Back in eighty eight, twenty long hip-hop years ago, hip-hop, or "rap" music as it was more generally referred to back then, was experiencing arguably (and it has been argued and debated, tirelessly by many a passionate hip-hop head) its finest moment. A part of hip-hop's much lamented, so-called "golden era" 1988 has been labeled many things by many people such as "The year hip-hop peaked" or "The last year for real hip-hop" or "The main year of the golden era." So revered is that year in the history of hip-hop music and culture that it has become the subject matter of many diehard hip-hoppers including the Rhymesayers emcee Blueprint who titled his 2005 album "1988" as a tribute to "the beats, the breaks, and themes" of what he (and many others) see as "hip-hop's heyday."
"Blueprint, who started his hip-hop career in the late 90's, was too young to have experienced 1988 hip-hop firsthand. But I wasn't. I was there and totally into hip-hop at the time: as a journalist writing about it, as a radio DJ playing all this great new music on the air at a time when there was little hip-hop to be found on the radio dial, and most importantly as a dedicated rap fan buying all these great new records and cassettes as they came out. Note at this stage in hip-hop it was still possible to buy near every new release without going bankrupt. I still am a big fan of '88 hip-hop: records like Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back," BDP's "By All Means Necessary," Eric B & Rakim's "Follow The Leader," EPMD's "Strictly Business," Too $hort's "Life is....Too $hort," and NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" etc. etc. But while I love 1988 hip-hop today as much as I did all them years ago, I am not one of those aging b-boys who hates everything new in the genre. Sure I agree that there is a lot of shitty hip-hop coming out today but there is also lots more really great & innovative new hip-hop music being made today. But the classics will remain the classics. And 1988 was a classic year in hip-hop.
To me 1988 was a time of real excitement in hip-hop. I clearly remember so many incidents and moments that year - a time before CDs were the common medium and when most rappers still released just singles, and when the newly unveiled YO! MTV Raps was introducing new ears to this still relatively new Bronx, NY bred music. I recall wearing out both PE's and NWA's albums from playing them so much. It didn't matter though because once I stepped outside my East Bay apartment it seemed every car driving was bumping either of those artists or else the bass-heavy Too $hort whose "Life is...Too $hort" and "Born to Mack" were both released by Jive that year. I recall getting angry calls from KALX listeners for playing Too $hort's sexist rhymes on the air and I remember how many rap fans, who equated the new gangsta rap sound as the antithesis of what hip-hop should be, being most annoyed by the rise in popularity of NWA and other brazen street rappers. I remember the excitement surrounding every new rap release including the Jungle Brothers, Stetsasonic, Biz Markie, Slick Rick, Ultramagnetic MC's, and Run DMC who dropped "Tougher Than Leather" that year. I clearly recall running into on the street and talking with fellow longtime Bay Area club and radio (KUSF, KALX) DJ David Bassin the day he had an early copy of "Follow The Leader" and how he tightly clutched that prized Eric B & Rakim possession of his effusing how it was 'the most amazing record."
The reason I bring all this up and write about it in this WFMU blog is because today (Friday May 9th, 2008, 3-6PM EST) I will be doing a special WFMU show dedicated to the year 1988 when I will be joined by numerous guests, including hip-hop journalists/authors Michael A Gonzales and Marcus Reeves in the WFMU on-air studios, weighing in and reminiscing on the year of 1988 in hip-hop and other music, sports, politics and other relevant issues related to that year. If you miss the show live you can always check it anytime in the WFMU archives but if you are tuned in live be sure to participate by adding your thoughts on 1988 in the WFMU show's accuplaylist Comment section. In addition to the studio guests we are hoping to have a slew of hip-hop historians and authors call in to share their two cents on '88. These include authors Todd Craig, Donnell Alexander, Miles Marshall Lewis, former Vibe editor Serena Kim, former Def
Jam executive Lisa Cortes, hip-hop renaissance man Bill Adler, and music blogger Steve Flemming.
Fleming, whose blog is here, will be just one of the many guests today who is simultaneously writing blogs today to coincide on the topic of 1988. Just posted, Michael A Gonzales' essay on 1988 can be found on his blog, while on my other (regular blog outlet) for Amoeba Music's Amoeblog, I have written an additional piece on 1988 with more of a focus on the Bay Area/West Coast rap dropping that year plus some video clips from that year.
For links to all of the other blogs on 1988 check the playlist (live or archived) for "Put The Needle on the Record" show titled "1988" on May 9th, 2008. Here is link to playlists. If you have any, please add your comments on 1988 below right here on this WFMU blog or else on the Playlist's comments section - live or archived versions. Thanks for reading. Thanks to Scott Williams for posting. Peace: