N.W.A are routinely credited with creating the genre known as gangsta rap, which is a fair summation since it was these West Coast rappers who inspired a whole new unstoppable generation of hardcore gangsta rap recording artists. However, these LA rappers are predated by fellow LA-based artist Ice-T who in turn was predated by the true O.G. (Original Gangsta) -- Philadeplhia's Schoolly D who in 1985 unleashed the original gangsta rap record. Entitled "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" and released on his own small indie label, Schoolly D Records, the record with cutting by DJ Code Money was an ode to the Philly street gang that the rapper (born Jesse B. Weaver, Jr.) was associated with. The initials P.S.K. stood for the Park Side Killas gang and their song dedication was brimming with references to gangsta activity: guns, violence, sex, and drug use, with usage of the N word ("sucka ass nigga tryna sound like me"), which was something uncommon though not totally unheard of in rap records up to that point.
Although originally considered a regional rap record with likely little appeal beyond its immediate hood, the distinctly hardcore rap record struck a nerve with music fans well beyond Philadelphia. The NJ-born, LA-based Ice-T adapted its style for his single, "6 In The Mornin" (later entitled "6 'N the Mornin'), released a year later in 1986. It was also included on his 1987 debut album Rhyme Pays.
When fellow Amoeblogger Billy Gil, who has done a number of Best Of lists in various genres, invited me to do some hip-hop best-of lists I had mixed feelings about the task. While I love drawing up lists of my favorite hip-hop releases from different eras and regions, I know that no matter what I include or how I position/rate it, later I will feel some kind of regret thinking that maybe I should have included or excluded a release or not ranked it as high on the list. And I am sure there will be commenters who will have the same critical thoughts (a la "I can't believe you didn't include ______ or that you ranked____ as number one," etc.). Simply put, it is difficult to narrow down Best Of lists because firstly it's personal and subjective, and secondly because a list I (or you) may draw up today will be different from one we might compile in a year's time. Musical tastes and opinions, especially in retrospect, are constantly in flux for me anyway.
Furthermore, sometimes an album or a single will rate high on one list (depending on the category) but not so on another. An example from this list would be Too $hort who would rank up the top of a Bay Area list but lower on an overall hip-hop album list of the 80's. Then there are all of those amazing hip-hop singles that were only singles, non-album cuts, or were culled from albums that otherwise were not as strong overall. Or in the case of Malcolm McLaren's 1983 album Duck Rock, which technically is a diverse genre album with hip-hop content and packaged in a hip-hop fashion from its cover art to how it is meshed together by the Worlds Famous Supreme Team radio show, it doesn't technically qualify as a hip-hop album. Add to my not included on the list 80's albums: such compilations as Mr Magic's Rap Attack series since I tried to focus purely on artist (vs. compilation) releases with the exception of one soundtrack on the list. Anyway, to combat all of this, I plan on doing many more best-of hip-hop lists with the goal being to include as many titles of great records as possible overall.
Lito Barrientos - "Chambacu Con Tambores"
X (Not the one from L.A.) - "I Don't Wanna Go Out"
Schoolly D - "Saturday Night"