Words By Prop Jay
Some people see circa 2003 as a dark period that passed through Hip-Hop: The Jansport Era.
I gave a chance to the music many people were either oblivious to or quick to dismiss through ignorance. While I can’t front and pretend it was the best of times for H.E.R., it was a breath of fresh air from the Shiny Suit era. In fact, some memorable music came out of it and there are quite a few tracks that still get play if I have time to do some reminiscing. Here are a handful taken from my Jansport…
Slug kills this intro by Ant. Off their God Loves Ugly LP it made for a welcome opening track then and seems to perfectly fit the spot here. Ant’s slow production matched by Slug’s crafted cadence captures the essence of nerd-rap.
Living Legend member Murs was famous among backpackers far before his collabo with 9th. Here Murs slows it down and shows why he’s a “living legend.” This track is filled with bass that thumps, making you wish you had “two fifteens up in the trunk….”. Perfect for “Sippin that bourbon slow with nowhere to go.”
Mystik Journeymen are the most obscure artists on here, but they probably had a larger underground following than many. “Never Forget” is grimy, un-mastered and without any quality filtering techniques. But this rawness gives us PSC and BFAP’s own take of the boom bap and the early comings of the living legends crew. This is off their debut a 4001: A Stolen Legacy.
Damn near labeled goofy, Renaissance is the epitome of the Jansport era. Ab Rude is another Bay Area rep who paved the way for artists such as Mikah 9 and Freestyle Fellowship. Somewhat of an out-there song, it’s catchy and representative of the time when Hip Hop’s constant thugged-out element grows weary. Renaissance and Ab Rude should be considered nerd rap taken to an extremist’s level.
This collective of emcees — some featured here — represent the Bay Area hard. “Rabbit Hole” was the single off of their better-known album, Almost Famous. But “Nothing Less” with Slug was the gem. With the strings in the background the word genius would begin to describe the production of The Grouch while Murs, Slug and the other Legends lay it down.
From their debut album Waterworld, “Reality Check” contains not just one, but two beautiful piano loops. The intro is eerie; lingering on and transforming from haunting to elegant. Lyrically advanced Binary Star were dope for the two albums they lasted, but once they broke up and attempted a comeback the magic never returned.
Hiero isn’t going to be “new” to too many here, but these cats repped this sub-genre with distinction. “Powers That Be” has been one of my favorite Hiero tracks since the second I heard it. Pep Love finally breaks out and overshadows the other members. The rolling drums are unique and have kept this track on repeat for years.
“I Can” was the single off of Lyrics Born’s 2003 debut as a solo artist, Later That Day. A summer banger by the original member of the legendary Soleside’s crew with characteristic jazz-infused funk Lyric’s Born always brings when he handles his own production.
Mr. Complex is an obscure emcee from NY who had his time on the stage during the turn of the century. With DJ Spinna just starting to get his rep at this time, Pharoahe almost at his peak and Apani B Fly an up an coming female emcee this track was the beginning of a group with a lot of potential that never made much of themselves thereafter. DJ Spinna shows that even back then he had a gift on the boards and created a jewel that never made much noise, but blew up the Jansport.
Download — All 9 Tracks