Is it me, or have rappers not been mad in almost 20 years?
Circa 1998, I lamented the fact that intentionally funny rappers were an endangered species – so I became one. I loved comedy rap and wanted to fill a void. But even more extinct was the mad, hostile rapper. The alpha-male / militant female, chip-on-shoulder 24 / 7 / 365, always-got-a-bone-to-pick, ready-to-fuck-you-up, never-smiling-in-press-photos, “nigga, I’ll go to jail for a chance to shoot the president” type of rapper that made politicians, police, and parents buckle with fear. Chuck D made it fashionable. The Afrocentric movement birthed a radical faction that spawned more. The good ole boy political climate and racial tension of the late ’80s and early ‘90s earned many rappers of this ilk record deals. But along came P-Diddy and the Bad Boy brigade – and with them came an overall disdain for anything mad and the induction of the word “hater” (a word that effectively obliterated the one star album review and turned an opinion into a bitter envy of another man’s cash flow / success) into the rap vocabulary. Diddy took a former somewhat militant rapper in D.Dot (of 2 Kings In A Cipher fame) and made him an in-house producer for his new sonic movement of anti-mad. D.Dot even went on to mock the “hip-hop hater” with his own Mad Rapper alter ego. In the words of Clarence Williams III in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, “The brothers weren’t maaaaaad anymore!”
Since 1996, rappers (save DMX and a few others) being mad about anything makes them look…inferior. Till this day, the constantly pissed off side of rap that balanced out the hip-hop hippies, the Neo-Soul rappers with the off-beat handclap / Fender Rhodes production, the jiggy rappers, the equally rare rap comedians, the lyrically lyrical miracle lyricists, the aspiring pop stars, and the tough guy pretty boys represents something nobody wants to be a part of – hostility! Cam’Ron’s “You maaad!” quip on Bill O’Reilly near single-handedly cemented a human emotion as the “cooties” of the modern rap world. Check my Rap Controversy post from awhile back for other reasons why songs like Askari X’s “Hide Tonite” barely exist today. Harry Belafonte’s sentiments about Jay-Z and Beyonce can be applied across the genre – assimilation and insouciance have become the rap status quo.
Anger is good for hip-hop. Being a hater is great for hip-hop if we’re going by the 2012 definition (having an unpopular opinion). But those two ideas have become as egregious as being a biter or a sucker was 25 years ago. So as I pour out my Mad Dog 20/20 on the curb in memory of a bygone era, here are my 10 favorite thoroughly angry / hostile rap albums that weren’t made by Public Enemy (Flavor Flav’s comedic presence balanced things out) or part of a sick / psychotic rap movement (they deserve a post of their own).
10. Sister Souljah: 360 Degrees of Power (1992)
“The Hate That Hate Produced”
Sister Souljah was possibly the least sexual female MC ever, but selling ass wasn’t her game. She was ready to start some shit (particularly with white folks and assimilated, safe Negroes) at the drop of a nickel and became known for making Bill Clinton’s shit list. The only female MC to come out uber-pissed since SS was Boss, but even the foxy law student cum gangsta bitch couldn’t hold a candle to the wrath of Public Enemy’s affiliate iconoclast.
9. Willie D: I’m Goin’ Out Lika Soldier (1992)
A Willie D fan is a special breed of hip-hopper. But a Willie D fan who chooses his sophomore effort over his more slapstick debut, Controversy, is a true connoisseur of angry rap. The Geto Boys’ resident loud mouth always peppers his stuff with humor and his drill sergeant delivery always triggers a laugh even when he’s being serious. But Willie was not a happy man in 1992. A pivotal election year with rap embroiled in controversy, Willie attacked the issues of ‘92 and was reminiscent of Sergeant Waters from A Soldier’s Story with a megaphone. Avoiding more textbook militant rap fare, Willie beats down assimilated Negroes, black politicians and Uncle Toms, showing not a modicum of mercy.
8. 2Pac: 2Pacalypse Now (1991)
“I Don’t Give A Fuck”
“Brenda’s Got A Baby” and “If My Homies Call” aside, it stuns me how underrated Pac’s debut remains in his career scope. Full of piss, vinegar, and rage, pre-Juice Shakur truly sounds like a descendant of a Black Panther. Even the battle raps sound like he’d like nothing better than an opportunity to break someone’s jaw in three places. Before he had any “California Love,” Pac’s was reminiscent of any other pissed off black youth on the streets of Anycity, U.S.A. who had some knowledge to go with the angst. Look no further than the day a Texas youth put a hot one in a state trooper a year after this album’s release. His defense in court? 2Pacalypse Now made him do it.
7. Just-Ice: Guntalk (1993)
“Gangster Style Rap”
One of the most intimidating figures in hip-hop returned from a three year hiatus sounding highly upset with the state of rap. The first ten seconds of 1993’s Guntalk LP foreshadow where he’s going: “Suck my dick, you sound wack. I don’t like nobody.” Minutes later, he gives us a deeper look at the caliber of maniac we’re dealing with: “Had a job at Sears, but they fucked that up.” Released at a time when “happy rap” was a cardinal sin with keep-it-realers, Guntalk eases into a smorgasbord of violent toasting, vitriolic verses about music industry folk, references to one’s firearm as one’s “girlfriend” and sexual fantasies that see reckless gun spray as the climax.
“So don’t get too close and try to kiss me or hug me / start to caress me, and then say you love me / ‘cause I don’t feel shit, only rhythm that I ride / the only love that I got is psychopathic homicide… / Back up a bit or die, don’t try to run / ‘cause when I hear my gun it damn near makes me come / I get wet spots from my gunshots when I do my job…”
When the sound of a Glock 9MM letting off a couple rounds is your equivalent of a blue pill, chances are you’re not a happy camper.
6. Paris: Sleeping With The Enemy (1992)
When your banned-from-Time Warner sophomore LP’s inside cover art features a photo of you standing behind a tree preparing to plug the President of the United States full of lead on the White House lawn…not coming off as mad is the very least of your concerns. Paris lets it be known on “Bush Killa,” the soundtrack for the album cover art: “So don’t be tellin’ me to get the non-violent spirit / ’cause when I’m violent is the only time the devils hear it.” The delayed-due-to-controversy follow up to his powerful debut album, Sleeping With The Enemy is fuming with rage from open to close. “Coffee, Donuts and Death” is a good candidate for the greatest title for a fuck-a-cop anthem. I vaguely remember hearing somewhere that Paris was a stockbroker outside of rap. Don’t know how true that was, but these days stockbrokers have every right to be mad. I think it’s time for a NASDAQ killa record.
5. P.H.D.: Without Warning (1991)
“Life On The Edge”
If there were ever an entry for ghetto nihilism on the Urban Dictionary site, a jpeg of this Queensbridge duo’s album would juxtapose it. The first group that Screwball’s MC Poet called home, PHD’s lone LP sits comfortably in a recliner, martini in hand, in the pantheon of pissed off rap. It’s a hodgepodge of hopelessness, gleeful violence and macho boasts. Even the humorous moments fail to come casualty-free. “The Dark Side,” which opens the album, features a long night of cartoonishly violent episodes simply for sport:
“Now we uptown, eatin in Copelands / chump ass niggas cold scopin’ / they wanted beef I was really, really hopin’ / so I could start gettin’ open / Then this little muthafucka with a bunch of gold teeth / stood up and said ‘Yeah, we want beef.’ That’s all he had to say, I bust his ass / fucked him up good, and threw him threw the glass / his boys started flexin’, I said ‘So what?’ / Hots pulled out the nine and shot ‘em all up… / We stopped at a red light, still laughing / we didn’t care cause we’re fuckin’ assassins.”
Later in the album, Poet beats down and robs an arcade employee because the Pac-Man game ate his quarter, but save that, he’s basically killing everyone and upset about everything. Check this album for a very early Cormega appearance as well.
4. Professor Griff and the Last Asiatic Disciples: Pawns In The Game (1990)
“Love Thy Enemy”
The lilliputian rabble rouser was ousted from Public Enemy and returned with a solo album even more radical and pissed off than anything his erstwhile group ever released. Unlike PE, there was no comic relief. Sometimes Griff doesn’t even rap – he just angrily thrashes anything obstructing the black man from justice and tells song structure and cadence to go fuck themselves. He calls America a “sinful, slothful beast” in one of his numerous scathing soliloquies. And the kicker? It’s on Luke Skywalker Records, the home of coochie, titties, and Miami Bass. “Love Thy Enemy” is nothing short of absolute brilliance. It’s there he coins the phrase “sorry-ass milquetoast faggot.”
3. Da Lench Mob: Guerillas In Tha Mist (1992)
“You And Your Heroes”
When Ice Cube got uber-militant, he knew he couldn’t carry the shtick for long. A rapper that large has to assimilate to keep the paper piling, so he brought in Nation of Islam member, Kam, and a volatile trio of hostile crew members, Da Lench Mob. J-Dee, T-Bone, and Shorty are upset about a lot of things – drug dealers in the black community, white folks, the system (white folks), baseheads, trigger-shy gangsters, etc. – but they really let the hatred fly on “You And Your Heroes.” I’ll admit I was never a fan of The Beatles’ music at all, but I can’t feel guilty for my opinion knowing that Da Lench Mob calls the lauded pop quartet “roaches.” Sorry, Liverpool, but that’s some funny-ass shit.
2. Onyx: All We Got Iz Us (1995)
“Betta Off Dead”
It’s incredibly bold that the Bic-bald stars of early ‘90s Def Jam followed up the platinum crossover success of Bacdafucup with what just may be the most morose non-horrorcore / non-death rap hip-hop album ever. Like De La Soul, Onyx killed their first hit formula (one that made them mosh-pit favorites) and re-invented with a darker approach – one that gave us a gloomy portrait of New York City just before all went Starbucks, Disney, gourmet food truck, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. There’s no hope, no glee, plenty of violence, zero regard for human life, not a smidgen of love, a deep fascination with suicide, and plenty of despair. The albums two “party” cuts (“Scream” and “Live Niguz”) feature melodic loops and party chants reminiscent of their debut album, but the vibe still tells us that the ultimate goal is to carjack someone…then go blow your own head off. But even the shiftee, low-down, gritty and grimy Onyx weren’t immune to the then burgeoning Diddy bug – Fredro Starr would eventually release a solo album titled (gasp) Don’t Get Mad, Get Money. The power of P-Diddy is like that of L. Ron Hubbard, I swear. Props to mascou for the edit.
1. 2 Black 2 Strong MMG: Doin' Hard Time On Planet Earth (1991)
“War on Drugs”
Every time I hear someone refer to Harlem as “Northern Manhattan,” I pause, puke, pray for a crime wave, and wonder if these guys still live there. I doubt it. Only a certain time period in New York City could be the catalyst for wrath and rowdiness of this ilk. Lead MC, Johnny Mars, takes a page from the Willie D textbook of rapping loudly, only he sounds a lot more agitated. Cops, the system (white folks), jail, drugs, and patriotism – they all get lambasted with a whole lot of volume and anger. The anti-cop tirade, “Ice Man Cometh,” is perhaps the most loaded fuck-a-cop song ever put to tape. “War on Drugs” lambasts the NYPD’s profiling protocol – one that’s been unofficially enforced for years, despite recently being declared publicly. Even the shout out track is littered with gunfire and steaming mad (read about it here). 2 Black 2 Strong MMG were limited to one album, but once our remix king uttered “I thought I told you that we won’t stop,” rap like this flatlined instantly and they never got the chance to evade the sophomore jinx. If you ever want to disturb the peace, this is the album you bump.