Chaz’s Best of Rap-A-Lot Compilation – FREE DOWNLOAD & HISTORY LESSON!
As I’ve stated many times on this site, rap music is awesome. It’s a subject I’m passionate about and will gladly discuss for hours on end. Among my favorite topics of that of Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records. Formed in 1986 by then-car dealer James “J Prince” Smith, it has honed Hip-Hop to some of its highest heights. Along with breaking the regional glass-ceiling that plagued southern rappers throughout the 80s, the label’s been home to some of the genre’s most respected and beloved artists such as Scarface, Devin the Dude and UGK’s Bun-B. It’s a label whose catalog is deep with a roster full of artists that each bear a distinct sound while maintaining the label’s standard of quality output.
In recognition of VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors acknowledging the label tonight, I’ve decided to share my Best of Rap-A-Lot Compilation I made back in 2007 at the height of my Rap-A-Lot fandom. I’ve always felt the Houston sound is perfect for this time of year, with the entire country being baked by a brutal sun the label provides the perfect soundtrack for anything from backyard barbecues to after-hours antics. I tried to not include more than one song from each album and I know there are some glaring omissions whose albums I didn’t have at the time as many of the label’s releases are either out-of-print or inaccessible depending on where you are, so I’ve decided to add the five most regrettable cuts at the end.
I know there’s also some of you who never have/wanted to give any rap music south of the Mojo Nixon line a chance. This mix and entry is also for you to hopefully provide some context and level with you as to why these artists are praised and why their music is dope. Enlighten yourself, fool.
1) Seagram “2 For 1”
– Starting things off we have the late Seagram. A Bay Area favorite, Seagram is most known for being the first in rap to use the “Double Dutch Bus” ‘izzle’-speak, predating E-40/Snoop Dogg/Missy/Fran Drescher with 1992’s “Straight Mobbin.” I opted instead to open this collection with “2 For 1,” to help ease in those of you not familiar with country rap tunes by having Seagram utterly destroy a medley of classic breaks (re: samples) for five minutes. Welcome to Rap-A-Lot
2) Convicts “Peter Man”
– One of the most sought after records in the RAL catalog is the debut of (future-Geto Boy) Big Mike and (future-Blac Monk) 3-2 as The Convicts. Their self-titled release is a concept album from two, you guessed it, Convicts behind bars. An industry favorite, it’s constantly eluded to on several certified rap classics. One listen to “Peter Man,” and many moments of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic are going make a lot more sense.
3) Geto Boys “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”
– The label’s biggest hit and an canonical rap song, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is truly one of the genre’s biggest triumphs. It also lead to a popular viral Star Wars video and one of the best St. Ides ads of all time.
4) Poppa LQ “South Central Soldier”
– In the early 90s, the label expanded with Rap-A-Lot West and one of the best releases from the imprint was Your Entertainment, My Reality by Poppa LQ. Under-appreciated even in Rap-A-Lot circles, this reinvention of the one-time “Native Son” Laquan was one of rap’s most dramatic metamorphosis resulting in the perfect implication of the Rap-A-Lot aesthetic in the West Coast soundscape.
5) Geto Boys “Crooked Officer”
– When Willie D left the Geto Boys, he was replaced by aforementioned Convicts member Big Mike. The result was the trio’s darkest album Til Death Do Us Part. A midst a much more brooding production, one of the album’s highlights was the scathing “Crooked Officer,” one of the best corruption songs ever recorded.
6) OG Style “Catch ‘Em Slippin”
– Dearly departed duo OG Style consisted of ‘Original E’ Eric Woods and producer DJ Woods (UGK’s “One Day”). The first single off I Know How to Play ‘Em,, it features my favorite usage of that Meters sample ever. Love this song.
7) Geto Boys “Gangsta of Love”
– The ORIGINAL version that appeared on their 1989 Grip It on that Other Level album is among the most savagely “ig’nant” sex songs ever recorded. Steve Miller caught feelings and had the sample replaced (with “Sweet Home Alabama”) when it reappeared a year later on their 1990 Rick Rubin produced self-titled American debut.
8 ) DMG “Psycho”
– The FIRST Minnesotan rapper to break national*, St. Paul’s DMG put the Twin Cities on the map with 1992’s Rigormortiz. Short-but-sweet, “Psycho” at first listen sounds like the best Scarface song that Face didn’t make. Midwest represent.
9) Geto Boys “Do It Like a G.O.”
– Label president J.Prince does the intro on this jump off that expresses the frustration of being a Southern voice that gets largely ignored by the media at large. This features the infamous DJ Ready Red “at’cha/statue” line Mr. Lif referenced in the Revenge of the Robots documentary, as well as arguably the absolute angriest Willie D ever sounded.
10) Menace Clan “Kill Whitey”
– Perhaps the most famous obscure rap group, made highly Googled by unintentionally hilarious white-supreamicist websites for their leading examples that rap music as a whole is racist, Menace Clan’s 1992 album Da Hood features some of the glossiest production in the label’s catalog. Yes, it’s possibly the most explicitly racist rap song you’ll ever hear, but if you can listen to Wagner, you should be able to divorce the message from the music and appreciate Menace Clan too.
11) Odd Squad “I Can’t See It”
– Off Fadanuf Fa Ery’body, the album Scarface considers the label’s best, comes Devin the Dude’s first group the Odd Squad. Tied for my favorite rap album all time, it features “I Can’t See It,” the solo-cut from member Blind Rob Quest that remains rap’s best anthem for the vision impaired.
12) Scarface “I Like P***y”
– If “Gangsta of Love” was notable for its brash explicitness, “I Like P***y” off Face’s solo debut stands out for its Epictetus-level stoicism. Off a haunting bassline, Face flexes his storytelling ability to almost-realtime describe an average sexual encounter.
13) Big Mike “Havin Thangs”
– Produced by UGK’s Pimp C, Big Mike’s debut solo single is one of the most revered cuts in the RAL catalog. The sleeper hit off the Dangerous Minds soundtrack, it’s also the song a girl I dated in college believed should be McDonaldland character Grimace’s theme music when the fast food chain decides to finally toughen up their image.
14) The Terrorists “F**k the Media”
– One of the earliest recorded responses to how rap is viewed in the media, this song off the duo’s impossibly titled Terror Strikez: Always Bizness, Never Personal makes the argument that rap shouldn’t be subjected to such particular scrutiny and that the music should stand for itself, best articulated with the line “Ask why I rap about violence and not peace, ho get out my face before I burn you with some hot grease.”
15) Scarface f/ Ice Cube & Devin the Dude “Hand of the Dead Body”
– Off my other favorite rap album of all time The Diary, Scarface’s “Hand of the Dead Body” sees him joined by Ice Cube to offer the best response from an artist perspective to the critiques of rap’s violent nature. What makes “Hand of the Dead Body” special is that it’s a reactionary record that by-passes the media itself to speak directly to the listeners as to why these allegations are frivolous. It dissects the arguments from both sides and stands the centerpiece of one of the most honest albums ever released.
16) Devin the Dude “Do What You Wanna Do”
– Alleviating the pressure is Devin the Dude’s “Do What You Wanna Do,” a relaxing smooth cut that oozes cool. It’s as uplifting as laid back gets.
17) Geto Boys “Damn, It Feels Good to be a Gangsta”
– Yes, the song from Office Space, implemented into cinematic immortality by fellow Texan Mike Judge. Enough’s been written about this song, so instead I’d like to use this time to stress how awesome Face was in Judge’s follow-up Idiocracy, stealing the show in the greatest post-credits scene in movie history.
18) Devin the Dude f/ Snoop Dogg & Andre 3000 “What a Job”
– Closing things out is the recent cut from the Dude that celebrates the realities of the rap life instead of bemoaning it. The passion on display here really captures what later-RAL releases have been about – a love for the craft doing whatever possible to offer something fresh and unique to the Hip-Hop nation. At a time when it’s been easier than ever for music to become homogenized in oversaturation and a career in the field seems as unstable as ever, “What a Job” is a testament to the label’s passion and quarter-century of quality.
We give Rap-A-Lot Records a Five Out of Five
Oh, and here’s another live five –
(also noteworthy – Do or Die, Ganksta Nip and UTP)
So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!
*MC Skat Kat DOESN’T COUNT!
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