Can You Kick It? // A Playlist by Lily Robertson
Here’s a playlist for introducing you to the Hip-Hop scene of the 80’s and 90’s. Coming from all over the U.S, these artists were using Rap, R&B and Jazz to formulate a new genre for their young audience in inner-city communities. Some touch upon serious political and social issues, some are simply made to relax to. Crank these songs up A.S.A.P. and be transported back in time and across the Atlantic.
Listen to the playlist here.
Geto Boys // ‘Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta’
This starts off feeling laid-back, but the lyrics become more and more powerful as you listen on. We see themes surrounding the politics of ghettoization, the corruption that the president allows and toxic masculinity; an example of how hip-hop and rap can contribute to a social debate.
Devin the Dude // ‘Do What You Wanna Do’
This is very chilled. Devin has a smoothed-out funk-laden sound and this is a perfect summer tune that will both make you feel powerful, and just want to relax in the sun.
the Notorious B.I.G, Mase, Diddy // ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’
This is an upbeat and empowering collaboration with a soulful R&B sample. You’ll want to dance and have a drink in hand when listening, even if the lyrics are touching upon some serious topics.
A Tribe Called Quest // ‘Can I Kick It?’
A tribe called quest has been labelled the most intelligent, artistic rap group of the 90’s, and this song, with it’s relaxing sample and jazz-rap combo will undeniably put you in a good mood.
Mos Def // ‘Umi Says’
This song is the most philosophical on the list, tackling the idea of needing a mentor in life, with Matt Diehl of Entertainment Weekly praising it saying that it “merges old-school bravado with new-school poetics, the Brooklyn legend spouts incisive Afrocentric reality that takes all sides into account.”
N.W.A // ‘Express Yourself’
This track’s free-spirited nature will help bring a spring to your step and a smile to your face. The song’s lyrics focus on the concept of free expression and the constraints placed on rappers by radio censorship. It’s lightened with irony; even though it has lines criticising other rappers for not swearing in order to get radio airplay, the song itself has a radio friendly sound and no profanity.
Sugarhill gang // ‘Rapper’s delight’
Not only is this the oldest record I’ve included. It’s particularly easy to dance to, and while it was not the first single to include rapping, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ is credited for introducing hip hop music to a wider audience. It was a prototype for various types of rap music, incorporating themes such as boasting, dance, honesty and sex, with the charisma and enthusiasm of James Brown. The track interpolates Chic’s ‘Good Times’ which is another classic.
Grandmaster Flash // ‘The Message’
‘The Message’ has been reused and re-sampled in so many different ways that it would be easy to reduce its legacy to cliché. It is inarguably innovative with its slowing the beat right down, and opening up space in the instrumentation – it is more like a slow-funk song than hip-hop, with electro, dub and disco also jostling for room in the genre mix—and thereby letting the lyrics speak loud and clear”. Not only does the song utilize an ingenious mix of musical genres to great effect, but it also allows the slow and pulsating beat to take a backseat to the stark and haunting lyrical content discussing the struggles of life for his community.
Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue // ‘Whatta Man’
Pairing these goddesses of hip-hop with a killer track was always going to be a big success. The harmonising is perfect, and their celebrating is infectious.
Fugees // ‘Ready or not’
What contributes to this track’s eerily ambient atmosphere: Jean’s confused musings, Hill’s confident harmonies and Michel’s immigrant pride. Tapped insistently into your consciousness by a simple snare beat, the cut nicely illustrates its lyrical strength as well as its talent for switching from smooth soul singing to sharp rapping.
Listen to the playlist here.