When I started listening to Hip Hop (back in the early 80s), it was all about crews. Cold Crush, Crash Crew, Furious 5, Fantastic 5, and the list went on. Later on, the crews went away and we were left with small groups, like Boogie Down Productions, Run DMC, and Whodini. Even later, the game became about solo artists or duos; Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, and Gang Starr. There was nothing better, for me, than when those artists or duos put their heads together and came up with something special.
The Symphony – Marley Marl, Big Daddy Kane, Craig G, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap
From the moment the Otis Redding sample kicks in (Hard to Handle), you are immediately hooked. It is a song that so many people are familiar with already, so the Symphony feels like a song that you already know. The Juice Crew assembled like the mighty Voltron and brought us the first great Posse track. For all of these individual artists to put aside their egos and join together to bring us this classic, was an amazing feat for 1988. With MC Shan as the Juice Crew’s biggest name, it is a surprise that he didn’t show for his DJ’s big get together. He felt it was beneath him to get on a track with lesser established rappers, like Masta Ace. Looks like Shan’s loss, because that track is still a banger.
“So just acknowledge the way that I kicked it
Cause if rap was a house, you’d be evicted
And dismissed from the microphone, chokin’ on a bone, cause Daddy’s home
And battlin’ me is hazardous to your health
So put a quarter in your ass, cause ya played yourself”
DWYCK – Gang Starr ft Nice and Smooth
The Hard To Earn record was a departure from what we knew Gang Starr to be. This record was harder than their previous records, and much less melody driven. That is, until we run into the collaboration with one of the most melodic duos ever; Nice and Smooth. Preem uses samples from both groups work to make this one track something special. DWYCK is one of the greatest Hip Hop “
DWYCK is one of the greatest Hip Hop “meeting of the minds” of our time. It also proves that the B-side wins again. This was the B-side of Take it Personal, and not on any Gang Starr album. The fact that it could have gone forever without making it to a full-length record is crazy. Luckily it made its way to this one, just to keep us all happy. And let’s not forget that Guru made you want some lemonade, and to want to be like Bruce Willis.
“Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is
I get more props and stunts than Bruce Willis”
Buddy – De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Q-Tip
When the Native Tongue Family got together, it was on! If ever there was a Hip Hop version of Voltron, it was the Native Tongues. On their own, they were dope…together, they were unstoppable. Buddy was the perfect example of what happens when people put away their egos and let the music do the talking. This is a feel good track, a party track, a club track; it checks all the boxes.
“For the lap Jimbrowski must wear a cap
Just in case the young girl likes to clap
Ain’t for the wind but before I begin
I initiate the buddy with a slap”
Scenario – A Tribe Called Quest and Leaders of the New School
Combine a seasoned Tribe with a fiery, young Busta Rhymes, and you get an instant classic. This is one of the few songs that spawned a remix, that didn’t need one. The purity of emotion and raw delivery could not be matched in any remix attempt. From the minute you hear “Here we go, yo….” all the way until the closing “…check out the scenario.”, this is a nonstop ride. This track is where Busta sets himself apart from the rest of LONS, and shows that he is the star that he later goes on to become.
“Watch as I combine all the juice from the mind
Heel up, wheel up, bring it back, come, rewind
Powerful impact (Boom!) from the cannon!
Not braggin’, try to read my mind, just imagine!”
Flava in Ya Ear Remix – Craig Mack, Biggie Smalls, Rampage, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes
The beginning and end of the mighty Craig Mack came on his debut record. The man who was responsible for being the launch point for Bad Boy was demolished on his own track. It isn’t often that you bring in someone who you expect to outshine you on your own song. In this case, the entire cast outdid Mack and that led to his end. Aside from the bad news for Craig Mack, the rest of us get to enjoy this remix (which far surpassed the original). Even with LL’s gibberish lines, the Easy Mo Bee production is hands down, some of his best.
“Disappear, vamoose, you’re wack to me
Take them rhymes back to the factory
I see the gimmicks, the wack lyrics, the shit is
Depressing, pathetic, please forget it
You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring
Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring”
There hasn’t been a collaboration of the caliber of any of these tracks in many years. I don’t think that there ever will be again, either. There were many other tracks that I could have listed here, and don’t think that their absence from my list makes them any less memorable. I could go on for pages and pages about “the good old days”, and how the “don’t make them like they used to.” But really, isn’t that just one step away from “you kids get off my lawn”?
Until next time, keep it classic. And always remember, new school stale…old school FRESH!