I've been listening to a lot of old school hip hop lately, so I figure that it would be as good a week as any to feature a few tracks that I really dig (I mean, future me has to worry about putting them in a playlist, right?). It probably goes without saying that there will be a chunk of explicit lyrics here as well, just so you're aware.
The Guys From do not hold the rights to any of these songs, it is more our hope to expose our readers to new (*cough*) and different retro music, or re-expose them to things they may have forgotten about.
At the top of each section, will be the song name, followed by the artists' name linked to their website (if possible...which is totally hit and miss with oldies), so you can fall down the rabbit hole, finding and supporting what you dig.
Back in the Day - Ahmad (NSFW)
Released back in 1994, "Back in the Day", a nostalgic look back at youth from the perspective of an adult was Los Angeles' Ahmad's only major hit, but is truly a staple of any old school hip hop list. This is a song that almost perfectly captures that wistful, thoughtful feeling one gets when they think back on their youth--while it obviously talks about parts of growing up I didn't experience, being that I was of the age Ahmad is talking about when the song came out, but that just does not matter.
I think this song also has a tendency to get forgotten about, as it was Ahmad's only hit, and, a remix came out in 1999 as part of the soundtrack for The Wood, which seems to be the version everyone I mention "Back in the Day" to thinks about, but I will always always prefer the original, not just because it has a better flow to it, but it just nails the feeling of the track better.
Express Yourself (Album Version) - N.W.A.
With the release of Straight Outta Compton last year, it has been nice to see that N.W.A. was discovered by a whole new wave of fans, which is necessary: they are one of the most important hip hop groups of all time. Now the album Straight Outta Compton is, in itself, amazing, but I have to say, that despite the more well known tracks getting most of the love, I have always been the biggest fan of "Express Yourself", a song written by Ice Cube, about free expression, and rap artists' struggles with balancing their art with censorship (especially when it came to radio play).
"Express Yourself" was the final single off of Straight Outta Compton, released in 1989, and perhaps the most amazing thing about it is that N.W.A.'s track about free expression was also one of the few tracks they released with zero profanity, and no violent content: it is perfectly subversive, as it is literally just Dr. Dre performing solo (the 2002 reissue has MC Ren, and Ice Cube on a verse as well) on a perfect for radio track--something that, at the time, you almost needed to break out big--about how restrictive it is to be forced to change your art to survive.
Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey) - De La Soul
Understanding that I only have 5 slots in Throwback Tracks, I am obviously going to be cherry-picking some...and just randomizing a bit, because I do love old school hip hop, so this is not exactly an easy list, but whenever I make a list like this, I know Long Island's De La Soul has to be on it somewhere, and today that means "Ring Ring Ring".
Released in 1991 as their second single off of their second album De La Soul is Dead, "Ring Ring Ring" is a pitch-perfect party jam, with a great bass line (and that horn!) about the group dealing with overzealous fans trying to get demo tapes into their hands. It's fun, and it's oddly nice about it (but seriously, stop giving them demo tapes).
Plus, even more exciting: De La Soul just released an album on the 26th of August called and the Anonymous Nobody which is...everything I wanted from a new De La album: it's fun, it's eclectic, and it's a smart as ever--that's one thing I've always loved about De La Soul, they roll quirky.
Scenario - A Tribe Called Quest (featuring Leaders of the New School)
Once you get how blazingly early 90s this video is (I vaguely remember my computer having graphics similar to this...and Spike Lee...), you get one of the very best 'posse' tracks of all time--this is just wave after wave of great old school hip hop from A Tribe Called Quest, wrapping up with what is widely considered as the breakout moment for a 19-year old Busta Rhymes. This is a great example of east coast at its best: call and reply, an urban, funky bass which gets out of the way of the lyrics, and really, helping to start alternative hip-hop.
To be honest, picking one track by A Tribe Called Quest is a Sisyphus-like task, and I vaguely remember on the lost website talking about "Award Tour" and saying that I would talk about "Scenario" next time...so here we are.
That said, "Scenario" has been acknowledged by several major outlets, from Time to Rolling Stone as one of the very best songs of all-time, and I dare you to argue with that.
Mary, Mary - Run-D.M.C.
There was no way that I was going to talk about old school hip hop and not mention Run-DMC, but I thought I would go with something a little different than the usual tracks you always hear about. "Mary, Mary" samples (and sort of rap-rock covers) a song written by Michael Nesmith which was performed by The Monkees, which ended up being the most successful single off of their fourth album Tougher Than Leather, released in 1988.
I cannot imagine that I need to describe, or give a history to Run-DMC to anyone who has made it this far in an old school hip hop list, but I think it's cool to see all of the new ground they broke: they were the first hip hop group to earn a Grammy nomination, a gold album, a platinum record, the first to go multi-platinum, the first to go on American Bandstand, as well as appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. To call Run-D.M.C. influential (and important) to hip hop is...underselling it.
There were so many songs, and artists that I wanted to get in here that, with the 5 song limit, I just couldn't, so I suppose if you enjoyed this, let me know on twitter, or in the comments below, and I will do another hip hop week. I know I'd like to, considering I didn't get to Biggie, Eric B. & Rakim, Tupac...
Here is the August Apple Music Playlist, done in the usual fashion of trying to make it sound a bit like a set (which is never easy without transitions, or just yapping until I change genres...looking at you Foo Fighters)...
In case you missed our previous Throwback Track playlists, here they are:
Remember, as I use Apple Music, that is where I am building the playlists, but if you want me to look into other services, just hit me up on Twitter and we will chat about the prospects of places like Spotify.
See you again next Thursday with some new....oldies...*cough*