This Amoeblog, which includes music videos by ten of the numerous talented acts that will perform at this weekend's Art Of Rap Festival, is geared to act as a primer for the Ice-T-curated, two-day, two-location (SoCal and NorCal) event that includes some of the best MC names in the history of hip-hop, such as Rakim, Melle Mel, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, and the Cold Crush Brothers featuring Grandmaster Caz. Taking place today (Saturday, July 18th) in SoCal at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and then tomorrow up at the Shoreline Amphiteather in Mountain View, the ambitious project is an outgrowth of the documentary film Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap from a few years ago. The documentary features many of the same acts in the film, which is now available from Amoeba on DVD as well as the accompanying soundtrack on CD and LP that features lots of the freestyle and live versions of songs featured throughout the documentary).
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.
In 1990 revolutionary, militant and Afro-centric hip-hop was in full effect and looked like it would be around forever. Examples included such popular socially & politically charged albums released in that first year of the decade as Public Enemy's third full-length album Fear Of a Black Planet, Ice Cube's first post N.W.A./solo album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Boogie Down Productions' Edutainment,X-Clan's To The East, Blackwards, Brand Nubian's One For All, Poor Righteous Teachers' Holy Intellect, Paris' The Devil Made Me Do It, Tragedy The Intelligent Hoodlum's self-titled Marley Marl debut, and Lakim Shabazz's Lost Tribe of Shabazz.
The extremely shy and usually elusive Irish born singer/songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan made a rare public speaking appearance over the weekend and addressed his landmark court case against Biz Markie that forever changed the direction of hip-hop music. Fielding questions Sunday afternoon at the Branchage Film Festival in Jersey, UK, following a screening of the Aidan McCarthy directed bio-doc Out On His Own: Gilbert O'Sullivan, the artist, who scored a series of hits in the UK (and to a slightly lesser degree in the US) in the early 70's including "Nothing Rhymed," "Alone Again (Naturally)," "Clair," and "Get Down," gave his side of the story of the notorious 1991 court case that he won but also gained the ire of countless hip-hop artists and fans alike.
The landmark case, settled in a New York court, was the first sampling lawsuit to go to court and became historic because it forever altered the course of recording hip-hop music. Up until then hip-hop artists were accustomed to freely borrowing snippets of previous recordings, and pretty much sampled whatever they wanted to. If challenged they tended to settle out of court, or in many instances the rap artist would ask permission (sometimes offering money) right before using a particular sample. This was actually the case with Biz Markie and Gilbert O'Sullivan, but things did not go as hoped for by the Biz and his O'Sullivan sampled song, "Alone Again (Naturally)."