Comin' Correct! Top Ten Hip-Hop LPs 1985-1986
The years 1985 and 1986 were crucial for hip-hop, as an influx of new hip-hop artists released LPs that fully established hip-hop as a unique art form.
In historical perspective, those two years bridge two separate eras of hip-hop. Run-DMC had ushered in the brief "new school era" in 1983, but by mid-'86, a new generation of hip-hop artists like Boogie Down Productions and Ultramagnetic MCs were unleashing groundbreaking singles that would take the music even higher, initiating hip-hop's true "golden age" (1986-1989).
These ten classics laid the foundation.
All you sucker emcees, you gotta say PLEASE!
1. L.L. Cool J "Radio" (1985 Def Jam Records) After releasing the landmark single "I Need a Beat" in '84, Uncle L fulfilled the promise of that devastating piece of wax by dropping the greatest solo debut in all of rap. With "Radio," a new prince of rap was crowned, one who would stay on top for nearly a decade. Cool J stands as the only pre-golden age artist still active and (marginally) relevant in today's tempestuous hip-hop climate.
2. Run D.M.C. "King of Rock" (1985 Profile Records) The lead track of this classic LP was a hard-rocking wake-up call to anyone who hoped the "Hollis Crew" would disappear after their first LP. While not quite as innovative as the debut, this LP remains one of the greatest statements of purpose ever uttered by a hip-hop group, and is still bangin' to this day.
3. Roxanne Shanté & Various Artists "Def Mix Vol. 1" (1985 Pop Art Records) An early star in legendary DJ Marley Marl's "Juice Crew" collective, Roxanne Shanté is the dopest female to ever rhyme on wax (that was hard to say; love you Lyte and Sha-Rock). Though not a proper debut, this plate nonetheless contains all the purest, best offerings from one of hip-hop's most clever "off the head" emcees.
4. Run D.M.C. "Raising Hell" (1986 Profile Records) They did it again! This LP just completely destroyed everything else out there when it was released in the summer of '86. Everything that made their first two discs classic was perfected and turned up a notch for one of the true benchmark LPs of hip-hop. While I've always personally favored the first two platters, it's still easy to understand why many heads consider "Raising Hell" their masterpiece.
5. Beastie Boys "Licensed To Ill" (1986 Def Jam Records) Coming somewhat out of left field, this potent debut from hip-hop's first "whiteboy" crew soon found a place in the hearts of hardcore fans while simultaneously opening up a new suburban audience for rap. Backed by Def Jam and produced by Rick Rubin, the hard rock-meets hip-hop sound of this disc fit in well with similar sounds of the day by Run-DMC, Whodini, Fat Boys and others, but the minimalism of it all (just breakbeats, scratchin' and hard guitars) was a Def Jam signature. Along with "Radio" by LL Cool J (another Rick Rubin production), the stark musical landscape of this disc gave birth to the "boom bap" style of hip-hop popularized in the golden age.
6. Stetsasonic "On Fire" (1986 Tommy Boy Records) Stetsasonic were known as the first "hip hop band," since their style went beyond the deejays and beat machines of the day to incorporate live drumming and other "organic" instrumentation. Lead emcees Daddy-O, Delite and Fruitkwan tended towards a somewhat old-school rhyming style, but the production on this LP places it firmly in the new school. This LP is a classic of the "beats and rhymes" sound that characterized new school and golden age hip-hop, and is still one of the best.
7. Mantronix "The Album" (1985 Sleeping Bag Records) A slept-on classic, this landmark LP introduced the world to the futuristic beat-making skills of New York producer Kurtis Mantronik. His partner MC Tee's serviceable but dated rhyming style hasn't added much to its reputation over the years, but as an example of cutting edge new-school hip-hop beatmaking this is a classic. Mantronik would go on to work with gangsta-rap legend Just-Ice, but his unique production style would eventually gravitate to more of a house-music/club audience.
8. Just-Ice "Back To The Old School" (1986 Fresh Records) In an unexpected pairing, producer Kurtis Mantronik outdid even himself as the producer of Just-Ice's classic debut. The innovative production on this LP stands apart from the typical sound of the day while still retaining a classic boom-bap feel and hitting much harder on the streets than anything released by Mantronix. Of course this is as much thanks to the ill rhyming style of Just-Ice, who along with Schoolly D is one of the "original gangstas of hip-hop." While Just wasn't a phenomenal emcee by any means, the power of his voice and the crazy tales he could spin were undeniably dope.
9. Schoolly D "Schoolly D" (1986 Schoolly D Records) Along with Just-Ice's debut LP and Ice-T's west coast single "6 in the Mornin'", this Philly rap king put gangster rap on the map. Featuring his 1985 hits "P.S.K.-What Does it Mean?" and "Gucci Time," this ice-cold debut took the hip-hop world by storm.
10. Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew "Oh My God!" (1986 Reality Records) Representing the lighter, party-oriented side of hip-hop, the phenomenal Doug E. Fresh (born Doug Davis) could still hit hard with gritty tracks like "Nuthin'" and party-anthems like "The Show." The latter introduced the hip-hop world to MC Ricky D, who would go on to fame as the great Slick Rick.
Just missed the list: Whodini's "Back In Black" (1986 Jive Records) and Fat Boys' "The Fat Boys Are Back" (1985 Sutra Records); two excellent LPs that missed the list not for any lack of quality, but for being just slightly less amazing/innovative than the other ten.
"Krush Groove" (1985 Warner Brothers) This hammy hip-hop drama gets props for bringing so much musical talent together. The movie and the soundtrack featured hip-hoppers like Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Fat Boys and the Beastie Boys, plus a rap performance by Sheila E! (please marry me) Most memorable moment: Kurtis Blow's astonishing, ritzy stage-show performance of his hit "If I Ruled The World."
Whistle "Whistle" (1986 Select Records) I'm throwing this in as a random example of other crews who were doing their thing back in the new school era. Like contemporaries U.T.F.O., Whistle also delved in singing, but their hip-hop anthem "(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'" is a timeless classic.