Posted by Billyjam, September 19, 2008 09:09am | Post a Comment
                                                        Oakland Rap Top Ten 1990

01) Too $hort / "The Ghetto"
02) Richie Rich / "Don't Do It"
03) Mhisani / "Y.O.U.T.H."
04) 415 / "Groupie"
05) Mac Mill / "Dangler"

06) D-Loc / "Ace In The Hole"
07) Digital Underground / "The Way We Swing"
08) 2 Bigg MC / "He's the King of Hype"
09) Freddy B / "Why"
10) MC Valentine, K-Cloud & Crew / "Have You Seen Her?"

Digging in the Bay Area archives today I came across this Oakland Rap Top Ten chart from eighteen years ago. The list is a subjective singles/songs based chart that I had originally tallied based on a combination of artists I was writing about at the time for my Bay Area column in Source magazine and on radio airplay on the weekly Sunday hip-hop radio show (Hip Hop Slam) I did at the time. The show, on KALX 90.7FM, was co-hosted along with G-Spot (now heard on KPFA late Saturday nights) in addition to, invariably, a ton of guests (a great many of them Bay Area) rolling through the Berkeley studios each week, including all of the artists in this top ten. Note that back circa 1990, DJs and writers generally used the word "rap" to describe these artists rather than "hip-hop," even though it was recognized as a part of hip-hop.

In the number one slot that year was Too $hort's classic rap song "The Ghetto" (video below), which drew from (technically it didn't sample, it replayed) Donny Hathaway's song of the same name. This moving, soulful, sociologically observant tale of real life in the hood, which was truly "reality rap," clearly stands the test of time. And back in 1990 it was the song of the year, especially in the East Bay. Everywhere you went in Oakland you were guaranteed to hear that song booming out of cars or homes.

You'd likely hear others off the same Too $hort album, $hort Dog's In The House (Dangerous/Jive/Zomba), being blasted too. These included "Short But Funky," "It's Your Life," and "Ain't Nothin' But A Word To Me," featuring Ice Cube, who had recently departed from NWA.

Produced and mixed by $hort and Al Eaton (this was before $hort Dog forged a bond with Ant Banks as primary producer), the 12" single version of "The Ghetto" offered the regular single version plus an extended version. instrumental, a Too $hort extended mix and remix version, plus the song "What Rap?"  In more recent years "The Ghetto" was featured on the soundtrack to the video-game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  Congratulations to Too $hort who will be honored October 6th by VH1 at the fifth annual Hip-Hop Honors along with Cypress Hill, De La Soul, Slick Rick and Naughty By Nature.

In the number two slot for this Oakland Rap Top Ten from 1990 is Richie Rich of Oakland rap supergroup 415 fame and his positive message single "Don't Do It," which you can hear/see below in YouTube audio/slide stills format. 415 was one of the hottest groups in the Bay circa 1989/1990. Fellow 415 member D-Loc, while lacking as distinctive a voice as Richie RIch and hence not as successful as a solo artist, was still a powerful emcee in his own right and his single "Ace In The Hole" (#6) was one of the best records that year.

415 was considered pretty hardcore and also misogynistic for songs including "Groupie," #4 on this chart at the time, but not so much by today's standards. 415 was named when the Oakland phone area code was still 415, pre 510! The group had the Midas touch back then with everything they released on their Big League Records label, as a group or as solo artists -- thanks in large part to DJ Darryl (later with Master P's Beats By The Pound studio ensemble)'s funky funky fresh production values.

The 1990 chart's #3 entry was the conscious hip-hopper Mhisani and his song "Y.O.U.T.H.," which stood for Young Oakland Unemployed Teenage Hustlers. Released on the small Oakland indie label Timbuku Creations, the song was the B-side of the single "Listen" -- both of which later appeared on his 1992 debut album Call It Like I See It. The 1990 recordings were engineered at One Little Indian studios in El Cerrito by Al Eaton, Too $hort's producer at the time. Mhisani was also friends with $hort and his manager Randy Austin back then. Noteworthy is that Mhisani, who like many rappers at the time was more on the conscious tip, would slowly but surely undergo a change in style and image.  A few years later into the nineties, he had undergone a complete makeover, abandoning the more conscious persona for one of a pimp/player, and even changing his name from the African derived Mhisani to Goldy (named after the pimp character in the Oakland-shot movie The Mack). This was when Goldy (at first spelled Goldie like the Mack movie character) became a part of Too $hort's extended Dangerous Crew. The Goldy releases are easier to find these days than the ones under his Mhisani moniker.

Meanwhile Too $hort's early '80's rap partner Freddy B, who was down with $hort back in the early early days of homemade "game" tapes when the two were young rappin' teenagers in East Oakland making lo-fi tapes in their bedrooms, had made a comeback in 1990 and charted with the single "Why."  Also on this 1990 chart were Digital Underground with their single "The Way We Swing" (audio below) off their great debut album Sex Packets whose other hit singles included "The Humpty Dance," "Doowutchyalike," and "Freaks of the Industry." This was when Digital Underground were red hot and one of the Bay's biggest rap exports. 

Another even more popular Oakland act at the time was MC Hammer (although a lot of hip-hop fans in Oakland, as everywhere else at the time, resented his crossover success and were quick to mock him for his "Hammer pants"), whose former bodyguard 2 Bigg MC even got in on the rap game and on the mic to deliver the song "He's the King of Hype." (#8 on the chart.) 

Another sort of Hammer related chart entry was from Oakland's MC Valentine, K-Cloud & Crew and their song "Have You Seen Her?" which was titled after the song it heavily sampled, the Chi-Lites song of the same name. The Hammer connection was that a few months later Hammer would sample the exact same song and release it as a single under the exact same title (appearing also that year on his second album Please Hammer Dont Hurt 'Em). This caused some upset for the lesser known Oakland act at the time, who felt slighted and ripped off, since Hammer, being an established, nationally known artist, gained much more attention/success for his version, which came later. To put things in perspective, remember that this was a time in hip-hop when artists tended to avoid sampling songs that others had already sampled, unless they did it in a new, different and creative method.

Finally, the #5 chart entry was from unique but only regionally popular rapper Mac Mill and his Pep produced song "The Dangler" (found on his Run Of The Mill EP on vinyl & cassette on No Question Records), which showcased his unique vocab and flow. Mac Mill was influenced, as he told me in an interview many years ago, by a visit to his local corner store in his North Oakland hood where he picked up on the accent of the store's owner. Mac Mill emulated his "Arabic style" and incorporated it into his rap delivery, which he used on several tracks throughout his career. Note Mac Mill did not speak any Arabic but nonetheless imitated the guttural inflections to perfection.

Relevant Tags

Mc Valentine (1), Mac Mill (2), Too $hort (45), Richie Rich (4), 415 (1), 2 Bigg Mc (1), Freddy B (1), K-cloud (1), D-loc (1)