Wednesday, March 05, 2014

My Top Ten Hiphop Albums - #4



Public Enemy - Apocalypse '91:The Enemy Strikes Back


SongsTime
Lost at Birth3:50
Rebirth1:00
Nighttrain3:27
Can’t Truss It5:22
I Don’t Wanna Be Called Yo Niga4:24
How to Kill a Radio Consultant3:09
By the Time I Get to Arizona4:49
Move!5:00
1 Million Bottlebags4:06
More News at 112:39
Shut Em Down5:04
A Letter to the New York Post2:45
Get the Fuck Outta Dodge2:38
Bring Tha Noize3:47


    Often an artist will develop a sound and a style over several years, until they come to a point at which their loyal hardcore fans will appreciate their style, but then quickly change their tune once that same sound crosses over to the mainstream audience.  For Public Enemy, that tipping point was "Apocalypse '91... The Enemy Strikes Black". 
    Metallica also released The Black Album in 1991, and both albums have much in common.  Both albums saw the acts releasing them undergo a change in style that brought them more mainstream success, while also alienating part of their longtime fanbase.  In both cases the bands would be vilified for years for "selling out" by their longtime fans, and yet receive accolades for their style from both the mainstream, and their peers. 
    Apocalypse '91 was the recording that, when it came out, established that there was a white audience for political rap music, and thus came high expectations from record companies.  This wasn't the album that white folks "discovered", this was the one they were waiting for, and bought the day it came out.  Edward Furlong didn't wear a Public Enemy t-shirt as John Connor in Terminator 2 because PE was some obscure hiphop group that James Cameron wanted to give exposure; He wore it because it was cool.   While Apocalypse '91 was immediately both vilified by critics, the public bought up every copy that hit the shelves in record stores.  Although Apocalypse was still heavily political, the focus was not as encompassing with regard to race relations, as the media and corporate greed also played a prominent role as lyrical material for Chuck D. Perhaps not coincidentally, as PE expanded their focus into political issues that encompassed more than just Black Americans, the ensemble gained popularity and notoriety from the mainstream.  
    Although production was overseen by Hank Shocklee, the lineup of producers with their hands on the actual product changed slightly for Apocalypse, with Chuck D mostly working with Keith Shocklee, and newcomers behind the board.  The "sound" wasn't significantly different, and neither was the lyrical content. 
    So why does anyone point at this album and say that this is where Public Enemy as "sold out"? 
     The first piece of evidence is "Bring Tha Noize".  Although the track first appeared on It Takes A Nation..., PE re-recorded the song with metal band Anthrax, and included it on this album.  Anthrax, in turn, included it on their next album.  Although the band viewed it as a bridging of the gap in a vein similar to when Run-DMC and Aerosmith teamed up for a cover of "Walk This Way", many PE fans viewed it as PE going pop, or intentionally appealing to whites. 
    Second, the group received mountains of mainstream media attention.  Instead of fringe media attention for the political content, PE instead was praised by the media for tackling tough social issues, and their socially conscious music.  "By The Time I Get To Arizona" was not the first single released from the album - in fact, it was never released as a single.  But the music video and mainstream attention it got alienated some fans.  Here was Public Enemy, producing a song and music video about assassinating the Governor of Arizona for not recognizing the ML King Jr. Memorial Holiday, being called "sellouts" because the controversy was covered on the evening news.  When old white folks started talking about Public Enemy, it became passe. 
    Also compounding PE's street cred was the "right wing" branding of Public Enemy as "race baiters".  Just as Professor Griff had caused controversy with statements in interviews with the media prior to Fear, part-time member Sister Souljah caused controversy this time with many of her statements to the media while representing Public Enemy.  When your hiphop act is being discussed at a presidential debate, there are going to be people that feel the group has gone too mainstream. 
    All-in-all, I think that this album is more balanced than any of their other work from this time period.  The lyrics, especially on tracks like "Shut 'Em Down" and "Can't Truss It", are razor sharp, and perhaps more on point overall than on previous albums.  The music might not be as strong as on Fear, but it is stronger than It Takes  a Nation...  Personally, I think that while this was perhaps not PE's strongest effort, it is perhaps their album with the most staying power.  The shorter length makes the album a bit tighter, because there is less filler.

Monday, March 03, 2014

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #5

 Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted


SONGSTIME
Better Off Dead1:04
The Nigga Ya Love to Hate3:13
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted4:06
What They Hittin' Foe?1:21
You Can't Fade Me / JD's Gaffilin'5:13
Once Upon a Time in the Projects3:41
Turn Off the Radio2:38
Endangered Species (Tales From the Darkside)3:22
A Gangsta's Fairytale3:16
I'm Only Out for One Thang2:11
Get Off My Dick and Tell Yo Bitch to Come Here0:55
The Drive-By1:02
Rollin' Wit The Lench Mob3:44
Who's the Mack?4:36
It's a Man's World4:47
The Bomb3:24

    What makes this album great from start to finish is that Ice Cube merged the West Coast and East Coast sound, and he pretty much did it before anyone else, and better than anyone else.  Ice Cube left NWA in a dispute over money, as Ice Cube felt he was unfairly paid for his contribution to the album - mainly writing the lyrics.  AMW is Cube's coming out party, as he is out to prove himself as a solo artist that was just more than just a member of a group. 
    The lyrics are on point.  The various subjects and the raw anger behind them prove that Ice Cube was more than a one-trick pony that could craft lyrics about dealing drugs and getting high.  The lyrics are so on point that I would argue that the album is Cube's greatest effort as a lyricist.  While he might have had stronger individual songs, the sustained quality of the lyrics show how hungry and talented Cube was to prove himself.  While Cube may be more remembered for tracks like "It Was A Good Day" or "Check Yourself", the total package within AMW is the lyrical apex of Cube's career. 
    The lyrics are perfectly complimented by the music.  Rather than looking to copy the NWA sound, or turning to many of the unknown West Coast producers attempting to copy the NWA sound, Cube turned to the Bomb Squad - which was essentially Public Enemy's Chuck D and producer Hank Shocklee. Also contributing to the production was Sir Jinx, a cousin of Dr. Dre, and a long time collaborater with Cube, AMW ended up with a sound unlike any album in the ganagsta rap genre before or since.  AMW ended up with a sample heavy and layers sound, similar to what the Bomb Squad had produced for Public Enemy.  The layers gave a more uptempo sound, which led to Cube rapping faster than what was really typical at that time.  At the same time, the bass was hitting hard, but was not too fast as to over shadow the rest of the music. 
    What sets this album apart from other "gangsta rap" contemporaries is that, rather than glorifying the gang lifestyle in Los Angeles at this time, Cube essentially critiqued the entirety of ghetto life from a political point of view.  Different songs would tackle different subjects, each providing a different "slice of life".  Tracks like "Once Upon A Time In The Projects" and "Gangsta's Fairytale" took a humorous look at gangs and drugs, while "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" and "Endangered Species" took a stern look at the effects of the gang lifestyle on this generation of Black men. 
    In all, this album hits harder than any solo album by an NWA member, and is by far the strongest lyrically. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #6

 3rd Bass - The Cactus Album

Song TitleTime
Stymie's Theme0:13
Sons of 3rd Bass4:47
Russell Rush0:25
The Gas Face3:49
Monte Hall5:27
Oval Office3:33
Hoods0:17
Soul in the Hole3:50
Triple Stage Darkness4:10
M.C. Disagree0:44
Wordz of Wizdom6:31
Product of the Environment6:16
Desert Boots0:22
The Cactus4:40
Jim Backus0:04
Flippin' Off the Wall Like Lucy Ball3:17
Brooklyn-Queens3:37
Steppin' to the A.M.4:50
Episode #30:12
Who's on Third0:59

     The first successful hiphop band of the Caucasian persuasion were the Beastie Boys.  Although they had street cred from the begining (Def Jam Records, touring with Run DMC, etc), the Beasties were actually a punk rock act that, rather than sing, rapped.  After the triple-platinum success of the Beastie's debut album Licensed to Ill, the trio jumped to Capitol Records over creative differences with the Def Jam label.  While the Beasties continued to produce new material, they failed to keep the hiphop portion of their audience, and instead became an "alternative act" - meaning their music was generally made to appeal to white audiences (and when it received radio airplay, it was on rock stations). 
     The next white act to have success was 3rd Bass, which was (by no coincidence) also on the Def Jam label.  Unlike a majority of hiphop acts at the time, 3rd Bass were not a crew of longtime collaborators that finally secured a record contract, but instead were three different guys that were put together by producer Sam Sever.  MC Serch was a young Jewish B-Boy that, according to legend, had tried to petition the Beastie Boys for memebership at one time.  Pete Nice was a student at Columbia University, and hosted a show on the Ivy League school's student radio station.  Daddy Rich was a local house party DJ, and the only Black member of the group.  However, after Sever convinced the trio to work together, Def Jam signed the trio as their next "white act".  
    3rd Bass was able to keep their street cred despite their skin color, because the white emcees, Serch & Nice, went out of their way to not emphasize their ethnicity, and actually tried to keep it under wraps.  Eventually though it became known, but by that point the sound had actually won over hiphop audiences.  3rd Bass differed from the Beasties in that rather than just being a white act performing Black music, 3rd Bass, and especially Serch, seemed to immerse themselves in hiphop (aka, Black) culture.  3rd Bass had a credibility about them that other white performers did not, and would not have.  This is not to say there was no backlash against 3rd Bass' "perpetration" into Black culture - because there was.  However,  what 3rd Bass did have going for it was that they were indeed good emcees, and that rather than focusing on the racial aspect, they took on what they viewed as "wack emcees". 
    Def Jam was fully behind 3rd Bass' 1989 debut album, and brought Prince Paul and the Bomb Squad on board for production along with Sever.  In fact, much of the pacing and the skits inserted into the album are a trademark of Paul.  3rd Bass was able to mix the solid rhymes from Serch & Nice with obscure samples from old rock and jazz albums.  In addition to the usual James Brown samples, the Cactus Album was full of obscure samples from artists like Gary Wright, Aretha Franklin, Blood Sweat & tears, The Emotions, Steely Dan, the Doors, and others.  However, the album didn't have a "rock & roll" sound, rather it had almost an "olde tyme" feel, as if they were rapping over swing music. 
    Lyrically the Cactus Album became was a album full of double entendres, but never crossed the line into filth.  3rd Bass pretty much avoided anything political or controversial as far as subject matter, and instead crafted verses about taking out wack emcees, performing in dance halls, picking up women, and other fun and lighthearted subjects.  3rd Bass was about hard hitting beats and rhyme skill. 
    There is no doubt in my mind that this album is overlooked, especially by mainstream audiences that only know of 3rd Bass from their 1991 crossover hit "Pop Goes the Weasel".  I think that what the Cactus Album and 3rd Bass did was far more influential than given credit for.  White boys carving words into their hair was a legitimate trend, and MC Serch was largely responsible for that coming into the mainstream.  Pete Nice wore suits, walked with a cane, and smoked big cigars - before the likes of Biggie and Jay Z.  Ultimately, 3rd Bass will not be as fondly remembered as many of the "Wack Emcees" they gave the Gas Face to. 

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #7




Public Enemy - Fear Of A Black Planet


Song TitleTime
Contract on the World Love Jam1:49
Brothers Gonna Work It Out5:03
911 Is a Joke3:17
Incident at 66.6 FM1:38
Welcome to the Terrordome5:22
Meet the G That Killed Me0:45
Pollywanacraka4:14
Anti-Nigger Machine2:39
Burn Hollywood Burn3:04
Power to the People3:48
Who Stole the Soul?3:52
Fear of a Black Planet3:42
Revolutionary Generation5:43
Can't Do Nuttin' for Ya Man2:47
Reggie Jax1:36
Leave This Off Your Fuckin Charts2:31
B Side Wins Again3:46
War at 33⅓2:08
Final Count of the Collision Between Us and the Damned0:49
Fight The Power4:37
    

    Debuting on Def Jam Records in 1987, Public Enemy had a political angle to their lyrics and music almost from the start.  Their sophomore effort from 1988, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, was an intentional effort to produce a politically themed album.  PE front man Chuck D has stated this album was intended to be the hiphop version of What's Goin' On, Marvin Gaye's timeless album that signified his shift to socially conscious music.  After the release and success of It Takes A Nation..., the band recorded their biggest single to that point, "Fight The Power", which was featured as part of Spike Lee's Academy Award nominated film Do The Right Thing.  While excellent exposure for Public Enemy, the film was actually panned by many critics (and their publications) as something designed to incite race riots from Black viewers.  This, along with an interview by band member Professor Griff that was generally acknowledged as homophobic and anti-Semitic, classified PE as producers of anti-white "hate music" in the eyes of most mainstream media.  When Fear Of A Black Planet, the band's third effort, was released, it was generally acknowledged as their strongest musical effort.  Rather than an attempt to move in the same direction as It Takes A Nation... had gone, Fear of A Black Planet was an undoubtedly anti-establishment concept album, with an undeniable focus on race relations.  It was a very angry and political recording. 
    Despite its political and racial content, Fear of a Black Planet was released at a time when white folks started discovering more and more about hiphop music.  In addition, the controversies that surrounded Public Enemy were more in the vein of a "highbrow" debate about politics, whereas controversy generated from acts such as 2 Live Crew and NWA were more about violence and sex - and thus received heavier mainstream coverage; more people watched Nightline and 60 Minutes than read the Washington Times.  So, as Public Enemy became more popular among the Black audience, more and more whites discovered it, realized how good it was, and helped make Fear of a Black Planet a massive commercial success.
    Public Enemy had a unique sound, which was akin to a hiphop version of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound".  The sound was engineered by the Bomb Squad (Chuck D, Hank & Keith Shocklee, and Eric Sadler), the production crew that developed what was called the "sonic wall", where layers and layers of unique sounds were laid down over each other to create something completely different and unique.  This sample-heavy style would soon become obsolete, as more and more publishers began to go after acts sampling their recordings. 
    Right from the gate PE goes for the jugular, with perhaps the hardest hitting and guitar heavy side of an album up to that point in hiphop history.  "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" is probably the ultimate example of the Bomb Squad's "Sonic Wall", as Chuck D drops aggressive rhymes on top of an amalgam of sounds so rich that it is impossible to tell what is what in the instrumentation.  Chants, Prince Guitars, James Brown drums - the track is perfect to dissect to look at what exactly the Bomb Squad was all about.  Then the music goes in the complete opposite direction when Flava Flav grabs the mic for "911 Is A Joke".  A catchy hook by the enigmatic Flav actually somewhat overshadows the political target of the song, which is the often lengthy response times for emergency responders in Black neighborhoods.  "Welcome to The Terrordome" is an amazing song, with the sonic wall providing the perfect background noise, almost like an air raid warning siren, to Chuck D's lyrics, which were often labeled as anti-white and anti-Semitic.  Terrordome was a single that generated a massive amount of controversy, with many in the media responding to Chuck D's reference to the band's media persecution to that of Christ, negatively. 
    In general, the entire album is a plea for Black unity.  The reason that the album is often misunderstood by critics (particularly the white ones) is because the album is not designed for consumption by the mainstream.  Like on any topic, there is room for disagreement with, or debate about, the views expressed by PE on this album.  The theme of the album is reflected in the title - Fear of a Black Planet.  The album is a piece meant to provide empowerment for the Black community that the product is targeted to.  Essentially, Public Enemy is saying that the white establishment's greatest fear is an empowered Black man, and then uses the band's struggles with the media to demonstrate the fear that mainstream America has of a successful, politically active hiphop group. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #8



Digital Underground - Sex Packets

Song TitleTime
The Humpty Dance6:30
The Way We Swing6:48
Hip Hop Doll5:30
Underwater Rimes (remix)4:23
Rhymin' on the Funk6:16
New Jazz (One):37
The Danger Zone5:31
Doowutchyalike8:51
Freaks of the Industry5:38
Gutfest '898:17
Sound of the Underground                              5:06
A Tribute to the Early Days3:06
Packet Prelude:57
Sex Packets7:21
Street Scene:33
Packet Man4:31
Packet (reprise)1:30


     Digital Underground is one of my all-time favorite musical acts, and I hate when people refer to them as a "One Hit Wonder".  Nothing could be further from the truth.
     Digital Underground was formed in the mid-1980s by front man Shock G, and was composed of a members from a multitude of locals, which provided a wide range of styles for the group to pull from.  G was heavily influenced by 1970's P-funk music - so influenced that what he tried to create with Digital Underground was an all-encompassing group with an unlimited amount of members and collaborators, as George Clinton had managed to do with Parliament-Funkadelic.
     Borrowing from Clinton's concept, a number of emcees and musicians contributed different things to different songs - be it lyrics, production, instrumentaion, singing, or otherwise performing.  G would go into the studio and fuse the different bits and pieces into something larger, and then tie it all together.  G would create characters, concepts, and elaborate stroylines that tied everything together.  So, as Clinton had invented characters like Dr. Funkenstein, Star Child, and Sir Nose to fill out his stories of Mothership Connections and Uncle Jam's Army, Shock G created characters like Humpty Hump, MC Blowfish, and concepts like Sex Packets, Gutfest, and more.
     The album can loosely be divided up into two parts - part one is just a collection of crazy hiphop songs about a variety of subjects, while the second part is a concept album that more closely resembles a hiphop/jazz fusion that is closer to P-funk than anything else.  The album is full of songs that feature strong funk samples, with emcees flexing their vocal skills.  Much like Dr. Dre's signature G-funk sound, Shock G speeds up and slows down the old funk samples to smooth it out into another sound. G would mix and match snippets of different samples, and overlay it with something completely new, and thus hide the sample in the instrumentation.  Aside from the rapping, there is a lot of Biz Markie-influenced singing, where vocalists with less than exceptional singing skills blend their voices together smoothly and smartly to create something heartfelt and almost showtoon-ish in nature.
     The "concept album" portion of Sex Packets involves just that - a fictional pharmeceutical product known as a "sex packet".  This pill, invented by the government for astronauts, causes the person taking it to have a psychadelic out-of-body sexual experience.  These pills have now been leaked on the street, and are now a powerful narcotic used by people to live out their sexual fantasies. 
     One thing that the album does suffer from is pacing and arrangement.  Depending on what version of this album you have (The CD, vinyl, and cassette all were different), the song order changes, with some tracks omitted from certain versions.  Rather than firmly dividing the album into two distinct halves, the album was arranged almost haphazardly.  The cassette version is the most complete version of the album, and although the two "sides" are different lengths, this version does the best job dividing the concept portion from the rest.
     If you cannot tell by now, for something to make my Top Ten, it really has to stand out and be unique, or at least the first of its kind.  Digital Underground really is a unique group, and despite the faults with it, this album was unique, and very influential after the fact.  While "The Humpty Dance" is what this album is and always will be known for, there isn't one other song like that on this album.  However, the same can be said with almost any other track on this album too.

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #9


 Main Source - Breaking Atoms



        Song Title                                             Time




Snake Eyes3:30

Just Hangin' Out4:10

Lookin' at the Front Door4:12

Large Professor3:08

Just a Friendly Game of Baseball4:03

Scratch & Kut2:57

Peace Is Not the Word to Play3:08

Vamos a Rapiar3:59

He Got So Much Soul (He Don't Need No Music)3:34

Live at the Barbeque4:35

Watch Roger Do His Thing4:22










     Main Source was a group that burst on the scene virtually overnight, had a massive amount of success quickly, and then disappeared from the scene almost as quickly as they arrived.
     Comprising Canadian deejay duo Sir Scratch and K-Kut, along with emcee Large Professor, Main Source was a group that essentially came together to create magic with one album, and then went their seperate way, never to do anything as masterful as what they were able to do with this collaboration. Make no mistake, the album was a collaborative effort by all three men, but the fingerprints indicate that it was the Large Professor doing much of the heavy lifting.  The group would face its end when, after the critical success of this album, the groups management (Scratch & Kut's mother) tried to force the Professor out of the group to spotlight the deejays.  Only one follow up single without the Professor would surface, while the Large Professor would go on to success as a producer for other acts.
     If I were to just give you a copy of this album, after the first listen you would probably assume this was a solo album from the Large Professor.  From the drum & bass style of beats, to the storytelling lyrical style, Breaking Atoms is similar to Pete Rock & CL Smooth's work from around the same time.  The difference, was that instead of a producer and emcee that flawlessly complimented each other, the Large Professor is the heart and sould of Main Source, with the talents of Scratch & Kut only helped to enhance the sound of the Large Professor.
     When doing background research for this piece, the sound of Breaking Atoms was often compared to something from Steely Dan, a rock group known for an over the top attention to detail - often to the point where the group refuses to perform their songs live because they cannot duplicate the sound from the studio.  This comparison seems to be fair, from the perspective that much of the sounds on this album were different and unique for 1991, but are somewhat common place today.  At this point in time, the musical style of Drum & Bass was in its infancy, and probably a style that Main Source mimicked from independent thought, rather than influence.  The musical style is pretty distinct for this point in time - fast percussion tracks with much slower basslines & jazz horn riffs looped on top.  When the Professor comes in with his precise and well enunciated lyrics, a distinct style is unleashed.  Bringing the sound together is the inclusion of a variety of drops and scratches, highlighting the turntable skills of the brotherly duo.  The overall "Main Source" sound is foreshadowing of some of the "alternative" hiphop sounds that would come from artists like DJ Shadow and the X-ecutioners a few years later, while maintaining street cred with the lyrics that many of those acts lacked.  
     Breaking Atoms is in my top ten simply because there are so many good songs from this album, which sounds just as fresh today as it did upon the album's release in 1991.  While "Live At the Barbecue" is often cited for being the debut of Nas, the album is full of other great songs that are actually more relevant and powerful.  "Looking At The Front Door" is a great example, as the layered drum & bass sound with a smooth jazz feel show a distinct departure from typical East Coast hiphop.  Other tracks, such as Peace Is Not The Word To Play and A Friendly Game of Baseball show a social consiousness, but avoid going as  far as being "political" or "militant" rap.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #10



Geto Boys - The Geto Boys


Song Title Time

"Fuck ’Em"   4:02

"Size Ain’t Shit"   3:41

"Mind of a Lunatic"   5:04

"Gangsta of Love"   5:12

"Trigga Happy Nigga"   3:47

"Life in the Fast Lane"   3:25

"Assassins"   5:06

"Do it Like a G.O."   4:25

"Read These Nikes"   3:37

"Talkin’ Loud, Ain’t Saying Nothin’"   3:55

"Scarface"   4:55

"Let a Ho be a Ho"   3:40

"City under Siege" 4:27


 While most often associated with their bigger hits like "Mind Playing Tricks On Me", "Still", or "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster", The Geto Boys was a benchmark album that the group, and perhaps Southern Hiphop, would never reach again.  This self titled album is the group's greatest work, and is probably the most overlooked album in my top ten due to its unavailability. 
     The Geto Boys are a group based out of Houston, TX, which formed with an almost completely different lineup in 1986.  By 1989 the local Houston label Rap-a-Lot Records had released two albums under the Geto Boys name, featuring a raw and unrefined sound, with brash violent lyrics.  By 1990 the lineup of the group was vocalists Willie D, DJ Akshun (soon to rename himself Mr. Scarface), and Bushwick Bill, with DJ Ready Red manning the turntables. 
    Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin, who was the producer responsible for the rock influenced sound from many of the successful early hip-hop acts (Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy) had left the label, and had founded Def American Recordings, a label distributed by Geffen Records.  Rubin signed the Geto Boys to his label, and then went back into the studio with this lineup, and re-recorded and remixed the best tracks from the first two albums, along with new tracks. 
    The Geto Boys were recording during a time frame when the West Coast was just starting to invent "gangsta rap", but the sound hadn't been fully worked out yet.  The Geto Boys obviously took influence from contemporaries like Ice T, but put their own spin on the subject matter, which revealed a grittier and more violent tone in their lyrics. However, the violence in the lyrics was taken to a level beyond anything that NWA or any of the other West Coast acts would put forth - a style later popularized as "horrorcore".  The Geto Boys talked about committing crimes, dealing drugs, rape, murder, and mayhem; and did so in a meticulous and detailed manner that made their lyrics stand out.  Rubin was able to take these raw lyrics that had been written before the dawn of gangsta rap, and back them with a different musical sound that was neither East nor West Coast.  The Geto Boys had their own unique version of hip-hop. 
     The problem was that The Geto Boys was released right at the apex of the backlash against explicit lyrics in hip-hop music.  The FBI's letter to the NWA, the banishment and  prosecution of 2 Live Crew, Tipper Gore's lobbying of the RIAA - all of these things were in full swing when Def American was set to release Geto Boys, and Geffen Records tried to distance themselves from it.  So, the album pretty much sat dormant at the initial time of release.  In 1991, the Geto Boys returned to Rap-A-Lot Records and released what was technically the groups fourth album, We Can't Be Stopped, piggybacked on the success of their hit single "Mind Playing Tricks On Me".  With the huge commercial success of that album and single, Def American was finally able to widely release Geto Boys, although it was done with little fanfare, and sales were far from spectacular. 
    The Geto Boys is similar to NWA's Straight Outta Compton, with much of the album comprised of solo joints by the group memebers, with everyone coming together for a few cuts.  The difference between the two albums is that many of these songs on The Geto Boys were in fact intended for other projects, but Rubin was able to remix them and give the album a consistent sound.  The Geto Boys also had a different lineup of MCs in the past, so some of the songs had been re-recorded, which helped to contribute to the consistency of the album.  An example of this would be the only single released from the album, "Do It Like A GO", which was released on a previous album, although it had originally been a track from the Willie D solo album Controversy.  When listening to this album, there is no reason you would think that this was the third version of that song, or that it didn't fit in with the rest of the album.  Rubin was able to take something existing and fit it into what his vision of the Geto Boys' sound was.  One difference between The Geto Boys and albums from their contemporaries, is that they really do delve into violent subject matter.  While NWA might have had songs with the subject of gang violence, such as "Gangsta Gangsta" or "Boyz N Tha Hood", Willie D rapped about kidnapping one of his teachers at the grocery store and then murdering her to obtain her gold necklace on the song "Assassins".  Scarface rapped about having intercourse with a woman as she has her head blown off.  Bushwick Bill rapped about a mental illness where the voices in his head compelled him to murder women.  This wasn't "gangsta rap", it was rapping about the sick shit that you see on the evening news. 
    Adding to the unique Get Boys style was the selection of samples.  Lynard Skynard, the Eagles, and Steve Miller Band were just a few of the notable southern rock sounds sampled - an obvious influence of Rubin.  At the same time, they also infused other southern soul sounds, such as Isaac Hayes, King Curtis, and James Brown. 
    This album, and the underground buzz it generated for the Geto Boys, helped to shape the sound of the South's rap scene, which was set to explode in the coming years.  When labels like No Limit would blow up with acts like Master P, Sylkk and Mystical, the influence of Geto Boys was obvious.  However, because of personnel changes in the group, a return to Rap-A-Lot Records, and the departure of Rubin, the Geto Boys sound would fall more in line with the groups imitating them, than the groundbreaking sound they have here.