Throughout middle school and most of high school, all I listened to was mainstream “alternative rock.” For me, this meant Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots, followed by Green Day, The Offspring, and Blink-182. Everything changed, however, when I decided to buy Wu-Tang’s classic debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
I rushed home to rip the plastic wrapping off the CD case and hit play, but wasn’t prepared for the kung fu movie skit or RZA’s hypnotizing snare to seep into my brain. After Ghostface finished spitting the first bars of the record, I was hooked. Wu-Tang’s tag-team verses and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s unique flow sealed the deal before I even finished “Shame On A N*gga.” From then, it was on. I pushed alternative rock aside for what seemed like a never-ending stream of groundbreaking mainstream hip-hop records.
Whether it was East Coast, West Coast, or Southern hip-hop, it didn’t matter. I wanted to hear it all. I devoured Biggie, 2Pac, Nas, Big Pun, Jay-Z, DMX, Snoop, Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang solo records, Outkast, and Eminem. And when I needed more, I could go back in history and fill my eardrums with the words of N.W.A., Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Run DMC, Eric B. & Rakim, and Boogie Down Productions.
Moving to New York for college opened hip-hop to me even more. Instead of just reading about Rawkus Records and Def Jux artists in The Source and HipHopSite.com (R.I.P.), I could actually see them live. This era saw the rise and fall of both ill-fated labels, while Def Jam and Interscope Records seemed to hit their peak, the latter on the back of the G-Unit/Shady/Aftermath goliath.