We have interviewed DJ Fab a few months ago during the Ready Or Not Festival, a hip hop meeting which happened in Paris. As a jury and a sponsor of this new edition, he dedicated some of his time to talk with us in a very passionate way. Unconditional lover of the underground, indie hip hop and vinyl records, he gave us a return on his first follies.
DJ Fab's top 25 hip hop vinyls
We asked him after this interview to choose the LPs which marked him the most and must be on every collection of an old school rap digger. Here is a 25 amazing vinyl records selection which includes some of the best hip hop albums from the 1980s to the early 2000s
1) Cymande - Cymande - 1972
Label : Janus Records
What would be Hip Hop without Funk? How could a music lover live without Cymande?
It isn’t surprising if the masterpiece of the English group figures in this selection as a number one.
Formed 1971 in London, England featuring musicians from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent. The name Cymande is based on a calypso word for dove, symbolizing peace and love. They play a style of music that they call Nyah-Rock: a mixture of funk, soul, reggae and African rhythms. The album Cymande released in 1972 presents four of the greatest funk titles.
Following the appreciation and support of their music by Hip-Hop luminaries such as Kool Herc, DJ Jazzy Jay and Grandmaster Flash, their music has been used since the 1980s in loops and samples by some of the genre's leading artists. It has also been featured in films.
The 1980s’ NYC houses another huge influencer of Hip Hop culture: Disco music.
At this time the partitioning of the ghettos generates a mixture of different cultures living inside. All the coexisting musical genres seal the meeting between African, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and Western culture.
Repeating this melting pot, the Italian-American group (formed in Bologna) released in 1981 his second album Miracles, which will be a great success.
3) Ultramagnetic MC' : Critical beatdown - October 1988
Label : Next Plateau
Former B-Boys, Ultramagnetic MCs are considered today as pioneers in the hip hop school. Critical Beatdown is the debut studio album of the group, which was mainly produced by the group's rapper and producer Ced-Gee, who employed an E-mu SP-1200 sampler as the album's main instrument. Music journalists have noted the album for its innovative production, funk-based samples, self-assertive themes, ingenious lyricism, and complex rhyme patterns. Critical Beatdown has since been acclaimed by critics as a classic album of hip hop's "golden age". The album's abstract rhymes in strange syncopations laid on top of sampling experiments proved widely influential, from Public Enemy to gangsta rap to several generations of underground hip hop artists.
4) Public Enemy : Yo! Bum Rush The Show - February 1987
Label : Def Jam
10 years later, Public Enemy releases his first album. Hip Hop abandoned its festive air and politicizes itself. The lyrics of the group have long been controversial and bring a fresh aestheticism to rap. The heavy productions of The Bomb Squad give a dark landscape to the political subjects told by Chuck D.
The album was sold in an exemplary speed thanks to its controversial aspect.
5) N.W.A : Niggaz4life - May 1991
Label : Ruthless
On the other side of the US, the gangsta rap is developing with the mythical group N.W.A as a worthy representative.
Niggaz4life is the second and last album of the group, recorded after Ice Cube’s departure and before the dissolution of the group which occurred the same year.
MC Ren, The D.O.C, Eazy-E and Dre will be first in the charts from the second week of the release of the album.
1993 sets a legendary year in the rap industry with an explosion of masterpieces as much in the United States as in France and more particularly in November 1993. DJ Fab, among his selection, has selected 3 of them.
6) Wu-Tang Clang : Enter the Wu-Tang ( 36 Chambers) - November 9, 1993
Label : Loud Records
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is the first studio album of the group, entirely produced by RZA. The raw sound of the album have blown generations of producers’ minds and contributed to modelize the actual rap scene. When we think about the best 1990s hip hop albums, it oftenly figures in the first places of the list and also as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.
7) Das EFX : Straight Up Sewaside - November 16, 1993
It is the second album of the duo Das Efx composed of Drazy and Skoob, a remarkable project especially for it innovating technique and the rythm and rhymes play.
8) Snoop Dogg : Doggystyle - November 23, 1993
Label : Death Row Records and Interscope Records
Doggystyle is Snoop Doggy Dogg's first studio album. The album was recorded and produced after appearances on Dr. Dre's first solo album, The Chronic (1992), to which Snoop contributed significantly. His project is admired by critics for his lyricism and distinctive flow. Doggystyle is considered as one of the most important rap albums ever released. The distinctive sounds on the album helped to introduce the hip-hop / g-funk subgenre to a mainstream audience, making West Coast hip-hop a dominant force in the early 1990s.
9) Gang Starr : Hard To Earn - March 1994
Label : Chrysalis
Gang Starr returns in 1994 with his fourth album, Hard to Earn, which once again presents the remarkable performances of DJ Premier and Guru. The album also introduces artists who will mark the history of hip-hop a few years later as Jeru The Damaja or Group Home and Big Shug. At the time, they were all part of the Gang Starr Foundation, which made this album a springboard for future artists' projects. Hard to Earn is also the first album of the duo to wear the label "Parental Advisory" on its cover.
10) Nas : Illmatic - April 1994
Label : Columbia
Illmatic is the first Nas album produced by DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S, and Nas himself. The album tells the story of his life in his neighborhood of Queensbridge in New York. The album was admired for the quality of its rhymes and its very meaningful lyrics. He also contributed to the revival of New York's rap scene, introducing a number of stylistic trends. This album is widely considered as one of the most important and influential albums of all time, appearing on many top lists of critics albums.
Illmatic is also a reference to a 100% Queensbridge expression which means that something is absolutely great.
11) Mobb Deep : The Infamous - April 1995
Label: Loud Records
The infamous is the group’s second album, composed of Havoc and Prodigy. It contains featurings with Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Q-Tip, who also contributed to his production and mixing. The infamous is what the New York underground has done better, an album with a very visual lyricism, a landscape and a dark sound narration, suspended at the end with hard rhythms. It clearly marked Mobb Deep's transition from a relatively unknown duo to an influential group and a commercial success.
12) Jay Z - Dead Presidents - February 1996
Label : Roc-a-Fella
Dead presidents is the first promotional single from Jay-Z's debut album, Reasonable Doubt, although it does not appear on the album as such but in a different version: the title is renamed "Dead Presidents II". The single was a commercial success and certified as a gold single in June 1996. Both versions of the song are among the best hip-hop songs ever recorded.
13) A Tribe Called Quest : Beats, Rhymes and Life - June 1996
Label : Jive
Beats, Rhymes and Life is the fourth album of the New York jazz-rap group A Tribe Called Quest. The album marks a stylistic shift for the band, as it contains some of the darkest productions to date. This may be due to poor label relations and the fact that Phife Dawg moved to Atlanta, moving away from the group members. Beats, Rhymes and Life also presents the first works of legendary producer J Dilla of Detroit, who, along with QTip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed, formed the production group The Ummah.
14) OutKast : ATLiens - August 1996
Label : LaFace
ATLiens is the second studio album of the Outkast duo. ATLiens is the combination of "ATL", an abbreviation of their hometown of Atlanta, and "aliens," which conveyed their feeling of being isolated because of their skin color, education, and style of dress. The album corresponds well to the Dirty South movement that they made famous on Southernplayalistic with the spacy and futuristic rhythms they experienced on this album. Organized Noize produces two-thirds of the album while Andre 3000 and Big Boi process the rest of the production. The disc contains production sounds inspired by outer space, incorporating elements of dub, psychedelic rock and gospel into the compositions. Several songs present the first attempts of the duo to produce music by themselves.
15) Redman : Muddy Waters - December 1996
Label : Def Jam
Who better than Redman to talk about his album?
"Muddy Waters is my album! I came out of the shadows with this album, I left out the hard drugs and started smoking more weed and I started playing sports. I had a child so I had to slow down. I grew up on this album, I found myself and I became more familiar with the rap game"
16) Camp Lo : Uptown Saturday Night - January 1997
Label : Profile, Arista
Uptown Saturday Night is the debut album of New York rap duo Camp Lo. It features the singles "Black Nostaljack (Come On)", "Coolie High" and the group's biggest hit "Luchini (This Is It)". The project earned significant acclaim for its jazz, funk and soul sentiments, the production being handled by Ski Beatz. Rap Reviews gave Uptown Saturday Night a 10/10 upon its release, while the album has also gained retrospective attention from the support of avid fans. Its elaborate cover is a rendition of Marvin Gaye's I Want You artwork. The album's title is taken from a 1974 comedy starring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Harry Belafonte. Camp Lo explores themes of the 1970s New York, black art, and blackness more broadly in the album.
17) Company Flow : Funcrusher Plus - January 1997
Label : Rawkus Records
Funcrusher Plus is the first studio album by the American hip hop group Company Flow. The dark and oppressive moods stand out as a constant throughout the opus. El-P and his people appear at each track to lift a little more the veil on a cold and dehumanized universe. The impression is reinforced by the various sci-fi movie clips inserted between the pieces. The apocalypse seems more and more imminent over titles, and inevitably occurs during the last track, the atmospheric and surreal "Info Kill II", airy and grandiose final made of distorted voice and tablecloth synths. Rarely, the work of the DJ, Mr. Len, is perfectly integrated into the whole and brings a real extra dimension. In 2009 the album has been recognized as "a landmark independent hip-hop release".
18) Organized Konfusion : The Equinox - September 1997
Label : Hollywood Basic
Organized Konfusion is an alternative hip hop duo from Queens, New York. Despite their commercial unpopularity, the duo was one of the most respected and acclaimed underground hip-hop groups of the 1990s, thanks to the revolutionary lyrics of Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch.
19) Soundbombing 2 - May 1999
Label : Rawkus Records
Soundbombing 2 is the second compilation of the label Rawkus Records, hip-hop label of New York.
The two founders Brian Brater and Jarret Myer signed some of New York's greatest underground talents, including Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek and Company Flow, which were completely erased. from New York and the East Coast. Soundbombing 2 is considered a hip-hop classic. In the mid-1990s, Rawkus became a dominant label in the underground scene, producing a series of gold albums and a platinum album.
20) D'Angelo: Voodoo - January 2000
Label: Cheeba Sound
Voodoo is the second studio album by American neo soul singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist D'Angelo. Produced primarily by the singer, Voodoo features a loose, groove-based funk sound and serves as a departure from the more conventional song structure of his debut album, Brown Sugar (1995). Its lyrics explore themes of spirituality, love, sexuality, growth, and fatherhood. “Devil’s Pie”, produced by DJ Premier, contributes to its hip hop texture with a lyrical theme concerning the rap game excesses. Following heavy promotion and public anticipation, the album was met with commercial and critical success. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 320,000 copies in its first week, and spent 33 weeks on the chart.
21) Common: Like Water for Chocolate - March 2000
Label: MCA Records
Like Water for Chocolate is the fourth studio album by American rapper Common. It was his first major label album and was both a critical and commercial breakthrough, receiving widespread acclaim from major magazine publications. In "Doinit", Common benefits from the subtle game played jointly by a bass and a piano. No doubt the best track of the album, just before the very soulful single "The Light", at the origin of the commercial success of the album. The rapper keeps the pace on the following tracks, brewing all parts of black music with the same mastery.
22) Dilated Peoples: The Platform (Instrumental LP)– Mai 2000
Label: MCA Records
The Platform is the debut album of the West Coast hip hop group Dilated Peoples. Their members include DJ Babu (producer/DJ), Evidence (MC/producer) and Rakaa (MC). The album represents a movement of several California underground hip hop artists away from the violence and misogyny of gangsta rap, towards a more traditional, conscious form of rap. Some prestigious guests lend a hand to the trio (B-Real from Cypress Hill, Aceyalone from Freestyle Fellowship, the Alkaholiks ...).
Mauvais oeil is the first and last album of the mythical french group Lunatic, composed of Booba and Ali. The respective future paths of the two rappers is revealing of the contrasted composition of the album, hesitating between the lightened messages of Ali and the dark punchlines of Booba. However, the productions are unified around dark drums and samples, recalling Mobb Deep’s album Hell on Earth. At once dull and strident, simplistic and invasive, nostalgic and combative, Mauvais oeil is a block. Homogeneous and masterly like few.
24) Jaylib: Champion Sound – October 2003
Label: Stone Throw Records
Champion Sound was the first and only album released by Jaylib, consisting of producers J Dilla and Madlib. It features frequent Dilla collaborators Frank N Dankand fellow Soulquarian member Talib Kweli. The project explores conventional hip hop themes such as braggadocio, the street lifestyle and even a little humour through Lib's alter-ego Quasimoto. The project was equally split: Dilla performed over Madlib's instrumentals and vice versa.
The album's release went through several complications due to copyright problems in regards to an uncleared sample on the group's most popular single "The Red".
Both the LP and its 2007 reissue alike have gained universal acclaimed reception. It was featured on HipHopDX's list of "30 Best Underground Hip Hop Albums since 2000", and received a four and a half star rating from Allmusic. Since neither artist is renowned for being exceptional lyricists, fans have shown great appreciation for the instrumentals' blend of jazz and soul — the signature genres of Madlib and J Dilla.
25) Masta Ace: A Long Hot Summer – August 2004
Label: M3 Hip Hop
Released in July, A Long Hot Summer is featured as the prequel to Disposable Arts, which recounted, in the form of a captivating style exercise, the story of a convict enrolled at a Hip-Hop training institute. The LP tells the reasons for the incarceration of the hero, in 1996: in the dullness of the New York summer, Ace meets Fats Belvedere, an Italian-American thug who becomes his "road manager" and then drives him into his risky schemes. First, we note that the interludes, narrative landmarks of the disc, do not always have the precision of those who made the Disposable Arts a model of construction, but the LP nevertheless retains fluidity and homogeneity.
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