15 years ago, I sat in the back of my math class, sporting Lugz, a flannel shirt, and baggy jeans. It was my freshman year in high school, and the classroom was a bit distracted. All the details of that particular moment are a blur, but I can specifically recollect talks of the mounting Y2K hysteria, random gossip, music pumping from a classmate’s headphones. I looked to my left and the kid was nodding his head, album art hanging off the side of his desk with his Discman sitting on top. A steady and heavy snare snapped loudly through the headphones. I needed to know what that was. “Ms. Fat Booty… Mos Def,” he replied upon my inquiry.
1999 was many moons ago but many of us can look back and remember mostly the good things— and the ample oblivion to the impending digital age. The country was peaceful, prosperous, yet nearing the end of the Clinton regime. The world was still largely manual. Nobody really had a cell phone yet. Computers were still the size of a cardboard box. Hip-hop magazines were still as thick as a 5-subject notebook. Sam Goody was the place to get your favorite rapper’s CD, and sales throughout the genre were through the roof. Early 20-somethings and younger may never connect with these things, nor will they ever “get” what we mean when we express the nostalgia for a “different kind” of hip-hop.
What is and isn’t “real hip-hop” is an ongoing debate—as it has been for a significant length of time—but somewhere, Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, has the ability to create something for every type of rap fan out there. And if you know anything about the Brooklyn lyricist, catering to the masses isn’t quite his cup of tea. Not to mention the rappers widely perceived to be out of their prime that are continuously struggling to recreate their earlier success. But still, if he’d be willing to answer, the demand is certainly there.
15 years ago this month, the Brooklyn MC released his esteemed debut album “Black on Both Sides.” And here are ten reasons why hip-hop heads are in dire need of a sequel.
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