Widge's Note: As threatened, here is Brian from Quick Stop Entertainment's Cabin Fever to let you know about his life with hip hop, as a gateway to he and his amigo Aaron doing semi-regular hip hop reviews for the site. Enjoy.
Hip-hop 'n' Me
I remember the first time I ever heard gangsta rap. It was the summer of 1995, I was 14, and myself and my friend Brian were playing Mega Bomberman in his room. This was the norm for us, and we had spent countless hours gleefully blowing each other up over the previous months when we should have been doing homework. I wasn't quite the lover of music I am now; I had dabbled in a little British indie like Stone Roses and Oasis leading to a lifelong hero worship of Noel Gallagher, and I had been known to make idiotic claims like Green Day were the greatest band ever (I was fourteen...what do you want from me?!). One day Brian popped in a tape his brother had given him a few weeks before. I remember laughing when he told me who it was--I mean what kind of name was Snoop Doggy Dogg? Could beagles sing? Despite my mockery he pressed playâ€¦and blew my mind.
At first I thought he was playing the wrong tape, because it sounded like audio from a dodgy porno for bathtub fetishists. I had never heard of an album having an intro before, and the concept intrigued me to no end. It set the album in a time and place like nothing I had ever heard before. I had no clue where or when that was, but it felt infinitely more authentic than a bunch of scruffy Mancunians belting out nonsense about spreading their wings to flyyyyyyy in some recording studio. There were more curses and f-bombs in that first two minutes than I had ever heard in all other music ever, and my wee little mind was partially blown. Then the first proper track kicked in and finished the job. There have been very few moments in my life where my understanding of what music could sound like has been completely turned on its head--the first time I heard Kind of Blue was one, my first viewing of the video for Windowlicker was another, but the biggest was the first time I heard "G Funk Intro".
I hated hip-hop as a kid, or "rap" as I called it then, and who could blame me? The only examples I had to go on were the odd few novelty tracks that popped up on the radio, usually by douchebags like MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice--but this was different. This felt dangerous, like something I would be afraid to get caught listening to by my dad. To this day, the first three tracks of Doggystyle still remind of that first listening, and I smile every time.
Doggystyle has been one of my favourite albums ever since, and definitely in my top three hip-hop albums. It would probably have to fight it out with All Eyez On Me for the number two spot though. I can never decide which one I like best. Anyone who has gotten lost in the awesomeness that is Tupac Shakur's fourth album will know why. It's just fantastic from start to finish, which is a major feat for a double album. Of its twenty-seven tracks, I can only think of one, maybe two of them that I don't love, and even at that I never skip either of them.
My absolute favourite hip-hop record however, is Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Unlike the previous two, it took me a long time to fall in love with this monster. I bought it back in 2000, some seven years after it was released, and at first thought little of it. It's as raw as they get, and sounds like it was produced on ancient equipment that a hobo took a dump on. Some of the backing tracks amount to little more than a beat and a simplistic riff on a Casio, but therein lies its charm. Over the space of about three years I found myself listening to it more and more, until one day it just jumped out of the stereo at me and demanded that I bow at its feet. RZA's production was exactly what the album required; not some smooth, slick Dr. Dre-esque work, but a stripped-down, bare, industrial wall of noise that works perfectly with the Wu-Tang Clan's style. Tracks like "Bring Da Ruckus", "Protect Ya Neck", and "C.R.E.A.M." still sound fresher and more potent than any of the crap that MTV cares to shovel out these days, and I urge anyone who is even slightly interested, to go out and buy the album ASAP.