O.P.P., hmmmm it's been 21 years since that song first dropped and people still tryna figure out what those letters mean. When O.P.P hit, Naughty By Nature essentially created the first smash rap single in the industry. The song features lead rapper Treach rapping fast about "Other people's P____"over a dope Jackson 5 sampled mixed by the group's DJ Kaygee. The next major single from the group, " Hip Hop Hooray " was also a monster single. It featured verses from both Treach and Vin Rock, with a dope drum and snare back beat and a call and response hook that is not only a classic rap track but a staple in sports arenas across North America.
Despite the group achieving such popularity outside of the rap world, purist seem to forget that they could create songs as gritty and real as any other hardcore rap group out at that time. With songs like "Uptown Anthem" and "Everything's gonna be alright" Treach takes you down a dark and unapologetic road of his upbringing and the tough streets of New Jersey.
Like most music acts that reach certain heights in popularity the group attention was pulled in different directions. Treach dabbled in acting and DJ Kay Gee started his own record label called Divine Mill and he signed r&b singer Jaheim back in 2001. NxN released their last full LP in 2002 and featured alot of pop hits but nothing like their first two album releases back in 91 and 93.
To be able to match wits with hard emcees like DMX, Beanie Sigel and the LOX, Eve Jeffers had to be the "Illest pitbull in a skirt". After being featured on Dr Dre's first ever Aftermath compilation cd in 1997, she re-emerged with the New York based group Ruff Ryders and released her first album Let there Be EVE in 1999. To me, she was a breath of fresh air as far as female emcees. She was sexy but not raunchy, she was raw, honest and effective lyrically without being thuggish and tomboyish. She had the girl next door charm but she also seemed like she kept a shank and had no problem using it.
Album number 2 called Scorpion, took Eve to the next level of superstardom. The first single "Who's that girl" was a pure pop hit, with a special effects laden music video that was prime for Total Request Live on MTV. It was the super popular "Let me Blow Ya Mind" produced superbly by Dr. Dre and Scott Storch and features pop/rock diva Gwen Stefani on the hook, that really brought her to mainstream attention. The video for the song was in constant rotation and served as the female equivelant to when Run DMC and Aerosmith crossed over in 1986.
Her 3rd album allowed her to be more feminine and still showcase her vocal prowess. " Gangsta Lovin" featuring Alicia Keys (before she reached superstardom) was another hit but I was a bigger fan of the Dr Dre produced "Satisfaction" because of the beat and vocal dexterity displayed by E.V.E. All of the success from her rap career led to the inevitable acting career. She probably comes the closest to Queen Latifah in having a legitamate crossover career for a female rapper. Though she's mostly stuck with the movies, tv shows and fashion, Eve did release the moderately successful club banger "Tambourine" in 2007 but no full has surfaced to date and hasn't released one since 2002. Since the female emcee has become endangered with only Young Money's Nicki Minaj enjoying any sort of solo success right now, it's a wonder if Eve can come back and reclaim her spot at the top of the charts.
The reigning king of Christian, Horrorcore, West Coast, Underground rap is the man known as Tech N9NE. Yeah I know, that's a lotta titles but that makes since Aaron Yates is full of those very complexities as an artist. However it is what has made him an underground favorite for over 15 years as well as his energetic rock concert like live performances.
I admit I caught on late to the Tech N9NE experience, I've always thought he was a weird West Coast rapper, but since alot of his songs appeared in Video games I played I decided to give him a shot, and I'm glad I did. After listening to his 2011 album All 6s and 7s I became a fan. Now juggalo-gimmicks aside, Tech can flat out spit. He laces every track with thought provoking, body shivering and intelligent lyrics yet comedic and range from religion to cannibalism which evokes memories of Bone thugs N Harmony in the late 90's. He's also well known for introducing other rappers to the scene like Hopsin, Yelawolf and Kendrick Lemar.
Coming out of ATL, the Goodie Mob could be written off as another throw away rap group making booty bouncing Southern rap with lyrics degrading women and simple sing songy routine. However they were more akin to Texas' own Geto Boys, in that they preferred to speak on social ills, family and struggling to gain acceptance into the music industry.
Their 1995 debut album, Soul Food, was produced by Organized Noize and featured fellow Dungeon Family members Outkast. It was led by the ominous single "Cell Therapy" and the second single, "Soul Food" was a more positive take on dealing with everyday life. The group released their next album World Party to less positive reviews and the creative direction of the group forced member Cee-Lo Green to leave and start a highly successful career on his own and as part of the duo Gnarls Barkley, alongside DJ Danger Mouse. Recently the group reunited on the NBC hit reality show "The Voice" which Cee-Lo is one of the judges. They plan on releasing a new album late this year or early next year.
Tracy Curry is possibly the greatest influence on the "gangsta" rap genre, yet no one has really heard of him. D.O.C was a member of the Texas based rap group known as the Fila Fresh Crew, he left the group and moved to Los Angeles, California in 1987. He was signed to Ruthless records after performing a few songs with L.A. group N.W.A. After signing to the label, he along with Ice Cube and MC Ren crafted all of the songs on N.W.A's legendary Straight Outta Compton album.
In 1989, he released his first solo album, No One Can Do it Better. Produced by N.W.A's Dr. Dre, the album debuted on the Billboard at #20 and recieved great reviews from critics. The first single "It's Funky Enough" has become a hip hop classic and is played in sports arenas worldwide in various remixed versions. The album eventually went platinum. His style at the time was a bit of the highly energetic style of New York rappers Run DMC and LL Cool J with the funkiness and attitude of L.A rap. Despite being aligned with N.W.A, most of the lyrics on his album were not profane or violent but about partying and showcasing his skills as an emcee.
However in late 1989, 5 months after his debut, Curry was in a car accident that severed his vocal chords. After surgery his voice was much raspier and he couldn't rap so he continued working with N.W.A until the group split in 1991. He went on to write lyrics for Dr. Dre's solo debut album, The Chronic which also went onto become a hip hop classic and raised the profile of gangsta rap to mainstream popularity.
A combination of funky samples and lyrics criticising the commercialization of hip hop makes Erick and Parrish two of my favorite rappers of all time. Tracks like "It's my thang","Strictly Business" and "You gots to Chill" are often cited as rappers and critics as some of the finest hip hop songs of all time. Where the two of them fall short as far as clarity in their flow, the beats are definitely undeniable. They did the beats themselves and the sound for late 80's rap is mixed nearly perfectly and the samples are cleverly used.
The pair continued on into the 90's with the blazing single "Crossover" about how rappers sellout by giving up their own personal style to fit the record industry's mold just to sell more records. It's ironic because this was their biggest hit single to date. Since then the duo has linked up several times with the usual collaborators Keith Murray and Redman. Even though they broke up a couple times in 1993 and 2000 with Erick Sermon producing a solo hit "Music" featuring a sample of Marvin Gaye's "I've Got my music" from the lost Sexual Healing demo tape in 2001, the group got back together and released their most recent album in 2008.
Christopher Bridges, born in Champagne, IL in 1977, has become one of hip hop's biggest stars with a very short background in the industry. Starting out as a radio DJ in the College Park section of Atlanta, GA, Luda dabbled with rapping since he was in high school. In 1998 he was featured on Timbaland's album on the song "Phat Rabbit". He also performed the theme song for the video game NFL Madden 2000. He released his his debut album Back for the First Time on Def Jam records in 2000. It was an instant hit with it's raunchy lead single "What's Your Fantasy" recieving heavy rotation on the radio and video stations. (BFTFT was also the first full length rap album I ever purchased; I was 13)
His first three albums went on to platinum success. Each showing Luda's ability to rhyme fast with his thickened drawl on heavy beats produced by popular Southern rap producers as well as unknown up and comers like DJ Toomp and Bangladesh. His lyrics were often brash and in your face but he was more known for his colorful sense of humor and sexual innuendos, of course bringing controversy as well as his song "Stand Up" produced by Kanye West, being apart of a copyright lawsuit, in which they ended up settling out of court.
For me it was when he put out Red Light District in 2004. It was a slight departure from Luda's usual comedy style and he chose to address the controversy of his lyrics as well as more personal lyrics and addressing social ills in poor neighborhoods. The album was led by the raucous smash mouth single "Get Back" and the Austin Powers inspired "Number One Spot" which featured the original producer of the song Quincy Jones in the video. That was an example of Luda's burgeoning success in Hollywood. That year he was in the Oscar winning movie Crash and had a well recieved spot on an episode of Law and Order: SVU.
After returning from acting, Cris dropped Release Therapy. He also cut off his signature conrows and sported a fade. This album was much more mature and featured the single "Runaway Love" featuring Mary J. Blige a song about young girls running away from harsh conditions at home. In time however Luda would return to his more risque and raunchy side on the Battle of the Sexes album released in 2010. The album was supposed to be a duet with former fellow Disturbing the Peace rapper Shawnna, but she left the label before the album was released and he just featured well known female emcees and included the hit single "My Chick Bad" featuring Nicki Minaj.
Lil Wayne New Orleans, LA
Yeah I know..."You had to put him on the list" "He sucks", "He can't rap"...thing is he has been the most relevant rap star in the last 5 years and possibly the most influential. Just now turning 30 years old last month, the guy has been in the rap industry since the age of 14 and has been going practically non stop since. Not many young rappers can make that claim.
The Louisiana native, was raised by a single mother in the HollyGrove projects of the lower 9th ward in New Orleans. The area is notorious for being overrun with drugs and criminal activity. Despite this, young DeWayne Carter managed to maintain good grades throughout his elementary school years. However at 15 he got his girl friend Toya pregnant and ended up dropping out of high school.
It was his connection to Bryan "Baby" Williams, co-owner of Cash Money records that esentially ended up saving Wayne's life. He sent Williams freestyle raps to his answering machine and led to him signing to Williams' up start label. He started off in the Hot Boyz which featured Juvenile (whom already had a relatively successful solo career), BG and Turk. Often times Wayne's verses on the Hot Boyz tracks were often met with the most acclaimed, making him by far the most popular member of the group.
In 1999, at 17 years old, Wayne released his first solo album Tha Block is Hot. His style was still a bit raw, but still had more of a serious tone than most teenage rappers. He display a mix of the bling bling style leftover from the Hot Boyz as well as a street gritty storytelling. As he grew he started coming up with stronger punch lines and clever word play. By the time he released his fourth album, The Carter, the training wheels were coming off.
We were getting a more polished rapper, whose confidence was growing and claiming to be "The Best rapper alive, since the best rapper (Jay-Z) retired". At this point it was hard to argue, he not only released a second Carter album, he also dropped several incredibly popular mixtapes and featured on at least 75 tracks between 2005-2007 as well as a collaboration album with Bryan "Baby" Williams aka Birdman.
In 2008 Weezy broke through with the Carter III. Lead by the massive single "Lollipop", Carter III has become his biggest selling album and one of the top selling rap albums of all time. It however marked a shift in Wayne's style to a degree. Not only does he attempt to sing using the auto tune effect he has become less gangster and uses way more sexual innuendos on his songs. This has made him not only more popular in the mainstream but controversal to parental groups. He also recieves more backlash from hip-hop purist who feels his style veers more toward the pop audiences.
Nonetheless, his popularity has helped spawn a group of younger rappers signed to the Cash Money label, known as Young Money. Group members Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga have all gone on too have successful careers as Drake and Minaj rival Wayne in terms of worldwide popularity.
In 2010, the man also known as TuneChi tried his hand in the rock world with the album Rebirth which was met with negative reviews. Like many rappers before and after him, life began to imitate art, with Wayne having to do jail time from fall of 2010 to spring of 2011 stemming from a drugs and weapons bust in 2007.
Much like many rappers, doing time barely put a dent in Tune's career. He went on to release another platinum album, Carter IV. This album's a little weaker but it does feature the monster single "6 foot 7 foot" a song that features free flowing, punch line heavy lyrics and a thumping beat that samples Harry Belafonte's Banana song. He also continues to be featured on everybody's track from pop, rap, rock and even showing up at country awards shows. Think Wayne doesn't deserve to be on the list, he does. If not for his actual skills, definitely for his output.
The British Born Ricky Walters has become a hip hop icon over the last 25 years. Starting his rap career with Bronx native, Dana Dane in the group the Kangol Crew. Rick became known for his flamboyant stage attire which included large amounts of jewelery and his signature eye patch, which was a result of an accident when he was a child (shards of glass flew in his right eye from a broken bottle and it blinded him).
He also brought with him the ability to freestyle rap over any beat and in any situation. The back and forth rhymes between him and rapper/beat boxer Doug E. Fresh on the track "The Show" and "La Di Dadi" are classics from the Golden Age of hip hop (early 80's to about 1991). "The Show" features the two rapping over an Inspector Gadget styled beat as well as Fresh's own beatboxing. "La Di Dadi" is more of an accapella with Rick rapping and Fresh beatboxing. The song is a fictional account of a day in the life of Slick Rick and features many classic lyrics such as "This type of sh*t happens everyday". It has been covered and sampled by many rappers, even singers since it's debut in 1986 and still to this day gets crowds rocking whenever Ricky and Fresh perform it.
In 1988 he released his solo debut The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Of course, like many hip hop albums over the years it was met with some controversy as it featured many mysogonistic lyrics and the album was one the earliest to feature a parental advisory sticker. It also had many classic tracks, including "Children's Story". The album instantly cemented Rick as one of the best storytellers (whether the stories are true or not) in the industry. However in 1990 Rick was incarcerated for attempted murder, apparently shooting a bystander, after an altercation with his cousin (who had Rick shot at outside of a club earlier). He spent 5 years in prison but recieved bail from his mentor and Def Jam creator Russell Simmons. He released his second album, which wasn't as well recieved as his first.
He released another album called Behind Bars which he wrote while still in jail. He returned to critical success with The Art of Storytelling in 1999. He still continues to run into legal issues, due to visa problems and has yet to release another follow up to his 1999 album. That aside Rick continues to tour and his influence is felt in many rappers styles today including Nas, Eminem and Nicki Minaj.