This is not to take focus off of Kanye West‘s recent moves and successes, but to shed light on an old sound he used to offer from 1996 to 2000. If you study Kanye’s production over the years you will certainly notice a development in sound, as expected from any artist with longevity in this hip-hop game. We will be breaking down strictly production in this article, while also take note of his early emceeing days as well. In the summer of 1996 Fat Beats made a big store-front shift, and during their grand opening night Kanye could be found alongside Al Tariq, Butter Lee and Black Attack on some raw, smooth 90’s tip. There is a good chance you will learn something new from at least one or two of these audio clips below. If not, take it as a refreshing reminder or something that you can talk to your brother or co-worker about later on today. Enjoy:
Chicago emcee Grav released his heavily slept on Down To Earth in 1996 under Correct Records. Kanye West produced a total of eight records on this album, making it his debut appearance on wax. Notice the raw boom-bap sound he was rocking here. Aside from Grav’s lyrical debauchery, the album’s production alone was given a lot of credit. “Sick Thoughts” is a standout record. So much so, that all hip-hop heads should have it in their stash.
In 1998 Jermaine Dupri released his debut Life in 1472 LP, with “Turn It Out” featuring Nas serving as the introduction track. This is a straight up party record, really highlighting those early So-So Def days we all remember all too well. Kanye West had some fun with this joint, tastefully utilizing some Willie Hutch and Davy DMX on the samples.
After Foxy Brown‘s successful 1996 Ill Na Na, she returned in 1999 with her sophomore release China Doll. The album is loaded with concrete features and production, with Kanye being the producer on “My Life.” Kick back with this dreamy, relaxing hook while scratching your head in shock if you didn’t already know Ye was on the boards.
Harlem World was a short lived collective, with only one album release titled The Movement, also from 1999. “You Made Me” appears near the beginning of the album, and features Carl Thomas and Nas. Kanye West appeared to keep this one pretty simple, allowing the emcees to do what they do.
Do you remember the voice on the introduction to Biggie‘s “Kick In The Door?” How about Black Rob‘s “Whoa!?” That is producer/emcee D-Dot (The Madd Rapper) who released his debut LP in 2000 titled Tell ‘Em Why U Madd, with Kanye West on the science. This is a real zone-out, mellow cut from Kanye’s super early catalogue.
With all that being said, we hope you learned at least one thing from this article about Ye and his early production. If you didn’t learn anything, maybe this was simply a refreshing reminder for you hip-hop junkies that he has been doing his thing for quite some time, and not just some overnight pop star that the younger generation may view him as.
Wait, here goes that bonus footage from 1996 at Fat Beats, as mentioned in our introduction. You’re welcome:
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