In the years before mp3’s and other streaming media discovering music was much harder. Sure you could find things on the radio, but just like today, it’s mostly the same songs ad infinitum. I was lucky living in Detroit and Chicago to have some incredible stations nearby, but the best way to sample music was through compilation CDs and tapes. I’d like to share some of the more influential compilations I heard when I was younger.
Back in high school, and especially during summer vacation my best friend and I would walk over to our local Blockbuster Music store. Blockbuster Music was fantastic, there was a listening booth in the middle of the store where you could bring them any cd and they would unwrap it and let you listen. I’m sure the clerks hated us, we would tie them up for hours and rarely buy anything. The compilation that sticks out for me from this place is Valis II – Everything Must Go. This was a double cd comp. that was put together by the incredible Bill Laswell. Laswell compiled an eclectic mix of instrumental hip-hop and dub that at the time was a few years ahead of the curve. This type of music was cutting edge at the time. I was initially interested in the cd because of the turntablists staples on board but was also interested in Scanner after reading about creating music with sounds taken from scanning cell phones back before they were encrypted.
One of the series I kept coming back to was the Bomb Hip-Hop compilations. The label initially started out releasing only compilations and eventually grew to produce their own releases. These guys introduced me to so many artists, including Peanut Butter Wolf, who appears later on. I was especially into their Return of the Dj Series, which got me into those turntablist records that everyone who knew me hated.
They have so many compilations, if you’re into this kind of stuff you should look into more of their stuff.
I’m not sure if this actually counts as a compilation, but this was really important one for me. I remember picking this up on a date at some record store in Schaumburg Illinois. The date never went anywhere, but this album has stuck with me. I had heard of Peanut Butter Wolf through the Bomb Hip-Hop compilations, and was excited to see this disc. It introduced me to Loot Pack, Rasco, Planet Asia, Madlib, and so many others. It’s still one of favorite albums to this day.
Moving away from the hip-hop material for a minute, I’d like to introduce the Dangerhouse Volume one compilation. This comp. really represents its time and place, first wave punk from L.A. I believe most of these songs were recorded in an apartment’s kitchen, but not even Hoggy would suspect it. The most well-known track on here is probably “Los Angeles” by the band X and it’s my introduction to them, but the stand out track to me is “Obsolete” from British rocker Howard Werth. He brought his handmade 20lb literal steel guitar with him that day, and it sounds amazing.
The last one for this post, it looks like I’ll have to publish this one in two volumes. I’ll end this one with the Lyricist Lounge compilations. These comps. are chock full of underground hip-hops finest at the time.