Category Archives: i used to love h.e.r.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Dan Workman (Ten Kens)

The 35th 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 Dan Workman of Toronto-based indie-rock outfit Ten Kens. The band’s self-titled debut is out now on Fat Cat Records (home to SMS favorite Frightened Rabbit).

check your headBeastie Boys
Check Your Head
(Capitol, 1992)

I’m going to ignore what I feel are obvious choices for best hip-hop record – Endtroducing, Chronic 2001, Nation Of Millions, Illmatic, etc – and go with what I’m sure will be a more controversial pick: The Beastie Boys, Check Your Head.

Is it real hip hop? Purists would surely say no. However, hip-hop is all about innovation in samples, beats, rhymes and flow, and to deny this record as one of the all time greats would be a shame. In direct contrast to their psychedelic sampling masterpiece Paul’s Boutique, it was the punk-infused nature of this record that seemed to ward off hip-hop enthusiasts and call upon a new nation of flannel-wearing grunge kids, kids who had for the most part otherwise been ignoring so-called hip-hop. It had somehow placed the unpolished sound appeal of the day firmly into the hip-hop arena, and this was no small task. It made it ok to put out a hip-hop record with less-than-stellar sound quality and production value.

The record flows with self-constructed samples and raw live beats. Yet all the necessary hip-hop elements are still firmly in place. The cuts are flawless and the rhymes are solid, albeit mostly non-sensical. There is something very pure and very true about this record, and I believe it belongs firmly in place with other hip-hop greats. That, and I just think it’s really cool.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: author Dan LeRoy

The 34th 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 writer Dan LeRoy, author of The Greatest Music Never Sold and the 33 1/3 book on the Beastie Boys classic Paul’s Boutique.

Dan offers thought-provoking insight on an album that, honestly, I had never heard, which is just another reason I get such a thrill from this series. Visit Dan at MySpace or on his Web site.

seeds of evolutionDark Sun Riders feat. Brother J
Seeds of Evolution
(4th & Broadway/Island, 1996)

Two of my favorite hip hop albums are the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and Seeds of Evolution, by Brother J’s post-X Clan group Dark Sun Riders. I wrote a 33 1/3 book about the first, and the second is the subject of this post. But it didn’t really strike me, until Kevin extended this very generous invitation to give Seeds some very belated praise, just how dissimilar the two records are.

Everyone knows, or should, that Paul’s Boutique was pretty much the last mainstream gasp for anything-goes sampling. The Beasties, Dust Brothers and Matt Dike stuffed every groove with as much familiar sonic flotsam and jetsam as possible, but changes in sampling law have made it unlikely any artist will ever be able to party like it’s 1989 again. Seeds, however, resides at the opposite pole. Except for the basslines (played, interestingly, by Quicksand’s Sergio Vega and producer/journalist Rich Tozzoli) and a handful of sound effects, it is boom-bap at its most uncluttered and primal. That’s high praise here, because the drums — mostly supplied by producers DJ M.A.T.E. and UltraMan — are simply huge throughout the disc. On songs like the single, “Time To Build” and “Rhythmous Flex,” UltraMan’s beats are so monstrous that other instruments are barely necessary.

Part of the pop-culture potpourri of Paul’s Boutique includes lyrical namechecks and nods clustered so densely that whole web sites are devoted to nothing but parsing Paul’s verses for obscure bits of cultural trivia. But Brother J’s refusal to play spot-the-reference gives the songs on Seeds a timeless quality. It’s set up like a sci-fi fable, with Brother J and his Dark Sun Riders on a quest for truth and light, in a messed-up, out-of-balance future world that seems not unlike our own. In fact, it might be the only hip-hop album I can recall where the interludes are actually necessary, something like the Broadway-style transitional songs such as “Sally Simpson” and “1921” in the Who’s Tommy.

Which brings us to the last big difference. Even people who, post-Licensed to Ill, believed the Beasties were assholes of the highest magnitude would have been hard-pressed not to chuckle at some of the juxtapositions and clever lines on Paul’s Boutique. It is simply a very funny record. Seeds, by contrast, is anything but. The few lighter moments occur mostly during interludes like “Day of the Gathering,” a splash-panel of an introduction to the whole valiant Dark Sun crew that couldn’t help but make any old Marvel or D.C. fan smile. And while Brother J’s lyrics resurrect some of the very serious topics (pro-black nationalist, anti-gay) that made X Clan a troubling proposition, it’s hard at least to argue with stuff like the haunting “Return to the River,” which describes seeing the “young and unschooled telling old man stories/teaching lessons never learned…no one seemed to care that the shadows were becoming one with the flesh.” Sound like any MCs and any hip-hop mainstreams you know, in 1996 or at present? Whatever he’s saying, Brother J’s forceful, yet refined delivery is a reminder that he’s one of the most unjustly unsung rappers around, something like the missing link between Rakim and one of today’s more eloquent mic practitioners.

For all their differences, Paul’s Boutique and Seeds do share at least one unfortunate bit of history: both are great albums that major labels had no idea how to sell. The Paul’s Boutique chart debacle, and the Beasties’ comeback on Capitol, have now entered legend, but Seeds marked, as best I’m aware, the last time Brother J got a release on a major. That’s a loss for the larger hip-hop world; if you have followed the Clan’s recent exploits (as on 2006’s Return to Mecca) you know it isn’t like the guy suddenly forgot how to dominate a mic. But if you’ve never heard Seeds of Evolution, you should find a copy at once and hear him at his creative peak. Or better yet, listen to it back to back with the Beasties; it makes a nice rebuttal to anyone who claims there’s only one kind of “real” hip-hop.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Illa J (brother of J Dilla)

The 33rd 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 Illa J, younger brother of the late J Dilla (R.I.P.). Delicious Vinyl will release Illa’s debut album, Yancey Boys, which features Illa J rhyming/singing over previously unused J Dilla tracks. It’s due for a November release. Check the first single below.

ruff draft

J Dilla
Ruff Draft (Mummy Records, 2003)

Note: Stones Throw remastered and rereleased the album in 2007 with additional tracks, instrumentals and a new cover (on the right side).

My favorite hip hop album is Ruff Draft by my brother, J Dilla. It’s classic! I love this album because it’s so raw … he took it back to straight loops. The intro pretty much sums up the album, “You wanna bounce in your whip with dat real live shit? Sound like it’s straight from the mufuckin’ cassette.” Even though he used loops throughout the album, Dilla didn’t loop beats the same way an average producer would. What’s crazy is that a lot of the joints off the album were flipped using the same record. I love to hear it in the system in the car … it bumps real hard, as Dilla declares in the intro. It puts me in a trance. As with any Dilla beat, the drums are out cold. Ruff Draft is important to me because it has inspired me lyrically as a songwriter and an MC. It helped me to think out of the box from an MC standpoint as well as from a producer’s perspective. I love the overall concept of the album, which is getting on your grind and doing whatever it takes to make it. Whenever I listen to it, it keeps me focused and on track with the ultimate goal of achieving my dreams and making them become reality.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Her Space Holiday

The 32nd 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 Marc Bianchi, the man behind Her Space Holiday, whose full-length XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival comes out Oct. 7 on Mush Records.

Be sure to hit the Mush Records YouTube page for a series of short films Bianchi is releasing as a preview to the record (which is really great, by the way).

de la soul is deadDe La Soul
De La Soul Is Dead (Tommy Boy, 1991)

there are three records in my collection that have reshaped the way i think about music, and creativity in general. i suppose it is irrelevant to mention what two out of the three are in this half baked little rant. however, the one i will talk about is De La Soul’s masterpiece “De La Soul
is Dead.”

in my opinion, this album goes far beyond its weighty banner of being hailed as a “hip hop classic.” it’s simply a classic work of art no matter what genre you apply it to you. “de la soul is dead” is a sonic collage of the light and the dark. humor mixed with horror. the political and the playful. the sublime and the shocking. all the ingredients of the human experience mixed into one rich, vibrant concoction. it’s the subtleties in this album that keeps it timeless and enduring. no matter how many times i let the needle dig into this record, I always find something new to appreciate and learn from. Choruses, that initially introduced themselves as catchy sing alongs, eventually mutate into gritty and insightful social statements. skits, that at first listen are light hearted, and child like, twist into biting and aggressive commentaries. all of it wrapped up into a familiarly sweet spoon full of sugar that helps get the medicine down. like a small kid with quick fists, it’s far tougher than it appears. to me, prince paul is more like a master painter than a super producer. dipping his brush into every
color known to man, while at the same time, keeping all of it from running into a soupy grey mess. focused and incredibly loose all in the same breath. “de la soul is dead” is a testament to originality and limitless expression.

maybe i am reading into it too deeply? or being overly sentimental? i’ve been told that i do that sometimes. So if none of the above appeals to you, let me also just include that “the beats are slamming.”


I Used to Love H.E.R.: Aaron LaCrate

The 31st 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 Aaron Lacrate, an influential piece in the ever-popular Baltimore club scene who recently has contributed to the Delicious Vinyl RMXXOLOGY compilation. He’s also teamed up with Delicious Vinyl to form the new record-label imprint Delicious Gutter.

Eric B. and Rakim
Know the Ledge
(Don’t Sweat the Technique, MCA, 1992)

Know the Ledge defined the era of the early 90s Bomb squad classics. It also is one of the best uptempo hard hitting lyrical records of all time. Playing both hip hop and club stuff growing up in Baltimore, this was also a very important transition record between those 2 genres. Its had a load of influence on me as a producer with the kind of records that (Debonair) Samir and I make. It has all the best elements of hip-hop but at a dance tempo, without any of the less interesting elements of dance music – just a monster club record. Also a great forward thinking NYC party record – not to mention its on the classic Juice movie soundtrack. I went to see Juice the day it opened at 9:30 am, just for the record and watched it twice. Also I’m a huge fan of wordplay and the title / hook really nailed that for me. Not to mention the bassline is just retarded when you hear that in the club, a timeless banger. Shout out to Rakim Allah, God Mc still holding it down. I got to open for Rakim in Baltimore no too long ago and that was one of my favorite gigs in a minute. Just rowdyness.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Kid Static

Oddly enough, I first heard about Kid Static through Whiskerino, a nationwide community of beard-growers of which a couple of my friends were a part. Turns out, the Chicago-bred Kid Static is, too. He even put on a show at their annual gathering in February in Nashville.

Kid Static was kind enough to offer up the 30th 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. Check out Kid Static’s 2008 release In the Meantime, which garnered a 7.1 from Pitchfork.

  • Kid Static | Man Up
  • Mos Def
    Black on Both Sides (Rawkus, 1999)

    I found out about Black on Both Sides in 1999, my junior year of high school, from this kid Ryan who was younger than me but had impeccable music taste. Back then, I was always head deep in some glitchy, stuttery drill n bass track or making some kind of beeping insanity on my computer. I was on my way to Coconuts to pick up Things Fall Apart from The Roots because I felt bad for burning it, and the Slim Shady LP because all my friends had it but me. Since I got back to my room and listened to it that first time, this album has permanently been in my rotation. A lot of people have mixed feelings about Mos Def, especially when he gives ad-libbed, mostly singing performances like he gave at Rock The Bells this year in Chicago. But when he’s on, he’s definitely on and this album is in my mind, his opus.

    Over the years duke has been willing to experiment and go places a lot of rappers who see themselves as rappers won’t go. Mos Def seems to see himself as a musician with more to offer than just words to music. He plays instruments on five of the tracks on the album and his vocals, return to the flavor I personally liked from the days of Black Star. Favorites on the album include Fear Not of Man, New World Water, Mathematics and Ms. Fat Booty.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Oxford Collapse

When I wrote Oxford Collapse on the off chance they might be interested in contributing to I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums, I heard back within an hour from singer/guitarist Mike Pace: “I can speak on behalf of the band when I say we are obsessed with Ice Cube circa ’88-’93, and a tour doesn’t go by when we don’t listen to “Death Certificate” in its entirety (usually multiple times).”

Remember: Oxford Collapse plays Rhythm Room with Frightened Rabbit on June 24. Oxford Collapse’s new record, BITS, comes out Aug. 5 on Sub Pop, and you can pick up the recently released Hann-Byrd EP at eMusic.

Pace’s entry is the 29th in the series.

Ice Cube
Death Certificate (Priority Records, 1991)

I bought Ice Cube’s Death Certificate on cd sometime in 1993, about a year after it came out. I had the day off from school, and I rode my mountain bike to LaserLand, the preeminent cd/laserdisc superstore in Syosset, Long Island. The album was already notorious – a parental advisory sticker clearly branded in the corner of the cover art only hinted at the maelstrom of controversy contained within – and my 14-year old adolescent self had absolutely no problem getting the long-box off the rack and paying for it with my allowance, while the bored clerk behind the counter nary looked in this brotha’s direction.

I rode home with the LaserLand bag on my handlebars, most likely farting out of excitement. I was already in love with the radio-friendly cassingle for Steady Mobbin b/w Us, (I’m almost positive that I first heard Steady Mobbin on Yo! MTV Raps!) and I couldn’t wait to go home and pore over the other 18 tracks, memorize their lyrics, and giddily spew Ice Cube’s homespun epithets at my buddies. To paraphrase another Ice of the era, the tension was mounting, on with the body-counting!

A few school friends rode over to my house to hang out, and we did what any normal group of 7th graders hip to hip-hop in the early 90s would do: we took all the pillows and cushions in the house and made a big pile in our finished basement, popped the cd into my Discman that was hooked up to some $5 speakers from 1974 that I bought at a garage sale, pressed play, and had a big ol’ pillow fight.

After that initial listening session, the album quickly became one of my favorites. I didn’t know anything about production techniques but I could tell some crazy shit was going on behind the scenes. I was blown away by the dense layering of samples, sound effects, and skits that permeated the record from beginning to end (no doubt tricks Cube & Co. previously learned from working with the Bomb Squad on AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, I’d later learn). Death Certificate sounded so full; bursting at the seams with the coarsest, crudest, most colorful, studied language, and augmented with the boldest, brightest, and deepest musical flourishes I’d ever heard on a rap album. It also helped that the majority of the 20 tracks were heapin’ with hooks, both musical and lyrical.

At the time, I was disappointed by the album version of Steady Mobbin’, as the radio edit was still etched in my memory. I had nothing at all against cursing (at 14 years old, I was cussing like a sailor at recess), but all the “bitches” Cube employed just seemed less musical than the linguistically-neutered version I was familiar with. I learned to live with it, but to this day I still swear by the radio edit of Mobbin’, and by that I mean I scream “fuckballs shitass!” every time I hear it.

Those lyrics overall, man … fucking A! For years I thought that he was saying, “a massive gale, crack a sail,” in A Bird in the Hand, which is some real Herman Melville-type shit (turns out the actual lyric is “of Massengill or whatever the hell crackers sell in their neighborhood,” which is equally, if not more, brilliant). Tons of “potent quotables” abound on Death Certificate:

“Went to mom’s house and dropped a load in the bathroom.”
“rather have an AK than a fucking canine.”
“When I was young I used to hang with the seventh graders, little bad motherfucker playing Space Invaders.”
“Or should I just wait for help from Bush or Jesse Jackson, and Operation PUSH? If you ask me the whole thing needs a douche.”

Cube managed to capture everything: the good, the bad, the mundane, the highs, the lows, the in-betweens, the personal and the political. For all his bravado, he wasn’t afraid to tell you that he’d drive to his mother’s house to destroy her bathroom. He’d later boast that his “jimmy ran deep, so deep put her ass to sleep,” but here he’d admit to putting “the rubber on the wrong way” when he lost his virginity. He’d beat you damn like it ain’t nothing one minute and then find himself lying helpless on the hospital waiting room floor literally dying to see a doctor the next.

I don’t listen to nearly as much hip-hop as I did when I was in my mid-teens, but Death Certificate is one of the few rap records that I can listen to, enjoy, and quote from beginning to end. An Oxford Collapse tour hasn’t gone by without at least one spinning of that album. “CubeSpeak” has found its way into the band’s lexicon; we named a song For the Khakis and the Sweatshirts after a line in My Summer Vacation. If we blow past a cop car and it doesn’t budge, someone will inevitably say “didn’t even look in the brotha’s direction.” (yeah, that one’s from The Predator, an amazing record in its own right). Whatsamatta you BURNIN’? is also a hit.

“Eat a dick straight up!”
“Fuck Pac-Tel, move to Sky Pager.”
“…he’s a goner, black.”

The list goes on. We’ve eaten at M&M Soul Food in Inglewood, the mom n’ pop chicken shack that Cube recommended to us in Steady Mobbin’. We’ve got the bootleg t-shirt of the month, with “You Can’t Touch This” on the front. And in the end, while I hope to live long and prosper, I’ve got absolutely no regrets about signing my Death Certificate at such a tender age.

  • Ice Cube | Steady Mobbin’ (album version)
  • Ice Cube | Steady Mobbin’ (clean version/radio edit)

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Aye Jay!

I knew when I purchased the Gangsta Rap Coloring Book that I had to have its creator, Anthony “Aye Jay!” Morano, take part in this series. His is the 28th installment for I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro).

By aye jay!

In these bloggish times we live in, you can find a plethora of lists by A to Z list internet celebs waxing poetic about the records they love and would take to a desert island, as if you could pack to be stranded on a desert island? I never got that. I know that you know that I know Raising Hell and It Takes A Nation of Millions are essential listening. I wanted to expand horizons, and maybe put you up on some records I love, but you may not have heard. In my opinion, all of these are up to snuff, but check your political correctness at the door, cause some are potentially offensive.

Willie D, Controversy
The Houston TX based Geto Boy’s first solo album is the illest Rap record of all time? Quite possibly. It’s all here: Drugs. Sex. Murder. How can something Wrong be oh-so right? For example: the song I Need Some Pussy has the P word repeated 17 times in the first chorus alone! As a bonus, the Geto Boy’s LP cut Do It Like A G.O. is on here too! On Kinky Motherfucker, Willie tells us all about, you guessed it, how he’s a kinky motherfucker. Welfare Bitches tackles the serious social problem of welfare abuse by bitches, and the crown jewel: the song Bald Head Hoes. I consider BHH to be THE definitive song about bald headed groupies, but D doesn’t just point out the problems, he offers solutions: “I’m proposing a bill/ to Capitol Hill/ to kill/ all baldhead women at will.” Willie D for Senator!
Bald Headed Hoes – Willie D

Suga Free, Street Gospel
Pomona-bred permed pimp Suga Free teams up with producer DJ Quik and makes a masterpiece. While his punchline filled fast rap is akin to E-40 Fonzerellli, theres so much more going on here. I hafta shout out J-Zone for putting me up on this record. He once said that I’d Rather Give You My Bitch was the best rap song of all time, and after repeat listenings, it’s hard to disagree. Sex and humor have long been linked, but not so much in the rap music, but Free’s pimp tales make panties drop “just to warm her ankles” and you also get some great cameo raps by Quik and Hi-c, who I love. If your’re still doubtful, just check Why U Bullshittin? And understand that the line “Perm silkier than Charolette’s web/ waves deeper than Redondo Beach” is worth price of admnission alone!

Dr. Dre, Rodium mixtape series
From 1986 to 1990, well after NWA’s ascent to rap royalty, the good Doctor made 4-track mixtapes to sell at the Rodium Swap meet in Compton. If you don’t know what a tape is, I can’t help you, but make sure you Google it after reading this to completion. These tapes had ill song selection, the hits of the day, custom raps by the NWA crew, innovative mixes and mind blowing megamixes that put the Stars on 45 to shame. Humor too! In the beginning of the You got ganked tape, Dre claims there’s no music on the tape, and you got duped. After a few silent seconds, he says “nawwww, we just booolshittin.” But booolshit this stuff is not. The only problem is how great these tapes are and how few people have heard them. Get your internet rap nerd on and find 86 in the mix, Criminal, and especially Raw, which starts with a custom intro from JJ Fad and leads into MC Ren channeling Chuck D over the Bring the Noise beat!

[STREAM]: Audio via YouTube of the Rodium mixtapes (as stated, highly recommended!)

The Click, Down and Dirty (self released version)
Because E-40, B Legit, D Shot, and Suga Tee hath sprinkled the nation, i understand folks know about the Click. They did put V-Town on the map and all, but lets get into the wayback machine for a sec. After self releasing Down and Dirty, and selling mad copies outta the trunk, they signed to Jive Records, but a funny thing happened between the DIY tape and Jive CD: sample clearance issues. It’s unfortunate that the version America heard was all changed around. A song was dropped, snippets were reversed or changed all together. The result is a slightly different record, leaving the superior version to live on bootleg dubbed cassettes passed from person to person like folk tale or spinning yarn. For bonus points, also look for the Lets Side EP, which also stands the test of time.

Ego Trip Presents: The Big Playback
One could argue that I shouldn’t list a compilation here, but my argument is this: why go through the hassle of finding classic cuts yourself when you have rap scholars (Mao, YN, Sacha J, GA and BR) to do so for you? From the groundbreaking magazine of the same name, to TV specials, and reality television forays the ET crew do it well, a la LL, and continue to innovate. As the story goes, after the magazine folded, the crew makes The Book of Rap Lists (aka the best book of all time b/k/a the rap bible) then teams with Rawkus Records to produce a soundtrack to said best book of all time. From MC Shan and Marly Marl to the pre-Adrock stylings of Beat bop, The Big Playback is a primer for those ignorant to rap history, so pull up a desk younguns, and take notes. Make sure to cop this on vinyl (google it) just to see the full spendor of Brent Rollin’s amazing cover art in full 12” x 12” glory. Es muy bueno!

(If anyone can help with mp3s, holler … thanks!)

I Used to Love H.E.R.: What Made Milwaukee Famous

Just in time for the band’s show Tuesday night at Modified, singer/guitarist Michael Kingcaid of What Made Milwaukee Famous offers up the 27th 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 (read intro).

I think that it would be pretty impossible for me to put my finger on any one hip-hop album that would define my love for the genre. It is much easier, however, to list the rap albums that ushered me into different levels of a deeper appreciation for hip-hop and inevitably permeated into my musical tastes for other genres, too. Some of these were (embarrassingly) spoon-fed to me by society. And I would have loved to just throw out obscure albums that would get respect. But this list is more-so about the rap albums that I wouldn’t be me without. In chronological order, they are:

1. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986)
one of the first two tapes that I ever bought with my own money. it’s remotely embarrassing that this is my entry into the rap world (by way of Aerosmith). but the bottom line is, that particular crossover put rap on the radar for a lot of white kids that wouldn’t normally be seeking it out. in that sense (but not that sense alone), the album is seminal.

  • Run-DMC | Hit it Run

2. Gang Starr – Step in the Arena (1991)
as far as rap ALBUMS go, this one was the first to capture my full attention for the duration of the whole album. there was such a long time that Yo! MTV Raps just had me buying singles for all the songs that I found on there. this album blew my mind from front to back and I must have listened to it (at least) 500 times within the next five years.

3. Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)
I feel like I don’t even need to say anything about this album. this album took everything that everyone loved about NWA, the DOC, Easy, and basically everything about hip-hop to a whole other level. this album put rap on the map as a commercial giant. plus, it’s a phenomenal piece of work.

  • Dr. Dre | Let Me Ride

4. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders (1993)
this one might stand alone as the most solid hip-hop album that has come into my life. it seems like it’d be easy to dismiss this one as something that would be stuck in the 90’s. but put it on every 6 months and see how much of it you can regurgitate. that says something.

  • A Tribe Called Quest | We Can Get Down

5. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
there are so many MC’s that wouldn’t exist without the Wu-Tang Clan that I feel like it’s kind of an injustice that there isn’t a statue of them in NYC. not to mention, Ghostface is still putting out albums that almost always end up in everybody’s top records of the year – every year he puts out an album.

  • Wu-Tang Clan | Bring Da Ruckus

6. Nas – Illmatic (1994)
one of the greatest storytelling rap albums that I own. or at least, it was up until that point in my life. I think that I had to buy this CD twice from listening to it so much

  • Nas | Represent

7. Aceyalone – Book of Human Language (1998)
I equate listening to this album with reading one of those books that change your way of thinking for the next few years of your life, like Breakfast of Champions or Siddhartha. Acey’s message is equally as impressive as his delivery.

8. Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)
I’ve been listening to a lot of Jay-Z recently and I’m pretty sure that he’s my favorite MC. possibly ever. with all the big willy and cash money talk that goes around in hip-hop, his (in retrospect) seems pretty honest. at least, the figures that he starts off touting on his first albums vs. the kind of duckets he throws around these days are reflected accurately in his respective albums.

there are other MC’s and groups that have been equally as influential on my tastes in music (Missy, Outkast, UGK, the Roots, Mos Def). but as far as albums go, those are the pivotal fence posts of my experiences with hip-hop. ok, maybe you could throw UGK’s Super Tight in there, too. but I’ve got plenty more to learn and listen to. and I’m all ears and I’m desperately in need of suggestions because with the year spans listed, I think I’m overdue for my introduction to my next indispensable, hip-hop chapter.

(Click here for all entries in the I Used to Love H.E.R. series.)

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Head Like a Kite

The 26th 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 (read intro), comes from Dave Einmo, the man behind Head Like a Kite. On June 17, Head Like a Kite will release There is Loud Laughter Everywhere (Mush Records). Given Einmo’s talent for morphing samples into pop melodies – he sampled sounds from Super 8 movies his parents shot in the late ’70s for his first album – his choice to discuss an instrumental classic seems natural.

endtroducingDJ Shadow
Endtroducing … (Mo’ Wax, 1996)

When asked what hip hop record has had the biggest influence on me, it’s tempting to dig deep and pick something less obvious. But my mom taught me to be honest. DJ Shadow’s Entroducing really changed the way I thought about beats and loops and production. He seamlessly threaded gargantuan Bonham-esque drums with moody, down tempo grooves and found sounds that oozed nostalgia while at the same time fast forwarded to the future. That album created a whole new genre of hip hop that still gets mimicked today. It’s cinematic and demands your attention. I love records like that. There are lots of albums by guys like Prefuse 73, Four Tet, Madlib, Dabrye, DJ Krush, Madvillian, and The Roots that have had lasting impressions on how I listen to music. But “Entroducing” was the album that really opened up my eyes in 1996. It’s hard to believe that it came out 12 years ago. That’s the true test. A timeless record that will still sound fresh a decade from now.