Above The Law
Above the Law was an American hip hop group from Pomona, California, founded in 1989 by Cold 187um, Laylaw, KMG the Illustrator, Go Mack, and DJ Total K-Oss.
Above the Law claims to have invented the “G-funk” sound, which was made popular by Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Dre was involved in producing two tracks on Above the Law’s debut album. Part of the post-N.W.A explosion of California gangsta rap, Above the Law came out of Eastern Los Angeles County specifically established in the city of Pomona, California (hometown of Suga Free associate of Above The Law group); leader Cold 187 um, aka Big Hutch (born Gregory Hutchinson), was joined by KMG the Illustrator (born Kevin Gulley), Go Mack (born Arthur Goodman), and DJ Total K-Oss (born Anthony Stewart). Mixing ’70s vintage-funk and soul samples with live instrumentation (Hutchinson had studied jazz while in school), the group signed with Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records and issued their debut album, Livin’ Like Hustlers, in 1990; split into violence- and sex-themed sides, it was co-produced by Dr. Dre (prior to N.W.A’s rancorous breakup) and received well in gangsta circles. The Vocally Pimpin’ EP appeared in 1991, and the full-length follow-up Black Mafia Life was released in 1993. Go Mack left the group shortly thereafter, and Above the Law stuck with the trio format for their last Ruthless album, 1994’s Uncle Sam’s Curse, which featured greater contributions from KMG.
G-Funk, given its name by Laylaw from Lawhouse Production, became a very popular genre of hip hop in the 1990s. Although G-Funk originated in Los Angeles, the subgenre drew a large amount of influence from the earlier Bay Area-based sound known as Mobb music of the mid-to-late 1980s, pioneered by Oakland rappers like Too Short & E-40. Too Short had experimented with looping sounds from classic P-Funk records over bass-heavy tracks during this period. However, unlike Bay Area Mobb music, Southern California-born G-funk used more portamento synthesizers and less live instrumentation. Too Short’s lazy, drawl-heavy delivery was also a major influence on later G-Funk rappers like Snoop Dogg.
There has been some debate over who should be considered the “father of G-Funk”. Dr. Dre is generally believed to have developed the sound, but Cold187um and KMG of Above the Law, Laylaw for Lawhouse Production have claimed that they developed the sound. Cold187um and KMG claim that Dr. Dre did not credit the group for pioneering the style when he released The Chronic, his Death Row debut album. They both released records on Ruthless Records prior to that. Warren G and Snoop Dogg were with Cold187um before joining Dr. Dre and Death Row. On Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle album, Warren G and Daz Dillinger from Tha Dogg Pound, one of G-Funk’s earliest pioneering groups, claim they produced “Ain’t No Fun”, even though Dre is credited as the album’s sole producer.
The earliest use of sine wave synthesizers and Parliament-Funkadelic-style bass grooves in Dr. Dre’s work appeared on N.W.A’s single “Alwayz into Somethin'” from their 1991 album Niggaz4Life, and on N.W.A’s early compilation album N.W.A. and the Posse on which he produced a song with the same style called Dope Man, when Dr. Dre’s 1992 Death Row debut album The Chronic was released, the album was immensely successful, and consequently made g-funk a popular genre of hip hop.
Another early G-funk pioneer, also from Compton, was rapper and producer DJ Quik, who was already using P-Funk instrumentals as early as 1991 in his debut album Quik Is the Name, though his most recognizable G-funk album would be 1995’s Safe & Sound and also Battlecat, whose aesthetic is a progression from the early-’90s G-Funk sound pioneered by the group Above the Law, characterized by phat synth bass lines and soulful keys. Other well-known artists that used G-funk were: Eazy-E, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tupac Shakur, Nate Dogg, Mac Dre, Spice 1, Geto Boys, Eminem, Havoc & Prodeje, BG Knocc Out, Dresta, Rappin’ 4-Tay, 3X Krazy and Warren G.
Above The Law (200)
Following Eazy-E’s death, Above the Law left Ruthless for Tommy Boy, debuting in 1996 with Time Will Reveal; although the lyrics stuck with the group’s well-worn gangsta themes, it demonstrated that Big Hutch’s skills as a G-funk producer were becoming ever more polished. 1998’s Legends kept the West Coast gangsta flame burning, but proved to be their last release on Tommy Boy; they formed their own label, West World, and struck a distribution deal with Street Solid for 1999’s Forever: Rich Thugs. The same year, Big Hutch released his solo debut, Executive Decisions. In 2000, Big Hutch was recruited by Suge Knight to become the new house producer and musical director at Death Row Records, making it the new home of Above the Law as well. They recorded a new album called Diary of a Drug Dealer, but the release dates were continually pushed back while Big Hutch worked on production assignments, including the debut album by Crooked I; amid all the album delays, rumors began to circulate about the group’s breakup. Members Cold 187 um and DJ Total K-Oss have recently developed and signed a new rap group named “Mutiny” which consists of three individuals from their own hometown of Pomona, CA. It is speculated that they are related to DJ Total K-Oss of Above the Law. A.T.L is slated to release a mixtape of the group “Mutiny” in late January 2013. Neither members Cold 187um or K-Oss have made statements concerning the group “Mutiny” album release.
Dr. Dre – The Chronic (500)
The Chronic is the debut studio album by American hip hop recording artist Dr. Dre. It was released on December 15, 1992, by his own record label Death Row Records and distributed by Interscope Records and Priority Records. Recording sessions for the album took place in June 1992 at Death Row Studios in Los Angeles and at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood. The album is named after a slang term for high-grade cannabis, and its cover is a homage to Zig-Zag rolling papers. It was Dr. Dre’s first solo album after he had departed from hip hop group N.W.A and its label Ruthless Records over a financial dispute. On The Chronic, he included both subtle and direct insults at Ruthless and its owner, former N.W.A member Eazy-E. Although a solo album, it features many appearances by American rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, who used the album as a launch pad for his own solo career.
The Chronic peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and had been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America with sales of 5.7 million copies in the United States, which led to Dr. Dre becoming one of the top ten best-selling American performing artists of 1993. Dr. Dre’s production has been noted for popularizing the G-funk subgenre within gangsta rap. The Chronic has been widely regarded as one of the most important and influential albums of the 1990s and regarded by many fans and peers to be one of the most well-produced hip hop albums of all time. The Chronic was ranked at #138 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The production on The Chronic was seen as innovative and ground-breaking, and received universal acclaim from critics. AllMusic commented on Dr. Dre’s efforts, “Here, Dre established his patented G-funk sound: fat, blunted Parliament-Funkadelic beats, soulful backing vocals, and live instruments in the rolling basslines and whiny synths” and that “For the next four years, it was virtually impossible to hear mainstream hip-hop that wasn’t affected in some way by Dre and his patented G-funk.” Unlike other hip hop acts (such as The Bomb Squad) that sampled heavily, Dr. Dre only utilized one or few samples per song. In Rolling Stone’s The Immortals – The Greatest Artists of All Time, where Dr. Dre was listed at number 56, Kanye West wrote on the album’s production quality: “The Chronic is still the hip-hop equivalent to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. It’s the benchmark you measure your album against if you’re serious.”
Jon Pareles of The New York Times described the production, writing “The bottom register is swampy synthesizer bass lines that openly emulate Parliament-Funkadelic; the upper end is often a lone keyboard line, whistling or blipping incessantly. In between are wide-open spaces that hold just a rhythm guitar, sparse keyboard chords.” Pareles observed that the songs “were smoother and simpler than East Coast rap, and [Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg] decisively expanded the hip-hop audience into the suburbs.” Until this point, mainstream hip hop had been primarily party music (for example, Beastie Boys) or angry and politically charged (for example, Public Enemy or X-Clan), and had consisted almost entirely of samples and breakbeats. Dr. Dre ushered in a new musical style and lyrics for hip hop. The beats were slower and mellower, samples from late 1970s and early 1980s funk music. By mixing these early influences with original live instrumentation, a distinctive genre known as G-funk was created.
Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle (500)
Doggystyle is the debut studio album by American rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg. It was released on November 23, 1993, by Death Row Records and Interscope Records. The album was recorded and produced following Snoop’s appearances on Dr. Dre’s debut solo album The Chronic (1992), to which Snoop contributed significantly. The West Coast style in hip-hop that he developed from Dre’s first album continued on Doggystyle. Critics have praised Snoop Doggy Dogg for the lyrical “realism” that he delivers on the album and for his distinctive vocal flow. Despite some mixed criticism of the album initially upon its release, Doggystyle earned recognition from many music critics as one of the most significant albums of the 1990s, as well as one of the most important hip-hop albums ever released. Much like The Chronic, the distinctive sounds of Doggystyle helped introduce the hip-hop subgenre of g-funk to a mainstream audience, bringing forward West Coast hip hop as a dominant force in the early-1990s.
Doggystyle debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 806,858 copies in its first week alone in the United States, which was the record for a debuting artist and the fastest-selling hip-hop album ever. Doggystyle was included on The Source magazine’s list of the 100 Best Rap Albums; as well as Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Essential Recordings of the ’90s. About.com placed the album in No. 17 of the greatest hip hop/rap albums of all time. The album was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). By November 2015, the album had sold 7 million copies in the United States, and over 11 million copies worldwide.
Warren G – Regulate (400)
Regulate… G Funk Era is the debut studio album by American rapper Warren G. It was released in June 7, 1994 by Violator Records and distributed by the Def Jam record label. The album’s biggest hit was the eponymous single “Regulate”, a gritty depiction of West Coast gang life which samples singer Michael McDonald’s hit “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and featured Nate Dogg. The album also contained the top ten hit “This D.J.” The song “Regulate” was also featured on the Above the Rim soundtrack, which was released on March 22, 1994. An altered version of the song “So Many Ways” appeared in the 1995 film Bad Boys.
The album received some positive reviews from critics, with Robert Christgau commenting positively regarding the coolly menacing nature of the music. Warren G also received two Grammy nominations: “This D.J.” was nominated for a 1995 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance, while “Regulate” was nominated for a 1995 Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
The album debuted at #2 on the US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart selling 176,000 its opening week. The album later went on the sell over 3 million copies in the US and has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Da Brat – Funkdafied (300)
Shawntae Harris (born April 14, 1974), better known by her stage name Da Brat, is an American rapper and actress from Chicago, IL. Beginning her career in 1992, her debut album Funkdafied (1994) sold one million copies, making her the first female solo rap act to receive a platinum certification, and the second overall female rap act (solo or group) after Salt-N-Pepa. Brat has received two Grammy Award nominations. Some of her most successful songs/festures include, “I Think They Like Me”, “Funkdafied” and “Loverboy.”
Funkdafied is the debut album by American rapper Da Brat. It was released in 1994 and sold over one million copies, making her the first solo female rapper to go platinum. Funkdafied debuted and peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200, and topped the Rap Charts and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
DJ Quik – Safe + Sound (200)
Safe + Sound is the third album by rapper/producer DJ Quik. It was released on February 21, 1995 on Profile Records. It peaked at number 14 on the Billboard 200 on March 11, 1995, number 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart the same date, & was certified Gold by the RIAA on July 11, 1995. The album was executive produced by Suge Knight. The album featured the singles “Dollaz & Sense” and “Safe + Sound”.
Tha Dogg Pound
Tha Dogg Pound – Dogg Food (250)
Dogg Food is the debut studio album by the American hip hop group Tha Dogg Pound released October 31st, 1995. Its controversial lyrics were the subject of shareholder protest. The album was supposed to be released in July 1995 but as a result of the controversy from Time Warner, the release was delayed for three months. Two singles were released from the album, “Let’s Play House” and “New York, New York”, featuring Michel’le and Snoop Doggy Dogg, respectively.
It peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart November 18th, 1995. It is one of the last high-selling and critically acclaimed releases from the label, preceding only Tha Doggfather and 2Pac’s albums as an anticipated album, and is the last album to be “officially” produced under the G-funk (subgenre) era of hip-hop. Though Dr. Dre was Death Row’s top producer, the album was mostly produced by Daz Dillinger. Dr. Dre mixed the album. Dogg Food led the way for Daz to become the top in-house producer for Death Row until his departure in the late 1990s.
The video for the second single, “New York, New York”, caused some controversy when Snoop appeared in it kicking down buildings throughout New York. The trailer of the Dogg Pound was shot at during the process of making the “New York, New York” video although no one was injured and only one shot was fired. The song is one of three tracks on the album not produced by Daz, as DJ Pooh provided the beat.
Me Against The World
2Pac – All Eyez On Me (400)
All Eyez on Me is the fourth studio album by American rapper 2Pac (and the last to be released during his lifetime), released on February 13, 1996 by Death Row and Interscope Records. The album features the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles “How Do U Want It” and “California Love”. It featured five singles in all, the most of any of Shakur’s albums. Moreover, All Eyez on Me made history as the first ever double-full-length hip-hop solo studio album released for mass consumption globally.
All Eyez on Me was the second album by 2Pac to chart at number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, selling 566,000 copies in the first week. The album won the 1997 Soul Train R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year Award posthumously. Shakur also won the Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist at the 24th Annual American Music Awards. The album was certified Diamond by the RIAA on July 23, 2014, eighteen years after Shakur’s death, with shipments of over 5 million copies (each disc in the double album counted as a separate unit for certification).
In October 1995, Suge Knight and Jimmy Iovine paid the $1.4 million bail necessary to get Shakur released from jail on charges of sexual abuse. At the time, Shakur was broke and thus unable to make bail himself. All Eyez on Me was released following an agreement between Knight and Shakur which stated Shakur would make three albums under Death Row Records in return for them paying his bail. Fulfilling part of Shakur’s brand new contract, this double-album served as the first two albums of his three-album contract.
Euthanasia was the initial title of the album until it was changed to All Eyez on Me during the recording process. Shakur explained to MTV’s Bill Bellamy in December 1995 saying:
It’s called All Eyez on Me. That’s how I feel it is. I got the police watching me, the Feds. I got the females that want to charge me with false charges and sue me and all that. I got the females that like me. I got the jealous homeboys and I got the homies that roll with me. Everybody’s looking to see what I’mma do now so All Eyez on Me.
All Eyez on Me was originally intended for a Christmas 1995 release but was pushed back as Shakur continued to record music and shoot music videos for the album.
Recording and production
The album features guest spots from 2Pac’s regulars, such as former-Thug Life members and The Outlawz, as well as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, Nate Dogg, and George Clinton, Rappin’ 4-Tay, The Click, Method Man, and Redman among others. The song “Heartz of Men” samples a portion of Richard Pryor’s comedy album That Nigger’s Crazy. Most of the album was produced by Johnny “J” and Daz Dillinger, with help from Dr. Dre on the songs “California Love”, which he himself appeared in also as an album guest spot, and “Can’t C Me”, which was Clinton’s appearance. DJ Quik also produced, mixed and made an appearance on the album, but had to use his real name on the credits because his contract with Profile Records prevented him from using his stage name.
The songs on All Eyez on Me are, in general, unapologetic celebrations of living the “Thug Lifestyle”. Though there is the occasional reminiscence about past and present friends, it is a definite move away from the social and political consciousness of 2Pacalypse Now and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z…. The songs on the album along with the name of the album itself, allude to the feeling of being watched. With songs like “Can’t C Me” and “All Eyez on Me”, 2Pac makes it known that he feels the presence of surveillance, most notably by the police. The album also references the fact that 2Pac is under the attention of many fans, being his fourth studio album.