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LINER NOTES FROM A MIXTAPE PART 2

Click here for the Part 1 of this series.

Before I start, I’d like to apologize to A Tribe Called Quest for not putting any tracks from The Low End Theory for (28)Years of Sommer. Just ain’t gonna work out…word to Mayer Hawthorne.

Part 2 of my megamix leaps into the 1990s. The 90s were my formative years, the wonder years of adolescence where boys become men.

(No “Motownphilly”)

Most of the songs here reflect my love of hip-hop and a couple other songs that I picked up since the glorious days of my youth.

1990 Bell Biv DeVoe “Poison”
“Hip-hop smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop appeal, feel to it.” That’s how Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe described their post-New Edition sound. While considered New Jack Swing (the hybrid of hip-hop and R&B), “Poison” is just a bit more hip-hop than R&B, harder drums and more rhyming than singing. It’s a dancefloor classic which I can never turn away from to this day.

Like Jerry Maguire, they had me at “Never trust a big butt and a smile.”

1991 – Geto Boys “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
This song has a lot of firsts in it. It’s arguably the first song about the downside of drug dealing: paranoia, regret, etc. (These themes would be explored late by artists like Biggie and Clipse.)

This atypical perspective coupled with Scarface’s diagnosed manic depression, resulted in some of gangsta rap’s darkest and most introspective lyrics over a brilliant Isaac Hayes sample.

I often drift while I drive
Havin fatal thoughts of suicide
Bang and get it over with
And then I’m worry-free, but that’s bullshit
I got a little boy to look after
And if I died then my child would be a bastard

1992 – Pharcyde “Passin Me By”
In an era where most West Coast hip-hop was nearly completely gangsta-centric, The Pharcyde represented a small minority of groups that weren’t hittin’ switches and packin’ gats. Carry the torch of failed romance raps (see Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend”), The Pharcyde
gave the world four verses about unrequited love. This may be the hip-hop version of “The Saturday Boy.”

1993 – Wu-Tang Clan “Protect Ya Neck”
Where do you start with the Wu-Tang Clan? Largest collection of talent in one group? The kung-fu samples and imagery? Maybe the last great hip-hop collective? The samples that sound like they were filtered through a hobo’s beard? The endless debates I had with my friends about who was the dopest? (The answer is the GZA.) How the song is perfectly bookended by the team’s greatest leadoff and cleanup hitters? (Inspectah Deck and the GZA respectively.)

1994/1995 – Blur “Girls and Boys”/Pulp “Common People”
Two shining examples of British storytelling. (How come there are never any polls to tell us how far Americans are behind the rest of the world in incorporating storytelling into their songs? I know I’ve brought this up before but it’s still a relevant topic.) Blur’s brilliant dance song about the vacation hedonism is one I missed in the 90s. Also, Pulp’s tale of an upper class student slumming with her common classmates is a great song about class struggle and envy.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, why didn’t you listen to these songs when they were popular?” At the time, my mind wasn’t that open. I would have dismissed this as “art school wanker music” and rode off on my skateboard. I was too busy listening to Wu-Tang, A Tribe Called Quest, Gorilla Biscuits and a million other hardcore bands.

Don’t worry.

The hall monitor is writing my late pass as we speak.

1996 – Blackstreet “No Diggity”
This may be the last great R&B song.

This always felt like a sequel to BBD’s “Poison.” Instead of falling for the woman who’d break your heart, the guys from Blackstreet are a little smarter, wary of the ways of a woman. Yet, they still fall for it. Men never learn.

Also, like “Poison,” this is one of the few songs that just might make me run to the dancefloor.

I just realized how dated this video looks. Must be a Hype Williams video. Limos, overalls and puppets, oh my!

(Note: who wrote Dre’s verse? [D.O.C.? RBX? Snoop?] It’s listed as Dre but I don’t buy it. He’s really a shitty rapper. Sincerely.)

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