As the summer of 2014 starts to wind down, getting inexorably closer to Labor Day on September 1st, today seems like an opportune time to look back at what was hot in hip-hop during the hot summer of 1994. For those of you under the legal drinking age, these jams from my college years may be entirely brand new - but for me they harken back to a time when Will Smith was better known as the Fresh Prince than as one of the Men In Black. Thanks to the Billboard Archive for the trip through the wayback machine, and of course YouTube for having all of these music videos available on demand.
Even though initial reports suggested Chris Brown was who the shots were meant for when Suge Knight took two bullets at a pre-VMA party over the weekend, it now seems that's not in fact the case. In what should come as a surprise to no one investigators now believe Knight was the target of the gunspray all along. It shouldn't even come as a surprise it came at a pre-VMA party - Knight also took a bullet at a Kanye West function in August 2005 (an apparent robbery). When Knight isn't the recipient of violence he's often allegedly the cause of it - and for the charges he's actually been convicted of he has a rap sheet dating all the way back to October 1987 (domestic assault). He's also widely believed to have strong-armed/intimidated Vanilla Ice into giving up royalties from his song "Ice Ice Baby" - though the circumstances are in dispute (urban legend says he was hung off a hotel balcony by his ankles) that same year.
It only takes a short amount of time looking at the three decade span of Suge Knight's involvement in the music industry to know that the old saying "history repeats itself" has rarely been more abundantly true than in his case. Marion Hugh Knight, Jr.'s nickname "Suge" is rather ironic because it implies he's "Sugar" or sweet, but the 6'4" 265 pound enforced on the football field proved to be just as intimidating off the gridiron - whether as a bodyguard, music mogul, or muscle for hire.
Knight has always had the reputation that he's someone you don't want to mess with, and if the long list of assaults he's either been involved with or on parole for is any indication, he has little fear of doing a bid for doing a violence. Knight's success has often been because of that aura around him - he gets things done by any means necessary. That's great if you're partnered up with him (a la Death Row Records) and not so good if you're his enemy.
As an entrepreneur and a business man I must somewhat reluctantly confess that I'm actually a fan of his success. The means can not be said to justify the ends, but he's certainly made (and possibly lost) more of a fortune than I will in my entire lifetime. I suspect the budget on some of Death Row's most successful albums was more than I'll make in a lifetime too - possibly even the advances or the money spent on catering at release parties. Why be a player hater though right? The albums were good, and at the height of Death Row's success, he created a lot of jobs and wealth for a lot of people. Suge Knight's goal was allegedly to create a "Motown for the 1990's" and for at least a short period of time he was that man - a true music mogul with an array of outstanding artists and the literal muscle to back it up in the boardroom. Death Row and by extension Suge Knight had it all.
The death of Tupac Shakur and the departure of Snoop Dogg signaled the end of an era, and though Death Row continued to sputter along for almost a decade afterward, it existed on the diminishing returns of a recycled catalog of albums and some posthumous profiteering. A five year stint in prison for a parole violation only exacerbated the situation, and multiple lawsuits and legal problems eventually left the company bankrupt - with several parties bidding like vultures to feast on the scraps that remained. One thing that never changed though is Suge Knight's aura, and even now in 2014 at 49 years of age, he's still feared by his peers and seen as an intimidator in the world of hip-hop - just one who has to tread more carefully to not get caught up in criminal charges.
One has to wonder if Knight has any regrets after this latest in a long line of violent altercations in his life where he was either the assailant or the recipient. I think it's safe to say the answer is NO. If actions speak louder than words (and frequently do) it's clear that Suge Knight's successes and failures all stem from the fact he believes in his ability to operate above the law. The only thing I wonder when I look back to the boom period of Death Row in the 1990's was if things could have taken a different direction - a sort of "alternate history" as seen in many science fiction novels these days. What if Marion Knight decided to shed his "Suge" image and persona, and adopt that of a more classic CEO and impresario? What if Tupac Shakur had never been killed? What if he had not so outraged Dr. Dre and Snoop that they wanted nothing to do with the label their hits had basically built? It's an interesting question, as one can imagine Suge Knight having a Jay-Z level of success today had it all gone right - a beautiful wife, an ownership stake in a NBA team, and the finest things in life money can buy.
There have been many changes for Suge Knight to put his formidable business acumen to the forefront and his imposing criminal stature to the back, but if Knight is anything like the archetype criminals from some of hip-hop's favorite films (think Nino Brown in "New Jack City" for one), the enterprise is always doomed to crumble due to the hubris of false pride - believe you're untouchable and someone will always prove otherwise. Over the weekend Suge Knight got touched once again. It's a shame for both him and everyone who once hailed from "the mighty mighty D.R." that Knight is the best/worst business man ever. Shawn Carter took his street hustle, one which he ultimately summed up by comparing the rap game to the crack game, and applied those skills to not only pay the bills but make a whole lot of hundred dollar ones too. It's never too late for Suge though. Even in his 50's he has a lot to teach today's up-and-coming rap moguls and the time to become one again - provided the violence that has swirled around him his whole life isn't his undoing first.
It's time for another new edition of The Hip-Hop Shop. Episode #286 is And We're Back, Live On the Air With.... "How your man got a show that's so whack?" Enjoy music from Marc Bucannons, Carolina Dirty, Mic Handz and Kool A.D. among others! Follow us @RapReviews so you never miss a new show when it's released each Tuesday.
* Mic Handz f/ A.N.G. - Therapy
* Kool A.D. & DJ Milkcrates - Holy Sound
* Carolina Dirty - About You
* Mark Bucannons f/ Fred the Godson - Live Fast
* Da Mascots - Twerk
* Element Rhymes - King Slayer
* Marc iLL f/ Lightshow, Phil Ade - How I Am
* MerCure Dior - Monday Night
Promo MS: As he preps his ‘Cash Is King’ mixtape for release later this year, NYC standout Cashflow makes things staunchly clear about where he is from, Harlem, USA. Choosing Nas’ classic instrumental for ‘NY State Of Mind’ as the backdrop, Cashflow advises us not to forget his neighborhood’s gritty history on ‘Harlem State Of Mind’. Draped in New York City’s signature hustler attire consisting of an Adidas tracksuit, rolex, and a part in his waves, Cashflow is flanked by his all white beamer as his lyrics paint the dark picture of Harlem’s seamy underbelly.
American Scream Records: Atlantic City punk-rapper JE double F has announced United Kingdom tour dates for early September. He will be opening for seasoned veteran Sleep Beggar on this run of six dates.
This is JE double F's second tour in support of his new album 'SONGS FOR THE SLEEP DEPRIVED' (American Scream Records).
06/9 - Rascals Bar (Bangor)
07/9 - The Compass (Chester)
08/9 - Pi Bar (Leicester)
10/9 - The Fat Fox (Portsmouth)
11/9 - Betsey Trottwood (London)
12/9 - Studio Bar (Penzance)
Audio: Conflicthiphop - "Life Is Hard (LoopholeUK Remix)"
""Life is Hard was already a big track in its own right on SoundCloud by the respected UK Hip-hop artist Conflict-Hip-hop. We were really inspired by Conflict’s lyrics and when he put the acapella out for remix we absolutely had to work on it. The track is all about the struggle, as in the struggle through life and its various challenges.. Hopefully after listening to the mix you’ll feel that even though life is hard, good music can make it a bit easier... I think ultimately that’s what we really wanted to achieve with it.."
A.T.: Following the fluently playful single "Relapse," featuring Iamsu!, Marc E. Bassy keeps his wave rolling as LA Music Blog debuts his atmospheric loosie, "Fairfax Interlude." Perfect for rooftop chillin' or congregating in someone's living room, "Fairfax Interlude" sinks in with drowning bass, airy synths, and easily digested lyrics serving as a lightweight ode to the ambitious youthfulness of Los Angeles. Detailing the city as a continuation of high school, Marc admits, "The dream is still alive in L.A. We don't quit or give up, we keep the party going."
Legendary Hip-Hop Collective, Hieroglyphics, Presents Third Annual "Hiero Day" Music Festival
A.T.: Hieroglyphics Imperium and Linden Street Brewery present the 3rd Annual Hiero Day, Monday, September 1, 2014 (Labor Day) from 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. at Linden Street Brewery, located at the Port of Oakland. Hiero Day, a free, all-day all-ages music festival, will feature live performances on three different stages by Hieroglyphics, Casey Veggies, Planet Asia and TriState, Adrian Younge, Free the Robots, Zion I & The Grouch & Eligh, Los Rakas, DJ D Sharp, Sake 1, SleepRockers, and host emcees Chuy Gomez, Mistah F.A.B., and special guests. Merchandise, including Souls of Mischief's sixth studio album There Is Only Now, will be present along with dozens of local food vendors. Activities and entertainment includes Show Time Dunk, dancing, 1st Annual "Town Cup" Skate Competition, jumper, face painting and more. Public transportation is highly encouraged, as parking is extremely limited. Uber will provide free rides for new riders up to $30.00 when using the code HIERODAY, the Office of the Mayor will be providing two free buses from downtown to the event, and free bike valet will be provided by Bike East Bay.
Hiero Day celebrates and showcases the Bay Area's diverse, innovative, multicultural, and multigenerational music movement in the heart of Oakland. This year's festival holds particular significance for the local music community, as it lands on the 20th anniversary of the release of the highly influential and groundbreaking album, Fear Itself by Casual. Visit www.hieroday.com for ticketing information, as well as updates on performances, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, vendor information, and festival activities. Hiero Day is a free event, although, to keep the event free, gift packages are made available to those who are able to donate.
Hieroglyphics Imperium is pleased to partner with the Linden Street Brewery and many other sponsors and supporters for Hiero Day 2014, including Chop Bar, General Hydroponics, Gold Standard, and Oakland Organics. The brewery will prepare a special brew "Hiero Glo" that will only be available at the event.
Remix: Deltron 3030 - "Melding of the Minds" ft. Zach De La Rocha (A-Plus Remix)
A.T.: The original track comes from the highly anticipated album Event 2, the follow-up to Deltron's underground self-titled classic, Deltron 3030, a group and project consisting of Hieroglyphics alumnus Del The Funkee Homosapien and producers Dan The Automator and Kid Koala.