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From Gangster Clones To Weirdos

The Guidelines: A West Coast Indie Rap Compilation ’94-’00

Last week Bfred [1] put up a pretty great overview the late 90s backpack era that had me flashing back to gortons fisherman caps and provided a self contained compilation for my ipod so I no longer have to scroll past “L-Fudge” every time I want to hear some La Monte Young. As great as it is to have CDQs of “5 Star Generals” and “Repetition” Bfred’s mix was notably lacking on the west coast side of things, featuring only a single Dilated Peoples track.[2] So to compliment I zipped up a bunch of West Coast indies from around the same era.

From the Bay to LA cats were a little more diverse both stylistically and in terms of subject matter. Also they have more flute samples. But I’d say the main difference between the two loosely defined scenes were that, while New York mostly consisted of up and comers still searching for a deal, many of the west coast principles were recent major label exiles. Yes the obvious – Hiero, Fellowship – were either dropped or moonlighting on the indie tip. But a lot of these lesser known guys were quiet refugees as well before shaking up the underground – Dilated on Immortal, Abstract Rude on Grand Royal. And oddly enough, I think that’s a big part of the reason this scene sustained for so long. Had these dudes stuck around the major label system for any longer we might not be talking about them today. Consider the major sophomore flops that did come out of these camps – Souls’ No Man’s Land, Ras’ Rasassassination, Saafir’s Hit List. Certainly all of them have their moments, maybe more so than they were given credit for, but the original vibe was really lost in an attempt to keep up with the changing hip hop landscapes.

So yeah, I mostly tried to stay away from the more obvious first wave major label singles.[3] There’s a great compilation to be made of the minor to major national hits being produced by this very loose community – “93 Til Infinity,” “Back In The Day,” “Passin’ Me By,” “Mix Tapes” – but this is not that tape. Nor is it a selection of uber underground tape only favorites. It’s just a gang of mid tier, mostly indie quasi classics. If you were seriously checking for this type of shit back then you probably know most or all of these songs well. And unlike Bfred’s comp, this is not intended to be comprehensive. I know I’m leaving out Jurassic 5 and Phil Da Agony and and Lootpack and Sacred Hoop and Kemetic Suns and The Dereliks and The Homeless Derelix (in fact, two different groups) and whatever whatever. These are just some joints I remember listening to a lot in high school, my tastes mostly dictated by whatever interesting looking rap found it’s way into the Princeton Record Exchange bins or the occasional Atak[4] order. Obviously it’s a little Blowed/Legends/Hiero/Solesides centric. If you insist on calling me out for omissions then please provide zshares.

Tracklisting:
1. Blackalicious – “Swan Lake” from Melodica (Sole Sides, 1994)
2. Aceyalone – “The Guidelines” from A Book Of Human Language (Project Blowed, 1998)
3. E-Rule – “Listen Up” from 12″ (Pallas, 1994)
4. Hieroglyphics – “You Never Knew” from Third Eye Vision (Hieroglyphics, 1998)
5. Scarub – “Savvy Traveller” from Heavenbound (Heavenbound, 2000)
6. Bored Stiff – “Peaceful Rotation” from Explainin’ (Hella, 1995)
7. Of Mexican Descent – “I Am Still” from Exitos Mas Exitos (Nerve Deafness, 1998)
8. Latyrx – “Say That” from Latyrx (Sole Sides, 1997)
9. Mystik Journeymen – “Depths Of Survival” from 4001 (Outhouse, 1996)
10. Ras Kass – “Understandable Smooth” from 12″ (Patchwerk, 1998)
11. 3 Melancholy Gypsys – “Sunsprayed” from ComMURShul Tape (Veritech, 1996)
12. Saafir – “Light Sleeper” from Boxcar Sessions LP (Qwest, 1994)
13. Freestyle Fellowship – “Can You Find The Level Of Difficulty?” from 12″ (Celestial, 1999)
14. Ras Kass – “Won’t Catch Me Runnin’” from 12″ (Patchwerk, 1994)
15. Abstract Rude – “LA Styles Back” from South Central Thynk Tank (Ocean Floor, 1998)
16. OD f/ Xololanxinco, Jizzm, Radioinactive, Awol One & Circus – “Farmers Market Of The Beast” from Beneath The Surface (Benath The Surface, 1998)
17. Grouch – “Simple Man” from Making Perfect Sense (G&E, 1999)

[1] The unseen hand in the rap blog revolution, ask somebody.
[2] Instead favoring a small handful of better off forgotten Kool G Rap jocking white boys.
[3] Saafir being the obvious exception, but “Light Sleeper” bangs and fits the mix well. A case could be made for Boxcar Sessions being the major label release most representative of the west coast indie aesthetic.
[4] Which still exists!

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35 Responses to “From Gangster Clones To Weirdos”

  1. Jay (d)eff Kay Says:

    how much am I missing out by not having heard boxcar sessions yet?

  2. ANU Says:

    A lot.

    I need to hear the first two scarub albums again….

  3. Echo Leader Says:

    Thanks for this, Noz. I missed out on a lot of these joints during my own high school days because they all dropped a little before my time.

    That time, unfortunately, provided me with a lot of mediocre second-generation Rawkus releases and flash-in-the-pan Battle Axe joints.

    P.A.I.N.T. was pretty classic, though.

  4. Aurich Says:

    “how much am I missing out by not having heard boxcar sessions yet?” Only one of the best hip hop albums ever made, IMHO. I paid Rasta Q-Tip a ridiculous amount of money for the promo-only double vinyl of that album, only to have German bootleggers put it out later that year.

    This list plays like my soundtrack to being in college. I even used to do web design for Atak back in the late 90′s, Paul is an underground soldier for all the work he’s put into that over the years.

  5. noz Says:

    The German bootleg is lacking in sound quality.

  6. young_ Says:

    I think you have to have been on the west coast in the mid-90s to love Saafir like that maybe? There are so many Cali albums from that era that I’d take over that one 10 times out of 10… Mac Mall, Ray Luv, Ras Kass, Casual, Souls of Mischief, Del, Erule…

  7. MASON Says:

    OH MAN bored stiff, mystik journeymen, saafir, the fellowship, and ab rude were my shit back then! thank you for posting this!!!

  8. gordon gartrelle Says:

    I was heavy into West Coast underground back then, but a lot of it was way too cornball.

    Of all of the Cali rappers, Saafir and Cas got the rawest deals. They shoulda been stars. Shit, Cas is still better than all but a handful of rappers.

    And I always thought it was “Gangsta clones to weirdos.”

  9. noz Says:

    “And I always thought it was “Gangsta clones to weirdos.””

    You might be right.

    “a lot of it was way too cornball.”

    You might be right.

  10. TSF Says:

    Damn, that Acey joint was my jam in ’98-’99, along with “Secret Wars” and some PUTS shit. I saw Acey perform “Guidelines” in person once, and he was so fucking drunk he fucked up the first verse and had to start over.

    Btw, re: Secret Wars. Last Emp was never anything more than a gimmick rapper, but I still like that song. Same goes for Pep Love’s “Trinity,” another jam that I liked but had no staying power.

  11. noz Says:

    “I saw Acey perform “Guidelines” in person once,”

    Acey/Legends @ SOBs around ’00 (?) is top five rap show EVAR for me. As nerdy as that statement sounds.

    Then I saw Ace a few years later and he had totally lost it. I’ve always wondered if dude experienced some sort of intense physical or emotional trauma in the early part of the decade that could explain such a dramatic drop in quality. Maybe the hardest fall off ever. Harder probably than Cube, Em, Com…

  12. Thun Says:

    “Sunsprayed,” “Guidelines,” “Won’t Catch me Runnin” were/ still are the shit.

    Noz, I was at an Aceyalone show at SOBs around that time. Did Rasco open for him?

  13. noz Says:

    Possibly? I never liked that guy. I think Journeymen, Scarub and Murs were the openers. But it’s entirely possible I have merged lineups. I feel like Murs was at every turn of the century underground rap show I saw.

  14. noz Says:

    also i am suddenly in love with the idea of “turn of the century underground rap.” it’s like pre-war blues.

  15. noz Says:

    at the acey show i bummed bidis from two dreadlocked white guys in matching orko the psychotic alien t-shirts. it was a monumental experience in my young life.

  16. mark p. Says:

    Had no idea Bored Stiff had stuff out in ’95. Equipto is dope!

  17. david Says:

    westcoast underground>>>>ny

  18. Kid Hum Says:

    Cause its the PITS not being dipped!!!

    dope

  19. Tray Says:

    “Harder probably than Cube, Em, Com…”

    But not Prodigy.

  20. Timmo Says:

    Man latyrx, the shit i went through to get “the album” the title track is heavy, imagine writing that shit knowing that you were gonna be spitting it over someone else.

  21. BFRED Says:

    This is so dope, I gotta download…It definitely occurred to me that I was lacking on the West Coast tip when I did my tape, but I wasnt really into that stuff back in the 90s, except for a few ABB joints….had to go with my personal classics.

  22. BFRED Says:

    Also, I must clarify that I never intended my mixtape to be “comprehensive” either. Just had a lot of favorites!

  23. david Says:

    … NOR IS IT A TAPE AT ALL..RATHER A COLLECTION OF MP3s….NOZ DO U EVEN OWN ANY TAPES?

  24. david Says:

    good look on la styles back…let them know

  25. Aurich Says:

    I’m glad to hear the German bootleg of Boxcar Sessions sucked, that makes me feel a little better. :p

    It’s hard to top mid 90′s Acey for live shows. I lost track of the number of times I saw him, and every show was great. The ‘unofficial’ FF reunion show (prior to the small one in SF that I was at too a bit later) was in Santa Cruz (organized oddly enough by one of the guys from The Lonely Island) and I still remember Rifleman rocking two mics at once and just spitting to a bewildered crowd who had no idea who the fuck he was.

  26. Weirdo Clone Says:

    In the time it took me to read the track listing, Marian Zazeela had her Hobo Junction tattoo removed.

  27. TSF Says:

    I saw Acey in 2003, so long after his best days, at a really small venue. I think Rasco, Planet Asia, and Pumpkinhead (remember him?!) opened up for him. Pumpkinhead got really pissed off at the crowd cuz they didn’t know the words to any of his shit. After his initial slip-up though, he rocked it.

    Haha, Latyrx. I had totally forgotten about them.

  28. Baz Says:

    I know you said there would be no lootpack but charizma should have been included. Planet Asia too! Back at the height of the backpack movement, when LRG were marketing directly to people informed by
    turntablism (that term is starting to wear thin), you could catch me at high school up in Canada mean mugging in a Planet Asia LRG t-shirt.

  29. young_ Says:

    A 90s Cali compilation I put together a little while ago:

    http://www.sendspace.com/file/fc8mp2

    D-Shot, “Call Me on the Under” from “The Shot Calla” (1994)
    Luniz, “Playa Hata” from “Operation Stackola” (1995)
    The Nonce, “Who Falls Apart?” from “The Sight of Thing” (1998)
    Mac Mall, “Servin Game” from “Untouchable” (1996)
    K-Dee, “Hittin’ Corners” from “Ass, Gas or Cash” (1994)
    The Coup, “Hip tha da Skeme” from “Genocide & Juice” (1994)
    Mannish, “Jive you the Man” from “Audio Sedative” (1995)
    Ant Banks feat. Too Short, “The Loot” from “The Big Badass” (1994)
    Ray Luv, “Take a Ride with the Luvvaman” from “Forever Hustlin” (1995)
    Young Lay (feat Ray Luv, Tupac and Mac Mall) “Gotta Survive” from “Black ‘n Dangerous” (1996)
    Young D-Boyz, “Sellin’ Cocaine as Usual” from (1994)
    Casual, “Follow the Funk” from “Fear Itself” (1994)
    Casual, “Later on” from “Fear Itself” (1994)
    Lil Half Dead, “12 pacadoja” from “The Dead has Arisen” (1994)
    Anotha Level, “What’s that you say?” from “Anotha Level” (1994)
    King Tee, “Dippin” from “IV Life” (1995)
    The B.U.M.S., “Take a Look Around” from “Lyfe and Tyme” (1995)

  30. reko Says:

    noz got mad tapes dude

  31. goodrecordsnyc.com Says:

    [...] the meantime, let me highlight a great post by my mans and them Andrew Noz from Cocaine Blunts on the 90s West Coast Underground Ra…, and particularly this excellent comp/mix that it includes. I’ve been jamming this crazy and [...]

  32. mz510 Says:

    ‘Til this day Casual is still a beast…

    he sometimes does youtube freestyles that are crazy…

    talk about cats that should be major

  33. Big Green Beats » Throwback Thursday | Hieroglyphics – “You Never Know” Says:

    [...] post today. I saw this randomly today cruising the archives of Cocaine Blunts and it was Thursday, we needed a [...]

  34. Anoop Says:

    hahaha… nice video…

  35. jonathan Says:

    big props for this still being up.

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