Dres of Black Sheep, Artist
“Non-Fiction” released December 1994
That was the first project that I was doing a lot of production myself as well as Mr Lawnge. And just the climate of the music at the time was heavy East vs West. It wasn’t really one of the things I spoke to at the time. I saw the simple divide and conquer technique, which is still going on today where they pit the old vs young etc. Ultimately, we ain’t got no choice in where you’re born, so it was kind of audacious for us to look at each other like we have a real issue whether we were born on East or West coast. But a lot of good music came out. Maybe we were a little spoiled. The politics are different now. The support system and artist development, none of that exists now. Back then there was a chance you got played because you were dope. As opposed to today where it’s obvious that it’s paid for. I don’t think the DJs are allowed to introduce new music outside of what is paid for–across the country. Back then DJs were in love with introducing the people to new music. It doesn’t really exist today. But that has everything to do with the politics of the music, unfortunately.
For me [what stood out] was the decline of Polygram Records. Between the first and second album there was an entire staff change. So the people who helped us to be successful were all gone. So to see the demise of a big business and realization that Mercury is owned by Polygram and Polygram is owned by Philips Light and Philips doesn’t give a f*ck about hip-hop…It was all about numbers. That was the realization of the business aspect for me. It was me about to step away. I’m the first hip-hop artist to have an imprint on the low. I had One Love before anybody had anything. I was dealing with the artist aspect and the business. So when Polygram was broken down it directly affected me and it was eye-opening for me to see how little music plays in the music industry. How little music is relevant. That was the year I came to that realization. Though it was a good year in music the support system was changing. I think the support system that is out now is because of those years. People always ask me what happened to your second album, the support system is what happened. The structure folded.
Pharoahe Monch, MC/Producer
“Stress: The Extinction Agenda,” released August 16, 1994
It was hard. My pops had passed away. We were stressed out and just learning about life and death in that instant. We were still dealing with the Paul C (murder). We finished the last album basically by ourselves. The label sh*t. We were just trying to find our way and yet knowing that we had got so much critical acclaim on the first album, we were like worst case scenario we better make sure this shit is good lyrically.
It’s crazy man. You forge so forward sometimes so much that you don’t take the time to stop and reflect and look back at some of the sh*t. That album, from the artwork, to the schemes, the gymnastics and topics is one of my favorite albums. Some sh*t on there I’m like..the song “Extinction Agenda.” I get blown away like ‘What the f*ck was THAT dude on?’ It’s great to grow old and have the catalogue. I was talking to Nas one time when I was on my second solo album. He said you gonna see when your catalogue get crazy, the way you do your shows is just crazy. I see that now just going back into the Organized chamber. I think that album set the precedent for a lot of artists. Even new artists tell me their producer said “listen to this and come back in a few weeks.”
I thought it was so dope that we came with the “Stress” sh*t first. It was such an unusual f*ckin first single. That’s us saying aging “We’re probably gonna f*ck ourselves but it’s so dope to do and underground…” Obviously there were friendlier records on that album but we said let’s come with the maniacal manic shit. Large Professor remixed it. We watched him go through eight different tracks and deleted them all–on the fly.
As a writer I was trying to reach for timeless groove and pocket. I liken it to goosebumps where something makes your hair stand up and there aren’t even lyrics on the song. In the writing back then especially I was trying…half tones or aggression…say things in a space in the beat that would make you want to listen to it again. I think that’s what pocket and funk is about. On newer stuff I’ve gotten into a real funk pocket and I wanna continue on with that but a lot of times I drift. That’s my jazz side. People don’t think I do that purposefully but it’s on purpose.
Young Guru, DJ/Engineer
I was at Howard DJing a bunch of parties and I remember getting a cassettes tape of “Illmatic” before it came out. We must have dubbed that tape 100 times. There was so much hiss on that tape. Back then was the promo days when people were running up on you with free records to break on College Radio. I was happy to break some of those records.
Looking at that list of albums from 1994, it’s like people was just hitting their strides in this. If we look at where it was historically in the ’80s and what Marley did from that ’86 to ’88 era and then how it developed in ’89 to ’92 where the sophistication came in with the chopping of the samples. Not having to chop on the one and loop sh*t up. I think people hit their stride with a new way of making hip-hop. If you look at “The Main Ingredient” and the way Pete flipped his organization verses the first album. If you look at Redman’s “Dare Iz a Darkside” and how perfect Redman was in describing his personality. “I traveled the milky ways in the stars of the Gods and return to 6 billion feet beneath to get cigars.” That’s him. That’s all one verse. You look at the O.C. album and Artifacts. Everybody was poppin in their own way and all them albums was different.
Pete Rock, producer/MC
“The Main Ingredient” released November 1994
I think a year and half after “Mecca And The Soul Brother” we started working on “The Main Ingredient.” MATSB dropped in November of ’92. We were promoting and touring in ’93. Probably in last month on ’93 we started working on The Main Ingredient. I think the difference was we had a more mature sound with the jazz and R&B. Heav was involved with the writing. It was more mature than Mecca and The Soul Brother to me and we wanted to show maturity with this one.
“In The Flesh” is my favorite because Biggie was right there when I made that beat from scratch.Biggie was coming over to get beats from me, I tell this story a lot. We were in my basement and he said “I just want to see how you make a beat.”
“World Wide” is another favorite. “I Get Physical.” We were in love with that whole album. That was the great opportunity to be on a major label. Having label mates and having studio sessions with people and not even knowing people were there. Bumping into Busta or Tip. Green Street had a lot of celebrities coming through there. From Wu-tang to Ice Cube. Public Enemy. So that became my home.
BLACK MUSIC MONTH: A Salute To Hip-Hop In 1994, Part 1 [EXCLUSIVE] was originally published on theurbandaily.com