Thursday, January 29, 2009


Back in the days...

Serious, check out the break at the end of this here. Dude's had it. Totally random, I know, but I needed a break from seven hours of Paul's Boutique. Man, what I do for you kiddies. This ish makes me wanna kiss myself like James Brown. Lordy!


I'm only five minutes in and I've spent close to two hours to get there. I've already used, uh, seven different songs to get there. It's going to have to start going faster. At this rate, Paul's Boutique will be celebrating it's 40th anniversary when I finish. I gotta say, though, there's only three hip hop records that truly communicate the beauty and functionality of sampling and sampling's contribution to the game: 3 Feet High and Rising, Fear of a Black Planet and Paul's Boutique. All of them different, but so very similiar in the fact that they're absolutely dripping with breakbeats. 3 Feet ran the gamut in the sample game taking everything from the Turtles to Funkadelic to kid's sing-a-long recordings. What made it so very cool is that it took so many different elements and managed to house them on record without sounding out of place. The spectrum from which Prince Paul worked is impressive in itself. The fact that he actually pulled it off is twice as impressive. Fear of a Black Planet took recognizable samples or breakbeats and cut, split, reversed, spliced and melted them down to almost nothing to a level that was absolutely boggling. You could listen to the same recording for years and never hear James Brown's "Give It Up or Turn It Loose," but trust me, it's like Prego: it's in there. The Bomb Squad used sampling to create fuzz or noise, but still manage to make it listenable. I don't think anyone but the Bomb Squad will really know all the samples and breaks that were used to make that record. If Puff Daddy was basically lifting eight bars from a Police record and making a five minute record from it, the Bomb Squad were taking one sixteenth note from a Sly record and using it once. Every James Brown grunt or bass drum kick were like bullets from a semi-automatic and they pinned you to the wall. Paul's Boutique, while is equally as sample-intensive, the way that the samples are used and cleverly layered, it's difficult for a listener to decipher where one ends and the next begins. Trust me, I've been trying to pull apart "Shake Your Rump" for the last two days. It's absolutely sick. I gotta throw a video up here. It's, without question, my favorite Beastie track ever: "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" from Boutique. Dope video.

I love how they bleep out the expletives, but don't find anything objectionable about Mike D taking a bong hit in the back of the car. Man, if that video doesn't make you just wanna jump on a mountain right now, I don't know what'll do it for you.

The Wu mix has been tapped a record 1,222 times and counting. Impressive. It got a slow start until one of my Lesson brethren threw it up on the Soul Assassins' sight and then it just blew up. I think he's the one that's calling me DJ j3. I'm certainly not that, but it's a compliment nonetheless. Thanks for throwing me up on the site. While I'd like to attribute all of those hits to the traffic on The Root Down, I know I ain't getting 1,200 people visiting this puppy.

Keep y'head up, kids. It's Thursday. I love you.

Monday, January 26, 2009


As you might remember I've adopted for the month a sugarless approach to life. As difficult as it has been and as the end draws near (it can't come soon enough...I must have ketchup...tons of ketchup), I have to say that one practice that I certainly will keep moving forward is the replacement of standard sugar and cream in coffee to Half-and-Half and honey. While not altogether much greater for you, it's better than the powdered garbage I used to put in there. I can't tell you how many tangerines I've eaten this month. I can't even have orange juice. I have to eat it basically off the tree. The other night we went out to eat and there was a container of ketchup on the table and I swear I was about to bust the cap off (as opposed to "busting a cap in") and guzzle it down like a cold one.

I'm lucky there's not a Krispy Kreme in town or else I'd binge for three weeks. Speaking of, I learned the other day how to do screenprinting. Totally possible. It's just a matter of time and temperature. Just too cold up here to host this operation in the garage. The "Boycott Donut Stop" shirt is soon to production. We'll do a limited run of about twenty shirts just to prove it can be done and I can cross it off my resolutions list. Then we'll look for the next project. I'm thinking canvases like Andy Warhol.

Seriously, this Paul's Boutique is going to be madness. I'm listening to Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" which, yes, is sampled in "Hey Ladies." Don't know if it'll make the final cut because "Hey Ladies" samples close to twelve different songs, but I've got it if I need it.

Think I'll give up colas for February. I still haven't had a single cola yet this year. My lovely wife suggested I ease back into sugars by having one cola and then kicking it for a month. Not a bad idea. Not really wanting a cola however. Just ketchup. I'm thinking about giving up breads, chips and tortillas for February.

My lovely wife, as some of you might know, got me poppin' on Facebook. I'm not totally impressed except for its ability to locate old friends (and notably a few old stalkers). I'll probably just use it to direct people to The Root Down. My lovely wife acted like everyone who is anyone has a Facebook page and I needed to get with it. This coming from the girl that still reads books. Seriously, who still reads books, right? Geez. So Myspace is out and Facebook is in. Got it.

Blogspot still rules all.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a freaking theme song that they played when getting off of their team jet. That's the most gangsta thing I've ever seen. Guess I'm going for the Steelers this weekend.
Two New York papers have given us an early glimpse into Joe Torre's new tell-all book, The Yankee Years. In his book Joe Torre says that Yankee players would call Alex Rodriguez “A-Fraud” and that A-Rod had a “"Single White Female"-like obsession with Derek Jeter. Haha. Just over a year removed from the team and he's already taking swings. Dude couldn't wait to come clean.
I bet the Yankees are just throwing money at this team so they can finally win a championship, prove that signing A-Rod was a good move and panned out as they had expected (back in 2004...a signing that has given them diminishing returns ever since), trade him off and have Tex take over third base duties. The last thing Jeter needs is another superfan. A sad conclusion to what should have been the most dynamic duo the game has ever seen.

Springsteen's gotta new record coming out today and I don't care. I'm sorry. I liked Springsteen when we were calling him Bob Dylan.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Because I'm a furious worker bee and, additionally, my lovely wife has been out of town for the last 72 hours, I got this done. Geez, that might be record time. Hopefully, I didn't short you on quality. Anyhow, I present The Root Down Guide to Wu: 1993-1996. I'd be remissed if I called it a "hits mix" because, admittedly, not all of them were hits. In fact, some's obvious choices for a definitive mix might be shockingly absent. Yep, there's no "C.R.E.A.M." There's no "You're All I Need" or "Can It Be All So Simple." Instead, I substituted with Meth's "I Get My Thang in Action" and ODB's banger "Cuttin' Headz" which still remains one of my favorites. And, as always, there's a few surprises like a Gladys Knight appearance (although true Wu heads wouldn't be surprised by her poppin' up), uber-dope Bob James, a couple of Al Green cameos and others. You'll take off with the sounds of New Birth and end with the beatboxing of Rahzel and, in between is close to an hour forty five of Wu. I invite you to enjoy. For non-Wu heads, I hope you will find it as a nice introduction, although it's difficult to fathom there are hip hop heads that don't like Wu. I suppose kiddos that were both in 1990 might not be so well-versed.
Geez, I'm old.
And for non-hip hop heads, well, what can I say? In 1993, Wu was the sickest, most formidable crews hip hop had ever seen or heard. Under the careful direction of producer and mastermind RZA, some of the earliest Wu as heard here represents maybe the illest streak for a producer in hip hop's history. What RZA and the Wu did in these four years gave them all a pass forever in many fan's eyes. It's like Stevie Wonder, James Brown when he did Rocky IV, DJ Shadow going hyphy, Isaac Hayes doing voiceover on South Park. I suppose I'm victim to the same apologistic behavior. I see RZA posing on the red carpet with Vivica Fox and my mind tells me, "Well, he did produce Enter the 36 Chambers. Good for him." Others might not get the same pass. Raekwon's been on a downward slide since his first release (which was classic). Ghostface has seemingly improved until Big Doe Rehab. U-God is always up in something--usually suing the Wu. Ol Dirty Bastard died. Method Man started hocking deodarant. GZA's recording on the Fontana/Koch circuit. There's probably more affiliates of the Wu and third generation members than any one person can count. It's dissolved out from some sort of secret society to a library card. But whatever.

In 1993, no one had ever heard that sound before. Those dusty drums that people think Madlib created, sheesh, RZA was doing Madlib before Madlib was doing Madlib. What would El-P sound like if there was no Wu? Those grimy and gravelly verses, that deafening bass, those piano loops. You would wipe out 95% of Babygrande's roster if there was no Wu because that's all they do is bite Wu. Regardless, in its historical context, Wu's contributions during this time helped put the exclamation on hip hop's Golden Age just before it would morph once again into the Jiggy Era. Label's shifted from a focus on quality to goals of quanity. It wasn't how good the recordings you were selling were, it's how many you could sell of that particular recording. In a way, that mentality took over the Wu as a tidal wave of side projects began popping up everywhere (even on the import circuit) and, even harder to bear, a clothing line and even select hygienic products.


For old Wu heads, recalibrate yourself. For new Wu heads, welcome. For non-hip hop heads, listen to y'boy Sully: buckle up and brace for impact for your about to enter one of the most incredible string of recordings in the history of the Wu. I commend you on being so daring. But really, what better do you have to listen to? Guess as Gladys says, "As bad as we think they are, these will be the good ol' days of our children." Amen. They will indeed. Here's the tracklisting and the link--over 40 shots to the dome. As always, duck when you see the thongy things.

New Birth "Honeybee"
Wu Tang Clan "Clan in Da Front"
Black Ivory "I Keep Asking You Questions"
Raekwon "Criminology"
The Sweet Inspirations "Why Marry"
Ghostface Killah "Box in Hand (Unreleased)"
Wu Tang Clan "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man"
Willie Mitchell "Groovin'"
GZA "Liquid Swords"
Gladys Knight "The Way We Were"
Ol' Dirty Bastard "Baby C'mon (Instrumental)"
Ol' Dirty Bastard "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"
Ol' Dirty Bastard "Cuttin' Headz"
Wu Tang Clan "Bring Da Ruckus"
The Charmells "As Long as I've Got You"
Gravediggaz "1-800-Suicide (Acapella)"
Al Green "Gotta Find a New World"
Ghostface Killah "Iron Maiden"
Ol' Dirty Bastard "Hippa to Da Hoppa (Instrumental)"
Gravediggaz "2 Cups of Blood"
(Untitled Instrumental)
Ghostface Killah "Daytona 500"
Bob James "Nautilus"
Wu Tang Clan "7th Chamber (Part II) (Intro)"
Raekwon "Ice Cream"
Method Man "I Get My Thang In Action"
Gravediggaz "Constant Elevation"
Allan Toussaint "Louie"
GZA "4th Chamber"
Wendy Rene "After Laughter (Comes Tears)"
Wu Tang Clan "Tearz"
Ol' Dirty Bastard "Brooklyn Zoo"
Eugene McDaniels "Jagger the Dagger"
Gravediggaz "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide"
Al Green "You Ought to Be With Me"
Ghostface Killah "260"
Wu Tang Clan "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'"
Ol' Dirty Bastard "Protect Ya Neck II: The Zoo"
Wu Tang Clan "7th Chamber"
Raekwon "Incarcerated Scarfaces"
GZA "Duel of the Iron Mic"
Raekwon "Knuckleheadz"
Wu Tang Clan "Ain't Nuttin' to _uc_ Wit"
(Rahzel's Wu)

You've been Wu'd, fool. Comments and criticisms not only welcomed, but encouraged so speak ya' clout.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Looks like the lovely wife and I are moving on up. Two years ago, we sat in just adjacent to Pesky's Pole in the right field stands and, this year, we're in section B123 on the aisle. We'll be catching the Battle of the Sox: Red Sox and White Sox on August 24th, 7:05PM. Now that the hard part is done, we'll start planning a vacation. No reservations though until tickets are in hand. It's like winning the lottery--don't buy that Ferrari until you have the money in the bank.

During my ten minute phone call to the ticket ordering service, I heard Tucker puking in the kitchen and then I go in there to check on him and see Jackson humping him. What a sense of timing those two have. Gotta get them to the dog park today to blow off some steam.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Enjoy some Funkadelic today. Conceptualizing a tribute to Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique which is 20 years old this year. Capitol is reissuing it as some super expensive and expansive piece when, let's be real, if they really wanted to do everyone a favor, reissue it and keep it in the $9.99 range. All their going to do is to adjust the levels so you can actually hear it. Waiting twenty years for a proper recording of one of the finest hip hop records ever and then asking us to pay a 20 year old price is played. Just listening to The Incredible Bongo Band's "Last Bongo in Belgium" (off of Bongo Rock--inspiration behind The Root Down Bongo Tee) as sampled in "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"--geez, Paul's kills.

Red Sox tickets go on sale Saturday at 9AM. Guess where I'll be. Yep, right here with guns a-blazing. Looking to plan a trip to the northeast to do Boston and New York. A trip that will include a fly-by the corner where the cover of Paul's Boutique was originally photographed on the Lower East Side. Then to the brownstone buildings where the cover of Physical Graffiti was photographed. I'll try to avoid making it a trip where I just go visit places where famous album art was photographed. Oh yeah, the cover of Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was shot down in Greenwich Village. Yes, I am sick.

Celtics are starting to win again. They put it to the Heat last night on the road. Tonight, it's the Orlando Magic. We'll see if they're truly back.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Little did anyone know when "Protect Ya Neck" dropped on May 3rd, 1993 from an unknown crew of nine dudes from Staten Island that the world of hip hop would never be the same. When the Wu-Tang Clan broke, it was like a tidal wave. I remember the first time I saw the video to "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man" on BET thinking, "These dudes are raw." I was hooked. I went to the local CD and tapes store (who I now work for) and asked the guy wandering the floor for this cassette almost cringing when I said it thinking that I was getting it wrong. "I'm looking for Wu Tang or Tong or Wu Shang. I don't know. Something like Wu Klan. Not sure." We looked for almost fifteen minutes only to find that it wasn't yet out. They didn't even have distribution yet. For about a month or so, that piano loop was echoing in my brain. I couldn't shake it. Duh-duh-duh-dang! Duh-duh-duh-dang!

I dropped back by probably three other times and kept walking to the section of W's and lo and behold, there it was. Copped it on cassette. Blew my mind. Those beats. Those piano loops. Ol' Dirty Bastard. RZA. Method Man. The first time through, it truly felt like I was the only cat in Lubbock who was hearing it. I felt like I was the only cat in the nation who had this recording. I was open and things would never be the same for me. Now, over fifteen years later, here I sit. Gotta job. A college education. Things have changed. There's very few opportunities in a happy marriage to blast Wu Tang around the house. It's just the way it is. Well, I thought, with my lovely wife going out this weekend on some training, it'd be a perfect time for me to revisit those records. When I say "those records," I'm referring to the years of 1993-1996. Undoubtedly the nastiest, funkiest, hardest years of the Wu Tang Clan. After the debut album dropped, like tentacles of the same monstrous beast, all these solo albums started poppin' up. Like a collector, I hunted them all down. They almost came too fast. GZA had one, then Dirty, then Raekwon. For a kid with no job and only lunch money, you could hardly keep up. Those early records are absolute insanity. So I'm compiling the best from that era for you, The Root Down readers/listeners so you can experience it with me one more time. Before the acting gigs, the affiliates, the shampoo, before Wu Wear started poppin' up at TJ Maxx, before Ghostface jumped ship and never looked back, before the film scores and Tarantino...before all of that, there was 1993-1996 Wu Tang. Prepare yourself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


But I have a logo. And it's better than your stupid little ski team.

Inaugural (that's like totally the buzz word today...what's going on?) slalom will take place on the front side of Wolf Creek on the last day of February. I'll be taking with me three others, presumably on boards. I've yet to establish a Roundhouse Board Team. I bet I'd have more members. Oh well, the right path is not always the most popular.

Former President George W. made his first stop out of D.C. today in Midland, Texas. That's a big splash in a small pool. Wonder if Bro Bro got stuck behind that motorcade. He said that tomorrow morning, he'll wake up, make some coffee for Laura, read the paper, go for a jog, head to the fishing hole to do some fishing and then come back to the ranch and call some friends and catch up. Not much of a departure from what he's been doing for the last eight years.

Sorry, that was just too easy. Maybe a little unfair. Ups to W. Don't know what his legacy will be. We'll probably only know over time. Same with Obama. At least Kanye will be happy. A happy Kanye is a happy industry. Gimme another record, Kanye. And one that doesn't suck.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Began the evening watching a group called Future Boots in a huge house on the south side of town at Kristi's birthday bash. Happy birthday, Kristi. Still waiting on those pics on how you turned your TuRD shirt into a hoodie so I can couple it with Sarah's Jennifer Beals-Flashdance modifications. Speaking of, my brother was in Colorado walking out of a stall at a ski resort in his TuRD Lowrider shirt (still got a few left, kiddies--$5 hand-to-hand, $7 parcel) and a guy walking in says, "Dude...nice shirt." Similiar thing happened to a co-worker while on vacation. Dude thought it was a Beastie Boy shirt. Do the math, son.

So, last night, started out watching Future Boots who were killing Sublime covers and, while I've never been too hot on Sublime, it was enjoyable. Got a call from the homestead about this kid, Cody Jasper, that I once saw play bass at some smokey bar here in the Yellow. He was really young, but he was really good. My lovely wife said to be home at 10:00 so we could head up the way to the Golden Light to see him kill it. When we walked in, there was about twenty people with their eyes pasted on the stage. There they were...the Shade.

Cody was a towering sight. Grinning and swaying feverishly as his guitar sang soft lullabies and, even, screamed bloody murder...sometimes at the same time. His presence was that of a vet--road weary, heart broken and calloused, but at the most subtle of moments, his boyish innocence/mischief would dimly surface as he would address the crowd between songs. But when he played, his guitar scorched and his voice split the smokey cellar and pinned listeners to the back wall. The bassist Sam, with his John Paul Jones locks and John Entwhistle chops, was a perfect match for Cody's fiery furvor. Tay, the small but insistent drummer, pounded all night with the heart of Animal and the precision of Buddy Rich. With probably no more than 20 years experience between them, it was obvious I was seeing something special.

Their sound is Black Keys, Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, SRV, Harry Nillsson "Jump into the Fire," Woody Guthrie, Albert King, Ziggy Stardust, a tornado ripping across the open plains, Jack White, violence, war, heartbreak, Merle Haggard, David Gilmour, a kid banging on his first drum kit, Willie Bobo, Johnny Rotten, a sleepy town on the High Plains, a crackhead on the Sunset Strip, John Fogerty, Jim Morrison, Eddie Hazel and Otis Redding.

I encourage you to seek out the Shade. They're mad nice.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Pretty sure I never posted this, but the above photo is of a fortune that came out of a cookie (that I didn't eat because I've chosen...yes, not eat sugar for a month). We went to Pei Wei on the day after I had begun (January 2nd) and, of all of the words in the english language that I could learn in Chinese, this fortune cookie thought that for me "sugar" would be appropriate. That's a helluva joke. I put it up on the chalk board in the kitchen. It's about the only thing driving me at this point.

Last night, I broke down and said that I had to have a burger. Problem is that I can't have a burger with ketchup which is probably the most punishing omission I'm enduring at this point because I absolutely love ketchup. So, instead, I drown everything in ranch. Yeah, that's like saying, "This month, no liquor! So pass the heroin!" Certainly wasn't a guiltless meal. Before we left, I looked in the fridge because I wanted to smuggle and old bottle of organic ketchup into the restaurant thinking that there wasn't anything wrong with "organic sugar" which was listed as the fourth ingredient. Then I was thinking, "What in the hell is organic sugar and can I have it?" Then I looked at the rest of the ingredients and it was just like any other bottle of ketchup except every ingredient had "organic" in front of it. Organic tomatoes. Organic vinegar. I'm confused. I was going to take it until my lovely wife put her foot down and told me I could not bring my own condiments into an eating establishment. Party pooper.

We had been looking at this house because, well, we get tired of everything except ourselves every two years. It's this house that overlooks a golf course and sits on a plot of land that's 115 feet wide and 200 feet deep. It's gigantic. Hardwood floors in everyroom, beautiful fireplace, two-door garage, wonderful deck in the back, new fence, right price. Only problem was the traffic. We sat in front of the house one day at 3:00PM and counted 34 cars in a five minute period. We went back at 9:00PM and counted 11 cars in another five minute period. Not totally dissuaded, I told my lovely wife that, "By bedtime, this street is probably a ghostly quiet." We thought, if we can deal with the traffic, this would be the perfect home to start a family in. We started looking at it on Sunday, dreamt about it all week and started calling our realtor until, yesterday, my lovely wife found an article on the front of the freaking paper that said the city was going to break ground next week on widening the road this house sat on from two lanes to twice the width and including a left turn lane. Yes, honey, I believe in signs. Sometimes I'm horrible at analogies. Late in the day, I just get really lazy with analogies. I don't want to think them through--they just come out. I was talking about how relieved I was that we found that out so we could close the door on that house and be happy with what we have and not be so pushy to move and widening that road certainly removed it from my mind. I said, "It's like you have an ex-girlfriend that you're kinda thinking of going back to and then you find out she's become a prostitute and you're like, BOOM, done with that relationship." It's the best I could do at 8:00 last night.

If I have to see the guy in Minneapolis hammer a nail into a board with a banana again, I'm gonna lose it. Maybe you all didn't catch that one.

Angry Tim blessed us with this beauty. I'm not a huge Creed fan, but seriously, these dudes killed it in this performance. Trust me on this one. Just trust me. Check out this performance by formerly the most hated band in the world, Creed. They're back and doing it hawdcore.

Too $hort wishes you a happy weekend. Don't stop rappin', kiddies. Don't stop rappin'.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


O'Jays "For the Love of Money"
Gucci Crew II "All About the Money"
Dismasters "Small Time Hustler"
Lightning Rod "Sport"
Geto Boys "I Ain't With Being Broke"
The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon"
Junior Parker "Taxman"
Notorious B.I.G. "Respect"
Puff Daddy "All About the Benjamins"
Jackson Five "It's Great to Be Here"
Jay-Z "Money Ain't a Thang"
Pete Rock and CL Smooth "Good Life (Group Home Mix)"
Funkadelic "Funky Dollar Bill"
Hossam Ramzy "Khusara Khusara"
Jay-Z "Big Pimpin'"
Gil Scott Heron "Pardon Our Analysis (snip)"
John Lee Hooker "War is Over (Goodbye California)"
The Stooges "Money"
Beastie Boys "Super Disco Breakin' (chorus) (Kidda Remix)"
Eric B and Rakim "Paid in Full"
Beatles "Baby, You're a Rich Man"
Audio Two "Top Billin'"
Audio Two "I Get the Papers"
London Posse "Money Mad"
Pink Floyd "Money"
Showbiz and AG "Fat Pockets"
Clipse "Mr. Me Too"
Buddy Baker "Sing Song"
Beatnuts "Off the Books"
Clash "Straight to Hell"
M.I.A. "Paper Planes"
Jay-Z "Dead Presidents II"
J-Zone "I'm --ckin' Up the Money"
Madvillain "Curls"
Wu Tang Clan "C.R.E.A.M."
Jimmy Spicer "Money (Dollar Bill, Ya'll)"
Dexter Wansel "A New Beginning"
The Lox "Money, Power, Respect"
The Lox "Get This $"
Gangstarr "All 4 the Ca$h"
MF Grimm & Kool G Rap "Money on My Brain"
Zhiggie "Rakin' in the Dough"
J Rock "Root of All Evil"
Ed OG & The Bulldogs "Gotta Have Money"
James Brown "I Got Money"
Apache "Make Money"
MC Breed & 2Pac "Gotta Get Mine"
Lil Wayne "A Milli"
James Brown "For the Love of Money (Live in Zaire)"

Hip hop's love for money has existed since the Genesis. It was born out of the burning projects of South Bronx by poor kids with nothing better to do, just trying to get up and get ahead. From the Fifth Ward of Houston, the mean streets of Compton, West Philly, Englewood, Jersey...when labels started handing out the cash, the love affair was born and hip hop was a means to the luxuries of life which, to that point, were unrealized. Money is to hip hop as cheap beer is to country music. They're practically inseparable.

And it ain't just hip hop that has a love affair with money. Hip hop only magnifies and exaggerates everyone's greed and paper chase. When you see Lil Wayne on TV waving his cash around like Kleenexes, it's only a parody, an ideal. But that fantasy has so deeply embedded itself in our minds and spirits that glamour and fortune ultimately underlies everything decision we make in this modern world. Oblivious to troubles of the world and shamelessly driven by the almighty dollar, the American Hunger is that of excess. It's not enough to shove plates of pasta, shrimp and lightly salted steamed veggies down, we want the chocolate cake that's stacked up to our chins and dripping with syrup too. Hip hop's only the soundtrack. Extortion, embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion. Amazing what money is worth sometimes. It's just dyed paper.

So, for that reason as well as the approaching Tax Season, I started conceptualizing a mix which would bring together as many different cultural connotations dealing with money. We're no rappers. We're the common man. We gotta do our own taxes (of course, Clint's services are always available too). Needless to say, hip hop offered many songs that fit the bill, but I wanted to cross genres and pull from a few different origins. Songs qualified by either expressing the recognition that you have no money, the dangers of having it, the desire to have it, the celebration of having more than you know what to do with. It's that time of year where we have to come clean, air out our dirty pocketbooks, fully disclose everything to the big bad IRS. What we foolishly spent, what we managed to save, what we gave to charities (hopefully you remembered to give to a charity, greedy punk). It's time to audit your household, your wife, your husband, your kids, your dogs. Taxman's coming to town and he wants what he's owed. If you've been a good kid, he might even put a quarter under your pillow. So, as Uncle Sam is pickpocketing your earnings and using it to make another politician fat, The Root Down invites you to enjoy the sounds of MUSIC TO FILE YOUR TAXES TO.

Click the cover art at the top or click THIS RIGHT HERE. It's John Lee Hooker, Scarface, Bob Barker, Gil Scott Heron, Junior Parker's covering a Beatles classic, the Kinks, the Geto Boys just trying to not be broke, a cautious J Rock warning, Ed OG's observations of women paperchasing, Lil Wayne stacking cash all the way to a Grammy nomination, Iggy Pop, Apache, Puff Daddy and Zhiggie all getting theirs. Enjoy. And watch for the z-share thongs and bikinis.

Home sick again today. Feel worse today than I did yesterday. My chest feels like someone punched me all night. Watching "Gangland" and learning all about the Hell's Angels. Greatest show on television without question.

Monday, January 12, 2009


So, over Christmas, my lovely wife was given a gift certificate to one of the finer (or just more expensive) restaurants in the Yellow, which provided, is not that expensive, but it ain't Arby's either. So, Saturday night, we get a wild hair and decide to go ahead and spend that certificate and stuff ourselves with all of the sugarless delights that we can. Now, the gift certificate covered only a portion of the lowest priced steak on their menu so, even with the gift certificate, we're gonna drop some cash money. I told my lovely wife at the house that my plans were to wear a t-shirt and khakis...standard apparel. She convinced me to wear a sweater because we were heading to a nicer establishment.

She won.

On the way, I make a remark of, "If I see one cowboy hat there, I'm overdressed." No threats, just making my opinion clear. I've said similiar things before so it came of no surprise to my lovely wife, but the root of the comment are my unwritten and, normally, unspoken rules to fine dining. Since I am, by nature, painfully frugal and shamelessly honest, I tend to be overly speculative of these expenditures. So, to help me keep my ground and remain anchored during the experience, I present to you, my FIVE RULES TO FINE DINING. Oh yeah, if you're wondering, I had the shrimp with spicy cream cheese wrapped in bacon, two sirloin medallions, on a bed of spicy risotto and sauteed veggies. As opposed to the picture above, mine didn't look like some animal threw it up on the plate. It was presented quite esquisitely.


This applies more to the Yellow than to most regions. In fact, you go to Santa Fe or Taos, eclectic mountain folk find a way to make a cowboy hat look sexy and vogue. Not around here though. The cowboy hat is usually covered in dust and manure particles. And the sweat in the bands of those things can be smelled from over twenty feet away. Cowfolk, ranch hands or grits that just wear the cowboy hat like part of a costume feel a weird and evident sense of entitlement to wearing their hats. Their hats are like dreads to a Rastafarian and they take incredible pride in their hats. You've seen them worn in weddings (which is such a silly look...dude, stop, f'real), funerals, church and, yes, in fine restaurants. The cowboy hat, though, is a definitively casual look and any establishment that permits someone to wear their sweaty somebrero can not expect me to adhere to any sort of dress code or standard. Not that I will show up in a Red Sox ballcap and shorts, but I can.


Look, not every plate is the greatest plate ever made. I know most fine restaurants put these miniature shakers on the table the size of thimbles as a not-so-subtle way of saying, "We don't make a bad entree so you shouldn't need alot of salt and pepper," like the salt and pepper represent a the red and green grading pens of a third grade teacher. Go to the barbecue joint across the streets and they put a freaking half-gallon of salt and pepper on the table. There's a correlation there. The more you spend, the smaller the salt and pepper shakers. Look, I'm the one paying through the nose for my meal so, if you don't mind, I'm going to salt and pepper it to my likeness. I don't care whose feelings I hurt. I don't mind if someone gets a complex watching me put the pepper on like a dry rub, I pay you for the meat and, if you don't get it just right, then I pepper it as I like. It's nothing personal.


If there's anything more insulting to a chef than the liberal use of salt and pepper, it's drowning your meat in some saucy Heinz product. My preference is ol' 57 or, for fries, ketchup. Now, I don't drown it, but I'll use it as I see fit. I like my sauces. I like my salsas. I like flavor and while some meats taste "gamey," they still need a little help above just blackening the crap out of it. Bottoms up on the A1 or the Heinz! I love asking for it after the waiter/waitress asks if everything's alright like, "Yep, everything's great, but I need some A1." Then he looks at you like you just slammed on his moms. It's customary, homie. I do this at every meal. Of course, ketchup has sugar in it so no red stuff for me until February.


It ain't gonna kill you, but sending stuff back to the kitchen is more of a chore than it's worth and it tends to ruffle more feathers here than at most restaurants. I saw a lady the other night that, not only sent it back, but broadcasted her displeasure by throwing her hands in front of her, pushing the plate away and waving her hands saying, "No, no, no, no, no!" Lay off the wine, woman. Suck it up and put it back. It's not that bad. The danger you risk here is not the same as Taco Bell where they're gonna lace it with saliva, but it's a sacrifice in service. This is my payback for the free-will request on seasoning and sauce--I won't complain about the entree itself. I know it seems backwards, but look, unless it's making an attempt to crawl off the plate, there's nothing that a little salt and pepper can't help push down. Your experience altogether will be much more fulfilling. The governor can get away with it. Common man will pay for it with diminishing returns in service and still be expected to pay up come tip time because of the nature of the establishment. Just eat, homegrown.


You know, the dignified and the rich are weird folk. They try the damnedest to be so pure and wholesome, but within the first two minutes of sitting down, I had to throw a penalty flag on the table next to me for this woman's flagrant language. She's tanked and carrying on about God knows what and then just starts spewing obscenities. Not that I'm especially sensitive to such language, but that's like climbing to the top of the mountains for the view and then a moose taking a dump right in front of you. And, the first violation, means that I'm licensed to do whatever I please. Again, not that I would, but I can. If I wanted, I could take off my shirt and lay belly down on the table. If I wanted I could stand up, fart and yell, "Now that's how you get er done!" I won't be the first, but won't be the last either.

I'm at home sick this morning. I blame my lovely wife who is a petri dish for colds and flus being that she works around kids. I'm careful and have an immune system of steel. Whatever this garbage is, slid in through the smallest crack in my immune system. Can't breathe my nose without making little snot bubbles. Guess that's what I'll spend my day doing.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I don't mind coming to terms with myself and what I hell I put myself through sometimes. This "no sugar" crap absolutely sucks. Yesterday, when stuck in Dallas trying to get home to the Yellow from Norfolk, Nebraska by way of Lincoln by way of Omaha, I'm sitting there watching my former supervisor put plan M&Ms into his bag and I thought of just clocking him so hard it'd knock him out for weeks and I would eat every small candied chocolate in that bag until they were all gone enjoying it as it melted away under the heat of my mouth.

Yep. I officially miss sugar. I'm sticking to it, but it sucks. I can't have ketchup, I can't have cream in my coffee, I can't even have a freaking rice cake because it has sugar in it. It's horrible. I can't imagine a life like this. Honey and tangerines are fine, but there's nothing like a Snickers. I can't wait. A co-worker of mine told me to ease back into it because, after not eating sugar for two years, he caught a cold and ate a whole box of cough drops and ended up almost going into cardiac arrest. Yeah, that made my lovely wife feel better. Geez. Sometimes, I just gotta learn to not tell her stuff. Like how all the avionics on our company plane went out during our landing in Nebraska so, basically, we couldn't tell how high we were off of the ground. Yeah, probably should've just told her that everything was going "well."

I don't plan on jumping back into sugar consumption, but man, what I wouldn't do for some chocolate right now.

The Money Mix is going well. Just mixed Gil Scott Heron into John Lee Hooker in honor of the same co-worker who gave me sugar advice. Yep, so far we have Jay-Z, Biggie, John Lee Hooker, O'Jays, the Kinks, the Stooges, Gucci Crew, Jackson Five, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Geto Boys...ya'll ain't ready. You think you are, but you can't mess with these steez.

Had a good friend of mine pass away last week. Sucks. She died of natural causes if you call "cancer" natural. My brother noted that this was our first peer to die of natural causes. Guess you take an inventory when you see that happen. I listened to Nina Simone up at work on Sunday in her memory. Seemed appropriate. We hadn't been close in our older age, but we were certainly were as kids. Kinda feels like a part of my childhood died with her. Those memories are still very strong, but, I don't know, I'm just whining because it sucks. She sure was a major part of my life.

Florida just scored. Good. Love to see Oklahoma lose and Stoops with this look as his chance at a national championship once again comes out his backside in the form of a small soft turd, this time, wearing a Florida jersey with the #15 on it.Hey, Stoops, you gotta win the bigs if you wanna coach in the bigs. Fourth and four and Bradford (our darling Heisman winner) throws an incomplete pass. Eh, well, whatever. Harrell won the All-State All American. Not sure what that means, but Bradford won the Heisman and still walked off the field as a loser. Guess no season is "perfect."
Meanwhile, what was appearing to be a perfect season for the Celtics has resulted in an absolutely atrocious slide. I guess they're all headcases now after winning 19 straight. Since, they've gone 2-5 (watching footage of an Oklahoma oboe player crying...hahahahah).
I did something to my ankle which Kool Aid diagnosed as a high ankle sprain. I told him I did it in the kitchen one night while maneuvering around. He said, "You're not a real man if you did it in the kitchen." Maybe he's right, but that meal was badass. Iced it down tonight. Seems that a "high ankle sprain" sounds a little meaner and tougher than an "ankle sprain."
Exile on Main Street is a solid record. I'm sorry, Clint, for ever laughing at you. It's dope. "Rocks Off" kills. Eat a Snickers for me. In fact, eat two.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


So, as one of my resolutions for 2009, I have begun my month without sugar. Conveniently, because I'm the participant and the judge, I'm making the rules here. I think, though, you'll find I'm not cutting many corners. That would probably explain my uncontrollable rage. Here's the rules. They're pretty straight.

  • In processed foods, if SUGAR is in the top five ingredients, I cannot eat it.
  • If, by it's very definition, it's a SWEET, I cannot eat it. Candy, brownies, ice cream. Yes, even if it's sugar-free, I cannot eat it.
  • When out to eat, I will avoid anything SWEET, but will not go past the menu. I will not ask, "Is this cooked with sugar?" and be that guy that no one wants to help.
  • Yes, corn syrup is a sugar.
  • Only acceptable sugars are those that are naturally existent: honey, fruits...uh...honey and fruits.
  • I do it for a month.
  • Oh yeah, I can have beer when I please, but wine is a no-no.

I'd say that the withdrawls have been difficult, but not unbearable. Ask my lovely wife and she might answer differently. I haven't taken a swing at anyone yet, but I've considered it. On New Year's Eve, we went to this dessert/burger joint and I got a double portion of chocolate cake, ice cream and like a freaking Close-Encounters mound of whipped cream (afterwards, George would advise me to go into it gradually--so much for that). I shovelled it back and damn-near finished the whole thing off. I figured I'd be able to store those sugars back for a while, but when I awoke on New Year's Day, like a fiend, I was scrambling through the pantry for anything that met my qualifications. I ended up eating eggs with Louisiana hot sauce. I can drink coffee, tea, freshly-squeezed juices or water. "Snacks" are apples or peanuts. It really sucks that I didn't do more research before diving into it, though. I can't have ketchup, peanut butter, salsa, apple juice, Sunny D, cereal, Kool Aid...forget cookies and sodas...I can't even have peanut butter. Yep, I signed up for this. Even sicker, I'm thinking about doing it until my birthday in March.

When no one else is gonna challenge you to do it, sometimes you gotta do it yourself. I can tell you this, the irritability has already come and (mostly) gone. The cravings are still deeply intense. Headaches were, to this point, minimal and seem to have left. It's only been two days, though. While early, it seems that my energy's a lot better deeper into the evening and my sleep has been longer and more sound.

Additionally, I'm walking four miles a day. I really have been doing that anyway for the past, let's say, four years. Only difference is that, with the addition of a pedometer (gangsta!) I'm ensuring that I do that many miles a day. No cokes yet this new year, but with no sugar, that kinda takes care of itself.

Getting a little better at shuffling cards. Last night I was getting tips to which I replied, "I gotta whole year to figure this out. I'm in no rush to completing my list tonight."

I did, however, begin eating mushrooms. Not the psychedelic kind, folks. Just the kinda that come in salads, spaghetti and some meat dishes. I'm really indifferent to them at this point. I'm not blown away by them and can't really see what the big deal is. It's like cauliflower or olives. You never hear anyone say, "Damn it, Linda, that was some good cauliflower."

For those who only want more mixes, I'll get to that. The one I'm preparing right now that, I'm hoping, will be my masterwork. It'll be my Chinese Democracy, my Quadrophenia. There's no working title at this point, but it's being referred to as the "Money Mix" for now. It's tentative release date is mid-March...earlier if possible...timing with the Tax Season. I'm taking a queue from Chip Davis at Mannheim Steamroller. Pop music is overrated. Just make sure you attach yourself to a holiday or annual occassion and they'll always need your music. I figured, hell, tax season happens every year and I've yet to hear a Tax Season Mix so let's do it. God knows there's enough music about money. The original concept was that the music can fall into one of three different categories--the recognition that you have no money, the ambition to obtain money or the celebration of having so much money you don't know what to do with it. But then, I thought, where does "Taxman" fall in? Where does Pink Floyd's "Money" go? So we just opened up to anything appropriate. Geto Boys' "I Ain't With Being Broke," Funkadelic's "Funky Dollar Bill," Eric B and Rakim's "Paid in Full," John Lee Hooker's "War is Over," Beatles' "Baby, You're a Rich Man," Cool C's "The Glamorous Life," Madvillain's "Pearls," and then, of course, Audio Two's "I Get the Papers." I'll make it about two hours long so you have plenty of material to listen to while filing your taxes.

Well, Texas Tech got their asses whooped in the Cotton Bowl. Don't really know what else to say about that except that it sucks. This team was number two in the nation, lost to OU and then with into a nosedive. Ugh.

Here's to next season.

Marley and Me is nothing but a movie designed leave every member in the audience curled into a ball in their chair crying their eyes out. It's like the story doesn't even really mean anything except that it draws an unbreakable attachment to Marley and then you have to watch him die slowly for the last thirty minutes of the film. Oops: spoiler alert! It was excrutiating. I think the film maker should be slapped for as long as I got emotionally exposed during the end of that movie. Like two hundred people just line up and just lay into him with their best backhand for, uh, let's call it 40 minutes. It was brutal, this cat next to me was doing the subtle wipe-a-tear-off-your-cheek-but-make-it-look-like-an-itch move. You're not fooling anyone, duke.

I think crying in a movie should come as natural reaction to emotional content of a film, but the emotional outpouring shouldn't be forced. Near the end, I was like, "Not the musical montage! No! I can't take anymore!"

The mountains are covered in snow...end of February can't come soon enough.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Either deliberately or as a product of immersing myself into 1988 hip hop and doing mixes of old De La Soul records, I heard less new hip hop in 2008 than any year prior, without question. I think that, for me, it's an aging process. I can barely hear the new stuff. I remember hearing Q-Tip's new record and thinking that it might as well be a polka record because I had as little connection with it. Like why should I have to force myself to keep up with a music that I've long since abandoned? Hip hop is just whack these days. Labels have abandoned it. Radio has bailed on it. Fans are turning on it. Read these year-end lists that are out there. Hip hop gets very little mention at all. Gone are the superstars. We got a bunch of young-buck A&Rs, executives and, yes, artists trying to keep this thing afloat and it just ain't happening. The majors are just shook when it comes to hip hop. With the exception of T.I. and Lil Wayne, you could hear a pin drop this year in hip hop. A couple of years back, I remember listening to a supposed "underground" rapper talk about how lame hip hop had become and I was sitting there thinking, "Get over it, bro." Now, I'm realizing how difficult that is to do. What am I hanging around for? A new MF Doom record that'll never come out? Another rapper to die so we can realize his genius after he's gone? A proper Jean Grae release? I'll keep my correspondence to a strictly "need to know" basis. I'm getting too old to get giddy over every Babygrande promo that hits my desk.

And, yes, that's just an aging head's bitchery--not elitism. I know that Babygrande still puts out some heat. I'm just sayin. Another year over 30 and I'm publicly abandoning one of the only things that was keeping me young? Yep. I guess so. But it's not really a revelation, but rather a recognition of my reality. My world just doesn't revolve around it. That new Kanye record sat on my desk for two weeks before I even put it in. And, when I did, I took it out after three songs. I'll still defend hip hop in the public sector, quote Lil Wayne whenever I have the opportunity and even take in a few shows from time to time and shop the merch table. But I need a break. I have enough sources to put me on to the new ish that I'll never be far away.

That being said, I'll still be pumping 1989 like it's brand new this next year. 1989 is a huge year in the history of hip hop. There's classic records releasing almost every week in 1989. This is gonna be a dope year.

Ha, man on CNN says that sludge slide in Tennessee makes water "undrinkable." Bro, I think it's always been undrinkable. Ask the only two teeth you have left. Surprised he can even speak without whistling.

For all intents and purposes, 1988 was probably my birth year in hip hop. I remember sitting in the back of the bus listening to an Eazy E tape on a little jam box. It was a kid named Aaron and his buddy George. Ah, the words I learned on those trips. Amazing that when I go back now and listen to "Nobody Move," it's mind-boggling that I turned out how I did. I mean, not in jail with a steady job and a lovely wife that loves me. I was on a road to nowhere. Owen and I were talking the other day about how frankly and casually, Eazy E speaks of straight-up rape on the last verse of that song and, to young ears, you wouldn't even know the difference. It's like we were listening to an Andrew Dice Clay record.

And it's really no surprise why so many people reflect on 1988 so fondly. The whole nation begins to buzz with hip hop. It's starts booming in the trunk of cars at traffic lights much to the despite of local law enforcement. Cable television begins catering to the growing trends and there's a revolution in the programming. "Yo! MTV Raps" makes its debut in August and becomes a promotional vehicle for not only the music but the entire culture. BET becomes a prominent player and just a year later, they respond with "Rap City." It was also the first year that Rap went POP in the form of this cat from Philly named the Fresh Prince. Yeah, he makes an appearance on this list. C'mon, that album killed. It never got soggy. If you disagree, you're just hating mercilessly. Get over it. In fact, thanks to Fresh Prince, The first Grammy-nominated rap record came from 1988. And, while the East Coast was still the epicenter of hip hop, the brushfire began to take hold in cities like Miami with their Bass movement, Houston with the development of Rap-a-Lot Records, Bay Area began to blow up. Seattle, fueled behind the talents of Sir Mix A Lot and others begins to pop. It was starting to move from just a regional buzz to a full-fleged sensation.

Media scrutiny of hip hop and it's content begins to swell and artists like NWA, Public Enemy come under fire from the mainstream. Concerned parents start policing their kiddies' headphones like never before. With the celebration of this new artform in communities across the nation came also a fear of how to control it and govern its content. Certainly, such wasn't helped by the recordings of 2 Live Crew whose Move Somethin' began to set a precendent for hip hop of a more adult orientation. That next year in 1989, it would come to a head in a very visible court case which could almost be summarized at THE AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATE v. 2 LIVE CREW.

For better or for worse, hip hop had finally arrived at the mainstream. And while the mainstays like Run DMC, Boogie Down Productions, MC Shan and others began to dim, upstarts like EPMD, De La Soul, Public Enemy and NWA started to blow up.

There was that feeling like what was happening was only going to get bigger and better. So many recordings from 1988 were better than the earlier recordings, but not as good as the years to follow. This was the year that creative forces started coming together and the recordings became so thick and imaginative. The Golden Era of hip hop (as it's commonly known) had commenced. That's 1988, folks.

I remember watching as NWA break into middle-America and the lyrics from "Straight Outta Compton" and "Express Yourself" burned themselves into my psyche forever. I didn't really meanmug yet, but I started hearing these tales of places I didn't know. It wasn't like you could go to the east side of Lubbock and experience what you heard on records. The neighborhoods in these songs were like hell. Like the last chamber in hell. Right before decapitation. The songs struck fear, but equal curiosity. I got bit and it broke out immediately. For a kid with no money and means to travel off the block, these rides to school would be my window into the culture of rap music and would ultimately lead me to a lifelong connection with the music. When you think about your life path, it's strange how things like that cassette with the voice of Eazy E could have such a lasting impression. Aaron probably stole it from his older brother and here, on the back of the bus, ten to fifteen kids are being converted...changed. Some of them forever...from just one listen.

Luckily for me, I've had the pleasure to go back and revisit those old recordings to once again discover that appeal. For some recordings, they didn't age so well. Others, got even better. Over the last year, I've poured through countless records from 1988 and, I have to tell you, year by year this gets more rewarding. Who in the hell needs 2008?

To hear a young Eazy in his prime. Or hear Kool Keith before he fell the hell off. Groups like the Masters of Ceremony featuring a young cat named Grand Puba. When a queen named Latifah showed us the "wrath of her madness." The first time you bopped your head to "Lyrics of Fury" or the first time your jaw dropped when you heard EPMD. If 1987 was like the first time a girl winked at you, 1988 was like your first tongue kiss. F'real.

So, now with no further delaying (because, c'mon, you've already waited twenty years), THE 30 BEST HIP HOP RECORDINGS OF 1998...
Straight from the stable of the great 45 King comes Lakim Shabazz in his earliest recording. The beat's one part Hall and Oates, another part James Brown, another part corny house music, but it all works. Lakim would go on to a rather forgettable career save a couple of solid full lengths. His affiliations with Five Percenters dominated his recordings and, his two full lengths are monumental in the surge of Five Percent hip hop. Just check out the threads! "Pure Righteousness," the lead single from the album of the same name is just that--pure righteousness.

Positive K's most popular recording would be the uber-gonzo "I Got a Man," but dude was forgotten after that train passed and this, his first effort, was completely buried. "A Good Combination" is an early glimpse into an emcee with swagger and poise. His delivery is a lazy, but confident drawl and his flow is that of an early Grand Puba. Obviously, as history would later be written, K would turn out to be no Puba, but his 1988 debut is as good as any early 12" on the market. Co-produced by the Audio Two of "Top Billin'" fame, "A Good Combination" is a sparse listen at first, but is carried from the from the 1:20-mark by Positive's evident skills for no-frills raps. Straight-up headnodding music right here.

Another 45 King gem, Latifah (the "Queen" still used only occasionally), came onto the scene as a confident, driven and sasssy 18 year-old and blazed competition with this banger. I always hated the chorus, but the verses are insanity. Man, what was I doing at 18 years old? Oh yeah, I was working at Dairy Queen pushing hamburgers and Blizzards out of the drive thru. I can tell you this, I wasn't dropping 12"'s with legendary producers nor was I signed to freaking Tommy Boy. Latifah was nice, though and "Wrath of My Madness" is a proof that before all this Hollywood crap happened to her and she started poppin' up in Loreal commercials, the girl was a rhymeslayer and had more flow than dudes ten years her senior. Don't get it twisted, girl dropped gems. These are like those cafeteria raps: "So release all your shyness, call me your highness and dare to feel the wrath of my madness." Word 'em up. You don't want that.

History will show that Ice-T's second record, Power, wasn't his masterwork, but it certainly holds its own as a key moment in T's rise to infamy as well as critical acclaim. So often, T's recordings have been dismissed as "gangsta rap" when, in reality, they're primarily cautionary tales of the dangers of the street game. Perfect example is "I'm Your Pusher" which describes the harmful effects of prolonged drug use while using his music as a metaphor for cane. As crafty and as responsible as "Pusher" is, there's "Girls L.G.B.N.A.F." which shamelessly invites girls to take their clothes off and have reckless sex with T. Deep album cuts like "Grand Larceny" and the Edwin Starr-driven "High Rollers" help solidify this record on the list. His sophomore record, like most, is an improvement on his debut, but unlike his comrades, he wouldn't peak until his fourth record. That's 1991, homie. Come back in 2010.
Mark the 45 King's biggest contribution to hip hop might be also be his most effortless. Pulling a four-second sax loop from Marva Whitney's "Unwind Yourself" and then looping it for a seemlingly endless six minutes, "The 900 Number" is perhaps one of the single greatest beats in hip hop history. It's perfect in so many ways and represents the very essence of beatmaking. Sometimes you just don't have to overthink it. Dude takes two bars, loops it for six minutes and makes history. What this beat did for MTV (see the Ed Lover Dance) and what it did for DJ Kool later with "Let Me Clear My Throat", "The 900 Number" can not be understated. All these young producers are slaving for days over one beat when back in the day, the 45 King kills it with two bars. If you ever wanna see a party ever explode it's "The Humpty Dance" or "The 900 Number." B'lee dat.

Philly on the map! Tuff Crew was the City of Brotherly Love's first true crew. Their breakneck delivery coupled by their sheer musicianship and understanding of hip hop's context is evident. From the getgo, their recordings were always much more complete and accomplished. Danger Zone, the Crew's second record, shows monumental growth from their first outing just a year earlier and, like T, doesn't even reflect their creative peak. "Open Field Attack" and "My Parta Town" lead the way with their balance of both lyric and the turntable wizardry of DJ Too Tuff. Don't sleep. Tuff Crew were the real deal.


It's place in the history of hip hop is questionable, but it's place in 1988 was among the top with little debate. Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock were, at best, a party act with skills. They were like the second coming of Audio Two. You ain't really listening for message or direction, you just wanna get down and this record forced you to do just that. It Takes Two is so much deeper than just the title cut. "Keep It Going Now" and "Make It Hot," both in the vein of the title banger are still worthy of party mix inclusion. Be careful of discarding It Takes Two as just a pop record. It's actually damn good. Man, I hope Lyn Collins got paid in full for that sample.

Original member of the famed Flavor Unit, Chill Rob G partnered with (read the label, kids) DJ Mark the 45 King to bring us his debut 12", "Dope Rhymes." Damn, that's four appearances for the 45 King so far. Chill Rob G's performance on "Dope Rhymes" sounds dated when I listen to it today, but dude held it down back in '88. His skill and flow was almost limitless and the B-side, featuring "Chillin'" and "Wild Pitch" almost trumps "Dope Rhymes." Definitely a 12" worth pursuing. He would later get robbed by Snap! for his "Let the Words Flow" on their song "The Power (I've Got)" which was re-recorded by some moron named Turbo B. Makes me wonder what would've happened to Chill Rob G had he been asked to rhyme on that record. Guess we'll never know.
MC Shan is the very meaning of "swaggah." Dude just had it. Once again under the careful ear of the great Marley Marl, Born to Be Wild is Shan at his very finest. And that's saying a lot considering that he broke the market with Down By Law. With cuts like the title cut, "I Pioneered This" (geez, talk about claiming your own) and "Juice Crew Law" (who didn't sample "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" in 1988?), Born to Be Wild is among the finer and deeper albums of 1988. Sure, it won't be mentioned alongside the top albums on this list, but there's no mistaking Shan's place on this chart and his notch in history. We'll forgive Shan, however, for producing "Informer." Geez, bro. Why?

Girls, I got 'em locked? C'mon, guys, you're fooling no one with them high-top fades. All that aside, Girls I Got 'Em Locked is a decent offering from the short-lived duo. Driven by the title cut, the party-anthem "Super Nova" and the corny but dope "Girls Act Stupid-ly" (mainly dope because of it's prominent Commodores sample), Girls, like Rob Base and EZ Rock is predominantly a party record, but can't be entirely discredited simply for being a party record because it's damn good too. It's drips breakbeats and is always worth of party mix consideration. Super Nova Cee and Casa Nova would sphinctor off one more EP before falling off forever, but their finest moments on this full length cemented their place in one of hip hop's greatest years. Golden Era Classic!

This is that b-boy ish right here. Every track on this beast will pack the parquet with toprockers in seconds. The Masters of Ceremony, featuring the talents of a still-young Grand Puba Maxwell, were a potent crew of sound ninjas who were simply on point. Their sound and compositions were exact and perfectly produced. Dynamite is a funk-filled masterpiece which borrows from all of the best (Mandrill, JBs, Parliament, Wilson Pickett's "Engine Number Nine") and rocks harder than almost any other crew record from 1988. Geez, how many dudes were in Masters of Ceremony? I'm counting six on the cover. I don't know if there's limitations on how many "masters" can be in one crew. Fellas, you can't all be masters. You're nice, but not that nice. If you were so nice, you would've managed to record more than one record. Despite that, Dynamite's slammin'. Definitely worth coppin'.

Go Stetsa! In Full Gear is a snapshot of one of hip hop's greatest groups at their crest (not to be confused by groups at their crust). Orchestrated primarily by the great Prince Paul before he started producing De La Soul records and making serious cash (the rest produced by tastefully as well by Daddy-O), In Full Gear is a fun-loving record that boogies and backspins for well over an hour and satisfies with every listen. Driven commerically by the housey and extremely timely "Talkin' All That Jazz," this misstep was corrected with bangers like "This is It, Ya'll," "Rollin' Wit Rush," and the beatbox anthem "Stet Troop '88." The greatest aspect of this recording is the opportunity to hear a young Prince Paul make final adjustments to his game before hitting a four-year stride beginning only a year later with De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising. Puffy white jacket not included.

Besides being one of those the definitive Slick Rick records, "Mona Lisa" is one of those songs in the history of hip hop that just never goes away. Slick's prose is as intricate and dizzying as anyone out there and his mastery of the "conversating overdubs" is on full display on this recording. Some like "Children's Story," others are more the "Treat Her Like a Prostitute" type. I'm a "Mona Lisa" cat.

Frozen Explosion was practically D.O.A. back in 1988, but this rare banger, is a turntable anthem. Almost every record back in the day had at least one turntable feature on it. Frozen Explosion's "Mac Knife" highlights the talents of the DJ by the same name. While he probably won't get mentioned on any DJ lists, "Mac Knife" is a kitchen-sink assault of breaks and samples. (I think I hear Prince's "Starfish and Coffee" in there!) When you think of cats like Mac Knife hiding in every crew, it certainly makes your respect the lost art of the DJ. Here's a crew that will probably be noted for nothing else in hip hop, but save "Mac Knife" because this track is straight illin'.

Hailing from Jersey, the little-known and even lesser-appreciated Krown Rulers came as fast as they went. But what they left behind in Paper Chase is a rich and rapid b-boy classic. It's breakbeats and seering vocals from another Grand Pubah were a devastating combination. And, for all you kiddies, this record boasts the original "B-Boy Document" later to be revelled in Philly's High and Mighty's remake on Rawkus more than a decade later. Yeah, this right here is the blueprint. And, along with others in 1988, the "power duo" as a concept begins to make a rise.

DJ Cash Money had been making his mark for years prior to probably his biggest hit, but 1988 would be the year that he broke open with the shotcall of his trusty sidekick begging crowds for all the "ugly people be quiet!" Borrowing a break from from Tears for Fears and then assaulting the audience with a sequence of scratches and bass booms, "Ugly People" was orchestrated specifically for hyping up the crowd. Even tastier is the remix which doubles the breaks resulting in triple the "ahs." Cash Money and Marvelous' Where the Party At? killed it, but it was this track that put it on the map. People who think this record absolutely kills, be quiet.

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Marley Marl's contributions to the game are hard to be summed up in one record. I mean, the cat's a legend and has worked with some of the meanest emcees ever to grace the mic. To think that In Control does this guy any justice is absurd, but let's pretend, for a moment that putting him in the middle of this list and not at the very top is not a comment on his abilities and rather an assessment of this record and this record only. Marley's production strengths are on full display on Control and, if for no other reason, by this record for the unquestionable classic, "The Symphony", which is still unbeaten as the definitive posse cut featuring Big Daddy Kane, Craig G, Masta Ace and Kool G. Rap. Knowing that your head just exploded at the thought of those four on the same track, go clean up your brains and proceed to the next selection....pupil.


Man, when this is your #13, you betta step it up for the rest of the list. I'll do my best. This, the debut of arguably one of the finest emcees ever, Long Live the Kane drips with Kane's smooth yet fiery delivery and offers up classic after classic. "Ain't No Half Steppin'," "Raw," "Set it Off" and the Mister Cee feature "Master Plan," Long Live is official. From the top of "rappers steppin' to me, they wanna get some," the now-legendary verses flow from the mouth of Kane with little effort and optimum effectiveness. It's an essential record for any kid wanting the infalliable hip hop collection. Not only that, plenty of deaf morons have sold it back over the years so you can find it cheap and plenty. Their misunderstanding and shortcomings are your gain. Go get it.

Maybe a surprise at #13, JVC Force with their debut Doin' Damage is as good a listen as you'll get from debut artists for the year. Definitively 88, it's 100-120-beats-per-minute pacing and marvelous sample selection and usage pours on the charm. What's great about Damage is the pure innocence captured in the recording. Just three dudes ready to get down. There's very little trickery or gimmicks--just straight forward b-boy anthems and party raps. While, in the context of 25-plus years of hip hop, JVC would easily end up in the pile of throwaways, but 88 was their year and this is a well-earned place among the greats. And thanks to the guys at Traffic who reissued this beauty (along with many other from this list).

88 was a year instrumental for young talent. The changing of the guards was evident and duos like EPMD who had the swagger of a vet, but the energy of rookies broke through the static with their debut classic Strictly Business. What I've always loved about EPMD is that everything was so beautifully crafted, every snare, scratch and sample is in the right place. From the jumpoff, these dudes were the sickest because of their commitment to quality tracks. They weren't the best emcees, but they more than made up for it in character and their signature stylings--the little back-and-forths, those small but dramatic pauses between words, that booming low-end, those scratches across every refrain. Quality products everytime. EPMD were just serious. You don't wanna play.

By 1988, BDP had already established themselves as one of the most talented and illin' crews in hip hop. With the unfortunately killing of DJ Scott La Rock, though, KRS was left without his musical force. He did what any young buck in hip hop does, get up and keep swinging. In just a year, though, since they're debut Criminal Minded, KRS moved away from the almost mockingly "criminal" elements of their first recording to more conscious raps. And without La Rock, he took production into his own hands and faired more than respectably. While sparse at times, the production fits and KRS flows endlessly. Through the one of the earliest of hip hop's senseless tragedies, KRS went into survival mode and kept it moving. In the end, he conquered the game and came out victorious. Oh yeah, "Illegal Business" is my jam. Hands down. Fresh, for suckas.

Before the Native Tongues were the Native Tongues, there were the Jungle Brothers. And this, their debut, was like the constitution of what would become the Native Tongue Crew. It's blending of party vibes, consciousness, gentleness and, even at times, animal sounds (yep) set it apart. Their soulful yet mindful approach to their compositions was certainly a step in another direction. While so many were focused on trash talk and one-upping the next man, Jungle Brothers spoke of unity, positivity and didn't dumb down material for the masses. Straight Out the Jungle is among the more significant recordings in hip hop's history in the way that it took the current path (at the time) of hip hop and redirected it only subtly. It wasn't a huge departure, but it was noticeable. I love this freaking record. Without Jungle, De La might have not had any place in the market. It was instrumental in carving out a small corner of the marketplace for like-minded hip hop artists who didn't rhyme about the constant and tiresome objectifying of women, drugs, crime and cops. Dope record.

Like BDP, '88 found another power duo coming back for their second record (I just love how dudes would release a record a year back then--and not just records, but classics). Follow the Leader helped prove for Eric B and Rakim that Paid in Full was no fluke. The compositions are tighter, thicker and faster. And while "Microphone Fiend" seems as the popular standout, the jam is "Lyrics of Fury." Even the title track smears almost anything on the market today. Most dude's will kill a vagrant to have three tracks that would be remembered 20 years from now. Eric B and Rakim had three on one record. Safe purchase. Let the wallet open wide.

A few harsh truths brought to you by yours truly: after Raising Hell, I didn't like anything else Run DMC did except for this banger which, to me, is the single greatest Run DMC track ever recorded. Yes, even better than "Peter Piper." "Beats to the Rhyme" is the quinessential Run DMC track. Do the math, son. And, to make the track greater (like the Bob James "Nautilus" sample isn't good enough, bastard), all of the vocals were scratched into the song by Jam Master Jay. The vocals were put onto wax and then JMJ mixed them into the track. That takes more talent than anyone can even fathom this day in age. I will never let anyone front on "Beats to the Rhyme" until the day I die. Those grunts and shouts of James Brown just layered into the track, those breakbeats between the verses, those horns. Geez, I need to take a break. This is killin' me all over again.


One of the earliest recordings on the now famed and historic Rap-a-Lot Records out of Houston, Def IV's Nice and Hard is an interesting piece because it really has no fit in what is known or believed to be true of Houston hip hop. These dudes danced, rocked the party, smiled, flexed and sampled KC and the Sunshine Band. Regardless of the origin, though, Def IV rocked it either way. Dripping in excitability and uncontainable energy, Def IV prove that not only the east coast can get down. It's interesting too in the way that with the nation being divided into regional sounds and sensitivities, the Def IV were fine with just emulating what had already proven to be successful. If someone said to me, "Check this out, it sounds like EPMD and Kane," I'd most likely reply with, "Dope, I like EPMD." This record is really surprisingly dope. I encourage the hunt. It's quite rewarding.
Anyone that ever heard those early NWA recordings knew that the "Most Likely to Succeed" Award was split between two honorees: Cube and Eazy. Eazy was first to blow when he stepped off to drop his first solo record and, without question, his most impressive outing. Eazy's wisecrackin' but tough as nails delivery made him an instant magnetism for attention. Eazy Duz It is an absolute beast that features a kid quite ready for the jumpoff. His abilities as an emcee are only overshadowed by this veteran-like confidence over a track. It's like he never has any question what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Eazy's an old pro. Listen to "Nobody Move," "Eazy-er Said Than Dunn" and "I'mma Break It Down," and his technical and stylistic understanding of the responsilities of a emcees are far beyond his years on this recording and the quality of the record (while shamelessly violent and excessively sex-obsessed), is on a new level for gangsta rap records.


The day I have a kid that grows to the age of, say, five or six (that's an arbitrary number, really), he gets this on wax and is forced to listen to it daily. There's a few reasons why. Firstly, it's content, for the most part, is void of any real explicit content (except for an embarrassing slip-up from a live recording by Fresh Prince where he jokingly begs for "all the homeboys that got AIDS be quiet!") and it's still def as hell. It just oozes with coolness. Fresh Prince's agility and pure talent as an emcee is on full display. Safe to say that his accomplishments on this record annihilate any of his later work under his God-given name. The second reasons why I would let my kid have this at such an early (yet purely arbitrary age), is that it represents the blueprint for all quality (Golden Er or otherwise) hip hop recordings where the DJ is as much of a star as the emcee. It's a perfect balance maintained from track to track. Jazzy Jeff, unlike most other hip hop records, doesn't get just one track to flex on, he flexes on almost four or five tracks almost solely and if he doesn't get his own spot, he's killing it between almost every lyric. Very little hip hop records come close to adhering to such a balance between players and maybe it would only be possible by these two. Such is communicated in the title of the record: "He's the DJ, I'm the rapper." I still jam this record because it's so freakin dope.


As heavy as 1988 was with classic recordings, very few left as much of a deep impression on the game as the last three recordings starting with Ultramagnetic MCs Critical Beatdown. Led by the searing delivery of Kool Keith's prose in his first full length appearance and the spectacular production of almost always underrated Ced Gee, Critical Beatdown is almost an encyclopedic guide to Golden Era hip hop. Tracks like "Ego Trippin'," Give the Drummer Some" and "Funky" are instantly recognizable to even new heads because of their deep influence on future hip hop. It's so often cited because it's so representative of a time and a place in hip hop's history and, while, it would never get a mention outside of the hip hop community, what it did from the inside is difficult to capture in here. All the ingredients that made a great record are tripled by Ultramagnetic on Beatdown. It took almost almost three years to make which, back then, was an entire career. Hell, it still is. And such would become problematic for Ultramagnetic then taking close to four years for a follow-up. That lapse back in 1988 meant your career and, essentially, the same was true for Ultramagnetic. By the time their second record dropped in 1992 on Mercury, they were long forgotten. There was a slight resurgence when they joined Wild Pitch to release their Four Horsemen, but nothing would come close to the original: Critical Beatdown.




If you saw this album cover in 1988, pretty safe to say that not only your year was about to take a wild turn, but you might be affected for the rest of your life. A brutal assault of street prose and bruising production, Straight Outta Compton was the record that mainstream media loved to hate and kept parents up all night wondering why little Bobby won't dropped the F-bomb at dinner. If "gangsta" had a "pop" record, this was it. And that's certainly not to discredit the album, but it's true of its path to middle-America. With no radio play (c'mon, really? NWA?) and very little attention initially, it started poppin' up like little street gangs in every city in America. Next thing you know, it was on and "F--- tha Police" was hitting anthemic levels while deep album cuts like "If It Ain't Ruff," "Dopeman" (which makes its second appearance on record here as a remix) and "Gangsta Gangsta" solidified the crew as one of significant talent and that there was no gimmick here. Dude's could really rock a record. Unfortunately for NWA, the song that was the biggest depature from theme would also be the biggest song on the record, "Express Yourself." There's no real fit for the positivity and optimism of "Express Yourself" on Straight Outta Compton, but that aside, it still is an incredible song. Think about what comes together on this's the first time the country heard Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube and they're all on the same record. It's the first time that people really became afraid of hip hop and its uses as a weapon, it's ability to express displeasure with social ailments that surrounded you, it's ability to represent your neighborhood with bullish pride. Straight Outta Compton is not only essential from a hip hop aspect, it's required for its influence on popular music and inner city cultures.




When PE hit the market in 1987 with Yo! Bum Rush the Show, they were still a little ahead of their time and their debut would become largely forgotten. But, when a year later, they returned with their sophomore effort, everything flaw was fixed, every emotion was intensified, every sample and break was cut with unprecedented precision and PE turned up every track to full blast so that, this time out, they would rattle heads from New York to LA. While I'm still a bigger fan of their next record, Nation of Millions (or simply Nation as it's commonly referred to as) is as complete and as satisfying as any hip hop record from prior to 1990 as you'll find (many would contest that it's the best hip hop record ever recorded). It took everything that was right about hip hop and its culture to that point and crammed it into this small explosive space for a listen that is as jarring and discomforting as anything up to that point. For years, the Bomb Squad's production has driven and inspired producers, boggled diggers and frustrated heads to giving up and taking that day job. Chuck's furious verses revolutionized the emcee to less shotcalling and more of a ministry--using the mic to voice dismay and, what's more, drive effective action. I'm listening to this record right now and it's almost too much for one sitting. It's just incredibly effective in all ways. It's as much a metal record as it is a hip hop record. The samples are used with blinding dexterity, Chuck's language and words are presented with such urgency and panic. If there was an musical equivalent to, say, an air raid alarm, this is it. "Night of the Living Baseheads," "Black Steel," "She Watches Channel Zero?!," "Show 'Em Whatcha Got," "Rebel Without a Pause," "Louder Than a Bomb" and (geez, how could I forget) "Don't Believe the Hype," good Lord, man. That's as good as a Public Enemy greatest hits collection! Get up from your seat, you lazy ass, and go directly to the store and buy this right now. It'll get your head straight.