Section 1: The Ass End
“Digging in the Dirt” 1992, #52 (11 weeks) (download)
1986’s So is the better album without a doubt but 1992’s proper follow up, Us is fantastic as well. Radio got the three most upbeat tunes on the album, “Digging in the Dirt,” “Steam” and “Kiss that Frog” as well as the amazing “Blood of Eden,” one of the seven slow tunes on the record. It’s fitting of course that these were the ones pushed as most of the others aren’t exactly driving music but the album is really made by the mesmerizing and often sad tunes like “Love to be Loved” and “Washing of the Water.”
“I Wish” 1994, #52 (14 weeks) (download)
I wouldn’t have been able to give you the artist of this song or the well recognized “Dreams” but I certainly heard both of the tunes a ton back in ’94 and ’95. The biggest thing I remember about her was her look. She has a lazy right eye, so she would always wear sunglasses, an eyepatch or style her hair so it draped over her eye. However, the weird part that I never really got is that on her second album (self-titled), her hair is draped over her left eye and the right eye exposed. It’s the only time I’ve seen a picture of her like that and the eye doesn’t look lazy at all. Things that make you go hmmm….
Gang Starr of course was made up of one the best pure rhymers in the game in Guru and DJ Premier who’s gotten extremely popular since Gang Starr broke up.
“Mass Appeal” is one of the finest rap songs ever made and most of it is because of the great unauthorized sample that Premier used on the track. “You Know My Steez” is a fantastic song as well even though I’m still unsure what “Steez” are. But back in the day my buddies and I used to sing “You Know My Steeds.” It was just a natural thing, homie.
However, if you only have cash to buy one record Guru is on, you should think about Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. Sure, he went to the well a few times too often by the time Vol. 4 came out but Vol. 1 features a full live jazz band behind him with such greats as Donald Byrd and Branford Marsalis. It’s a masterpiece of a record in my mind.
Even before succumbing to Cancer in 2010, Guru had lost his musical mojo but still goes down as one of the most innovative rap artists ever.
For some reason I don’t look back fondly on Garbage. I spun the daylights out of their self-titled release and I remember owning Version 2.0 but couldn’t put it in any life context like I could the debut. I listen to all of these now and while they are still better than a lot of the stuff that shows up in this series, I find them all just a little bland. Maybe for the time they were adventurous but they don’t seem to be now. I also might have listened only because I had a constant boner for Shirley Manson. And the photo I’ve included here is the one I remember the most.
“I’m Overjoyed” 1992, #86 (6 weeks) (download)
This isn’t really a bad song by Marvin Gaye’s daughter but it’s pretty generic and probably one of the reasons that the daughter of a legend didn’t really make it in the music business. Being a Prince collector, the song I really know is the one from the 1-800-New Funk compilation the artist released in 1994 with Nona Gaye singing a song called “Love Sign.”
Gene Loves Jezebel
“Jealous” 1990, #68 (10 weeks) (download)
Gene Loves Jezebel was formed by the Aston brothers, Jay and Michael, back in 1980. Four albums later and right after Michael decided to leave the band, they had their first hit with “The Motion of Love” in 1988. “Jealous” though, is the type of song that Michael hated. Commercial and slick and it was basically this type of sound that made him want to leave.
Of course as all good musical brothers do, they sued either other for the rights to the name and now there’s “Michael Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel” and “Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel,” and Jay has all musicians from way back in the day with him still.
“Rainy Days” 1995, #93 (3 weeks) (download)
Originally General Public were Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger along with Mick Jones from the Clash and members of the Specials and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. The band went their separate ways after their second album in 1986 but the two singers got back together with a wholly different band to record “I’ll Take You There” for the soundtrack to the movie Threesome. Then they decided to record Rub It Better which was released in 1995 and marks the last General Public release to date. I’ve never heard the record but “Rainy Days” is a fantastic song.
Now here’s a huge surprise for me. I would have never thought that GZA hit any major radio station back in the day. It’s not for lack of talent of course as many rap fans feel that GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is the best solo disc in the massive catalog of Wu-Tang members but more for lack of commercial tunes like Method Man or OBD had. But “Shadowboxin’” is the closest thing to having a radio ready beat and of course that had the commercial money maker in Meth contributing two verses.
One of these days I’m going to get back to writing that Popdose Guide to the Wu-Tang that I started three years ago and ran out of steam on due to me not realizing that there might be like 100 records I have to write up.
The GZA may also be the smartest man in hip-hop. You should read the appropriately titled GZA Is Much Smarter Than You to see what could be the new soundtrack to the entire universe.
“When the Lights Go Out” 1991, #98 (2 weeks) (download)
What a fantastic pairing – maybe the hardest rapper in the series (GZA) right before one of the least gangsta in Gerardo. This was the third single from the Latin rap sensation off Mo’ Ritmo which admit it, you still own. There’s a song writing credit on this for Michael Sembello. Shame on you, sir.