Artist: Eric B. and Rakim
Title: Follow the Leader - LP
Label: MCA - 1988
After coming out with one of the most impressive and successful debut albums in Hip-Hop history, Paid In Full, there had to be serious pressure on Eric B. and Rakim to beat the dreaded sophomore jinx with the release of their second LP. Not only did the duo beat the odds with Follow the Leader, they also expanded their range with dope original music and beats and also with precise lyrics delivered by Rakim that had many MCs and fans on his nut-sack. The atmospheric title track (with its menacing keyboard accompaniment) gave Rakim the room to spit imaginative lyrics that showcased his original approach to rocking the mic while taking the listener on a musical journey - an instant classic track. But wait, the second track is just as dope, "Microphone Fiend." Over Average White Band's funky "Schoolboy Crush" Rakim explains his addiction to kickin' lyrics that started at an early age: "'Cause I grab the mic and try to say yes y'all/They try to take it, they say that I'm too small/Cool 'cause I don't get upset/I kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, then I jet." The rest of the LP is consistent with this level of achievement, if not as stunning, which means it still was way above most of the competition. The bottom line is that this team has secured a permanent place in rap history, and way after all the wannabe gangstas and marijuana bandwagon-jumpers have been forgotten, albums like this will still have heads bobbin'.
Artist: BMOC (Big Men On Campus)
Title: Play That Funk - 12"
Label: Sire - 1988
Producer: Nile Rodgers
Producers: M.C. Breeze & Boogie Down Productions
The most collectable thing about this record is that it featured Sultan MC aka Jon Shecter, a former founding member of the Source magazine. The cover shows him and his partner Kevi Kev sportin' the mad Harvard gear, I guess they had some real school pride, not to mention they're standing in front of the law school building on the back cover. The record itself really wasn't too bad. "Play That Funk" of course used "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry, and featured Nile Rodgers on bass guitar. The lyrics were at best a Beastie Boys bite. This one was probably the predecessor to Vanilla Ice's "Play That Funky Music". The B-side "Guaranteed To Rock" was pretty weak. If you find this record buy it, if you have it already you're one of the lucky few.
Artist: Biz Markie
Title: Vapors - 12"
Label: Cold Chillin' - 1988
Producer: Marley Marl
Ever since he picked boogers and made the music with his mouth, the Diabolical has always come correct with many slamming tracks, always 100% guaranteed to have the hardest dudes cracking up.
This is a typically excellent Biz joint which, for me, just has that edge. It could be the fly break of "Papa Don't Take No Mess," which retains the funky character of the original and perfectly compliments Biz's rolling lyrical styles. It could be Biz's storytelling ability. He always shines on that tip, but this track is different in that he's actually talking about a serious subject. Where other rappers have spoken on this topic, Biz doesn't sound malicious, angry, or annoyed. Biz is just Biz, right?
In fact, this approach is probably more effective than straight up dissing. Not a word you'd normally associate with Biz Markie, but the lyrics are subtle, well crafted, and definitely slamming. Being Biz though, he does drop some way funny shit - check his ill impersonations of records being scratched - Bill Sykes he ain't; and how many rappers have you heard describe themselves as a "wet food stamp"? Man, I could go on and on - check the bit where he flips styles to what sounds like a drunken derelik or about fifty other moments on this memorable track. He also manages to big up his 88 crew by kicking a verse about each of them. In fact, if you can find the video, it's just as dope as the record and really gives the Biz a chance to express himself. People who slept on this record might just be catching a few vapors themselves right about now.
Artist: Cash Money and Marvelous
Title: The Mighty Hard Rocker
Label: Sleeping Bag - 1988
Producers: DJ Cash Money and Joe the Butcher
Proving time and time again that the best cuts are buried on the B-side, "The Mighty Hard Rocker" was the flipside of this Philly duo's single "Find an Ugly Woman." Worldwide DJ champion and best known for his use of the transformer scratch, Cash Money tears it up on wheels, while Marvelous flips the script quite properly. If you don't own this jam already, find it! I still jump out of my shorts whenever I hear this one!
Artist: The 45 King
Title: The 900 Number
Label: Tuff City - 1988
Producers: DJ Mark "the 45" King
One of the great break records of all time. "The 900 Number" is a six minute long loop of James Brown's protege Marva Whitney's "Unwind Yourself." After it was released, it dropped out of sight for a couple of years until Dr. Dre began using it as the music for the Ed Lover dance. It does get repetitious after a coule of minutes, but it definitely is a record every real hip-hop DJ should own two copies of.
Artist: Father MC and the 1'st Fleet
Title: I'm Getting Better - 12"
Label: Stupid Fresh - 1988
Producer: Father MC and K.C.
Before he started making Bobby Brown copy-cat videos, Father MC released a single that could be considered hard-core compared to his later releaes. The beat is not unique, but works well with the "Father MC, he's MC'ing" chorus and the sample of "Rappers can't stand us, but give us respect" from Run DMC. Maybe the 90's Father MC should re-introduce himself to his old lyrics like, "I'm from the old school," or, "To go commercial/Maybe I should/But if I would/I'd be the only one good." This song should've been called "I'm Gonna Get Worse" because even though it is more popular, his pop stuff is definitely worse than this song.
Artist: Positive K. & M.C. Lyte
Title: I'm Not Havin It - 12"
Producers: The Audio Two
Label: First Priority/Atlantic - 1988
Long before he hit with "Nightshift" and "I Got A Man," this record helped put Positive K. on the map. Although it would be another three and a half years before this man got around to putting out an album, his skills as a lyricist and a rapper are more than apparent on this joint. Positive spends almost the whole of the record trying, unsuccessfully, to pick up a less than impressed M.C. Lyte with that "Excuse me, miss..." line. I always like the track to this cut, a sample of the Pointer Sisters "Yes, We Can Can." This record is still funny and has held up well over time.
Artist: Too $hort
Title: Life Is... Too $hort - LP
Label: Zomba - 1988
Producer: Todd Shaw
"Nobody does it better than Too $hort/I'll take a limousine to the airport/Fly first class, never ever last/'Cause a brotha like me, I'll pay cash." That is what this all about, funk-filled beats and rhymes to go with them. This is my favorite out of all the Too $hort albums because when he made this, he was the original Oakland funkster, and not too many people were biting his style. Nowadays, this type of hip-hop is very common and played out around here, but back then it was the bomb! I know everybody remembers "Life Is.. Too Short," the song that gave $hort nationwide fame, but there were some underground hits on the album like "Don't Fight the Feelin'," and "CussWords." The one guest appearance on this LP came from Rappin 4-Tay on the song "Don't Fight the Feelin'." In order to learn where Oakland funk came from, check this album.