Wednesday, August 22, 2007

[085] Criminal Minded

Album: Criminal Minded
Artist: Boogie Down Productions
Release Date: March 1987
Label: B-Boy Records
Producers: DJ Scott La Rock & Blastmaster KRS-One

"Party people in the place to be, KRS-One attacks
You got dropped off MCA cuz the rhymes you wrote was wack
So you think that Hip-Hop had its start out in Queensbridge
If you pop that junk up in the Bronx you might not live"
- from "South Bronx"

If I organized this list in chronological order (which I almost did), then B.D.P.'s debut album, Criminal Minded, would be first. This is significant in that it is the singular moment when Hip-Hop ceased to be a fad or gimmick, and started becoming a major creative force in music. It followed the commercial breakthroughs of Run-DMC's Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill, and stuck fairly close to their sonic templates, but what changed was that B.D.P. revelled in being the new guard. They swaggered in with talk of brutal gun violence (this was the first major Rap album to feature guns on the cover) and new-fangled James Brown samples - the two major things that would define the next few years as the second wave of Hip-Hop began. KRS-One talks constantly about his "new style"; he knew he could brag big, because he had the best beats from DJ Scott La Rock, not to mention production help from the pioneering Ced Gee of Ultramagnetic MC's (whose 1988 classic Critical Beatdown just missed this list). And in some cases, he talked really big - Hip-Hop was always based on braggadocio, but who did Blastmaster KRS-One think he was trying to knock down the mighty Run-DMC?? Talking all about fallen kings, on multiple songs no less! But B.D.P. was the next generation; for them, Hip-Hop was the only music. There was no doubt in their hearts. KRS-One surely had the rhymes to back his boasts up, never with a frenzied or over-complicated flow - and definitely not yelling, like Run-DMC - but with an even and clear delivery. And Run-DMC wasn't even their biggest target.

If you don't know that "South Bronx" and "The Bridge Is Over" are the two most important tracks in the history of Hip-Hop beef, then, well I don't know what to do with you. I'd tell you to get out, but (a) I need the audience, and (b) I forgive you due to the fact that this album has a hard time staying in print due to label legal woes (The 2001 B.D.P. compilation, The Best of B-Boy Records, is essentially Criminal Minded plus b-sides, so buy that). Going up against Queens DJ/producer Marley Marl and MC Shan of the Juice Crew, B.D.P. took offense that they would claim that Hip-Hop started out in Queens. KRS immediately grabs the mic, threatening death on the two (see the quote above), then dropping a thorough history of the music's early days. Oh, but he's not done, cuz he returns on "The Bridge Is Over", dropping ridiculous disses in virtually every line; Juice Crew stars Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane never got involved, probably because they knew KRS was slaughtering their crew. On "Bridge", KRS has gone from "you might not live" to "you know them can't live". He's passing judgement on human lives! It seems like nothing now, but this was a huge deal back then. No MC ever had the balls to do this, especially not on an album!! Even though KRS had done a conscious turnaround by their second album (due to the murder of Scott La Rock after the release of this one), Criminal Minded was the beginning of "Gangsta Rap".

But wait, there's more. The album is full of advances. Like how about the first detailed crime narratives in Hip-Hop. Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, hell, all of them, wouldn't have a career if it wasn't for "9mm Goes Bang", not to mention the tale of the crackhead whore on "The P Is Free" (included here in its superior remix form). Or how about the first use of Jamaican toasting being interwoven into Hip-Hop; KRS had that too, what with his brother being a Rasta. "9mm" and "Bridge Is Over" were the first time Hip-Hop fans heard anyone yell "Bo! Bo! Bo!" Sean Paul sleeps with this album under his pillow. And it might sound like I say all this like these artists have a dirty little secret, but I think they'd be the first ones to hold this album up. I found scary proof while doing research for my theory that this album is the specific starting point of Hip-Hop's so-called "Golden Age": missing the 10th anniversary of the album's release date (March 3rd, 1987) by only a few days, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered (on March 9th, 1997), sending Hip-Hop into a dark tailspin and creative drought from which it has never fully recovered. The dates are cosmic happenstance - it's not just a Golden Age, it's a Golden Decade - but it only serves to highlight the wide-open new beginning this album signified.

01. “Poetry”
02. “South Bronx”
03. “9mm Goes Bang”
04. “Word From Our Sponsor”
05. “Elementary”
06. “Dope Beat”
07. “Remix for P Is Free”
08. “The Bridge Is Over”
09. “Super-Hoe”
10. “Criminal Minded”

"South Bronx" [audio]

- BONUS: KRS-One tells the story of "South Bronx" [go 58 seconds in]
- BONUS: "The Bridge Is Over" [video]
This is the original, super low-budget video. It's the best quality I could find.
- BONUS: "9mm Goes Bang" [audio]
- BONUS: "The Bridge Is Over" live on In Living Colour

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