The Behind... Series looks to bring you pieces on the building blocks that comprise your favourite albums. Tackling records both old and new, we dive into the samples and interpolations that underpin the work of legendary producers. It doesn't matter whether you're a crate digger or a new pupil of hip hop: jump on in and learn about sampling, interpolating and the repurposed music of old.
Who are the Juice Crew? It’s not comprehensive, but “The Symphony” seems a good place to start: a classic 1988 posse cut featuring some of the greatest emcees to ever rock a mic. In this piece, we look at the recording of the Marley Marl masterpiece and ease into our Juice Crew article series!
Before Masta Ace was a dextrous emcee with a love of concept albums, he was a young kid trying to get ahead alongside his Cold Chillin’ colleagues. With invaluable assists from Marley Marl, Mister Cee and DJ Steady Pace, he released his astute and earnest debut, Take A Look Around, in 1990.
Kool G Rap has inspired some of the greatest emcees of all time, and is often given that designation himself. Despite this, he’s never really been a mainstream staple. In honour of G Rap’s contributions to the craft, we’re breaking down his 1995 solo debut, which found him exploring the subgenre he’d helped create: mafioso rap.
When Grand Daddy I.U. dropped Smooth Assassin in 1990, he was already a 22-year-old alumni of hip hop’s most legendary collective. Whilst his career never fully took off, the Grand Daddy still rocked the mic with his distinctive delivery and ostentatious garb. We’re looking back at the refined emcee’s obscure debut.
Before Queensbridge emcee Percy Chapman was Tragedy Khadafi, he was Intelligent Hoodlum, a young socio-political firebrand with a long list of grievances. His self-titled 1990 debut is a hip hop relic that explores injustice, upheaval, celebrations and irreverence in equal measure. That’s definitely something worth exploring, so jump in!
Before there was The Roots, there was Stetsasonic, the original hip hop band. Boasting a roster that included legendary producer Prince Paul, the six-man outfit were a unique addition to the scene, and their 1988 LP In Full Gear marked their critical apex. In celebration of the 30th anniversary, we’re breaking down the samples throughout that classic LP!
Once hip hop Enter[ed] the Wu-Tang, things were never the same. The ‘93 record provided a blueprint for a new East Coast sound, launched the careers of all nine members and quickly became one of the most esteemed hip hop records of all time. In this edition of Behind…, we’re celebrating a quarter-century by breaking down the samples on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)!
Slick Rick is one of hip hop’s great storytellers. His 1988 debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, has since become the gold standard of narrative hip hop, a lewd and crude retelling of Rick’s oft-unsavoury exploits. In this edition of Behind…, we’re looking at the samples scattered throughout Rick the Ruler’s landmark LP!
Pete Rock’s PeteStrumentals, released by BBE in 2001, is the legendary producer’s first instrumental LP. A distillation of old school sampling and ‘90s sensibilities, the record finds Rock playing in the musical sandbox he helped create throughout the preceding decade, pulling jazz and soul into hypnotic boom-bap reimaginings.
AZ’s 1995 debut was both a critical and commercial success, though it’s largely been lost amongst the swathe of top quality East Coast records. Far more than just a companion piece to Nas’ Illmatic, Doe Or Die remains a gem of ‘90s hip hop. In this edition of Behind…, we explore the samples that underpin the essential effort.
Impressive rhymes, innovative sampling and bold style: Ultramagnetic MC’s were some of the golden age’s most vibrant characters. In this instalment of the Behind… series, we’re breaking down their very particular style via the samples littered throughout their 1988 debut, Critical Beatdown!
When NYC rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli called themselves "best alliance in hip hop," they weren’t wrong. Twenty years after the release of their sole LP, 1998’s Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, we look back at the samples that helped make the album such a subdued and pithy statement.
Ice-T’s Power, his 1988 sophomore album, found him expanding on the niche he’d helped create - gangsta rap - just one month after N.W.A’s genre-defining debut. In celebration of the 30th anniversary, we’re looking at the samples on the Afrika Islam-produced LP!
JJ Fad’s Supersonic, though hardly a masterpiece, was the first effort out of Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, presaging 1988 efforts by N.W.A and Eazy himself. The charting album and its hit singles helped establish the label, a move which helped Straight Outta Compton make history. For the 30th anniversary, we’re breaking down the samples on the indispensable record.
Sweet Tee’s It’s Tee Time - her only record - remains an important but oft-overlooked slice of 1988 hip hop. Though hardly influential, the record found a new artist collaborating with one of the most successful pop-rap producers of the day, Hurby Luv Bug, to create a lighthearted and surprisingly versatile LP.
The Jungle Brothers’ debut LP, Straight Out The Jungle, paired upbeat jazz samples with positive Afrocentricity. This then-novel vision kickstarted jazz rap and marked the beginning of the Native Tongues collective, a loose group of likeminded artists whose vision would leave an indelible mark on ‘90s alternative hip hop.
Straight Outta Compton: the definitive gangsta rap album. It made legends out of Eazy, Cube and Dre, setting the stage for a five-year period of commercial dominance that established the West Coast as a hip hop powerhouse. In this instalment of Behind…, we’re diving into the samples that help keep the record as exciting and incendiary as it was 30 years ago.
Follow The Leader - Eric B. & Rakim’s sophomore album - was released on July 25, 1988. The album, which boasts some of Rakim’s most commanding verses, is steeped in old school sensibilities that would soon give way to the more socio-political bent of ‘90s hip hop. In this instalment of Behind…, we’re looking at a classic from one of hip hop’s most formidable and influential duos.
Though emcees such as Roxanne Shanté and Antoinette had been releasing standalone singles for some time, MC Lyte’s 1988 debut, Lyte As A Rock, was hip hop’s first solo female LP. A critical and commercial success, it paved the way for female emcees throughout the ‘90s and beyond. In this edition of Behind…, we break down the impressive and oft-hilarious trailblazer.
One of the most important albums of all time, Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is turning thirty. In celebration of hip hop’s most revered LP, we’re taking a look at the samples that underpin PE’s magnum opus.
In this, the second part of our breakdown of Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, we cover from "Night of the Living Baseheads" to "Party For Your Right To Fight."
Big Daddy Kane’s 1988 debut, Long Live The Kane, remains an important milestone in hip hop. Kane’s lyrical dexterity and fast-paced delivery would influence artists such as Nas and RZA, helping shape the ever-evolving art of hip hop. In honour of the 30th anniversary, we’re breaking down the samples throughout the classic debut!
Joey Badass was yet to graduate when he released 1999, his career-launching debut mixtape. Now, six years on, the tape that launched his career is finally on Spotify. We take a look at the samples underpinning Joey’s debut, exploring production from DOOM, Lord Finesse, Knxwledge and many more.
Boogie Down Productions’ second album, By All Means Necessary, is 30 years old. The classic 1988 LP helped shape politically-conscious hip hop, spurred by the untimely death of a founding member of the group. In this piece, we look back at the seminal album and the samples that underpinned it.
Daytona, Pusha T’s third solo album, is finally here. After three years of waiting, and a handful of false starts, the seven-track, Kanye produced record marks the beginning of Yeezy season. In this instalment of our Behind… series, we look into the samples underpinning Pusha’s new effort.
Jeru The Damaja’s The Sun Rises In The East is a minor East Coast classic. Though obscured by a swathe of impressive East Coast efforts, Jeru’s debut finds him at his creative zenith alongside producer DJ Premier. In celebration of its 24th anniversary, we’ve broken down the samples within.
Piñata, a collaboration between Madlib and gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs, is yet another crowning achievement for the versatile producer. In dissecting the samples within, we explore the cultural connections fostered by hip hop culture.
In the second part of this piece, we look at all the samples that make up Madvillain's sole LP, identifying and contextualising the pop culture within.
As one of hip hop's most enduring classics, Madvillainy is a cultural touchstone. We look at all the samples that make up the landmark 2004 record, identifying and contextualising the pop culture within.