Blast Beats is a weekly column in which extreme music artists discuss their favorite hip-hop records.
In this week’s Blast Beats, Cazador drummer and vocalist Cliff Cazeau stopped by to talk about three hip-hop recordings that were influential to his musical development. Continue reading to check out the first installment of his Hood Classics series.
Hood Classics: Vol. 1
When I was first approached about contributing to these Blast Beats pieces, I found feelings of both excitement and fear since Hip-Hop played an integral role in fueling my interest towards heavier music and lyricism in particular. Although the overall list was hard to narrow down, I’ve highlighted a couple of my own personal musical influences that resonated with me while growing up in Beantown. A lot of what you see here was not only influential to me personally, but essential to the canon of Hip-Hop as a whole at their time of release.
After a lot of reflection and scrunched-up facial expressions, I was able to put together a list that – with the exception of my personal top 3 – are in no particular order and are the most impactful and tightest records I’ve heard in my lifetime. My Hood Classics.
Follow me off the edge..
Album: 4. 5. 6 (1995)
Artist: Kool G Rap
Highlights: “Take ‘Em to War” (ft. B-1 & MF Grimm), “Executioner Style”, “Fast Life” (ft. Nas)
To this day, I’ve yet to hear anything in hip-hop that comes close to matching the straight up lyrical savagery found on this record. Released near the peak of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, Kool G Rap’s debut album 4, 5, 6 firmly established what gangsta rap had evolved to become in the mid-90’s – sample heavy, driving, macabre tales of the “mafioso” thug lifestyle embodied by hardcore street flow delivered over beats featuring samples from classic artists such as Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, and The Meters. With breathtaking multisyllabic rhymes and a penchant for telling vivid stories of ‘hood life in early 90’s Queens NYC, it’s no wonder that several of the future titans of hip-hop (including Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem) all cite Kool G Rap’s work as a major influence. The man’s flow is so tight and respected, he even wrote the foreword for the 2009 book How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC. This fact alone solidifies the artist also known simply as “G Rap” as one of, if not THE hip-hop mastermind of a generation.
Album: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
Highlights: “Shame on a Nigga”, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin'”, “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber, Part 2″, “Tearz”
As another seminal record from the East Coast Renaissance that took place in the early 90’s, this one probably captures the most vicious vibe of all the albums I’ve listed. This album to me has always been a reckless, unabashed beating of the senses. The raw production style, cipher dynamics, and full-bore lyrical assault from all 9 members of the Wu-Tang Clan easily make this one of the most influential hardcore hip-hop records of all time. They simply don’t make ’em like this anymore. With an overall vibe that’s padded with clips and sonic collages based on old-school martial arts movies and soul music samples, this album led to the rise of the underground that was developing on the East Coast at the time (leading to the success of other East Coast collectives and personal favorites like Onyx and Mobb Deep).
Album: Da Unbreakables (2003)
Artist: Three 6 Mafia
Hightlights: “Wolf Wolf”, “Rainbow Colors” (ft. Lil’ Flip), “Try Somethin'” (ft. Project Pat)
As my first true introduction to the southern style of hip-hop, this album holds a special place in my collection. Dropping in the early 2000’s, this record modernized traditional gangsta rap and laid the foundation for the future albums and club bangers that Three 6 would later churn forth by mixing it all up with a lethal blend of crunk, horrorcore, and Memphis-style southern hip-hop. The dark, menacing vibe here scratches the savage thug itch – with lyrics to match – but also maintains a steady and chill atmosphere throughout, despite the rambunctious and sometimes absurd lyricism. It was no surprise to see Juicy J and other members of the Hypnotize Camp Posse find similar success in the mid-to-late 2000’s. This record became the predecessor to most of the Southern hip-hop that came after by bringing Southern Swag and crunk to the forefront without compromising the traditional gansta style.
Best of the Rest:
Mobb Deep – The Infamous… (1995)
G-Unit – No Mercy, No Fear (2002)
The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994)
A$AP Rocky – LIVE.LOVE.A$AP (2011)
Puff Daddy & The Family – No Way Out (1997)
Del tha Funky Homosapien – Both Sides of the Brain (2000)
2Pac – All Eyez on Me (1996)
Thug Life – Volume 1 (1994)
Project Pat – Ghetty Green (1999)
Onyx – All We Got Iz Us (1995)
Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein (2001)
50 Cent – The Massacre (2005)
DMX – It’s Dark and Hell is Hot (1998)
Jay-Z – Kingdom Come (2006)
Cam’ron – Purple Haze (2004)
Kendrick Lamar – O(verly) D(edicated) (2010)
Gang Starr – Moment of Truth (1998)
Fabolous – The S.O.U.L. Tape (2011)
Nas – Illmatic (1994)
Chip tha Ripper – Gift Raps (2011)