Saturday, June 14, 2014
Top 90 Albums of the 90's: 80-71
#80 Soul on Ice - Ras Kass (1995)
Before he had even released an album, Ras Kass had already made a name for himself via a series of standout features. He brought a level of lyricism to the table that nobody else who was popular on the West Coast really had at that point, so his debut album, Soul on Ice was highly anticipated. Long story short, it didn't really sell and Kass's career wound up being a flop. Despite poor sales, Soul on Ice is still an album held in high esteem by lyrical purists, with good reason. You can only do so much with barely serviceable beats, though.
#79 Hard to Earn - Gang Starr (1994)
For whatever reason, Gang Starr decided to abandon the level-headed thoughtful themes that got them such acclaim n their first couple releases, and instead make an album with a significantly harsher tone. Personally, I like Gang Starr a lot better when they're not trying to act hard. DJ Premier absolutely carries this album, though. I don't know if he's ever been better than he is on Hard to Earn. Listening to his beats is more than enough reason to give this album several listens.
#78 A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Black Sheep (1991)
Black Sheep is a group that often gets overlooked because of the company they kept. It's hard to stand out when you're crew-mates with De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Nevertheless, while the MC's of Black Sheep weren't really exceptional from a technical standpoint, they brought a lot of energy and smart, humor to their tracks, kind of like an early 90's Little Brother. Self-depreciation is a major running theme, even on the intro skit, they go out of their way to point out that they're the least popular members of their crew.
#77 The 18th Letter - Rakim (1997)
This was the first time Rakim had released an album since 1992's Don't Sweat the Technique, it signals a significant change in tone from his previous releases. Ra sounds noticably more aggressive than on his 80's classics, likely due to this being the first time he was recording an album without long time collaborator Eric B. Eric B's presence isn't really missed, and getting to hear an MC of Ra's caliber work with the likes of DJ Premier and Pete Rock is a treat.
#76 People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm - A Tribe Called Quest (1990)
Before The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders catapulted Tribe into hip-hop legend status, there was People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, their exceptionally long-titled debut album. It's a light-hearted, positive affair that didn't get much fanfare at the time because the listening public wanted to hear gangsta stuff. It's a smooth, jazzy affair that features Q-Tip and Phife trading verses back and forth with the occasional guest stopping by to add their $0.02.
#75 Stunts, Blunts, & Hip-Hop - Diamond D (1992)
Stunts is one of the early classics from Lord Finesse's Diggin' in the Crates Crew. Most of the rapping is nothing to right home about, and a handful of the tracks probably could have been left off, but the production is excellent end-to-end.
#74 Runaway Slave - Showbiz & A.G. (1992)
.... and released on the same day, from the same crew is Showbiz & A.G.'s Runaway Slave. A.G. is really what elevates this album above Stunts. He rhymes effortlessly over Showbiz's sometimes cacophonous beats. Showbiz himself isn't a slouch on the mic, either.
#73 Buhloone Mindstate - De La Soul (1993)
Buhloone Mindstate falls in a weird spot spot where it is so universally considered under-rated, that I would argue that it's a bit over-rated. It's a tighter, more focused effort than their iconic debut and sophomore albums, but in doing so, they lost a bit of what had made De La unique and interesting. Nonetheless, it makes great background music, and "Ego Trippin' Part 2" is an iconic track.
#72 Doggystyle - Snoop Doggy Dogg (1993)
Much like Dogg Food, Doggystyle's biggest flaw is that it doesn't bring much to the table that we hadn't already seen on The Chronic. The beats are what Doggystyle is most known for, while the lyrics are generally considered to be a weakness. I can't entirely disagree with that assessment, I don't feel like adding Talib Kweli caliber lyricism to Doggystyle would have added much. It's an album that's meant to be felt rather than listened to critically.
#71 All Balls Don't Bounce - Aceyalone (1995)
What do you know? Another Aceyalone project with outstanding vocals and decidedly mediocre production. However, unlike on Haiku D'Etat, All Ball Don't Bounce's production at least features plenty of variety, so it doesn't turn into quite as much of a drag by the end.