1997-1999. You swear it wasnâ€™t that long ago, but you know it might as well have been eons ago. Depending on your outlook, this is either the tail end of a gilded age or the beginning of the apocalypse. During this time, the hip hop artists born circa 1970 who catapulted the genre forward as teenagers and young adults in the â€™87-â€™94 heyday are beginning to mellow out or gloss it up. Sampling laws are enforced more than ever but the indie labels are resolute in refusing to go the glittery route. Radio is dominated by obvious samples and tales of upward mobility and debauchery, while the underground mixshows stay saturated with eccentric rhyming clinics and surreal poetics. The divide is not entirely clean, however. In this era you can find surreal poets waxing profound on diamonds and champagne, gritty crime narratives on major label releases, and a whole host of songs that defy categorization (and a few that even defy simple explanation). This series is for those of you who know that the late â€˜90s is deeper than just Organized Konfusion, Ras Kass, Mase, Nas, and Company Flow (no disrespect intended of course). This is for those of you that know that great hip hop comes from all corners of the USA and around the world, that the b-sides of overlooked 12â€s and the album cuts of long forgotten tapes contain true gems. Songs that speak to our hunger for dope beats and lyrics and manage to stand out from the crowd. We made a special effort to seek out songs that you probably havenâ€™t heard or donâ€™t really remember too clearly, while making sure that each selection hearkens backs to the last era in which musical diversity and quality could be taken for granted. You need to hear this. Enjoy our 100 picks, coming at you at the rate of twenty five per day just in time for the holidays.
100x – Philly Niggas International feat. Black Thought, Malik B & Rasheed Wallace
Courtesy of L.E. Square’s private stash, 100x teams up with Roots Crew members and Simon Gratz stand-out and NBA’s public enemy #1, Rasheed Wallace.
2Rude – Innovations feat. Saukrates & Pharaohe Monch
3X Krazy – Keep It On The Real
Bay Area heads will no doubt recognize this classic track from the trioâ€™s â€œStackinâ€™ Chipsâ€ album. Ethereal Oaktown madness.
Above the Law – Deep Az The Root
Although they are better known for living like hustlers, this acoustic guitar-laced track renders homage to the sadder events that have made them stronger. The chorus ask “Everyday is an episode, can you handle the load?”
Aceyalone & Abstract Rude – Me & My Main
Adagio – The Break
Consisting of Big Cousin “The Obvious Wonder” and Reign Supreme, Adagio repped hard between Uptown and Philly. Their signature ill smoothed out approach to beats is evident here and Reign Supreme’s mic demolition is in full swing. They were down with the Juggaknots, nuff said.
Agallah – Crookie Monster
What do you get when you cross a beloved Muppet and one of the Alchemistâ€™s illest beats? Thatâ€™s that Crookie, duns.
All City – Afta Hourz
Better check how they do it or you can get robbed blind quick before you can blink.
All Natural – Writer’s Block
Capital D draws the listener into his fictional world and tells a story we can all relate to.
Arsonists – Fat Laces
The Bushwick crew eschew their usually obstreperous deliveries for a much smoother approach on the mic, and it works wonders.
B-1 – Life We Lead
Bee Why – Come Up
Big Kwam – The Reunion
I swear I can hear a faint trace of Minnie Riperton howling in the background of this. Kind of a Natural Elements influenced duo, they both tear it down back and forth. Ring The Alarm!
Binary Star – Evolution Of Man
Pontiac, Michigan duo, brought to us an excellent underground record with some pure gems on it, similar like this one here.
BQE – Last Messiah
Brainsick Enterprize – Time To Shine
Brick City Kids – What What
Recorded under the BCK alias in order to avoid contract violation, El Da Sensei and Tame One flip rugged braggadocio over some Ghetto Pros heat. Classic â€˜Facts, undeniably Jerz.
Burnt Batch – Temptation
The Stockton, CA crew narrates cautionary tales of lust, crime, and deception over a shimmering Crusaders sample.
Camp Lo – Black Nostaljack (Remix) feat. Kid Capri and Run
Capone-N-Noreaga – Closer (Sam Sneed Version)
C-Bo – Money By The Ton
Math lessons from the gas chamber.
Chubb Rock – The Mind
CNN – Bloody Money Part IV (Remix) feat. Nas
Connecticut Cartel – All Out (97)
Cru – Nothin’ But feat. Black Rob