Priority's RAPMASTERS Vols. 11-15 [1990]

John Book returns to The Hideaway to finish up his post on Rapmasters - read first part HERE.

The success of Priority Records' Rapmasters compilations series immediately let the label know that rap music comps were still worthy.  If fans wanted them and were willing to go out of their way to find something they felt was "of quality", why not make a few more?  It would take them a year to follow it up, but in 1990 they continued the series with a second batch of Rapmasters albums, this time limiting it to five volumes instead of ten including reprising several tracks which had appeared on earlier volumes in the series.
Hip-hop has had a fascination with hard rock and heavy metal that started long before Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park became a thing, and before Public Enemy said "wax is for Anthrax" in "Bring The Noise".  RUN-DMC did "Rock Box" on their debut album, while DJ's were mixing up the intro drum beat in Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" as rappers displayed their rhyme routines.  As rap music's popularity grew in the 80's, critics seem to talk about how the rise of it coincided with the rise of metal as a chart topping, multi-million dollar-earning platform.  On the outside, the union between the two genres might have seem odd, since heavy metal had been (and still is) associated with the work of the devil, while rap music is sourced from the African-American community.  "The two shall not meet", even though its union was perhaps inevitable, not unlike British kids falling in love with the blues or Tri-State kids enjoying doo-wop.  It may have been something that touched on the fear of a skin tone but in the end, it all lead to the music and how it feels.  If it feels good to you, why question it?  This became the subject of the 11th volume of the Rapmasters series, The Best Of Hard Rockin' Rap.
There are some nice choices on here, not only featuring songs with use of nice guitar samples, but also utilizing the talents of the guitarists out there.  Public Enemy's "Sophisticated Bitch" featured Vernon Reid, about 18 months before Reid's Living Colour would be known to the world.  Scott Ian and Dan Spitz merged their speed metal riffs with UTFO for the title track to the rap crew's "Lethal" album, which may have been slightly weaker than Anthrax's own venture into rap, "I'm The Man", but they deserve an E for effort.  Slayer's Kerry King may have seemed like an odd choice for the Beastie Boys, but considering the Beastie Boys' own hardcore punk roots, perhaps not; their collabo "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" became a hit.  What some may not realize is that as Slayer became the first and only speed metal band to be signed to Def Jam, their "Reign In Blood" album was released a month before "Licensed To Ill".  With A Slayer shirt worn by Rick Rubin in the video for "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)", it seemed to be all a part of the master plan.
Sir Mix-A-Lot represented Seattle's hip-hop scene three decades before Macklemore went thrift store shopping, and in the Emerald City he remains a monarch.  Before "Baby Got Back", Mix-A-Lot had been known for his novelty hits "Square Dance Rap" and "Buttermilk Biscuits" before he released his 1988 album, Swass.  It was with this album where Mix-A-Lot came up with the phrase "don't you wish your boyfriend was swass like me", borrowed with success by Cee Lo Green for Nicole Scherzinger and the Pussycat Dolls.  But it was with "Posse On Broadway" where Mix-A-Lot became the king of the Pacific Northwest with his lyrics about driving up and down a Seattle boulevard with his friends, bumping into ladies who wanted to eat at Taco Bell before it was discovered it was closed, and choosing to stop at Dick's burgers instead.  Each time I travel to Seattle, I will always say "Dick's is the place where the cool hang out", and the burger restaurant still exists today.  Also on the Swass album was Mix-A-Lot's tribute to Black Sabbath in the form of "Iron Man", featured Seattle metal band Metal Church, utilizing the guitar work of Craig Wells and Kurdt Vanderhoof and highlighting the famous Sabbath riff originally played by Tony Iommi.  The album also features other gritty songs such as LL Cool J's "Go Cut Creator Go", Stetsasonic's "Rock De La Stet" and Whodini's "Fugitive".
Volume 12 was called The Best Of The Mix, and at this point one could wonder what made these songs a mix? Were they perfect for homemade mix tapes? A mix radio show?  Like all volumes in the Rapmasters series, this installment didn't have liner notes which meant it was void of an explanation, but no matter.  For the second disc in a row, RUN-DMC was featured with two tracks.  In fact, they would make appearances on all but 4 volumes in the fifteen part series.
This seemed to be more old school in nature, with some classic gems like Dana Dane's "Nightmares", Fresh 3 MC's "Fresh", The Masterdon Committee's "Funkbox 2", Disco 4's "We're At The Party", Rock Master Scott & The Dynamic 3's "It's Life (You Gotta Think Twice)" and the great "King Kut" by Word Of Mouth, featuring DJ Cheese.
The Best Of The Bass could be considered an odd name for the 13th volume, especially for music fans in Miami where bass is king.  All of these songs featured some level of bass or low-end, most quality rap songs did, but with a selection of artists ranging from RUN-DMC to Spyder-D, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince to The Showboys, a Queens, New York duo who came out with "Drag Rap" in 1986, the legacy of which would grow in the early 1990's in such southern cities as New Orleans and Memphis, perhaps paving the way for their local scenes to create the type of music they would do later in the decade.
The Best Of The Hype is covered on Rapmasters 14.  In rap music circles, the word hype was used to describe a way to give something greater representation, a verbal ego boost, like a hype man at a concert performance.  Rap music would take to the hype man in their own way, as Flavor Flav was the hype man jokester to Chuck D.'s scholastic teachings, shown beautifully hear in 1988's "Don't Believe The Hype".
Some of the other hype tracks on this include Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It", Sweet Tee's "As The Beat Goes On", Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two" and RUN-DMC's "Run's House".  Oddest selection on here may have to be De La Soul's "Plug Tunin'".  While very hype in its own way, De La's laid back style in their lyrics and Prince Paul's production almost came off like the opposite of what was hype or "dope", but equal in passion and character.  De La made up their own slang and catch phrases and thus seemed out of place with everyone else, even though their Amityville, New York upbringing was a mere drive away from Long Island.  Then again, if it was considered hype for hype's sake, so be it with a nod to Plugs 1, 2 and 3.
The final installment was called The Best Of The Bad.  As LL Cool J told everyone he was "the baddest rapper in the history of rap itself" back in the summer of 1987, his omission on this album is peculiar.  LL was the epitome of badness, but it also allowed Priority Records to let people know who else could be bad.
This comp showed how much rap music had changed since its roots, especially in the late 80s, to the point where it wasn't just one style or the other, but a ride range.  Chubb Rock offers the great "Ya Bad Chubbs", Twin Hype's funky precursor to hip house is presented with "Do It To The Crowd", Kid 'N Play's go-go rhythms are worked out with "Rollin' With Kid 'N Play", and Special Ed's 'I Got It Made" also gets recognition.
Odd choice for this one: again, De La Soul, but this shows how different they were considered, even though they were just doing their own thing.  Dave, who started out being known as Trugoy The Dove, states that he and Posdnous were all about being themselves, so even if they chose to cut their own hair or have a sense of clothing that didn't fit anyone's agenda, they wanted to let people know that "style is surely our own thing/not the false disguise of showbiz", which in many ways is against what rap music was becoming, as it wanted to trade in integrity for the almighty dollar.
Priority Records would create a new series of Rapmasters, From Tha Priority Vaults compilations (above) in 1996, but it was different in tone and spirit than the original series from 1989.  As the decade moved forward, there were some who felt that rap and hip-hop music were different, where rap seemed to signify "weak and effortless" while hip-hop was about keeping it real and authentic.  Gangsta rap was now the unofficial code of the streets, and the label produced comps such as Explicit Rap [1990] and Straight From The Hood [1991], both featuring hardcore material from N.W.A., Ice Cube, Geto Boys, and WC & the MAAD Circle, while Rap-A-Lot´s Underground Masters [1992] focused on Texas and the Rap-A-Lot roster, with Geto Boys as a primary focus.  On one end, you had gangsta rap dominating the charts and eventually receiving massive video rotation, while on the other hand there was MC Hammer showing how big you could get if he was allowed to put him in the mix.  There was also the Native Tongue movement, the core of which was De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Jungle Brothers, who broke down their own stereotypes and assumptions and showed their style of rap music was as valid as anyone else's, regardless of location.  It seemed anyone and everyone could be placed in the mix and find some level of success, with a few exceptions.  There was a sense of musical freedom during this time, even though an imaginary bodyguard system seemed to be in place.  Fortunately, some of those walls were being broken down, which lasted for a good ten or so years before the barriers started being built again in the early 2000's.
As the Rapmasters series were being sold in stores, a good amount of the artists were no longer making music.  If 1990 was a year of uncertainty for rap music, it was shown by not only people wanting to separate what was considered old and new school, but how so many artists either chose not to continue into the Nineties, or how record company politics (or the lack of them) didn't motivate these artists to create the type of music they wanted to make.  It was a cross between artists wanting to be themselves, and artists who knew they had to comply to current tastes and demands in order to be a success.  A rapper could still get away with recording a song or two and gaining a bit of regional success, which may have lead to a brief bit of mainstream shine, but with the hip-hop album becoming a critical favorite, some artists were unable to find stability in the singles or underground market, and thus faded away.  That can be said for any genre, so rap music was not alone in this.

Looking back, Rapmasters is a time capsule of what represented hip-hop, not only the music, but the feeling, the excitement one would get in a song with 16 bars that would lead you to remember the song word for word, verse by verse, and have that be your mantra for a month or two, if not a year, or perhaps life.  In 1990, no one knew if rap music would even move forward into the decade.  Was rap music truly a fad and if so, does this mean the end of that feeling of excitement?  The massive influx of new songs and artists showed that everyone was willing to give this music a try, and to explore (if not exploit) it to its fullest potential and beyond.  Rapmasters represented the artistry of the masters of the first full decade of the music, and while some of it may have been created at the spur of the moment, they remain great moments in time that millions of rap music fans will never forget.

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