Monday, 30 August 2010

Personal Classics Vol. 1

Here we are with a brand new series of posts I'll be constructing over the next few months, maybe even longer.

There are albums in hip-hop culture that are regarded as classics of the genre by everyone. Certified classics that have changed the face of the culture through thier existence, either through sheer quality, through controversy and through how it resonates with the fans. Often these albums are untouchable. Think "It Takes A Nation Of Millions..." by Public Enemy or "The Low End Theory" by A Tribe Called Quest.

However, there are also albums that every single hip-hop fan has that they love, which aren't necessarily seen as classics by the wider public. Albums that weren't recieved very well by critics but that certain fans connected with on a personal level at the time and have somehow changed their life or perspective. I have many of these albums.

I understand some of these albums aren't considered classics by most, if any people, but theyre albums which have been important to me in my life. These are my Personal Classics.

Personal Classic #1: Busta Rhymes – Genesis (2001)

As far as hip-hop artists go, Busta Rhymes has always held a special place in my heart since I was a kid. In fact, the first EVER album of any kind that I bought with my own money was “When Disaster Strikes” in 1997 when I was 11 years old. I had heard “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” on MTV at some point, and right at that very moment, it was the best song I’d ever heard.

I loved that entire album so much that the second album I bought was Busta’s 1996 album “The Coming” for a cut-price. I played them both to death throughout my early early teen years. So even though before this, I had heard and liked famous carting rap songs that did well in the UK, as an 11 year old, Busta Rhymes’ music was essentially my way in and starting point with hiphop, and thankfully it has largely governed my life ever since.

I spent huge amounts of time going back to ‘88-‘94 era rap music in my teens, so while my mates were listening to trance bollocks like Eiffel 65, Indie music like Oasis and the occasional Limp Bizkit album, I was listening to Organized Konfusion on my huge headphones that engulfed my whole skull. This fascination STARTED with Busta Rhymes.

So, history lesson over and background in place, the stage was set for me, waiting with baited breath for pretty much any Busta Rhymes LP. I liked “Extinction Level Event”, I loved “Anarchy”, then came Genesis...

I was 15 years old going on 16 when it came out, the top year of comprehensive school, and from listening to Tim Westwood’s show on Radio 1 late Friday nights (back when it was great and he was effectively the CNN and News at Ten for everything hip-hop related in England) I had heard a lot of tracks that were to be on the album.

“Break Ya Neck” had already blew me away, with Busta on his fast flow and Dre producing his best beat since he’d released “Chronic 2001”. The Neptunes were behind two other tracks to be on the LP in “What It Is”, a track previously on the Violator 2.0 compilation, and “As I Come Back”, a synth-rap song driven by a resung element of Busta’s classic verse on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” as the chorus. These were the songs Westwood absolutely rinsed in the weeks leading up to the album’s release in late 2001.

Then it dropped...

I bought the album literally on the day it came out, and listened to it on my Sony Discman (yeah baby!) on the bus on the way home from Newcastle. At full blast, from the “Intro” beat entitled “Dolemite’s Theme” produced by Nottz all the way through to the same producer’s “Bad Dreams”, with Busta detailing a bad night out on the lash, it blew me away completely.

Busta was always an incredible emcee, with more different and varied flows than anyone else in the game, but often his albums (although good) were let down by too much filler. He’d do 20 track albums with 10 incredible tracks on each that were clogged up in-between by unnecessary anti-matter. Even his first two solo albums which acted as my entrance to rap had many flaws despite my love for them.

Not this one though, Genesis was a keeper...

The album successfully straddled the mainstream and pleased purists at the same time, as for every commercially viable track there was an equally respectable underground song. To counteract Dr. Dre’s “Truck Volume” & “Break Ya Neck”, you had “Shut Em Down 2002” with Pete Rock. To counteract the two Neptunes songs, you had “Genesis” & “Make It Hurt” by the late J.Dilla, seemingly on his space-age tip.

In fact, the producer list reads like a best of hip-hop catalogue: Pete Rock, Nottz, J.Dilla, Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, Diamond D, Yogi (of Bad Boy & Cru fame), The Neptunes, Dre’s right-hand man Melman, west coast legend Battlecat and also newcomer Michaelangelo who was getting shine on his beats at the time.

But it wasn’t about just the beats. Busta was at his finest, channelling his insane Leaders Of The New School style and fusing it seamlessly with mainstream appeal. Almost every track could have been a single due to the abundance of memorable hooks and choruses, yet that never compromised the overall quality and grounded sound.

For me, “Genesis” is Busta’s best album, and an absolute CLASSIC.

Busta Rhymes - Genesis (2001)

1. Intro
2. Everybody Rides Again
3. As I Come Back
4. Shut Em Down 2002
5. Genesis
6. Betta Stay Up In Your House (w/ Rah Digga)
7. We Got What You Want
8. Truck Volume
9. Pass The Courvoisier (w/ P. Diddy)
10. Break Ya Neck
11. Bounce (Let Me See Ya Throw It)
12. Full Moon
13. Wife In Law (w/ Jaheim)
14. A** On Your Shoulders (w/ Kokane)
15. Make It Hurt
16. What It Is (w/ Kelis)
17. There’s Only One (w/ Mary J. Blige)
18. You Ain’t F**in’ Wit Me
19. Match The Name With The Voice (w/ Flipmode Squad)
20. Bad Dreams

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