Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Top 20 (In No Particular Order) - Part Deux

Alright, we go.

3) Purple Rain:
-What can I say about this album that has not been said before. Released when I was only two years old, Purple Rain remains the definitive album from the most important musical artist of my lifetime. My method for judging an album's importance in my eyes has many factors, but, perhaps, the most important criteria is my ability & desire to listen from end to end. Purple Rain is one of those few recordings.
Thinking back tho how this album affected me, I can't help but to think of it as an album that no one, no matter what race, creed, sex, or age could deny. Throughout my life, times would arise where I would return to music of Purple Rain and revel in new discoveries that were only possible thru my physical and musical maturation.
I mean, when my dad and older sister would jam it, there were certain songs that would be off limits to my ears. "Darling Nikki" crosses that line of what is and what is not suitable for younger children, but it's still perhaps one of the illest tunes ever (madd props to Dave Grohl for an awesome rendition of that song). I still get intresting thoughts anytime I meet a girl named Nikki. I can't help it, I'm imaginative.
Another odd realization that I had while writing this is that I've only owned this album on vinyl. Perhaps my purchase it was a subconscious decision in order to connect to an earlier time, back home. A small way to relive digging thru my pop's record collection. Either way I bought it, still own it, & if it wasn't for having Purple Rain on vinyl, I wouldn't have discovered what lies within the secret backwards track at the end of the album. My Numark TT200's reverse button made that investigation short yet oh so sweet.
I truly do thank God for artists such as Prince. As a young blaxican in America, I became aware at an early age that there are many forces at work to keep everyone in neat little boxes. Being bi-racial, at times, was rough. Ridiculous arguments of whether one inherits their race/culture from their mother or father ensued between myself and everyone who had an opinon, but I viewed it all as a part of the program. For, when limitations on what's marketable, accessible, and possible for individuals are made, it becomes far more simple to disseminate ideas and goods to the masses.
My parents made sure not to allow me to fall into that trap, raising me to be culturally aware but not stereotypical, and Prince was the first artist I learned of that supported that ideal. The first brotha since Jimi to get down on a guitar and just ROCK! Prince turned music, fashion, and the entire world on its ear with Purple Rain, including a two year old from Houston, TX. And for that...I'll always be grateful.

4) Chronic/Chronic 2001:
-YES! These albums occupy a long chapter in my life that spans from 5th grade until today, for Dr. Dre held my fascination from an early age. When I was around 7 or so, my family ventured out west to visit family in California. Legend has it, while sightseeing in San Francisco, we stopped by a boutique record shop that just so happened to have some b-boys getting down on some cardboard in front of the shop.
I felt compelled to represent the great state of Texas, so at the right moment I worked my way onto the floor and began to pop-lock, floor rock, and backspin my way into the good graces of the store owner. Impressed by such a young b-boy with ill skills, the store owner rewarded me with a LP entitled L.A. Beats. It was a compilation album that contained my introduction to the good doctor, who was then dj and premier songwriter/producer for the World Class Wreckin' Crew.
There were two cuts by the crew on the album, but one in particular made a connection; it was entitled "Surgery." Containing a refrain that consisted of a simple repeat of, "Dr. Dre....Dr. Dre....Dr. Dre....Dr. Dre, Dre, Dre, Dre, etc." "Surgery" stuck in my head and made it Eazy for me to make the connection the next time I came across the good doctor.
Around the time I was in third or fourth grade, a healthy consumption of "YO! Mtv Raps" and sneak peeks into my sister's cassette collection made me aware of the most dangerous musical group at the time, N.W.A. Dre was a founding member, premier producer, and featured MC within their ranks, droppin' knowledge and ill sounds with songs like, "Express Yourself" (the video is INSANE).
Now, fast forward a year later. I'm in the 5th grade with my own bootleg cassette copy of the Chronic that I purchased from the Conoco corner store on Aldine Mail Route. I don't support bootlegging or piracy, but I knew that a solo album from the central player in shaping N.W.A's sound was an album I had to own (I made my own legit purchase later in life to support the cause). My friend Albert and I used to finish our school work early just so we could jam the Chronic in class. A simple covering of the parental advisory label with my thumb afforded us the opportunity to listen, quietly, with headphones @ one of our media stations.
I can still recall one of my most favorite things to do would be to wait until my teacher, Ms. Coulston, would leave the classroom for a brief moment, then fast forward to Warren G on the phone asking some unaware female, "Did what's their name give that to you the other day?" then pull the headphones and put the tape player's speaker on full blast for, "Deeez Nuts!" That drove the class wild, and I enjoyed connecting with my classmates thru laughter.
the Chronic was much more than just adolescent hi-jinks for me. That next phase for Dr. Dre was another phase for me as well. The "G-Funk Era" held so much classic material in my book. There was no doubt that the West had a stranglehold on the game, and the Chronic seemed not only to be the definitive album of that era, but the catalyst for the entire West Coast takeover that would follow in its wake.
2001 was perhaps the greatest follow-up album ever created. I can't recall the exact moment that I discovered it. Perhaps it was the video for the next episode and the slow-mo scene where one of my favorite Latina models of all time (I don't really know her name...I just remember her on the covers of Lowrider Magazine and as a Juggy on the ORIGINAL Man Show) was in pristine form on a stripper pole, in a perfect orbit right before the beat dropped. It was a perfect visual, and set off another chapter of aural domination for the good doctor. By far the cast of characters within this installment trumped the previous release. Return appearances from Snoop and the Dogg Pound were more than welcome, but introductions to Hittman and appearances by Eminem, Xzibit & one of Houston's finest, Devin the Dude, were absolutely ridiculous.
There's cuts off of both of these albums that stand alone as undeniable classics, but there still remains a high replay value from front to back if you're in the mood for musical motion pictures. I highly anticipate the third installment in the trilogy, but it's strange when I look back realize that an album from '93 and a follow up from '99 still remains on my iPod, is enjoyed thoroughly by the crowd and myself when I perform certain selections @ various shows, and will perhaps carry on in later years as a hands down banga without ever sounding dated at all! I could be wrong...but I doubt it. These two albums can stand alone, each in its own right, but feel complete when combined. Despite six years between them they compliment each other beautifully, and that astounds me. They are, musically, what Batman Begins & the Dark Knight or Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 are visually, and to me, they are the soundtrack to my adolescence, yet vital and relevant works today. In other words, the Chronic/2001 is...timeless.

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