The 40th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums and songs, comes from producer Enoch of Gainesville, Fla., hip-hop quartet CYNE, whose excellent 2005 album Evolution Fight was followed in ’08 by Pretty Dark Things (Hometapes).
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Mercury/PolyGram, 1991)
This is the first album that I ever knew word for word from front to back. Up to this point, I had been familiar with some hip hop records such as De La Soul, Beastie Boys and Run-DMC, mostly from my brother. But when a friend played me this album in 6th grade, it was over. Hip hop officially became the only thing I would listen to for many many years.
Black Sheep is such a fitting title for these guys, because in my eyes, they were just as talented as any of the other Native Tongue artists, but completely unappreciated. To this day, they still have the song that can spontaneously cause entire crowds to chant “Engine engine number 9, on the New York transatlantic line” but you would be hard pressed to find a lot of people in that same crowd who actually know what it is that they are listening to. This album has so many classic singles, such as Similak Child, Strobelite Honey, Flavor of the Month, and of course, The Choice is Yours, but the album cuts are just as great. Flawless production and amazing lyrics from Dres and Mista Lawnge.
Coast II Coast (Loud/RCA Records, 1995)
So a couple years after I got hooked on hip hop, while I was more or less living at my friend’s house (the same one who turned me on to Black Sheep), we decided we were going to go see the Alkaholiks play. Now being that neither of us could drive and were not even remotely close to any sort of appropriate age for this sort of thing, his parents of course shut us down immediately. So we did what any self-involved teenagers would do: sneak out and catch a ride with an older kid. We get there and make our way to the front of the stage for the Alkaholiks set. Near the end, we look over and who do we see? My friend’s father, with steam coming out of his ears. He apparently figured out we snuck out and came to track us down. Now anyone who has seen the Alkaholiks play knows that the first few rows of the show can pretty much bank on getting covered in beer and all types of booze. So as if on cue, as soon as he starts walking toward us, all hell breaks loose and beer is being sprayed everywhere, including all over him. He drags us out, and on the way home while yelling at us, red and blue lights start flashing behind us. To make a long story short, my friend’s dad got pulled over and had to go through all kinds of sobriety tests to prove to the police that he wasn’t drinking and driving despite the fact he smelled like a keg party. Hilarious in retrospect. Oh, yeah, and this album is great.
Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the 36 Chambers (Loud/RCA, 1993)
Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Loud/RCA, 1995)
To me, the two best hip hop records ever, hands down. The reign of the Wu in the nineties is probably my favorite period of hip hop music, because it was just so incredible to hear what they would do next. They had so much style and substance and RZA was a machine with the production. Some of it was just so unorthodox at the time and it’s funny because 15 years later, you have producers like Just Blaze and Kanye who have used elements of the RZA formula to great success, which just goes to show how influential and timeless that style is.
Funcrusher Plus (Rawkus, 1997)
This is the record that made me get a sampler and start making beats. The whole DIY aesthetic that Co Flow brought to the table was very innovative for the time, because without a label, it was virtually impossible for most hip hop artists to be heard unless you lived in NYC or a major city, or were selling tapes out of your trunk like Too Short. So when indie labels like Rawkus, Fondle ‘Em, ABB and others started popping up, it was almost like a complete rebirth for hip hop in a sense. There was so much talent coming from the underground at that time that it was just incredible. Company Flow really spearheaded that in my eyes and it was their “Independent as Fuck” mantra that really gave me that push to pursue production.
(Note: This album will be reissued in May. More info here.)