DAR Hip Hop: 8 Classic Albums From Loud Records
Once upon a time, there were labels in hip hop that consistently delivered classics, helping to move the needle in the culture. While that doesn't seem to be the case these days, we have fond memories of the labels that gave us albums that we will never forget. From Tommy Boy to Rawkus all the way down to the prime of Def Jam, labels centered around hip hop music during the 90's and early 2000s strived to bring us quality. Perhaps no other label did this quite like Loud Records. Founded in 1991 by Steve Rifkind and Rich Isaacson, the label would become a force in the hip hop world, signing legendary artists like Raekwon, Mobb Deep, and many others to deals. Loud Records represented the essence of gritty and hardcore hip hop as a label and as a result, they have a pretty good catalog to show for it. Today, I wanted to take a look back at 8 of the classic albums that have come through the label. These are the albums that made an impact in hip hop and graced our ears with great music. Let's get into it.
*Raekwon- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
-Many would argue this is the greatest album of all time. I honestly couldn't disagree or make a true argument against it. The beauty of classic albums is that they represent something. Whether it represents a moment in time, a feeling, or just an era itself, a classic album is more than just the music on the tracklist. For the Wu-Tang brand and for hip hop, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx represents something special. It was the pinnacle of mafioso rap, as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah served the world notice that the Wu was here to stay.... forever. Albums have a tendency to make their mark on the listener, and OB4CL was a classic blend of intricate high powered cinematic lyricism and blazing production. RZA handled the production for the album and it was flawless from start to finish. With legendary songs like the single "Ice Cream", the Nas featured "Verbal Intercourse", "Criminology", the iconic "Can It All Be So Simple (Remix)" and "Incarcerated Scarfaces", OB4CL delivers at every turn. It's not only the best album released by the Wu-Tang camp, it's the greatest album from Loud Records.
*Project Pat- Mista Don't Play: Everythangs Workin (2001)
-I can admit when I am wrong. Following the release of Ghetty Green, which was a solid effort, I sort of slept on Project Pat. His debut was good, but it didn't grab my attention perhaps like I felt it should have. I didn't gain the appreciation for Ghetty Green until after his second and third project, because I hadn't really delved into the music to appreciate it (I listened to Three 6 regularly then, but didn't appreciate Project Pat yet. Strange, I know). Admittedly, I was a little late to the party on his music, but in 2001, I remember being willing to give his second album a shot. His sophomore album, Mista Don't Play, was honestly one of my favorite albums of 2001 and the first listen instantly grabbed me. Perhaps I was influenced by the success of the previous Three 6 Mafia album, or maybe as a younger True, this album just summed up what I was seeing and thinking at the time. This album features some amazing production from the underrated legends DJ Paul and Juicy J, and as a result, Project Pat brings some of his best work to the table. He excels at making catchy anthems and he does just that on this album. From the iconic single "Chickenhead" to the brutal (but entertaining) "Gorilla Pimp" to the anthem "Don't Save Her" to the hilarious "Ooh Nuthin", and the smooth "Life We Live", Pat delivers an album that really has few skips if any, and it has actually aged pretty well in terms of sound. This is without a doubt a Loud classic and a Hypnotize Minds gem.
*Dead Prez- Let's Get Free (2000)
-When Dead Prez dropped, as a listener, I was somewhere in between championing DMX and Jay-Z, blasting Cash Money and Three 6 Mafia, but still appreciating Mos Def and Common. As a balanced hip hop listener even in my younger days, I gravitated to Dead Prez and their music instantly. While I couldn't necessarily relate to everything they were talking about the time, I respected the message and what they wanted to convey. This was aggressive conscious hip hop in the mold of Public Enemy, but with more gangsta sensibilities attached to it. The production was fitting for the vibe of the album, ranging from smooth on tracks like "Mind Sex" to blitzing on "Hip Hop" to soulful and introspective on "Assassination" and "Psychology". Lyrically, Dead Prez provided powerful messages in their music, putting a revolutionary and aggressive stance on themes of black liberation, pan-Africanism, and radical beliefs. Let's Get Free is one of the best albums to come from Loud, but it is without question, the most powerful album on this list.
*Big Pun- Capital Punishment (1998)
-As far as lyricists go, there aren't too many in the same league as Big Pun. He's one of the best to ever do it in terms of wordplay and lyricism. His official debut arrived at a time when the genre was booming and Loud Records needed their next big thing. As a result, Big Pun came through in the clutch, delivering an album that many consider a classic. The album is essentially boom bap aggressive hip hop at its finest, as Pun has the ability to hit hard with his words, and his lyrical ability carries the album. Production wise, the album is solid, but the dizzying pace of Pun's flow and lyricism is what really drives everything home. With production from Domingo, Knobody, Rockwilder, RZA, and more, as well as appearances from other supreme lyricists like Prodigy, Dead Prez, and Black Thought, Capital Punishment is a top tier hip hop album of the late 90's. Tracks like "Super Lyrical", "Still Not A Player", "Tres Leches", "The Dream Shatterer", and more help to complete this project that ushered in a new legend for the genre, making Pun the first Latin rapper to go platinum.
*Three 6 Mafia- When The Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 (2000)
-I mentioned previously I was a huge fan of Three 6 coming up, and while I don't think this is their best album, it is the most important album in their catalog. It was almost as if Three 6 created this album with the sole purpose of breaking through the mainstream. Every song was a hit and an anthem. The production was the booming sound we expected from DJ Paul and Juicy J, and the features on this album managed to all fit perfectly. UGK, Young Buck (before UTP and G-Unit), Fiend, Big Gipp, and others helped to provide a little extra to the standard Three 6 sound and with tracks like the mega hit "Sippin On Some Syrup", the hood anthem "Tongue Ring", "Mafia Niggaz", "Who Run It", and "Touched Wit It", they delivered a southern hip hop classic without question. While I'm partial to Chapter 2: World Domination as my favorite Three 6 album, When The Smoke Clears is without a doubt their biggest moment album wise and the start of a mainstream run that lasted some years.
*Xzibit- 40 Dayz And 40 Nightz (1998)
-The West Coast has always had legendary MCs that can showcase how strong lyricism is on the Left side. One of the more underrated MCs from the West is Xzibit, who would debut in 1996 with his At The Speed Of Life album. Some might be partial to that album and that's fine, but this sophomore album is the purest project in his catalog. He expanded on the things that made his debut enjoyable and lyrically, he was at his best. He was championed by many for his work on this project, and the production is on this album is top notch, boasting sounds from Sir Jinx, Jesse West, Soopafly, A Kid Called Roots, and more. Along with features from Method Man, Ras Kass, and Jayo Felony, Xzibit delivers classics like the all time favorite "What U See Is What U Get", "3 Card Molly", "Chamber Music", and more. This sophomore album from Xzibit is his best IMO and one of the better projects from Loud Records.
*Mobb Deep- The Infamous (1995)
-Prodigy and Havoc together represent one of the greatest duos ever in hip hop. After a rough debut, they would bounce back completely with their sophomore project The Infamous. It is revered as one of the greatest albums of all time in the genre, and easily one of the best albums of the 90's, and rightfully so. With Havoc handling a bulk of the production along with contributions from Q-Tip, Nas, Raekwon, and more, this album is a gem and a moment in time. Whether you're listening to the classic singles like "Survival Of The Fittest" and "Shook Ones Part II", or tracks like "Right Back At You", "Give Up The Goods", "Temperature's Rising", and "Up North Trip", you get an album that literally has no skips. The Infamous is the biggest piece of the Mobb Deep legacy and it is easily one of the greatest albums from Loud Records.
*Wu-Tang Clan- Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)
-The arrival of the greatest collective hip hop has ever seen. Wu-Tang is universal. They are an entity unlike any other. Essentially, their run begins with their 1993 debut. We get introduced to GZA, RZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface, and the rest of the squad during this project and it's one of the flawless releases of the 90's of course. It is a pioneering album in a sense, bringing the hardcore sound and style of East Coast hip hop to the forefront, and this album led the way for the renaissance that followed. With RZA handling production on the entire album, we get gems like "Shame On A Nigga", "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin", "Method Man", "C.R.E.A.M.", and more on this project. 36 Chambers is one of the most recognizable albums in hip hop history and it would bring the Wu-Tang to prominence in a way that no one could have imagined. In a way, this album also put Loud on the map, so it's only right that it is featured here on this list.