PAYING A LITTLE RESPECT TO RAP AND HIP HOP’S LEGENDARY ACTS
by Carter James
For music enthusiasts who think Hip Hop greats belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the quality and aesthetics of the genre’s vinyl reissues is deeply significant. Time flies and as bands like Nirvana enter their eligible years so do the likes of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. The landmark politically potent rap group Public Enemy entered the Hall on the same evening as Canadian rock legends Rush.
The importance of making it into the Hall and the institution itself holds dubious meaning for some but for record collectors the real celebration begins when needle, turntable, and 180 gram vinyl takes us down memory lane.
“Memory Lane” happens to be one of the powerful classics the 20th Anniversary gives acknowledgement and full treatment on a new edition of Nas’ epic Illmatic. The bright orange that adorns this version is distinctly different than the more subtle brown of the original or the 10th Anniversary cover in gray. The newest latest may bump more than the basic reissue counterpart but it lacks the worthwhile bonus tracks added at the 10 year mark. Completests will want the full yo of bonus opus Star Wars teamed up with NY State of Mind and Halftime. Halftime had as party of its own when it dropped in limited edition 12” form on Record Store Day.
Universal Music Group recently launched the “Respect the Classics” campaign with frill free releases of a varied roster of MCs and rap groups including Eazy-E Ice Cube and their legendary group N.W.A’s hardcore editorial Straight Outta Compton. Fans will want to scrutinize both artwork and track lists when it comes to the packaging of these releases. Some might have bolder artwork but lack the bonus weight. Here the respect does not include what Priority Records brought in terms of musical extras. Priority includes bonus remixes and tribute tracks to the 20th Anniversary Compton record and Ice Cube’s solo debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted is joined by the Kill at Will EP.
Universal’s models lack these sonic amenities. I suppose some school of thought would defend the basic album as the elegant and proper way but why shouldn’t the wax audiophile have the Snoop cover of Dopeman that the CD loving listener gets? Parental discretion in this case is picking the right version of these LPs.
Universal deserves big respect and credit for including Gangstar’s Step In the Arena in the “Respect” series. DJ Premier’s collaboration with the late great jazz minded Guru will hopefully make it to new ears when young beat lovers who buy “Respect” reissues of the 8 Mile Soundtrack or Eminem’s Shady old ones or Kanye West will also discover a genius like Common or Guru. There is plenty of respect to go around for LL Cool J Radio and the Adventures of Slick Rick, which don’t have any other versions to compete with in print than these Universal releases. For those who missed the shiny brilliance of the Record Store Day version of Public Enemy’s pioneering thought monster It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, this series offer up another version. The best way to get it though is by tracking down the limited edition PE 180 gram box set where It Takes A Nation (my favorite hip hop record) has a posse that includes the debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Fear of A Black Planet. Recent RSD ambassador Chuck D’s group has set the 180 gram gold standard with this set.
PE’s political brothers in spirit Boogie Down Production saw the recent release of a picture disc for Criminally Minded. Blastmaster KRS-One and his similarly minded DJ the late great and so tragically lost Scott LaRock spin around on glorious LP announcing and pronouncing where Hip Hop came from and lives on tracks like South Bronx and The Bridge Is Over. Hip Hop seems to have less picture discs out there than other genres. Perhaps this BDP release will be at the start of more of that kind of wax coming our way. Also rare is hip hop on colored vinyl. A big standout is the Record Store Day version of Ready to Die by Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls. The beautiful white vinyl delivered “Big Poppa” and “Things Done Changed” with much respect.
Naysayers towards Hip Hop making it into Cleveland’s hallowed Hall would probably scratch their heads if asked Sabotage by the Beastie Boys is rock and roll enough. Adam Goldberg and Michael Diamond said farewell to partner in rhyme Adam Yauch but they are all eternally together on the seriously funky and well made Grand Royal reofferings of their great albums including Check your Head. The impeccable artwork of Paul’s Boutique makes it one of the finest pieces of new vinyl I’ve ever seen. Its sounds should be coming out of every window in every Borough.
The label that perhaps deserves the biggest raised fist of appreciation for quality Hip Hop vinyl is Death Row Records. The artwork pops and truly draws the eye. Dr. Dre’s legendary The Chronic, which boasts rhymes of verse by Dre’s protégé and future household name Snoop Doggy Dogg, sets the standard for LP bring backs. Here Let Me Ride and Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang come fully correct as does the Row’s version of Snoop’s high watermark Doggystyle featuring the always in style Gin & Juice. While Dre made big headlines for the ma$$ive sale of his headphone ear gear company and Snoop recently dined with Secretary of State John Kerry at the White House Correspondents Dinner, former label mate Tupac Shakur remains gone forever (not counting disrespectfully offered hologramming) with his murder no closer to solved. It’s especially rewarding to see his LP All Eyez on Me in the bin released in the right way. 2Pac as he was known on this record and across the world wouldn’t have cared about getting into any Hall of Fame but this Black Panther’s son would be proud to know Picture me Rollin’ and California Love are still bumping in the city of Compton and in Cleveland and everywhere else. ♦