Music Picks

1993: The Year Rap Died

Note the patterns. I say hip hop is next.

By Thom Wong 31 May 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong regularly writes for The Tyee's Music Picks column. He wrote the 40 bLinks column for The Tyee, and writes the Thomas in Law School blog.

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The Liam Gallaghers of their era?

So you're a hip hop artist and it's 2007 and you're on top of the world. Women want you and men want to be you, and even tiny dogs and small children think you're wonderfully culturally relevant. Time is going to name you Person of the Year and is that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee starting rumours? Basically you're the Liam Gallagher of your era. Yet a thought has recently been nibbling at your brain and that thought is this: rap reached its peak in 1993 and has been dying slowly ever since.

Consider the following:

Currently, the hottest rapper on the planet is Mims. (I don't want to hear about Kanye until he drops his new album.) Mims seems to be an acronym for "Music Is My Savior," while also being his actual last name. So when he calls himself Mims he is using the until-now-only-theoretical fifth person (referring to oneself with a self-given nickname that also happens to be one's own name).

Mims is also a terrible, terrible rapper. (To find out why, read Rob Harvilla's "Hot Hot Heat: A graphical dissertation on the number one song in America.")

Further consider the following.

Since 1993, the following people have been considered "rap artists":

Shaq/Allen Iverson/Ron Artest Kid Rock Will Smith (Pre-1993 Will Smith, or "The Fresh Prince," is surprisingly tolerable.) Little Bow Wow Bow Wow Chingy Twista

So why 1993? Take a look at the following list (in top five countdown) and dare, dare I say, to find a comparable year of releases since (or before...or even in the hypothetical future when Kanye West and Snoop Dogg team up to release "Obedience School Dropout.")

5. Cypress Hill, Black Sunday

It's pretty much responsible for the whole rap-rock abomination, which is why it is only number five on the list. Otherwise, an impeccable and truly revolutionary album that tackled the dual subjects of getting high and shooting people. Alright, so the subject matter was nothing new, but the way they said it touched a generation of rap aficionados who also happened to dig Nirvana. "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That," "Hits From the Bong," and "Hands on the Glock" gave young people, as in Hendrix and The Doors before them, the anthems they needed to gather in fields and get really, really stoned, all while sounding scary and insane. Which makes "Insane in the Brain" not only their best song, but also an accurate depiction of their oeuvre.

4. Onyx, Bacdafucup

Remember when bad words meant something? I do. In 1993 I was 16 and I don't think I need to tell anyone how important that age is to every Chinese teenager growing up in Vancouver -- that's right, I finally got contact lenses. And I started to swear all the *@^$&% time. So when Onyx broke with Slam, I was ready for them and ready to say "Onyx is heavyweight -- AND STILL UNDISPUTED" to anyone who would listen. Although I assume the lyrics were less menacing coming from the kid with the M-part. (Don't know what an M-part is? Imagine a seagull drawn by a six year old, only on top of someone's head and made out of hair.)

3. The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

There are those who will tell you The Pharcyde shouldn't be number three on this list. And there are those who will further tell you that this album was released in 1992, throwing off my whole theory and pretty much eliminating the entire point behind this Music Picks. Well, those people are wrong. Wrong, and communists. Because those people who are probably communists never stood in The Knitting Factory in New York and watched Scooter, a 20-something white male with glasses, a polo shirt and shorts, break down "Passin' Me By" like he'd heard it in his momma's belly. If you haven't heard this song and ascribe to the political theories of Marx and Lenin, head down to A&B Sound (HMV doesn't have it) and pick this album up. Now.

2. Nothing

There is no album at number two, because the number one album is so good that to place anything close to it would be a gross injustice, like a head tax or something.

1. The Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-tang (36 Chambers)

Do you remember a world before the Staten Island crew? I don't. I mean, I really don't. I think I have a mental block on the years 1976-1993, or the pre-contact years. This can also be accurately described as the pre-girl years, or the pre-Harper years. Anyway, "Bring Da Ruckus" is a ridiculous way to start an album, because it is so good as to render the rest of the album either a) superfluous or b) unlistenable. But such is the power of the RZA, the GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard ( R.I.P.), Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and the Method Man that "Bring Da Ruckus" is a mere appetizer for the brilliance that follows. Maybe it's the fact that they play chess to sharpen their minds, or the fact that the album features liberal samples from Chop-Socky flicks, but something about the Wu-Tang's slang that is mad f%#@ing dangerous speaks directly to my heart. Add the ODB at his finest and enough finger-snapping beats to break your neck and you've got the GREATEST RAP ALBUM EVER MADE.

So do me a favour. Put down the Mims. Stand back from the Akon and his diamond mine and his four wives. Grab a copy of the Wu and hunt down a Volkswagen Scirocco, pop it into the deck and head to Burnaby Mountain. Me and your future selves will thank you.

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