The Physical Tape by Mister Cee was the first “real” mixtape I purchased. I won’t lie – I had no idea who Mister Cee was back then (Now I know that he’s one of New York’s most respected DJs with strong ties to Big Daddy Kane and co-producer of Notorious BIG’s debut album Ready to Die). All I cared about was the tracklist he’d chosen to mix and blend. Mixtapes always provided access to the newest and hottest songs hitting the streets of New York which was always a leap and abound ahead of the curve to everyone else.
Straight off the bat, I spotted three Wu joints that I’d never heard before. Daytona 500 surfaced pretty quickly on Ghostface Killah’s first solo album Ironman and really stood out from any other sounds that season with it’s frantic pace and looping of Bob James’ Nautilus. Listening to the slang Ghostface, Raekwon and Cappadonna spit on that track was a master class in New York colloquialism. in fact, I still don’t understand the final bars Ghostface raps on that track..?
The original Rainy Dayz song was a 5 minute operetta on Raekwon’s classic Only Built For Cuban Linx Niggaz with a much slower and more emotional tempo than the rare remix Mister Cee picked for The Physical Tape. Instead of simply re-tuning the beat and spitting the same 16 bars, Rae, Ghost and RZA re-wrote the entire track and added extra flavour to the epic tale of love and war. Like I said in my liner notes of my NY Connection Perfection mixtape, the Rainy Dayz remix is still one of my top 5 favourite B-sides.
I finally found Wu-Wear on the High School High soundtrack, a musical compilation that was actually pretty stacked with rare rap and R’n’B singles. Seeing how Mister Cee dropped it on his tape, I had kudos over a lot of my friends for bringing something exclusive to the party. Thanks Cee! The song served as blatant advertising for the Clan’s ill-fated fashion line that they had launched once the money started flowing in. I love Wu-Tang but I don’t think I’d be seen dead ina stonewashed pair of Wu denim jeans. Sorry guys.
Running through the rest of the Physical Tape tracklist you might spot a couple of flagpole singles that were a sign of the times for hip hop during the mid-90s. the infamous East Coast – West Coast war was still being waged in the studio with rappers from each side of the continent firing lyrical shots at oneanother whilst others tried their best to bring peace back to the table.
A pretty loud lyrical shot was Common’s Bitch in Yoo fired directly at Ice Cube. The Chicago rapper felt pretty disrespected by Ice Cube after the former member of the NWA released some slanderous words towards Common in his Westcoast Slaughterhouse song. It turns out Ice Cube felt Common had started the beef by complaining about (the personification of) Hip Hop getting lost to the “Boyz in the Hood” in his underground anthem I used to love H.E.R. Thankfully the beef was squashed between Ice Cube and Common and Hip Hop didn’t lose anymore incredible talent to a rap battle taken too far.
Helping soothe things over was the combined East and West Coast effort of KRS One, Nas, B-Real, RBX and Dr. Dre who released East Coast West Coast Killa to shine light on the strengths of each side’s lyrical ability. Rap music was one of the most popular varieties of music in the western world during this period with plenty of money and fame for anyone blessed with mic skills.
The increased popularity of rap music also meant that the ‘pop’ aspect of the art form was definitely starting to be felt as rappers started to identify themselves as the multimillionaires or number one gangsters they rapped about. If you were dancing around in a flashy suit under flashing lights you had better have been thugged out in camouflage suits and Timberland boots lurking your local park benches if you wanted mainstream coverage. Hip Hop heavyweight and one half of Public Enemy, Chuck D released his single No to warn everyone about getting caught up in faking the funk and forgetting about the real roots of rap music and what it meant to be an emcee during the mid-90s.
The Lost Boyz Era – Lost Boyz Freestyle at Wendy Williams’ Birthday party
Music makes me high – Lost Boyz
Jam – A Tribe Called Quest, Consequence
Ready or not (rmx) – Fugees
The foulness freestyle Pt. 1 – Nas
Queen B – Lil’ Kim
Crush – Big Shug
D’evils – Jay-Z
The Bitch in You – Common
Elevators – Outkast
Affirmative Action – Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, Cormega
Rainy Dayz (rmx) – Raekwon, Ghostface Killah
No – Chuck D
Brownsville – M.O.P.
You’re mad at me – Lil’ Kim
Street dreams – Lil’ Kim
Operation Lockdown – Heltah Skeltah
Put it in your mouth Intro
Livin’ it up – Da Brat
One Day – Jeru the Damaja
The foulness freestyle Pt. 2 – Nas
Brooklyn’s Finest – Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls
Stick to ya gunz – M.O.P., Kool G Rap
Playin’ ya self – Jeru the Damaja
Blah, Blah, Blah – Blahzay Blahzay
Fuck me for free – Akinyele
Me and my click – Ill & Al Scratch, Greg Nyce
Wu-wear – RZA, Method Man, Cappdonna
Usual suspect – Big Noyd
Drop a gem on em – Mobb Deep
Daytona 500 – Ghostface Kilah, Raekwon, Cappadonna
No time – Lil’ Kim, Puff daddy
East Coast Killa, West Coast Killa – Dr. Dre, RBX, KRS One, B-Real, Nas
Itzsoweezee (Hot this year) – De La Soul