is in the world's lexicon. The imagery of the video was grittly-beautiful. Forged in reality as well. I could easily say I've always been Hip Hop because I was well versed in Kane, KRS-One, Rakim, Lyte, EPMD and I can go on and on. But it was Wu-Tang's "C.R.E.A.M" that brought me in deeper and gave me my roots in creating my sound, my art, my culture and my foundation in Hip Hop.
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