Why I used to love H.E.R.

By Jordan Selbo

In the debate on when and how Hip-Hop officially died, there seems to be little consensus. While aging b-boysƒ?”with more receding hairlines than dookie chainsƒ?”swear it was all downhill after ƒ?TM88, many blinged-out young bucks would argue that rap music reached its creative peak somewhere around the time Puffy acquired his third name change. After many nights at home pillaging my shoeboxes of CDs, Iƒ?TMve recently come down somewhere in the middle. Donƒ?TMt get me wrongƒ?”I still think the five greatest eMCees and three greatest rap groups all released albums between 1987-1989 (if ya donƒ?TMt know, ya better ask somebody). And although I do agree that thereƒ?TMs some amazing new stuff climbing up from the underground (Edan, Atmosphere, anything MF Doom touches), Iƒ?TMll never forget the era that I first got heavy into this rap shit: the early to mid-90s.

This was a time when the sonic intricacies and sheer funkiness of late 80s hip-hop got soaked in bourbon and collided with lyrical dexterity that could simultaneously move the crowd and intricately describe the harsh realities of urban street life (or just a Saturday at the roller rink), sometimes all in the same few bars. Iƒ?TMm talking Biggie, Nas, Snoop, Tribe and everything Wu-Tang dropped; a time when the east/west feud was just friendly competition and going platinum wasnƒ?TMt selling out. Heads from New York begrudgingly gave props to Dre and Death Row while East coasters like Jeru and Black Moon made sure you knew where this rap thing originated. That type of boom bap music that sounded equally dope booming out of skyscraping club speakers or breaking eardrums through your walkman, and no matter how ƒ?oeignorantƒ?? a rapper was they made sure to tell you about wearing that jimmy hat. In short, a middle ground renaissance of sorts, an era of synergy between the creative ideals of the D.A.I.S.Y age and the give-ƒ?em-what-they-want commercialization of Bad Boysƒ?TM shiny suits (donƒ?TMt frontƒ?”I saw you getting jiggy to Mase back in the day). But with the dearth of classics that came out between 1993 and 1996, it was impossible for only the diehards to miss a few gems, even from the well-known acts. So here now, I present to you some major artistsƒ?TM underrated or neglected joints for that ass to bump.

Buhloone Mindstate, De La Soul (1993): While De Laƒ?TMs third album was neither as creatively brilliant as 3 Feet High and Rising nor as beguilingly bitter and absurd as De La Soul is Dead, its laidback and often jazzy soundscapes perfectly complimented the increasingly complex lyrics of a group that had gone from the future of Hip-Hop to written-off ex-hippies

Resurrection, Common (1994): With all the hype over last yearƒ?TMs Kanye-produced Be, youƒ?TMd think Com Sense never made a classic album before. Way wrong. This sophomore effort found the cocky college dropout from Chi-town (no, Mr. West wasnƒ?TMt the first) taking his album title to heart as his lyrical and compositional mastery flowered.

Coast II Coast, Tha Alkaholiks (1995): Tha Alkaholiks were unofficial West Coast torch-bearers and perfectly epitomized the overall philosophy of quality Hip-Hop and comic good nature. The group was (and still is) unabashed about their passions for Hip-Hop, females and a good time (sample lyric: ƒ?oeItƒ?TMs all about the hoes, flows and 40 oz.ƒ??) This album was for the real headsƒ?”with nods to both the ƒ?old schoolƒ?TM (and by that I mean pre-ƒ?TM86, younginƒ?TM), and an apocalyptic future where Hip-Hop still ainƒ?TMt dead (ƒ?oe2014ƒ??), it simultaneously looked back at past inspirations while boldly bragging about the future resilience of the culture they all loved so much

ATLiens, Outkast (1996): This seminal groupƒ?TMs amazing debut follow-up was always (and still is) my favorite joint from the Southern duo. Thereƒ?TMs something about the way they combined that king shit pimpology from their first album (ƒ?oeTwo Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)ƒ??) with the genuine spiritual searching of later work (ƒ?oe13th Floor/Growing Oldƒ??), all under a sonic umbrella of laidback ƒ?70s soul and slouched-sideways-in-your-hoopty funk that still stops me cold and forces me to sit back and rap along to the whole damn album whenever I hear it.

In sum, Hip-Hop died the day the Funky 4 + 1 broke up. Hold ya head Sha Rock.