50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 11): Wu-Tang Clan, Queen Latifah, P Diddy & more

50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 11): Wu-Tang Clan, Queen Latifah, P Diddy & more

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with a legendary DJ Kool Herc party in the Bronx on August 11, 1973 commonly cited as its glorious moment of inception. To celebrate for a special edition of Music Weekwe asked over 100 names – featuring everyone from Chuck D and Kanya King to top executives, broadcasters, managers, producers and more – to pick and salute one album that impacted their lives and pushed hip-hop culture forward…


“Their second record Wu-Tang Forever was actually the first of their albums that I heard, but it led me to buy 36 Chambers and I was blown away by it. It was much more gritty than the West Coast rap artists at the time, and having nine unique voices all on the same album with different styles and personalities wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard. The incredible solo records that followed created a whole universe around the group, and paved the way for so many other artists to come through. I don’t think East Coast rap in the ’90s would have developed the way it did without Wu-Tang releasing 36 Chambers.” Ed Sellers (Primary Talent International)


“Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... is one of the most influential rap records of all time. Probably the first hip-hop concept album, it was heavily influenced by film as most Wu projects were – check the ‘Guest starring’ Ghostface Killah tagline on the cover – and follows the duo as they look to make one last score before getting out of the drug game forever. What makes this album special is the grittiness of RZA’s production, the expert use of international film samples, the mafia alter egos of the Wu members, and the use of Nation Of Gods And Earths terminology. It feels like a high stakes, globetrotting odyssey. On Knowledge God, Raekwon says, ‘New York was ancient Babylon/where the sky stayed the colour of grey, like heron’ and nothing can match that description of the city in the early ’90s.” James Cunningham (August Agency)


“Liquid Swords was one of the first hip-hop albums I became really aware of, blimey, nearly 30 years ago, when I was in a group of friends who were fans. It captivated me then with its lyricism, rocking beats and the depth of its layers. Years later, it took on a new significance when I met my partner and it turned out to be one of his favourite albums of all time. A brilliant classic that stands the test of time remarkably for its sound and themes.” Sophie Jones (BPI)


‘I’ll put trademarks around your f*cking eyes!’ What an opening skit. This is one of the best Wu-Tang solo records for me. Not only because Ghost is one of the most gifted rappers in the Clan but because it has so many Wu guest spots on it. Almost the whole Clan. Ghost only raps solo on five of a whopping 17-tracks – how come they don’t make ’em like this no more? RZA brings in a healthy dose of samples from Blaxploitation films beyond the usual kung-fu and gangster movies which gives the record a different feel, while still staying inherently Wu-Tang. Ghost also bares a bit more of his soul on this record. Standouts for me are Camay, Assassination Day and Daytona 500, which is one of the baddest hip-hop jams ever written. We would always go mad when this came on. Essential.” Rich Dawes (DawBell)


“This album jumped out in the male-dominated rap arena when it dropped. Queen Latifah looking resplendent and militant on the album cover was inspired! She spat rhymes that were on par with her male peers on producer Mark The 45 King’s beats. She gave women the permission to rise up and unify. You can’t have a discussion about women in rap without including the Queen!” Sandra Scott (Brownswood Recordings)


“Pusha T’s masterful lyricism is on full display on Daytona, a flawless example of rap excellence. With great production and poetic storytelling, it showcases East Coast hip-hop at its finest.” Eric Hunter (MMF)


“Maestro Fresh-Wes is a Canadian rapper. In 1989 I was a kid – not even a teenager – in Vancouver, listening to his Symphony In Effect album. He wrote a song called Let Your Backbone Slide and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Maestro was the first Black Canadian artist to be certified platinum in Canada. The record changed my life because after begging my parents to let me see Maestro live, I rocked up to his all-ages show at the UBC gymnasium (where he was opening for Young MC) and it was undoubtedly what set me on a path to get my start as a campus promoter years later. I know Licensed To Ill dropped earlier, but it was Maestro that got me hooked on live music and led me to Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill and all the rest.” Shirin Foroutan (Universal Music Publishing Europe)


“The Listening by Little Brother is my favourite hip-hop album because it provided me with clarity and direction at a time in my life when I came to the fork in the road called the future. When I first heard Speed, I was working at a retail job, fresh out of university and trying to figure things out. Hearing Phonte say, ‘I’m making moves/But this treadmill lifestyle ain’t working for me’ resonated in a profound way. Even as a debut project, The Listening is a definitive artistic statement – the way Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder documented everyday life across the 18 tracks was like reading their diaries. The many quotable lines are filled with introspection, humour and honesty, and 9th Wonder’s sample-based production is a mosaic of moody chops and melodies. Even though The Listening didn’t light up the charts, its impact runs deep. Twenty years later, Little Brother now have little brothers and sisters. The group’s influence can be heard in Drake, Kendrick Lamar and even Doja Cat.” Chris Mitchell (Breaking Atoms Podcast)


“Diddy was known more for being the head of Bad Boy Records and hip-hop’s ultimate party planner at the time, and this audio box office blockbuster was his coming out party, solidifying his superstar potential. Arriving in the wake of losing The Notorious B.I.G. – his close friend and the label’s marquee artist – he assembled an all-star cast of talent who helped him create a cinematic masterpiece comprised of reworked ’80s classics, tragic mob tales, explicit sexual escapades and game-changing global smash hits. Hip-hop only got bigger from here.” Will Lavin (HipHopDX)

“My introduction to hip-hop was Puff Daddy’s No Way Out album, which started a life-long love affair with the genre. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I spent my high school years listening to it on repeat, which led to discovering other incredible artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim and Mase. Even today, it takes me back to that specific time in life, and that music holds such a special place in my heart.” Karen McNamara (Mara Publicity)

KRS-ONE – KRS-ONE (1995)

“This album was important to me for a few reasons. I grew up on reggae music as a kid and the evolution of raggamuffin and my discovery of hip-hop wasn’t until 1993. This album fused the conscious, positive energy of reggae music, the audacity and aggression of ragga and blended it with that authentic New York hip-hop which was the perfect mix for me. KRS-One was, and is, a hugely-respected staple in the foundations of hip-hop and I learned about the connection and influence of reggae music in hip-hop via him. He was like a hip-hop historian who paid homage to those who came before him. So, while I was a fan of the new emerging artists such as B.I.G., Jay-Z and Snoop, KRS – and this particular album – was the bridge to hip-hop in its origin and the new ‘bling/hustler’ era which was emerging.” Riki Bleau (Since ’93) 


“Black On Both Sides, for me, is without doubt a seminal album in hip-hop. It was Mos Def’s debut solo record following his Black Star collaborations with Talib Kweli, the expectations were high and he did not disappoint. It led from the front in terms of intelligent, dextrous, socially conscious lyrics, a lot of it prophetic, and beautiful instrumentation, but he was so damn fine too. Listening to it changed my life. Not least because it contained banger after banger, featuring the most respected names in hip-hop today that were all fairly early on in their careers back then in 1999. Do It Now is still a colossally sick tune. Bow down to the Messiah of hip-hop.” Indy Vidyalankara (Indypendent PR)

Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

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