From Gangster Clones To Weirdos
Last week Bfred  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. 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. 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 order. Obviously it’s a little Blowed/Legends/Hiero/Solesides centric. If you insist on calling me out for omissions then please provide zshares.
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)
 The unseen hand in the rap blog revolution, ask somebody.
 Instead favoring a small handful of better off forgotten Kool G Rap jocking white boys.
 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.
 Which still exists!