2 Busy Saying Yeah - Ninety-Now: East Coast Indie Raps Pt. 1
Back in August I read about Fat Beats closing its last retail stores.
I hadn't shopped at Fat Beats in almost 10 years and not just because it meant dodging Percee P. Still, when I read it was closing I started to feel some nostalgia for the era and style of records the store was built on. Over the past month or so I've been pulling together a lot of these records for a series of mixes/radio shows devoted to the best of these.
For most of the 1990s, I followed east coast rap about as closely as any not-yet-internet-savvy person living in Cali could. I listened to every record I could find, read everything that I could and prized any dub of radio shows by Stretch & Bobbito, Mayhem, Riz, Eclipse, etc. that came my way. During that era, I made it to New York about once a year and would spend every free minute combing stores that might have rap records I couldn't get in the Bay, like Bobbito's Footwork, Rock & Soul, Beat Street in Brooklyn, etc.
Eclipse at the NYC Fat Beats store
Once Fat Beats opened, it was easily the best of them. The store changed the landscape for rap music in New York, creating not just an outlet but also a focal point for a certain style of underground rap. Or maybe several styles of underground rap, since the scene seemed to embrace a range of non-commercial NYC-centric styles, from arty downtown rappers to outer-borough knockoffs of Nas & the Wu-Tang Clan.
I'm still figuring out the parameters of this series, but I've got some basic rules for what records are going in to the mixes:
1. No major label releases. This is a little squishy but I've excluded subsidiaries and labels that had major-label distribution (e.g., Loud, Tommy Boy, Payday, Wild Pitch, etc.). Thus far I've also excluded some of the larger indies, like Relativity and Priority, which were kind of in a different league as far as resources, promotion and distribution went (and which ended up major-label subsidiaries anyway). I'm on the fence, but may include some indies that got picked up for re-release.
2. Only one release per artist.
3. Nothing released after 1999. This is a very arbitrary cut-off, but it's kinda around when I lost interest in east coast indies. I feel like they got very stagnant and insular around that time, two qualities that don't usually make for great music.
4. (For the moment) No records from the west coast. There's no shortage of great east coast-style indie rap records from the west coast, but I feel like that scene deserves its own mix/show. As far as I know, other parts of the country didn't produce nearly as many, so I feel okay about grouping east coast-style indies from Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City or Ohio in with those from NYC, NJ, Philly and Boston. Canadian indies were a tougher call but there aren't quite enough ones I like to do an all-Canada mix, though I really did consider it.
Anyhow, here's the first installment. More to come soon.
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1. BBO Enterprises : Dayz Lik This
2. Boostin’ Kev : That Be Boostin’
3. Mixed Elements : Divine Styles
4. 2 Face : Hey Hey Hey
5. Basement Khemists : Petrified
6. Mr. Complex : Why Don't ‘Cha feat. Pharaohe Monch
7. Scienz of Life : Powers of Nine Ether (Distorted Views of Life)
8. Mood Swingaz : The Blessin’ (Boom Bodya Da)
9. Q Ball & Curt Cazal : My Kinda Move
10. Dynasty : Wildcat
11. Al Tariq : Spectacular
12. Mike Zoot : Service
13. Us : N****z
14. Screwball : F.A.Y.B.A.N.
15. Rahsheed : 188.8.131.52. feat. Ill Advised & Pauly Yams
16. Smoothe Da Hustler & Trigger Tha Gambler : Smith Brothers
17. N.O.T.S. Click : In This Game
18. Lord Digga : My Flows Is Tight
19. Maestro Fresh Wes : Fine Tune Da Mic feat. Showbiz
20. Bumpy Knuckles : A Part of My Life
21. Meaner : Real Rap Song
22. Mic Geronimo : Men v. Many feat. O.C. & Royal Flush