Category Archives: hiphop

SPB Interviews De La Soul (VIBE 1993)

A coupla days ago I was bold enough to tell the world that I believe the best hiphop album ever made to be De La Soul’s De La Soul is Dead. I got a lot of responses to that, here at the blog, in Facebook messages and comments, tweets, and a WHOLE lotta emails. Several of them told me I flat-out wrong (can an opinion be wrong? Disagreeable, maybe, but wrong?), some told me I was mis-guided, and clearly not the hiphop head I claimed to be (never claimed to be one—just a boy who grew up with this music before it was a “cultural phenomenon,” when it was just the stuff you listened to and danced to cause it was yours and it spoke to you). Others agreed with my choice and liked the direction I took. I appreciated all the responses. I love a good debate.

Oct 1993 issue of VIBE

I figured maybe I should share some writing of mine, if not to defend my choice, then at least to defend the greatness that is De La, and the good-ness they pulled out of a young writer back in his early days. So here’s a piece I did about the group back in the first year of VIBE around the time Buhloone Mindstate was about to drop. I remember really liking this piece when I handed it into my editor Ben Mapp—something that never happens to me; I usually hate my pieces when I (finally, often late!) hand them in. But I liked it even more when ASCAP awarded me the Deems Taylor award for music writing for it a year later. What a night that was! (Big ups to Ben, Joan, and Ipe for a fun night!)

Hope you like the profile. Click here at Google Books to read the story.

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The SCOTT TOPICS™ Mail Bag #2: Best Hip Hop Albums, How Do You Be a PhD? & Hating Teddy Ruxpin

“What’s the best hiphop album ever made?” ~ G.F., Hartford

Why you gotta go there, huh? Why you gonna make traipse through my iTunes and listen to all the rap stuff I got in there, just to answer your ridiculous question? (I’m being willfully full of it right now, obviously.) And do you mean “my favorite” or “the best”? Oh heck, they’re one and the same anyway…Can I name three? The best hiphop albums ever made are: De La Soul’s De La Soul is Dead, Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell and, depending on the day, Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, L.L. Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out, or Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. These choices partly come because of my age—over 21…by, um, a lot—but also because I probably have very formal tastes in things like this and I don’t believe a great rap album has been released after 2000.

Why isn’t there a B.I.G record on the list? I don’t exactly know other than I rarely play B.I.G’s whole albums anymore like I used to, unless it’s his Greatest Hits, because I like to hear the hits, and because I think “Niggas Bleed” is, like L.L.’s “Fast Peg” one of the best written pieces of Black Noir in the past 20 years. My reasons? De La’s record predicted a group’s demise but only ironically made them seem more alive (and smarter and saner and more special as writers and thinkers than anyone else on the scene and “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa,” still, to this day, chills me to the bone); Run-D.M.C.’s record because it is the single best evocation of b-boy glamour-meets-grit and never takes itself seriously while breaking all kinds of new cultural ground (and because “Peter Piper” can still rock a party); Ice Cube’s record because it’s one of the most incredible sounding albums ever, sonically and lyrically dazzling due to the beautiful tension of the Bomb Squad’s techno-scratch futurism blending with Cube’s gangsta-as-everyman realism; L.L.’s because it was a comeback that dared to be sexy and self-centered and superstar-y when many artists would have slunk away after the way Todd had been received with his last record (and because “Jingling Baby” is the kind of brilliant, stupid-good, politically incorrect single that only rap knows how to do with any real imagination); and PE’s record because, well, when black America needed a CNN, Chuck, Flava and the Bomb Squad ripped straight outta the Long Island and gave it to them. (Honorable mentions: All For One, Brand Nubian; Paid in Full, Eric B. and Rakim; and Mecca and the Soul Brother, Pete Rock & CL Smooth; Debaters, haters, and 5-mic raters are welcome to offer their own opinions—cause I know you will!

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The SPB Q: Aliya S. King, author of new novel PLATINUM

{I first met Aliya S. King when I was creative director of GIANT magazine. But I’d been a fan of her work way before that. As hiphop generation journalists go, Aliya was one of the good ones, meaning you felt a level of commitment not only to the music and culture she covered but also to the craft of covering it; you never got the feeling that she was phoning it in or in it just to be around it. She’s a storyteller, which is best evidenced, probably, by the work she’s done co-writing memoirs and autobiographies by and with such diverse personalities as Faith Evans and Frank Lucas. One of Aliya’s most compelling pieces of writing is the award-winning VIBE article she wrote in 2005 about a mysterious death in r&b legend Al Green’s home in the 1970s, a detailed, powerful piece that remains one of the standards of recent pop culture journalism. This week sees the release of PLATINUM, King’s first novel, which grew out of, she says, research she’d done earlier on marriage in hiphop. That’s typical of King’s work, to find the other way of telling the story, if not outright finding a new story to tell about a familiar genre. People are calling the novel “perfectly delicious,” “a juicy ride,” and “rich with the heartbreaking politics of sex and love.” It’ll probably end up on the bestseller list, like King’s other work—and deserves to…I’m pleased to have Aliya S. King do this week’s SPB Q!}

Name: Aliya S. King

Hometown: East Orange, New Jersey

Zodiac sign:  Libra

Favorite bookSong of Solomon

Favorite author: Zora Neale Hurston

Favorite movie: Annie

Favorite song: Ohmygosh. One song?!?! No way. If I have to pick one, it would be “I Love Every Little Thing About You” by Stevie Wonder

Fictional character you wish you had created: Sula Peace

Career High: Winning the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 2005.

Life High: Getting the news that I sold my first novel.

You’re on a desert island and can only have 5 CDs/books/ or DVDs shipped in to you. What are they?

Voodoo, D’Angelo

Linden Hills, Gloria Naylor

Will & Grace DVD box set

Little Shop of Horrors

At The Close of A Century, Stevie Wonder

Your favorite quote: “I do not weep at the world. I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”–Zora Neale Hurston

Guilty pleasure:  Twitter

For more with Aliya, see these other interviews she’s done, with CLUTCH Magazine and ESSENCE (interviewed by Faith!)

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