About 16 years ago, Priority Records put out an excellent compilation called In tha Beginning…There Was Rap, which featured popular rappers of the day covering and updating old school hits. Master P covers Ice-T’s “6 in the Mornin’,” swapping in New Orleans for Los Angeles where necessary, shouting “UNNNNNHHH” on the hook where Ice-T was a bit more understated, and skipping the whole bit about going to prison. The lead single was Def Squad’s cover of “Rapper’s Delight,” the only good song Def Squad ever made.
Due to the rap industry’s incestuousness and the inertia of successful careers, there’s a bit of confusing overlap. Mack 10, who was then in Westside Connection with Ice Cube, covers NWA’s “Dopeman,” which was written by Cube but performed by Eazy-E. (This was also featured on an all-covers version of Straight Outta Compton,which has an excellent Jayo Felony version of “8 Ball” — a diplomatic San Diegan, Felony swaps out Eazy/Cube’s “Mexican” for “an old bitch”.) Snoop Doggy Dogg (that’s right) covers Too Short’s “Freaky Tales,” and a couple tracks later, there’s Too Short, covering “I Need a Freak,” which in its narrow scope and minimalist lyrics, might as well be a Too Short song anyway. Then the Dogg Pound shows up to cover an EPMD song right before Erick shows up to cover Sugarhill Gang.
If the 1990’s was at all devoted to worshipping another decade, it was certainly no the 80’s. Vh1, didn’t begin its descent into full on television-fellating until 2002, when it started loving the 80’s. There was the bizarre fascination with 50’s swing culture that cropped up giving us those embarrassing GAP ads and Vince Vaughn’s career. I think bellbottoms were popular for girls, briefly? But rap’s ascendance to mainstream mainstream culture in the late 90’s made for a good moment to look back at where it came from. There are plenty of other great 80’s covers from the late 90s. Scarface covered “Down With Us” and around the same time Big Pun and Fat Joe updated “Deep Cover,” adding to it what might be the finest couplet ever written in rap history. E-40’s homage to “Posse On Broadway,” from the same time period, might actually be my favorite song of all time.
Now that a generation of kids raised to believe that every thought they have is worth both broadcasting and investigation has its hands on the levers of the Internet, as both editors/writers and sharers/consumers of content, there’s a near-constant fixation on 90’s pop culture online. BuzzFeed has a whole vertical dedicated to 90’s nostalgia. Rembert Browne, of Grantland, has a column where he “Explains the 90’s.” A writer from Th**ght C**alog has published a book that is literally titled Things 90s Kids Realize. On the cover a Power Ranger stands alone, as Nickelodeon slime creeps toward him from above and below.
And so, among people who prefer to read and think instead of being rewarded for having consumed cable television as a tween, there’s a healthy amount of distaste for 90’s nostalgia. As there should be. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a perfect opportunity here to make an excellent update to In tha Beginning…
Because I drank too much last night, I thought I’d sit back and think about what my ideal version such an album would look like.
1. Danny Brown “I’ll Bee Dat!” (Redman)
2. Kendrick Lamar “What Can I Do? (Remix)” (Ice Cube)
3. Lil B, Kreayshawn “Sprinkle Me” (E-40, Suga T)
4. Le1f “None of Your Business” (Salt-N-Pepa)
5. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Future “Make Em Say Uhhh” (Master P, et al.)
6. Peedi Crakk, Meek Mill, Freeway “Assassins” (Geto Boys)
7. Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka “Sippin on Some Sizzurp” (Three 6 Mafia, UGK)
8. Turf Talk “2 Hard 4 Tha Fuckin Radio” (Mac Dre)
9. Riff Raff “Pocket Full of Stones” (UGK)
10. Kanye West “Hypnotize”(Notorious BIG)
11. Lil Wayne “The Block is Hot” (Lil Wayne)
That’s all I’ve got, now. If you are a very wealthy person reading this: would you care to lose some money with me?
Now that literally thousands of websites actively try to deceive us for a variety of incoherent reasons, such oppositional skepticism seems a quaint luxury of an earlier time, like whaling.
—Dan Brooks on hoaxes