Friday, April 8, 2011

The HoG25: The Best 25 Albums of the Past 25 Years, Part II

If you missed the first installment, feel free to browse it and catch up, and if you don't read the intro, note that NSFW status is being lyrically implied for all clips. This series has been a blast, and we hope you've enjoyed reading.

10. Doggystyle, Snoop Doggy Dogg

I don’t want to sit here and drop pallets full of praise on Snoop Doggy Dogg, which is tough on a cracka’, ‘cause I loves me some Snoop. I really do. The contributions he made to style, flow, rhyme, and beats both independently, and via collaborations were and are immeasurable. I could go in 10 different directions on that, but I must show some initial restrain and acknowledge that, post-Doggystyle, Snoop’s solo career (10 albums) has been one of two things: either the best-kept secret in the history of all the forevers, or absolute crap. I’m of the belief that it’s the latter, but I’m also hopeful and eager that I can be proven wrong with that assertion.

But we’re not here to dogg on the man; we’re here to talk about what an atomic bomb Doggystyle was. November 23, 1993 was when Snoop forever lowered the boom on hip-hop and rap by delivering his debut album. I suppose there might be some in the critics circles that would say that such a selection, or such a genre, must be removed from the broader discussion when it contains (some 25) samples, but I am not part of such a circle, and I prefer to focus on the finished product, which was swift, bold, and striking.

Technically, the album contains 19 tracks, but it’s more like 13 if you cut out the semi-non-sensical skits and interludes. When you get to the content of said 13, however –- and here’s where I show my age –- I posit that no album, since its release has had the track-to-track power of getting a room moving, and singing along. It’s the beats produced by Dr. Dre, coupled with the smooth delivery of Snoop’s raps, that has made the album such a staying force, all the way back to the era –- when MTV still didn’t completely suck –- from whence “Gin and Juice” was born.

“Gin and Juice” gave us an uber-favorable beat, and the table of contents to the pamphlet of synonyms for weed. It also gave us a music video with the then-becoming-common blurred-out images, and an international acceptance for the buzz associated with a hooch-booze combination. Powerful as it was, “The Shiznit” might be the album’s tightest track. The punch delivered by the aggressive beats of track five, along with the melodic flute and high-flying lyrics have perhaps left the number as one of the best sleepers in G-funk history.

“Lodi Dodi” was always fun, a track most folks remember all of the lyrics, too, even if it had some less-than-savory lyrics. If “The Shiznit” doesn’t take the title belt of Doggystyle’s badassery, then “Murder Was the Case” does, no doubt. Not a fan of “Serial Killa.” Never have been. But, the album comes right back strong with the “For All My Niggas & Bitches,” “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” pair, and “Gz and Hustlas” is also solid late in the mix.

Ultimately, Doggystyle, I don’t imagine, will ever be shelved. Enshrined in the halls of musical awesomeness for eternity, Snoop’s debut will likely never see another contender that legitimately challenges the quality of the entire album.

9. Sublime, Sublime

Old No. 7:

8. (two-way tie)

Master of Puppets, Metallica

Old No. 7:

Ten, Pearl Jam

Taking Ten with my first pick was tough. I went on instinct, thinking that this album was as important in high school for my colleagues as it was for me, so I thought if I didn’t bite right away, it’d be gone. In hindsight, I probably could’ve nabbed it in the seventh or eighth round, and not lost out on Three Feet High & Rising, which Cecil ruthlessly stole from me in the fifth. I may, in fact, go to my grave blowing the robbery whistle, while face-palming myself on that one, which probably sounds like a Special Olympics zerbert. But Pearl Jam.

It seems that, at least once a year, Pearl Jam goes on tour or releases a new album, and the masses go absolutely bonkers. I’m always late to that parade, and that doesn’t bother me, because, on the inside, I’m thinking: Wow. Really? They’re still around?

I know, I know. The Pearl Jam masses just fainted, had heart attacks. I’m not trying to belittle the magnitude of the band, besmirch their history, or any of that stuff. It’s just a reflection of where I’ve been musically since August 27, 1991, when it dropped, and the easiest way to summarize that is to mention where I haven’t been: paying attention to Pearl Jam. The reasons why are simple: I enjoyed Vs., maybe gave Vitalogy two listens (though never owned it), and decided subconsciously that they were either going to either fizzle out, never touch what Ten was ever again, or somewhere in the middle.

I could be a massive nerd and break down each of the tracks on Ten, but I’m not going to. All I can say is this: I had a solid group -– about a dozen -– of buddies in high school. We, as my old man used to say, were thick as thieves, always wanted to know where the next party was, what girls were going to be there, and we always rocked and rolled. This is not to say that every other group of American dudes out there was doing anything different. I just wasn’t hanging out with them.

Now, each of us had our own musical preferences, and that was always some hybrid of a) what you liked individually, and b) what the group liked. This absolutely never, ever failed to come up when together. Whoever’s mom’s house we were at would look something like this: Rock out to something from (b) until someone was drunk, stoned, or both enough to attempt to woo the group with something from (a). And if it wasn’t that it was this: Rock out to something from (a) until some was drunk, stoned, or both enough to insist we put on something from (b). The something from (a) category was, as you might imagine, a nice mix of stuff too boring to get into in the middle of a Pearl Jam write-up.

But the something from (b) category, mixed as it might’ve been, too, was a special kind of bonding agent, and you’d better bet your bottom dollar that Ten was high, if not tops, on that list. If there were $15 million dollars on the line, there’s no way in hell I could accurately recall how many times we blasted that thing, “Once” through “Release.” Not even if you gave me a 25-listen cushion could I tell you. It was, for us, from junior year forward, an anthem for the ages, an album never to be forgotten. None of this is a tribute, per se, to the grunge/Seattle/’90s bit that we’ve all been spoon-fed by VH1, etc. It’s a tribute to that album at that time, and if given the funding and opportunity, I can guarantee you we’d rendezvous, clad in flannel, get smashed on Milwaukee’s Best Light (Editor’s Note: That part right there is a lie, as I promised my colon, some years ago, that I would never again consume the Beast.), swing from the basement rafters until dawn, howl ourselves hoarse, and enjoy every second of it.

I realize, of course, that not walking through each track does the songs and the albums a great injustice, but this release was, I think, that big, that you can likely insert your own synopsis of what “Garden,” etc. meant to you.

Oh, and I just checked: The Recording Industry Association of America has classified it as “diamond,” meaning 10 million units sold. So, yeah: You’ve got your stories.

6. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy

Old No. 7:

5. Three Feet High & Rising, De la Soul


4. Paul's Boutique, Beastie Boys


3. Appetite for Destruction, Guns N' Roses

Old No. 7:

2. Nevermind, Nirvana

Nevermind was never really on my board, per se, but this was the final round of our 12-part draft, and it had not been taken. Old No. 7 and I agreed it needed to be included, and, seeing as how it was my turn in the rotation to have nine picks, it was agreed upon, and for good measure. I don’t imagine that anyone wants to read a wordy attempt at analyzing what Nirvana meant for music in the ‘90s. We all know their place, that they were important, and that Nevermind was most likely (Note: I’m not talking to you, hard-core Nirvana fan) their best album. It was really, really solid, ground-breaking, and even shocking.

It dropped on September 24, 1991, and was their second release, flanked by 1989’s Bleach, and 1993’s In Utero. Perhaps the reason why I could argue it to be their best is that it was the most accessible, or that music listeners were, at the time, more accessible to this brand of rock. Or maybe, Nevermind made listeners more accessible. I’m not sure. What I do know, though, is that it has sold over 26 million copies worldwide, and that number, my friends, is impressive.

Almost every track on this release has an unharnessable power. Of course you know “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and if you’ve paid any attention to music in the last 20 years, you probably know “Come As You Are.” Maybe you even know “In Bloom.” What you might not know are tracks like “Polly,” or “Territorial Pissings,” and even “Lithium,” each of which is as jaw-dropping –- all in their own fashion –- as the more popular tracks from the album. I’m not hear to argue that Nevermind is the best thing Nirvana ever did, and I’m not hear to hop on board with the conspiracies that Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain, and that the music world was forever robbed by her lunacy, or any acts associated with it.

I am, however, hear to say, that in the vacuum of the last two and-a-half decades, Nevermind was huge. Massive. And it was really good, too. To omit it or to replace it with any other Nirvana album would be, to me, a disservice to the rest of these albums’ peers.

And, your number-one album in the past 25 years is...

1. Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A.

Old No. 7: