Classics Revisited started as a personal project I was doing to go back and listen to every hip-hop album I had ever heard to review them from a critical standpoint. The homie J Monkey sparked the idea to turn this into a series for TRU, and Rizoh made the smart decision for me to exclusively review classics. The goal was for me to review revered albums from contemporary ears, without considering influence or impact. Basically, I wanted to see how they would be considered if they were released today.
Eight months and 31 albums later, my journey has ended, and I’d like to take sometime to reflect on what Classics Revisited has taught me about the golden age, the new school and hip-hop in general.
It became clear early on that “old head bias” is definitely real. Some of the albums widely hailed as classics -such as 3 Feet High and Rising and ATLiens- sounded to me as very good, but not mind-blowing. Other albums, such as Long Live the Kane, made it abundantly clear that an old head’s gripe about today’s hip-hop being about nothing more than flash and materialism is somewhat hypocritical. Flash, materialism and sex in hip-hop are nothing new (in fact, all three elements can be heard on “Rapper’s Delight”).
That said, much of the nostalgia and even longing for the late ’80s andearly-to-mid-’90s is warranted. Illmatic, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back and The Chronic are flawless albums which not only stand up to the best of today, but trump it. And that’s just the start. Ready to Die, Me Against the World, Resurrection, and more truly put the stamp on an era rightfully known as the golden age of hip-hop.
Another thing I noticed is the apparent increase of corporate control from 1987 to 1997. When De La Soul dropped 3 Feet High and Rising in 1989, their stellar creativity was the norm in hip-hop. However, when I listened to some of Stakes is High (an album that was eventually scrapped from the series), De La Soul’s outside-the-box music seemed to become the exception. While the hardcore hip-hop released in the mid-90s was definitely dope, it also resulted in a slew of similar-sounding tunes. Unfortunately, this corporate control only increased, to the point where great albums are a needle in a haystack in today’s hip-hop landscape.
But enough about the corporate slugs. Even though I didn’t exactly love every album I reviewed (some I found bland or just plain bad), I had a good time discovering the gems of hip-hop’s past. I realize that there was a lot I left untouched, and I apologize to those whose favorites I left out. I’d also like to thank everyone- especially the old heads- for bearing with me as I likely sliced through their favorite albums. No disrespect was meant toward any artist; I only meant to write honest reviews.
One last thing. Those trends from the 80s? The flat tops? Basically anything about Big Daddy Kane’s image? The oversized jewelry? Okay, that last one is still around. But it occurred to me; “cool” is in the eye of the beholder. I wonder what will be cool in 20 years, and how much I will embarrass my nieces and nephews when blasting “Gold Digger” while picking them up from school…
“TURN THAT OFF, WE WANNA LISTEN TO DUBSTEP!”
“SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! KANYE WEST IS GOOD MUSIC! Kids today with their trashy noise….”
Classics Revisited: The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
Classics Revisited: DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…..
Classics Revisited: Outkast – ATLiens
Classics Revisited: Fugees – The Score
Classics Revisited: 2Pac – All Eyez On Me
Classics Revisited: Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
Classics Revisited: Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Classics Revisited: 2Pac – Me Against The World
Classics Revisited: Genius/Gza – Liquid Swords
Classics Revisited: Nas – Illmatic
Classics Revisited: The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die
Classics Revisited: Common – Resurrection
Classics Revisited: Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Classics Revisited: Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (’36 Chambers’)
Classics Revisited: A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
Classics Revisited: Gang Starr – Daily Operation
Classics Revisited: Main Source – Breaking Atoms
Classics Revisited: A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
Classics Revisited: Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped
Classics Revisited: Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth – Funky Technician
Classics Revisited: Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Classics Revisited: De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
Classics Revisited: Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Classics Revisited: Slick Rick – The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick
Classics Revisited: Big Daddy Kane – Long Live The Kane
Classics Revisited: Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Classics Revisited: NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Classics Revisited: Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full