Tag Archives: 90s Hip-Hop

A Tribe Called Quest Mix Stream – DJ MK

UK turntable legend DJ MK cuts and blends his way through a quality selection of timeless Tribe vibes for this dope best-of mix.

New Joint – Public Enemy

Public Enemy – “Lost At Birth” (@PublicEnemyFTP / 2022)

Take a trip back to the future with this animated video for the opening track from Public Enemy’s brilliant 1991 album “Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black”.

Let The Funk Be Your Guiding Light – A Tribute To Shock G

Attempting to write about an artist who has passed away can feel like an overwhelming task. It feels that way now as I sit here looking at my laptop screen. Where do you start? How can you adequately condense a life and career into paragraphs? How can you fully convey what that person meant to you? What they meant to others? The truth is that you can’t. Not completely. All you can do is hope your admiration and appreciation comes through in the words you decide to use. So I’ll jump right in and try to start flowin’ on the D-Line.

Gregory ‘Shock G’ Jacobs was special. That much was evident the first time any of us heard Digital Underground, which for me, like many, was when the group dropped their “Doowutchyalike” single on Tommy Boy Records in 1989. But at that point I didn’t know exactly how special Shock G was. I didn’t know he was playing multiple roles within the group under different aliases. But it was clear that Shock G was Digital Underground’s leader. Their guide. A keeper of the same funk that had been beamed down to our planet years before via George Clinton’s supergroovalistic Mothership.

Hearing Digital Underground’s “Doowutchyalike” for the first time on the radio here in the UK was as much a memorable moment for me as when I heard Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message”, Ultramagnetic MC’s’ “Ego Trippin” or Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause”. It was so unique. The sounds. The rhymes. The voices. The humour. The creativity. The sheer brilliance. That moment happened on Jeff Young’s Friday night Radio 1 Big Beat show. If my memory is correct I believe I then heard it again the following evening on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show (with Tim taking full advantage of the opportunity provided by Digital Underground for deejays to announce their “station identification” about three-and-a-half minutes into the track).

Having been introduced to Hip-Hop in the early-80s, I, like many other heads, was used to constantly hearing the new new throughout that decade. Lyrical styles and production techniques had been consistently changing and evolving. The speed at which the music had been developing was breathtaking, exciting and to some degree, by 1989, expected. Yet with all that being said, hearing Digital Underground for the first time felt like a different type of new. It was hard to pin down. “Doowutchyalike” tumbled out of my speakers on that particular Friday night with gleeful abandon, hinting at what a Kool Herc jam may have sounded like had he settled in the Bay Area rather than the Bronx, or what might have happened if Prince had been a b-boy. And Shock G was in the middle of it all, sounding like he was having one huge party, but making sure we all knew that everyone was invited.

I distinctly remember thinking how free and uninhibited Shock sounded on “Doowutchyalike”. He was clearly of Hip-Hop, but at the same time seemed to be more than Hip-Hop. Larger than life but with a down-to-earth coolness suggesting that if you met him you could talkhowyalike and he would kick it with you for five minutes. I was an instant fan and needed to own that record.

Shortly after hearing “Doowutchyalike” on the radio I found the 12″ single in my local music shop, Kriminal Records. I walked home inspecting the brilliant cover art by Rackadelic (another Shock G alias, unbeknownst to me at the time). That artwork further fuelled my intrigue around the group. I pulled the record from the sleeve, placed it carefully on my turntable (no fingerprints on the vinyl!), gently lowered the needle and proceeded to have my mind blown all over again for eight minutes and fifty-four seconds. Then I heard “Hip Hop Doll”. Damn! Still to this day one of the flyest tracks ever recorded. Some schmoove Oakland playa s**t mixed with cartoonish exaggeration and a dirty groove. The game is meant to be sold not told, but Shock dropped so many slick one-liners throughout that song that certain lyrics became catchphrases amongst my circle of friends.

Then came “The Humpty Dance” single. A huge bass-heavy chunk of slapstick Hip-Hop comedy that if attempted by a lesser artist would have seemed ridiculous, but in the hands of Shock G just seemed right. In hindsight, that was a brave track to release given that it could have led to people simply writing Digital Underground off as a novelty act. Some probably did. But most of us were too busy laughing at punchlines about getting busy in Burger King bathrooms, debating whether the person behind the fake nose and glasses was actually Shock G, and marvelling at Humpty’s fashion sense in the video. The record further connected Shock and DU to the P-Funk legacy, with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins often introducing different characters in their music. It also made it very clear that Shock G wasn’t interested in playing it safe or adhering to any supposed Hip-Hop rules. Here was a group yet to drop an album, attempting to establish itself in a rap world dominated at the time by the likes of N.W.A. and Public Enemy. But there was Shock G as bold as could be asking girls if they were ticklish whilst wearing a cheap party disguise. Individuality, it seemed, was everything to Shock, Money B, DJ Fuze and the rest of the DU collective. I wanted more.

Around this time I remember a good friend of mine, Cory, describing Digital Underground as being like a West Coast version of De La Soul. In 1989, Plugs One, Two and Three had released “3 Feet High And Rising”, an album rooted in the idea of simply being yourself. It was okay to be different. Not being obviously cool could also be cool. Messages which very clearly came through on those early Digital Underground singles. So I could see why the De La comparison was being made, but I didn’t agree with it completely. To me, De La Soul came across as a group of close friends who were letting listeners in on the conversations and jokes they would have shared whilst chillin’ at each other’s houses. Digital Underground on the other hand, thanks largely to Shock G’s imaginative vision, appeared to be on the verge of letting listeners into a kaleidoscope world of outlandish personalities and psychedelic experiences, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Speaking of which, where’s the Packet Man?

1990’s “Sex Packets” was (and still is) a towering work of mischievous ingenuity. Even if that had been the only album Digital Underground had ever released, Shock G’s name would still deserve to be in the Hip-Hop history books. Word to MC Blowfish! The hallucinogenic drug concept was masterfully executed, sparking endless ‘Can you really buy those?’ conversations. The album also fully showcased Shock’s talents, including his inspired used of live instrumentation and ability to pick just the right sample, whether familiar or obscure. (On a side note, “Freaks Of The Industry” contains some of the greatest chemistry you’re ever likely to hear from two emcees, with the back-and-forth between Shock G and Money B sounding totally fluid and effortless).

I was fortunate enough to interview Shock G back in 2004 when he dropped his excellent solo album “Fear Of A Mixed Planet”. I was pleased to have the opportunity to tell him how much his music meant to me. We talked about “Sex Packets” at length. Shock told me how, prior to the album release, the group distributed leaflets around the Bay Area, mainly leaving them on public transport and in medical centres. These leaflets presented info about the fictional sex packets as if they were a real drug and were made to look official. Which obviously caused some confusion. I thought that was hilarious and also a testament to Shock’s determination to push his idea as far as he could. I wondered then, and still wonder now, how many people read one of those leaflets whilst sat in a waiting room and what questions may have been asked once those same people walked into the privacy of a doctor’s office for their appointment?! (During that same conversation Shock spontaneously played the piano parts from “Doowutchyalike” over the phone to me, which was definitely ‘a moment’).

1991’s “Sons Of The P” is my favourite Digital Underground album. It took me somewhere else. It still does. It was the album I reached for on Friday morning after waking up and learning of Shock G’s passing. The playfulness and humour of both “Sex Packets” and the subsequent “This Is An E.P. Release” were still to be found in abundance, but for me “Sons Of The P” is the DU album that seemed to connect to something deeper with the music working on numerous levels. It was both the future and the past. Just listen to the title track. That’s the sound of spirits moving.

The Digital Underground house party was still very much in full swing on “Sons Of The P”, but it was clear that whilst Humpty Hump was busy chasing girls around the garden as a deejay played the Commodores’ “Brick House”, Shock G could be found hanging out in a backroom surrounded by Black Panther Party memorabilia discussing social issues with community activists and academics (see “Heartbeat Props”).

“Sons Of The P” was also the album that saw the circle becoming complete, with George Clinton himself appearing on the record. Can you imagine how Shock G must have felt seeing his hero and inspiration Dr. Funkenstein shining a flashlight in his direction to give his work an atomic seal of approval? Amazing.

Plus, I guarantee that if you mentioned “Kiss You Back” to my mother right now you would see an old lady smile. She used to hum the hell out of that song.

October 1993. I had started my first year as a student at Luton University and had been there for a week or so. Digital Underground had just dropped their third album “The Body-Hat Syndrome” which I had purchased on my way to class one day from the great (but sadly now long gone) Soul Sense Records. I’d only heard “The Return Of The Crazy One” prior to the album being released, but that didn’t matter. I was a dedicated Digital Underground follower. I would have bought the album on sight without hearing anything from it. I get to the Uni building on Park Street and make my way to the lecture theatre. It’s locked. I’m early. So I make my way back to the reception area and take a seat. In walks Vanessa. She’s on my course but we haven’t really spoken yet. A naturally attractive girl who seemed to always be wearing a Nirvana or Guns N’ Roses t-shirt under her denim jacket. She smiles politely as she walks past. I tell her the lecture theatre is locked. So she sits down. The awkward small talk begins. After a couple of minutes Vanessa notices my Soul Sense bag. She asks what I have in there. The new album from Digital Underground I tell her. She isn’t familiar with the group. I babble something about her possibly knowing “The Humpty Dance”, which just further confuses her. She asks to see the CD. I pass it across. She looks at the cover, apparently trying to make sense of what she’s seeing. Then she looks up and asks “What’s a body-hat?!”

Vanessa turns the CD over. At this point I hadn’t even fully looked at the track-listing myself having only just got the album. An expression makes its way across her face which to a passer-by would have suggested she’d just become aware of an aroma that wasn’t particularly sweet. She starts reading out a few of the track titles. “The Humpty Dance Awards”. “Jerkit Circus”. “Do Ya Like It Dirty?”. Vanessa passes me back the CD. “They sound a bit too weird and freaky for me” she says. I laugh and say no more. Even though Vanessa had pretty much just summed up Digital Underground in a nutshell. I’m sure Shock G would have laughed to.

To some, Shock G will always be known primarily as the person who helped introduce both 2Pac and Humpty Hump to the world. But to many of us he was so much more. Hearing and reading interviews with Shock, he made music sound like less of an artistic endeavour and more like an essential process of nature that simply had to happen.

Some people create who they are. Shock G already was what he created.

I can imagine a bleary-eyed Shock waking up at 2am and writing an entire song at his piano after having had a dream involving him, Jimi Hendrix and Rick James racing DFLO shuttles around the rings of Saturn with the cast of “The Mack” cheering them on from the sidelines.

Behind the dark sunglasses he was often seen wearing, I like to think that Gregory Jacobs saw vibrant colours, joyous scenes and a better world for all of us as one nation under a groove.

There is so much more that can (and should) be said about what Shock G achieved both inside and outside of Digital Underground, from his 80s debut to the present day. But as a fan, your relationship with a musician really comes down to one straight-forward question – how did that artist make you feel?

Whenever I’ve needed it, the music Shock G blessed us with has always made me feel good and I will forever be grateful for that.

Shock G was the wide-eyed student who grew-up to become the eccentric teacher.

Shock G was a loyal son of the P who became the proud father of his own incredible musical world.

Shock G was a prankster, a philosopher and a genius.

Shock G was, of course, the one who put the satin on your panties.

Love and condolences to his family and friends.

May Gregory ‘Shock G’ Jacobs rest in peace surrounded by the warm glow of the funk.

Ryan Proctor

New Joint – Stretch And Bobbito + The M19s Band / Method Man / Ghostface Killah

Stretch And Bobbito + The M19s Band – “Method Man + Ghostface Freestyle (Remix)” (StretchAndBobbito.Com / 2020)

A vintage 90s Wu appearance on Stretch and Bobbito’s legendary NY radio show is given the M19s remix treatment from the new “Freestyle EP 1” release, which also features Big L, Jay-Z and Biggie.

New Joint – Grand Puba / Groove Liberator

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Grand Puba – “A Little Of This – Groove Liberator Remix” (GrooveLiberator.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

Spanish production duo Groove Liberator give a 1995 Puba favourite an impressive and respectful reworking, matching the Brand Nubian emcee’s unique flow with melodic, head-nodding beats.

New Joint – Soul Supreme

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Soul Supreme – “Check The Rhime” (SoulSupremeRecords.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

Amsterdam-based producer Soul Supreme delivers a dope, jazzy reworking of a Tribe classic.

Unique: ‘Return To The 36 Chambers’ 25 Years Later Mini-Documentary – Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Amazon Music marks the 25th anniversary of Ol’ Dirty’s classic 1995 debut solo album with this short-but-entertaining documentary featuring The RZA, Raekwon, Bobbito, Dante Ross and more.

1990 – Hip-Hop Time Bomb Mix Stream – Jaguar Skills

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The UK’s mighty Jaguar Skills revisits 1990 in the first instalment of his new mix series, blending timeless favourites from the likes of Digital Underground, YZ and A Tribe Called Quest with original samples, resulting in an epic, fast-paced journey back to the future.

Ready To Die Mixtape Vol. 2 Stream – DJ Filthy Rich / The Notorious B.I.G.

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Canada’s Filthy Rich marks the 23rd anniversary of Biggie’s tragic passing with this well-crafted mix of blends, original tracks and samples – RIP BIG!

South Boogie Album Sampler – Shorty Long

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Gentleman’s Relief Records has teamed-up with DJ Mike Smooth to present this quality collection of 90s material from South Bronx D.I.T.C. affiliate Shorty Long (including his 1994 underground favourite “Shorty’z Doin’ His Own Thang”) featuring production from Buckwild, Lord Finesse and Showbiz – cop it here.

For The Children: 25 Years Of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan

Certified Classics marks the 25th anniversary of Wu-Tang’s incredible debut album with this quality short-film featuring members of the Clan reflecting on the impact of their Shaolin tongue-fu – RIP Ol’ Dirty!

Don’t Front! – Black Moon

GoodFellazTV footage of Black Moon performing the classic “I Got Cha Opin” remix at last week’s “Enta Da Stage” 25th anniversary show in NYC.

The Untold Story Of Grand Daddy I.U. Documentary – TRB2HH

Quality, in-depth documentary focussing on the career of Strong Island favourite Grand Daddy I.U., featuring appearances from his brother Kay Cee, DJ Cool V, Fly Ty of Cold Chillin’ Records and more.

The Unstoppable Album Stream – J Treds

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One of the nicest emcees to have emerged from NYC’s 90s independent scene, J Treds is shown some well-deserved respect by Germany’s Diggers Vault Records with their digital release of this previously-bootlegged project.

New Joint – Tall Black Guy / Craig Mack

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Craig Mack ft. The Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes – “Flava In Ya Ear – Tall Black Guy Remix” (@SirTallBlackGuy / 2018)

Detroit producer Tall Black Guy injects a 90s Bad Boy Records classic with the soulful vibes of a timeless Marvin Gaye sample.

Rest In Peace – DJ Ready Red

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RIP DJ Ready Red of Geto Boys fame who passed away yesterday from a suspected heart attack – this man had a huge influence on the early sound of Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records and contributed to some truly classic records.

You Gotta Flow Joe – 25th Anniversary Of Fat Joe’s Debut Album “Represent”

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Fat Joe’s debut album “Represent” is a personal favourite of mine. Not just a favourite album from 1993. Not just a favourite album from the 90s overall. But a personal favourite of all-time.

“Represent” may not have been considered the most polished or ground-breaking album when it dropped, but there was something about the raw Bronx attitude of a 22-year-old Joey Crack combined with the thunderous beats of some of the East Coast’s finest producers that ensured the project remained stuck in my Walkman headphones for months after its July 27th release date twenty-five years ago.

Introduced to the Hip-Hop world at large via D.I.T.C.’s Diamond D, who produced a Fat Joe promo for DJ Red Alert’s Kiss FM radio show in 1991 before offering the Rotten Apple rhymer some mic time on his classic 1992 album “Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop”, the graffiti-writing rapper was clearly starting to build a buzz for himself during the early-90s, with his street reputation appearing to precede him.

Yet it wouldn’t be until the spring of 1993 that Joe would make his official solo splash into the rap game with the release of the brilliant “Flow Joe” single on Relativity Records, a heavy-duty slice of horn-laced BX boom-bap flavour crafted by the aforementioned Diamond, featuring NY turntable legend Rob Swift on the cut, a catchy-yet-hardcore hook and the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer rhymes of a hungry Fat Joe who clearly felt he had something to prove as he sought to hold it down for  Latino lyricists (“Everybody knows Fat Joe’s in town, ‘Nuff respect for the Boogie-Down, I’m livin’ in the Bronx on an ave called Trinity, My name rings bells within the vicinity…”).

This single immediately grabbed my attention when I first heard it on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show over here in the UK. Already a big Diggin’ In The Crates fan thanks to prior releases from Lord Finesse, Showbiz & AG and, of course, Diamond D, I was wide open at the thought of a full-length Fat Joe project, not least because after hearing that initial single, any subsequent album felt like it promised to be an uncompromising dose of gritty New York rap music.

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Hip-Hop in 1993 was in a state of flux. Times were changing. Fat Joe’s “Represent” landed right in the middle of a year that was seeing new sounds and voices from the West Coast beginning to dominate, whilst the East Coast was starting to lose its vice-like grip on the culture.

The impact of Dr. Dre’s classic “The Chronic”, released at the very end of 1992, was casting a synth-heavy G-Funk shadow across Planet Rock. Anticipation for Snoop’s debut album “Doggystyle” (released late in ’93) was steadily building. Ice Cube remained one of the culture’s most controversial voices. MC Eiht’s “Streiht Up Menace” from the “Menace II Society” soundtrack was one of the most popular singles of the year Stateside. Cypress Hill were selling huge amounts of records. 2Pac was beginning to gain notoriety.

Meanwhile, some veteran New York giants were either splitting-up, faltering or rebuilding. EPMD had proven that business was personal by announcing the group’s break-up. Public Enemy had lost some momentum following the release of their 1992 album “Greatest Misses”. LL Cool J had received mixed reviews for his”14 Shots To The Dome” project, released in March 1993. Whilst Big Daddy Kane’s “Looks Like A Job For…” (released in May) found the Brooklyn legend having to regain the trust of many fans who’d balked at the overt R&B influences of 1991’s “Prince Of Darkness”.

The full impact of Nas and Biggie was still yet to be felt in 1993, with the future icons still each only having a single and some guest appearances under their respective belts. Neither “Illmatic” or “Ready To Die” would be released until the following year, with both artists then being credited with bringing the Hip-Hop crown back home to New York in 1994.

Many people, however, quite rightly point to late 1993 album releases from A Tribe Called Quest, Black Moon and Wu-Tang Clan as all having played a major part in drawing attention back to the traditional New York sound.

I, however, would go one step further and say that, in the summer of that same year, knowingly or not, Fat Joe was already doing his best to ensure New York remained on top of the game.

To say I was amped for the release of “Represent” would be an understatement. Whilst the first half of 1993 had definitely seen some strong album releases from a selection of East Coast artists (Onyx, Lords Of The Underground, Akinyele, Masta Ace Incorporated, Trends Of Culture etc), I had a different level of excitement in relation to Fat Joe’s debut. Partly because of his Diggin’ In The Crates affiliation and partly because the overall power of that “Flow Joe” single really had me hooked.

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In the pre-Internet Hip-Hop world, you didn’t always know the definitive release date of an album, you just knew it was coming based on ads you would see in magazines like The Source. That was the case with Fat Joe’s “Represent”.

I can distinctly remember going on a family holiday at the time the release of “Represent” was looming. At almost eighteen-years-old, I hadn’t been on holiday with my parents for a few years. My sister had been diagnosed with cancer mid-1992, and twelve months into her treatment the future was looking a little uncertain, so my mother had decided it would be a good idea to go on a holiday that year in-case it was the last opportunity we had (thankfully it wasn’t and my sister is still alive and well today).

Before we left I gave my cousin fifteen pounds (the average price of an import CD in the UK at that time) and strict instructions to look out for “Represent” dropping whilst I was away. He worked in Luton, then home to the brilliant Soul Sense Records, so I was confident that if the album came out he’d be able to get it.

My girlfriend at the time also came on that family holiday with us and I can recall laying on a beach listening to a Westwood radio tape with “Flow Joe” on it and repeatedly telling her how high my hopes were for “Represent” and how disappointed I was going to be if my cousin hadn’t succeeded in his mission by the time we got home.

He had.

Any music lover who has ever bought physical product will tell you about the eagerness involved in tearing the wrapping off of a new purchase. But when it’s an album you’ve been anticipating for a period of time, that eagerness is heightened. When I returned from holiday and got my hands on my CD copy of “Represent”, I needed to hear it immediately.

I remember looking at that cover shot of Fat Joe standing on a darkened Bronx street-corner and thinking how rugged it looked (I hadn’t yet seen the “Flow Joe” video), then flipping the case over and seeing the picture of the In Memory Of…mural dedicated to Joe’s late friend Anthony Crespo aka Tony Montana. Then I ran down the tracklist which was followed by these words – Produced By Diamond D. Additional Production By Lord Finesse, The Beatnuts, Showbiz and Chilly Dee.

I had no idea who Chilly Dee was, but I remember thinking that if his production work was sitting next to beats provided by dudes who were already considered living legends then he must be up-to-par.

I plugged in my headphones and hit ‘Play’ on the CD.

The segue from the short “Scarface”-sampling intro “A Word To Da Wise” into the beginning of the moody and atmospheric Lord Finesse-crafted “Livin’ Fat” remains one of the greatest album openings ever, with the Funkyman’s work behind the boards on that particular cut standing as unquestionable proof as to why he should forever be considered one of Hip-Hop’s greatest producers.

With the echoing horns, heavy bass and pounding drums of “Livin’ Fat” capturing the ominous energy of a late-night encounter in a Bronx project building hallway, the track offered the perfect opportunity for Fat Joe to make his intentions clear, shouting out his affiliation with the late Chris Lighty (“I can’t get played ‘cos I roll with Baby Chris…”), detailing his expectations of “Represent” reaching Gold status (at least), and offering some very direct info on his day-to-day routine (“I be rippin’ the mic, Clockin’ dough, Stickin’ the hoes, After every single show, y’know?!”)

Joe’s claims on “Livin’ Fat” of being “One of the best to grab the mic…” may have seemed unfounded to many in 1993, but in reality who was going to argue with someone who by their own admission used to bully their way onto the mic at block parties and was able to remain in control of said microphone because people were scared to tell him his lyrical skills just weren’t as impressive as those of others.

“Bad Bad Man” was another immediate standout from the album, with Joe giving props to Gang Starr, threatening to hand-out physical beatdowns and “checking out stunts in the Polo Grounds” over an ill Diamond D-dissected loop from Yvonne Fair’s 1975 track “Let Your Hair Down”.

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In more recent times,  Fat Joe has mentioned that he is unable to listen to “Represent”. In 2010 he told HipHopDX.Com, “I can’t listen to my first album. It’s like brutal to me…Lyrically, I’ve grown so much over the years.”

Yet, if the rapper had any doubts about his rhyming abilities in 1993, he definitely didn’t let it show, placing himself on tracks alongside emcees with deservedly formidable reputations and defiantly holding his own, resulting in “Represent” containing three of my favourite 90s posse cuts.

The Tenor Saw-sampling “Watch The Sound” found Diamond D and Grand Puba delivering politically-incorrect punchlines over speaker-rattling jeep beats, whilst amidst dialogue snippets from the Matty Rich-directed film “Straight Out Of Brooklyn” and the sound of loud gunfire, Fat Joe called on the tough-guy terminology of lyrical architect Kool G Rap and the Flavor Unit’s Apache for the Hip-Hop adrenaline rush that was “You Must Be Out Of Your F**kin’ Mind” (with Joe verbally date-stamping the track with his infamous line “I’m sick and tired of muthaf**kers trying to sound like Das EFX!”).

The greatest posse cut on “Represent”, however, has to be the Chilly Dee-produced “Another Wild N****r From The Bronx”. Based around the same Bobbi Humphrey “Blacks And Blues” sample made popular by K.M.D.’s 1991 track “Plumskinzz”, Fat Joe was joined by homeboys Gismo, Kieth Kieth and NY legend King Sun for an absolute juggernaut of a track, with all involved (Kieth Kieth in particular – or should that be Keith Keith?) delivering some potent New York straight talk.

The Beatnuts supplied Joe with a swaggering head-nodder in the form of the autobiographical “The S**t Is Real” (a track which would gain further traction when released as a single in ’94 complete with a DJ Premier remix), whilst the huge drums of the Showbiz-produced “I Got This In A Smash” inspired the Bronx representative to show some uncharacteristic vulnerability as he described the moment he found out about the murder of his friend Tony Montana (“Ahhh s**t, Another brother hit, This time it’s Tone, Life is a f**kin’ bitch, It really hurts when the s**t hits home, Early in the morning, They’re callin’ me on the phone, Tellin’ me my man caught eight to the chest, Nah this couldn’t be, Tone always wore a vest…Man, I’m gonna miss him, I love him to death, Charlie’s in jail and I’m the only brother left…”).

The juvenile humour of “Shorty Gotta Fat Ass” and the lively “Get On Up” offered moments of light-hearted respite from Joe’s relentless, hardcore attack. Yet the closing “I’m A Hit That” left me scratching my head at the time. Obviously aimed at the ladies, this Showbiz-produced track featured Fat Joe adopting a playful, Heavy D-style flow which seemed out of place within the overall context of the album. To end the project with a track that almost seemed like an afterthought seemed like a strange decision.

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In the September 1993 issue of The Source, “Represent” was given a three-and-a-half-mic review. I believed then (as I do now) that the album deserved four-mics (which would have elevated it to ‘Slammin’ – Definite Satisfaction’ status). The overall response to the project from Da Ghetto Communicator was positive. But obviously the magazine’s mighty Mind Squad weren’t all as enthusiastic about Fat Joe when it came time for the group vote to take place which determined the mic-rating the album would receive.

“Represent” would reach a peak position of 46 on Billboard’s Top R&B / Hip-Hop Albums chart.

Fast-forward to the winter of 1993, almost six months after “Represent” dropped, and I can clearly remember still rocking the album in my headphones on freezing cold mornings as I walked to my local bus station en route to university lectures.

When I say I kept “Represent” on heavy rotation long after its initial release, I really do mean heavy rotation.

Whilst “Represent” may not have had a particularly influential impact on the culture, to me, it was, and still is, a rough diamond of an album that had undeniable character, with Fat Joe’s sense of purpose and determination to succeed remaining tangible throughout.

This was raw, uncut New York Hip-Hop at its best – no frills, no apologies, no sell-out.

As the saying goes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but looking at the intimidating figure on the cover of “Represent” back in 1993, it’s safe to say few people would have singled Fat Joe Da Gangsta out as being an artist destined for a lengthy career involving mainstream success.

Yet in the years following the release of “Represent”, Fat Joe’s career would indeed go from strength-to-strength, albeit with mixed musical results, as the Bronx rapper navigated his way from his boom-bap beginnings, through the Puffy-dominated late-90s jiggy-era, and on to the radio-friendly R&B trends of the early-2000s and beyond (in-between all of this Joe would of course introduce the incredible Big Pun to the world via his Terror Squad crew).

A quarter-of-a-century after his debut album dropped, Fat Joe remains a larger-than-life figure both inside and outside of Hip-Hop. And if his Coca Vision interviews are anything to go by, Joe’s passion for the culture definitely doesn’t appear to have been worn-down by the politics and drama of the music industry.

So, Fat Joe, if you ever find yourself stumbling across this write-up whilst online, let me take this opportunity to personally thank you for dropping a classic debut album which has given me hours of listening pleasure over the years.

As the man himself said on “Another Wild N****r From The Bronx” – “My rhymes are homicidal, I take your title, I’m Joe Da Fat Gangsta, Far from Billy Idol!”

True, indeed!

Ryan Proctor

New Joint – DJ Platurn / Artifacts

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Artifacts – “C’mon Wit Da Git Down – DJ Platurn Remix” (@Platurn / 2018)

Cali-based producer DJ Platurn gives a Tame One / El Da Sensei classic a dope and respectful update for 2018.

 

The Remix Series EP Stream – El Jazzy Chavo

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Greece-based producer El Jazzy Chavo offers respectful reinterpretations of 90s classics from the likes of Nas, O.C. and Black Moon.

Mecca And The Soul Brother Remixes EP Stream – Amerigo Gazaway / Pete Rock & CL Smooth

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Cali producer Amerigo Gazaway respectfully reinterprets some Pete & CL classics with impressive results.