Rushmore: Hip-hop singles from 1992.
1992 was an interesting year. Hip-hop veered wildly between old school styles and new age inventiveness that would define the genre over the next three or four years. That can’t be outlined in just four tracks, but taken individually, these are some stone-cold classics…
01. ‘Nuthin’ but a G Thang’ by Dr Dre feat Snoop Dogg Is this track still cool? I mean, it’s probably one of the top three rap songs of all time in terms of the number of people who know every single lyric, right alongside ‘Gangter’s Paradise’ by Coolio and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme tune. That’s not an observation on its popularity alone, but how these simple bars make such an impression. Snoop and Dre’s measured, laid-back flows are straight forward but razor sharp. It’s hooks hanging off hooks, as those smokey G-funk synths and funky bass lines flourish.
An AM to PM take on a summer’s day in LA’s hardest regions, ‘Nuthin’ but a G Thang’ takes place on the same harsh streets so vividly depicted on Ice Cube’s Death Certificate just the year before, and those menacing undertones remain, even during was is a brief pause in the chaos for BBQs and reefer.
02. ‘Halftime’ by Nas When I first started listening to Illmatic I found this the most instantly appealing single cut. This was 2001-ish and whole thing was pretty lo-fi compared to the other rap records I was spinning. But the George of the Jungle drumbeat was a gateway into Nas’s famed lyrical dexterity. Today I count Illmatic as my favourite hip-hop record, alongside Ready to Die and The Blueprint.
03. ‘Wicked’ by Ice Cube Ice Cube’s incredible run of records between 1990 and 1993 gradually evolved from the Bomb Squad’s East Coast beats on AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted to the trademark G-funk whistles and a George Clinton (who is borh the father and godfather of the G-funk sound) guest spot on Lethal Injection. ‘Wicked’ is not only a good touching point for where Cube was production-wise in 1992, it’s also one of his aggressive tracks ever, as the beat bangs and thumps under some wild ragga vocals.
04. ‘Scenario’ by A Tribe Called Quest One of the great “I can’t believe you can dance to that” songs. It also introduced the world to Busta Rhymes, an increasingly underrated figure in hip-hop history.