Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1998: The Year of Dope Collaborations

We began to witness the changing of the guard in hip hop when 1998 arrived. It's an understatement to say it was a MUCH different place than it is today. At the time, as the East Coast was still by and large the dominate region (and the West Coast seemingly being MIA most of the time) and the South was slowly but surely beginning to make a case for itself as a focal point, the genre overall was heading into a more commercial, business oriented phase, if you will, and this was right after the "shiny suit era" had run its course. Without going into an entire history of 1998, I want to focus on one thing from that year, and that's the impressive number of collaborations. After listening to Jay Z's "Reservoir Dogs" from the "Hard Knock Life" album, it led me to believe that this was one of the more underrated/forgotten aspects of 98. The 15 songs I'm going to highlight will be those which featured 4 or more MCs, the best collaborations of 98. This was during a time when collaborations MEANT something, instead of just throwing any and everybody all on the same song with little to no purpose. Plus, the things they all have in common are dope beats and dope lyrics, as each MC delivers energetic and inspiring performances. These will not be ranked in any type of order, as an FYI.

So with that being said, let's go back in time!






We'll start with two outstanding picks from DMX's first and second albums, respectively.

#1.
"Niggaz Done Started Somethin"

Album: It's Dark And Hell Is Hot
Lineup: DMX, The Lox and Mase
Produced By: Dame Grease


This banger closed out DMX's debut in grand fashion. Everyone contributes dope verses (and yes that includes Mase, lol), but DMX's verse is the standout, possibly his best ever. 

"Don't come at me wit no bullshit, use caution/Cause when I wet shit, I dead shit like abortions, for bigger portions!"

"I hit the fuckin streets/Cause like I said before ain't nothin goin down until I eat/Mufuckas think it's all about impressin bitches and stressin bitches/While I'm testin bitches game, undressin bitches and caressin bitches!"



 
#2.
 "Blackout"

Album: Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood
Lineup: DMX, Jay-Z and The Lox 
Produced By: Swizz Beatz

Everyone was on a roll at this point, including Swizz, and what resulted was one hardcore collabo. I'll never forget Sheek's line, "I'll put two in ya head, ALL IN THE SAME HOLE!" Hot damn!




#3.
"Fantastic Four"

Album: DJ Clue's "The Professional"
Lineup: Cam'ron, Big Pun, Noreaga and Canibus
Produced By: Clue & Duro (??)

One of the highlights from DJ Clue's "The Professional", and I can already tell you, you're going to see Cam, Pun and Nore a few more times on this list. All four MCs bless this one, especially Canibus, who closes the song with a show stealing verse, which was nothing new for him.




#4. 
"Ruff Ryders Anthem (Remix)"

Album: DJ Clue's "The Professional"
Lineup: DMX, Jadakiss, Styles P, Drag-On and Eve
Produced By: Swizz Beatz

Funny story. I can't recall who it was at the time in 98, but someone floated around the idea that Drag-On and Eve were Cam'ron and Charli Baltimore, smh+LOL, when it was clear the latter were not on this song. Either way, lol, this was a damn good remix (Eve had her best verse here in my view), and of course, X closes it in supreme fashion.




#5.
"Spazzola"

Album: Tical 2000: Judgement Day
Lineup: Method Man, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Killa Sin and Streetlife  
Produced By: Inspectah Deck

You know Wu-Tang had to make this list! At the beginning, Masta Killa says "Deadly Melody part 2". While I wouldn't go that far, this song was just as dope, also would've been the perfect time for Killa Sin to drop a solo album afterwards.




#6. 
"Shut Em Down"

Album: Shut Em Down
Lineup: Onyx & DMX
Produced By: Latief

Yes, I know I'm blatantly cheating with this pick, lol, but it's SO damn dope I'm going to include it anyway! Onyx returned to hip hop with their 3rd album, "Shut Em Down", plus DMX was on a complete roll after dropping his debut. The chemistry was just off the chain and there was NO better pick for a guest appearance than X.


  

#7.
"Shut Em Down (Remix)

Album: Shut Em Down
Lineup: Onyx, Big Pun and Noreaga
Produced By Latief

DMX should've been on this one too, lol, but it's all good. Pun and Nore holds things down alongside Onyx.


    

#8.
"Reservoir Dogs"

Album: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Lineup: Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, The Lox and Sauce Money
Produced By: Erick Sermon

Here's what I say in the recent Jay Z project I posted:

  Oh man, revisiting this, I still can't begin to tell you who had the best verse in this song, because they're ALL DOPE. Now when I think about it, 1998 was the year of some truly dope collaborations featuring 5 or more MCs spittin over equally dope production, and this is one of them. Jay assembled an all star cast of lyrical talent, ranging from the up and coming (Beanie Sigel), the underrated (Sauce Money, in one of his final appearance on the Roc-A-Fella), and the terrific trio of the Lox. Add Erick Sermon (and Darold Trotter) behind the boards, and what you got is another classic.




#9.
"The Worst"
Album: Shut Em Down
Lineup: Onyx, Method Man, Raekwon, Killa Sin and X-1
Produced By: Latief
Onyx makes their third appearance on this list (second for Meth, Rae and Killa Sin), and much like both versions of "Shut Em Down", this collabo was equally dope. 


   

#10.
 "John Blaze"

Album: Don Cartegena
Lineup: Fat Joe, Nas, Raekwon, Big Pun and Jadakiss
Produced By: Ski

Man, that's a hell of a lineup right there. Joe, Nas, Rae and Jada come with tight verses, but Pun delivers the show stealing heat on this one.




#11.
"Banned From TV"

Album: N.O.R.E.
Lineup: Noreaga, Big Pun, Nature, Cam'ron, Jadakiss and Styles P
Produced By: Swizz Beatz

"Regardless of rain or snow, sleet or hail/I kick street tales, chokin niggas like I'm Sprewell"

I'll never forget the opening line from Nature, along with Swizz' beat dropping (his 3rd best beat ever). Thugged Out Entertainment, Untertainment, The Firm, Bad Boy and Terror Squad were represented WELL on this memorable cut.




#12.
"4 Alarm Blaze"

Album: First Family 4 Life
Lineup: M.O.P., Jay-Z and Teflon
Produced By: Laze E Laze

Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" was the PERFECT sample for this adrenaline laced collabo. Lyrically everyone delivered the GOODS.




#13.
"Cross Bronx Expressway"

Album: Make It Reign
Lineup: Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, Big Pun and Fat Joe
 Produced By: Ski

Ski laced Tariq, Peter, Pun and Joe for this "Award Tour" inspired collabo.




#14. 
"Grand Finale"

Album: Belly Soundtrack
Lineup: Nas, DMX, Method Man and Ja Rule
Produced By: Irv Gotti & Lil Rob

N.W.A.'s "Prelude" from the "Niggaz4Life" album is the sample for this highlight from the Belly soundtrack. Tight right here.



        

#15.
"4,3,2,1"

Album: Phenomenon
Lineup: LL Cool J, Method Man, Redman, DMX and Canibus
Produced By: Erick Sermon

Here's what I said on my "LL vs. Canibus" post:

 In 1998, this was a big deal. We had three well known and respected MCs in the form of LL, Meth, and Redman, with newcomers (albeit experienced in certain ways) in Canibus and DMX. All five MCs brought their lyrical A-game over a tight Erick Sermon production, creating a classic, and as far as I'm concerned, the remix with Master P doesn't exist!






Like always, I enjoyed this trip down memory lane. This is a hell of a list, and you'll notice the multiple appearances by Noreaga, Big Pun, Cam'ron, The Lox, Jay-Z, DMX,  Fat Joe, Method Man, Raekwon and Onyx. I know I may be leaving some other names out, but for the sake of this list, make no mistake about it 1998 was THEIR year, forget No Limit, lol! ALL of these songs still hold up today, definitely showing how collaborations should be done.

Before I close, I would like to hear from you dear reader (your feedback is always encouraged and welcomed). Let me know what you think about this list. Do you agree or disagree? Did I leave any out? Who do you think had the best verse in some, if not all, of the songs? With that being said, take care and thanks for reading! 

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