I know most of us multi-generational Hip-Hop aficionados will always hold the ’90s in the highest of regards, but it wasn’t all Premo beats, Ecko Tees and 12-inches. So after starting an email ‘chain’ with the homey Nathan S. of Refined Hype where we dispel the myth that the ’90s was a paragon of rap purity, we decided to post our dialogue for all to read. So without further adieu, we’re pleased to unveil our first installment of The Chain: Wack Shit From the ’90s. Shouts to Snow, Ma$e, Gerardo, Marky Mark and the rest of you suuuuuckas (adds KRS-One vocal effect).
Round 1: Snow – “Informer”
Nathan (Refined Hype):
As someone who’s old enough to actually remember the Reagan era, I find it funny when I meet younger Hip-Hop heads who talk about the ’90s like it was an oasis of dope Hip-Hop. I get it, I really do. They look around at the “swag” epidemic and viral videos that were already an essential part of Hip-Hop during their formative years and think, “Man, it must have been better way back when.”
Yes, the ’90s did turn out some of Hip-Hop’s most classic works, from Biggie to Tupac, Public Enemy to De La Soul, but ironically Hip-Hop heads in the ’90s often talked about the ’80s as an era when Hip-Hop was “pure” and “commercialized.” Maybe it’s the fate of every Hip-Hop generation to think that what came before was better.
Believe me, while there were some gems, there were also no shortage of wack shit beings pumped out during the ’90s. Case in point, Snow. Can you imagine what would happen if a white, Canadian, quasi-reggae, glasses wearing rapper showed up in 2012 rapping about snitches? The internet would explode. It’d take The Smoking Gun approximately twelve seconds to dig up shots of him hugging a police officer and #FakeRastas would be a trending topic for a week straight.
I can’t believe Snow would ever be able to succeed these days, but in the ’90s? “Informer” spent seven consecutive weeks at number one. Seven!!!
Lil B may be ridiculous, but at least his shenanigans are confined to the Internet. In 1992 almost all of America agreed that yes, Snow was exactly what they were looking for in a rapper. God the ’90s had some wack shit.
Round 1: Tupac – “California Love”
Steez (Takin’ Mines):
I think I might still be healing from the mental scars and punitive damages resulting from “Informer.” And they say that Asher Roth was the birth of frat rap…au contraire. You see, long before Al Gore invented the internet, in all its glory, this freakish sub-genre still existed, but even in a more douche-baggish state. There wasn’t a Hip-Hop head alive that would give this record the co-sign, but you know who did? Yup, dick-for-brains frat kids whose Rap music lexicon consisted of about eight songs: “Rapper’s Delight,” “I Get Around,” “Buffalo Stance,” “Walk This Way,” “Baby Got Back,”Bust a Move, “Gin and Juice” and you got it…”Informer.”
Despite being in a fraternity in the late 90’s at a mid-west university, I was a freakish anomaly in the sense that I was an underground Hip-Hop enthusiast and DJ from New York. That being said, I had the unfortunate privilege of seeing ‘Frat-Rap 1.0’ live in action during its peak years. This song was the litmus test used to expose every true ‘Frat Rap’ douche rocket from the rest of the flock as they would bust into their Snow lip sync impersonation when this song would drop at a party, collecting props in the form of awkward high five’s from their ‘brothers.’ Their impersonation would often be over dramatized, with a ridiculous use of non-verbal gestures and B-Boy poses that just epitomized the essence of wackness.
Now as for my pick for perhaps the wackest song and possibly even video to emerge from the 90’s era would have to go to…wait for it, wait for it: Tupac’s “California Love.” Although the song was originally intended to be featured on the former World Class Wreckin’ Cru and N.W.A. frontman’s sophomore compilation lp, Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath, sans the Tupac verse, the version that the world has come to know (and either love or hate) was featured on Tupc’s All Eyez on Me lp. At the time of the song’s release, the East Coast Vs. West Coast Hip-Hop rivalry was at it’s peak, where Suge Knight’s infamous mockery of Sean Combs at the Source Awards took place in August of ’95. Tupac was now fresh out of jail and “California Love” represented his loyalty to the west a la Suge Knight and Death Row Records, as well as his emancipation from his East Coast affiliation. If you didn’t know any better and were just getting into Hip-Hop at the time, you would’ve scoffed at the idea that Tupac ever had anything to do with New York, even though he was born and raised in Harlem.
Blah, blah, blah…history lesson aside, this song is trash. Yah sure, “California Love” was listed on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and has gone to sell nearly six million digital downloads, but it’s awful. The song was released during the slight dip in Dre’s career that fell right in between launching Snoop Dogg into super stardom and discovering Eminem. Sure, Dre’s ‘lull’ is quantum leaps beyond any success you or I have ever experienced in life, but fuck it, it’s all relative. First off, everything about the beat was an exaggeration of any overly produced ‘West Coast’ inspired track, full of moogy synths and every other sound that could now be downloaded within three to four seconds of a “Killa Kali Sound Kit” search on the Googler. And the video for this…woah. This Hype Williams directed shit show of Maddmaxx Beyond Thunderdome meets The Warriors with a Chris Tucker cameo that made me never want to see Friday again…thanks. The song and video were both hyperbole to a dangerously stupid level and did an amazing job of polarizing the East Coast/West Coast fuckery – congratufuckinglations. Let’s just say that as a native New Yorker with Hip-Hop roots cemented with album’s such as Radio, Raising Hell, Fat Boys, Licensed To Ill, Yo! Bum Rush the Show and yah Straight Outta Compton and of course The Chronic, my mind soul and body systematically rejected this song – a record that will forever hold it’s place in the catacombs that is Wack Shit From The 90s.
Round 2: Mya (feat. Blackstreet, Mase & Blinky Blink) – “Take Me There”
Nathan (Refined Hype):
You nailed it – the new generation seems to feel like they’re the first to have to deal with wack Hip-Hop, and all the d-bags that come along with it. Since time immortal there have been imitators, pretenders and people who are completely serious and well-meaning, but just suck. I guarantee there was more than one dude at Kool Herc’s first South Bronx parties that everyone fucking hated.
Thankfully, Snow’s glorious reign took place before the advent of the internet, so the legion of Snow wanna-bes that must have cropped up have been lost in the ether. (Note to self: Start Tumblr called GuysWhoLookLikeSnow, flip it into a coffee book, sell at Urban Outfitters.) But there’s just no escaping the fact that in the same year Common’s Can I Borrow a Dollar and Gang Starr’s Daily Operation dropped, Snow was the most popular rapper in the country. Deal with that shit Hip-Hop heads to won’t stop talking about how much better things were during the “golden era”.
As for “California Love”…sweet baby jesus, I hope you know what you’ve gotten yourself into. I feel like we’re gonna need you to grow a mustache, start speaking with a fake Ukranian accent and enter you into a blogger relocation program. Frankly, even that might not protect you from the army of Pac fans who just broke their computers in anger reading that “California Love” was trash.
Frankly, “California Love” sucking is just not an option I ever entertained before, I’m not quite sure what to even do with the thought. This feels like my mom just told me I was adopted after three decades of believing my parents are my actual parents – my brain just refuses to process even the possibility.
I don’t want to be blind to the truth though, so I went back and listened to “California Love” with as negative of a mindstate as I could conjure up…nope, that shit only stirs up good feelings. Although I have to admit that the song itself is so thoroughly intertwined with memories of dry humping Kristen Chambers* at a middle school dance that I’m incapable of thinking about it objectively. We’ll just have to agree to disagree, although I admire your courage.
As for my next worst shit of the ’90s pick, I’m gonna have to fast forward a little to the end of the decade and remind everyone that “Take Me There” happened. Yes, not only did Mya and Blackstreet write the theme to the Rugrats movie, but a quite possibly legally retarded Ma$e and his brother Blinky Blink (yep, the motherfucker’s name was actually Blinky Blink) dropped a joint-verse so bad it makes Rebecca Black sound like Rakim.
The ’90s, where guys named Blinky Blink rapping about the Rugrats happened!
Round 3: Gerardo – “Rico Suave”
Steez (Takin’ Mines):
Ahh, the dry hump – that was still is my move. “Take Me There” is no doubt special. You gotta love the throwback 90lb soaking-wet version of Mya. Good lord how she has aged to perfection (oulà). She went from Venus to Serena over the past decade. But that’s about the only good think to come outta this video. Ahhh, the 90s, when video attire was color coded to include the entire ROYGBIV spectrum. You’d think that M&M’s were the hired stylists. I wonder if Diddy convinced Mase and Blinky to be a part of this Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test gone horribly wrong by convincing to take the Harlem World duo out after the shoot to Friendly’s for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Sundae. Do you think that right after the very last take, that Mase and Blinky ran right into the backseat of Diddy’s Escalade, video attire and all, buckled up and waited patiently for a conniving Sean Combs (and his driver) to make good on his promise? Hopefully at that time, there were TVs installed on the rear headrest so the duo were able to watch their favorite cartoons while waiting. Oh to see the disappointment in those kids faces when there was no Friendly’s must’ve been like telling a kid on Christmas day that there’s no Santa. I bet Mase got mad and threw a temper tantrum. After watching this video, it’s clearly easy to see where the Murda in Murda Ma$e comes from – a cornucopia of street cred is put on full display here.
Harlem World has come a long way since the 90s. From Ren & Stimpy Murda Mase and Blinky, to The Diplomats, to the A$AP Mob, who pretty much got the streets and the internet in a cobra clutch, it’s a trip to see how things have evolved. They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same, but I think I gotta call bullshit on that. The only common denominator between Ma$e and A$AP are the dollar signs in their name.
Now as for my next pick of wack shit from the ’90s, let’s take it to the top of the decade as I dissect one of the biggest piece of shit records to emerge not just from this decade, but from this history of recorded music, period. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you “Rico Suave,” from rapper/singer Gerardo. Now I don’t know if you can legitimately call Gerardo a rapper, although technically the words rhyme…for example: “my only addiction has to do with the female species, I eat ’em raw like sushi.” I mean that’s fucking street poetry in a way only Nas could top, unless of course Gerardo was Nas’s ghost writer, which would immediately close the lid on Writer-Gate. Could you just imagine dude telling Nas, “Nah Esco, go with something more like ‘sneak a uzi on the island in my army jacket linen.’” Obviously not a very likely scenario, being that dude can’t rap for shit, and to boot Milli Vanilli probably had more legitimate street credibility than Gerardo, although what the fuck do I know – dude’s from Ecuador, which is just south of Colombia and crazy fucking shit goes down in that part of the world. Nonetheless, dude’s wackness is like wack on a vintage level – like he was the post Vanilla Ice reboot prototype of wack, but for whatever reason, the song was completely embraced by pop culture where it even peaked as the number seven record on the Billboard Hot 100 and the number two record on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks.. holy fuck. Perhaps the real shocker is that the video was nominated for not one, but two MTV VMA’s for Best Male Video and Best New Artist.. WOW.
The funny thing about this record, is that it so much sounded like a parody of something, without actually being a parody, that Weird Al inevitably gave it an overhaul in the form of “Taco Grande.” Ahhhh, the 90’s when you could be outwardly racist towards Mexicans and deal with absolutely zero repercussions. Around the time this jawn came out I was heavily entrenched in the Bar Mitzvah circuit which would consume most of my weekends, and rest assured that DJs throughout the north and south shores of Long Island would be pumping this joint in the mega-mix back to back with “Poison” (sorry, Bel Biv Devoe, not Kool G Rap & DJ Polo), that it was almost predictable. Another fun fact about this ditty (and by fun, I mean agonizing) is that the 12-inch vinyl had four versions; the ‘Spanglish Version’ that most of us are used to, ‘The More English Edit,’ (yo, why you hatin’ on Spanglish b?), the ‘Mo’ Ritmo Dance Version’ (sorry, don’t know what the fuck that means) and lastly, the ‘Spanish Version.’ Smart, this way, it would make both latin and English speaking people the world over vomit in their mouth – thanks! Yup, the 90’s, where wack shit happened, more than you’d care to remember.
And Nathan – you were adopted.
Round 3: Marky Mark – “Good Vibrations”
Nathan (Refined Hype):
Rico Suave, man, you’re really taking me back with that one. First, I’d like to hook up a Mr. Fusion to a D’Lorean, travel back in time, and slap whoever at Billboard made the decision to place this on the Hot Rap Singles chart (where it peaked at #2). Apparently in 1990 “Rap” included “Pop Music From People Who Aren’t White”.
Speaking of ’90s rap-racial identity questions, for my last and final section, I’ve got to go with Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations.” Excuse me, Marky Mark AND the Funky Bunch’s Good Vibrations, although I’m still not clear about who the Funky Bunch where, or what they did. (Interesting historical side note: “Good Vibrations” was actually written by the well respected MC Spice.. and Roscoe Dash.)
If this song came out in 2012 Fader would be writing cover stories about the rise of homo-erotic rap, but back in ’91 things like dancing in a rain puddle and working out with your shirt off were considered marks of homesexual virility. That underwear model appeal combined with production from Mark’s New Kidz on the Block brother Donnie and hilariously ironic rhymes like “Pure hip-hop, no sell out” combined to make “Good Vibrations” a number one hit, and the accompanying album a Top 20. In retrospect Mark was clearly just preparing himself for a boxing acting career, but at the time anyone caught with a tap (yep, an actual tape) of “Good Vibrations” would be beaten and have that shit snatched like a Yung Berg chain.
Keep that in mind the next time you feel like complaining about Hip-Hop in 2012. While it may be remembered as part of the “Golden Era,” Hip-Hop in the early ’90s was actually dominated by.. The Funky Bunch. Those were dark days my friends, dark days indeed.
Round 3: Kriss Kross – “It’s A Shame”
Matt (Takin’ Mines):
“Good Vibrations” ehh? Marky Mark, the one who’s rap sheet is longer than his rap sheet. Seriously, dude was a straight up derelict before he was Calvin Kleins’ poster child. Ok, I feel like I’m dry snitching, so gonna fall back, but man, I remember when dude was part of New Kids On The Block, or their shorthand moniker NKOTB for those privileged not to have grown up without these ass clowns as part of their everyday life. I was in middle school when these humps rose to fame, and as a young buck, our decision as to what girls we would talk to (or not) was often based on whether or not they were a fan of said group. God for bid if you were a dude that publicly admitted your NKOTB fandom, you were guaranteed a life of social exile throughout the duration of your public school existence. But this video is classic in the most ironic way possible – I mean conjugal visitations, arm curls with cinder blocks, a jazz pianist and some bootleg S1W’s (click here young’ns) – it gets no better.
While we’re on the subject of both the Rugrats and adolescent rap ensembles, let’s take it down to the “A” were puppet master Jermain Dupri stumbled upon a Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith, better known as Kris Kross performing at a mall and said to self “cha-ching.” And no, I’m not gonna shit on “Jump” – I fucked with “Jump” back in the day, we kinda all did and for the most part still do, and if you had the cajones to rock your gear all ass backwards (literally) and were truly bout that life, then more power to you. However, there was another ditty on their debut album Totally Krossed Out that’s 100% worthy of of being called out for it’s wackness, which ironically is titled “It’s A Shame.”
The title couldn’t be further from the truth. Now let’s see what’s under the hood. First off, before we question the shameful visuals, the production consists of the highly original “More Bounce To the Ounce” sample from Zappp and Roger, which incidentally ranks #3 on Audiotuts+ ranking of most over used samples (blamo). So we’re not winning on originally points, no big deal, but it’s clear that they were going for a west coast vibe, seeming that Ice Cube has used this sample twice, prior to the release of this song. Conceptually, the song is about the ignant shit that goes on in the hood, told from the narration of a couple of 12 year olds; from getting robbed for your Jordans to drive-bys. Judging by the very first line, it looks like Ruffhouse was thirsty for some west coast sales, which is further exemplified from the opening line: “Ey yo, here’s the real scoop homey loc, dumb fools around my way getting’ high off gun smoke.” – seriously?? Their fashion sense barrows a page from the Mexican Mafia fashion manual, which consists of red and black gingham flannels (only the top button fastened.. of course), over sized khakis and charcoal prison jumpers – or something to that effect. Between the scene with them rapping in front of a bunch of VW Rabbits, to a funeral procession through the projects, to adolescent bodies outlined in chalk, this is so fucking bad, that it’s good, and then bad again, where it shall remain for eternity. Basically if CB4 and Boyz N The Hood had a red headed step child that they kept locked in a basement and took out only to be beaten in different rooms of the house – it would be this amazing pile of shit. Ahhh – the 90’s, where it wasn’t always not wickity-wickity-wack.