Man. It felt like just yesterday; I heard my first Hip-Hop/Rap record, and it shifted my musical taste and eventual side wishes in high school, like becoming a rapper. It was an impression unlike no other, and it took me through crazy musical journeys in life. I’ve gone to underground shows, and I’ve gone to see festivals and personal headlining shows of those with top-tier talent from my generation–I’m talking the 2 Chainzs and Mac Millers, contrasting the Pells of the world. But as I reflect throughout the years, time passes, and come August 11th, 2023, the genre turns 50, which will offer many a chance to reflect on how the culture shifted the direction you took with music, whether choosing which rappers to see in concert or becoming an artist/journalist yourself. Leading to that 50 mark, Nas’ Brand/Label, Mass Appeal, will be releasing 10 EPs representative of Hip-Hop’s evolution, and I, for one, am excited for all 10 of them.
These EPs will contain production from a sole producer–each producer has been a part of cultural shifts in growth and style. Swizz Beatz will cover modern east coast hip-hop(1999 – Present); Mustard will cover the west with his revitalization of past west coast funk flare, but Mass Appeal is looking at the bigger picture–they are bringing producers that are more than just a coast. Hit-Boy is working with straight lyricists, and Take a Daytrip is working with Alternative Hip-Hop. It won’t be a core history lesson as the latter probably won’t create alternative sounds that made artists like Deltron 3030 and Jurassic 5 unique, mainly due to the looseness of the term Alternative (I mean shit, A Tribe Called Quest are Alternative). However, what they bring will stay true to a concept DJ Premier masters on the first of these EPs.
For Hip-Hop 50, Vol. 1, DJ Premier takes the realms and rewinds time to the turn of the 90s. Hip-Hop had DJ Scratches to Jazz and Soul Influenced production, eventually shifting from playful percussion to gritty snares, drum machines, and piano keys–it paved the way for the mid-tempo Boom-Bap to transition into grittier street raps and break-beats. DJ Premier was at the front of it, producing the boom-bap-jazz hip-hop with Gang Starr and smoothly assimilating toward the bleaker side with production for Jeru The Damaja. Each era has its producer everyone wants to work with, and Premo was that guy for the 90s; he still is, holding his legacy strong. We get reminded of this throughout Hip-Hop 50, Vol. 1–with the classic, crisp Premo vinyl scratch and a range of productions that fit the mold of the sonic themes on the EP–some wonderful verses and contrasts between artists that boost its effectiveness. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down.
It begins with this portrait of 1990; abstract horns blare with harmonic vibrancy as the drums flow in a rhythmically parallel 1-2-3 punch, and the scratches begin as Joey BADA$$ starts to flex, continuing a solid streak of great verses in July. It continues to progress with an influx of confidence radiating through different perspectives. We get that shifty-grit of the late 90s with “Remy Rap,” where Remy Ma comes hard–her bars left me speechless; Rapsody contrasts that with the cadence in her boom-bap-influenced flow, leaving you the need to keep going and never stopping. It’s a 14-minute trek that offers a platter with old and new artists taking DJ Premier beats and bringing them to life to give us Hip-Hop bangers to blare over the stereo. I know I’ll be bumping all these tracks, specifically “The Root of All,” the Slick Rick track featuring Lil Wayne. And I hope you do as well, especially with more on the way.