Five 90’s Rap Albums that Hold Up
I've been accused of being musically stuck in the 90's, and it's a bit true, especially when it comes to rap music. In the days before the cash-grab double-album era, the proliferation of featuring for the sake of featuring, and the time of skits; there were some great albums.
A good album is like a novel of short stories. It's a collection on a theme or a snapshot of a time. The album tracks need to be as strong as the singles.
Time as allowed me to to revisit some of my favorites from the 90's and see if they hold up. Here are five that have.
5. Skee Lo - I Wish
In March 1995 LA based rapper Skee Lo blew up with his song "I Wish." The song crossed over and was everywhere. That summer he released his debut album of the same name. Follow-up singles didn't quite reach "I Wish" levels, but the entire album is great.
Skee has a lot going on on this album, his rhymes are solid and he's a good storyteller. Musically it has a fantastic California funk sound. On top of all of it, the album is super honest, there's no posturing or swearing to swear. There's cool bragging ("Superman"), inspiration and warnings that are not corny ("Never Crossed My Mind", "Top of the Stairs"), hanging out songs ("Crenshaw") and the super fun ("The Burger Song").
4. Digital Underground - Sex Packets
This is the album that gave the world "The Humpty Dance." But it has so much more. That song was actually the second single from the album after "Doowutchyalike." From first to last this album showcased Shock G's P-Funk influenced fun sound. There are straight up great rap songs like "The Way We Swing" and silly, but still solid, songs like "Underwater Rimes." The only week point comes with the title song with it's odd sex hallucination dream thing, but it does lead into "Packet Man," an awesome conversation song between Shock and Humpty.
3.KRS-One - Return of the Boom Bap
Boogie Down Productions leader KRS-One dropped this solo project in 1993. After the dense BDP album Edutainment, KRS hooked up with some rising producers and made a rough, slamming Hip Hop album. A sign of a great album is if I like the into as a song on it's own, the DJ Premier produced "KRS-One Attacks" has a great beat and a few sparse samples from KRS reminding the doubters of his musical legacy. "Outta Here" is an autobiographical song, with its drum track and dash of piano it's made for blasting.
The whole album is a showcase of KRS's style of teaching and phenomenal rhyming skills. "Slap Them Up," "Sound of da Police," and ""P" Is Still Free" are some of the standout track of this outstanding album
2. Scarface - The Diary
1994's The Diary is the third solo album from The Geto Boy's Scarface. Presented as a whole, the entire album is a journey through the underworld, depression and paranoia. This is Gangsta Rap; stories of criminals and poverty, and the results and aftermath. I rarely can start this album without listing to the whole thing.
Scarface paints a picture of swagger attitude on the outside, someone being tough in a tough world, while inside his head there is conflict. Is a person trapped by circumstances, choices, or their mind? The first three songs, "The White Sheet," "No Tears" and "Jesse James" are three acts in that life. One does what they have to to survive; is it right and worth it because in the end we all die alone? Also, Face tells a heartbreaking story of struggle, pain, fear and death in the outstanding "I Seen a Man Die."
1. Ice Cube - Death Certificate
On his second solo album, Ice Cube fully came into his owe, musically and lyrically. it's a full on gangsta sound with a strong 70's funk influence. Lyrically the album is full-on rage, anger, controversial, and great. It has the same energy as great Heavy Metal or the blues, with Cube's complex rhymes and storytelling. The songs are (depressingly) still relevant today. Reality, poverty, and pain presented like a classic film; entertaining and engaging. Standout songs include "My Summer Vacation," "A Bird In the Hand" and "Alive On Arrival."