We Revisited A Rap Pages From March, 1999, Which Detailed The Hectic Release of “Tical”
Had the Y2K bug actually ended the world, the March, 1999 issue of Rap Pages would’ve made for an interesting artifact for future citizens of the hellscape. They’d likely believe that pre-apocalyptic society clothed itself in baggy, colorful garments, lived in palatial mansions with scantily-clad concubines, and organized itself into cliques, identifiable by jewel-encrusted pendants.
Actually, all those things were true for Master P, whose No Limit Records topped the Billboard R&B charts (rap albums weren’t ranked until 2004) a staggering seven times in 1999, and twice in March alone. Even if Master P isn’t, or wasn’t, your cup of bedazzled tea, plenty else was going on at the time. Check out more below.
“It’s midnight on Monday, the night of the Tical 2000: Judgement Day in-store and New York’s Finest are telling everyone not in the line of 1,000 people outside Tower Records to ‘keep it moving.’ The seven police cruisers and two paddy wagons are outfinessed on Broadway by the half a dozen record company vans dolled up with album covers and pretty artist pictures…Several thousand folks and they’re all here to buy the new CD–or to seem like they are. The guy at the front of the line has come from Vancouver. He’s been here since 5:30 p.m…Judgement Day sells a total of 413,000 records its first week of release.”
Many Green Label readers probably can’t understand the near-bedlam of a CD signing because they’re probably too young to have purchased CDs, or remember when rap albums regularly sold millions of copies, or to have visited a Tower Records, or remember the overstated anxiety surrounding the turn of the Millennium. Though Method Man’s star was still ascendant before the release of Tical 2000, its commercial success wasn’t particularly unusual–No Limit Records manufactured Gold and Platinum records, and Onyx’s third album reached #10 on the Billboard 200.
Perhaps more notable than Tical 2000’s commercial success was the overt police presence at a CD signing. Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani was rightfully perceived to be anathema to the interests of New York City’s people of color, and was the subject of lyrical barbs from Notorious B.I.G., De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Pharoahe Monch, Shyne, Cocoa Brovaz, and, most overtly, little-known group Screwball, who released “Who Shot Rudy.” Giuliani’s stop-and-frisk tactics and “Quality of Life” initiatives disproportionately targeted minorities–that New York City police would come out en masse for a CD signing wasn’t out of character for the Giuliani administration.
“Thug living is truly what [Trick Daddy] knows. Past encounters won’t allow Trick the luxury of penning raps without feeling, and he takes offense at rappers that create what he feels are frivolous songs for the sole purpose of collecting a check.
‘From the beginning to the end, the song don’t mean nothing–they just do records. All my records mean something. I take all my [work] serious,’ he explains rather angrily. ‘I took two songs off this album (www.thug.com)–not because they were wack or nothing. The songs raw, right, but they ain’t hard. I want every song to be hard.’”
Trick Daddy’s hardships–his brother’s gruesome murder, two prison stints, and a severely unstable childhood–provided the inspiration for music which catapulted the Miami native into national stardom. The March 1999 issue of Rap Pages found the rapper near the peak of his powers; the wonderfully titled www.thug.com was the first in a string of five albums that would be certified Gold, including Thugs Are Us, which went Platinum and spawned mega-hit “I’m A Thug.”
This decade has been less kind to Trick Daddy. In addition to lupus, which Trick Daddy refuses to treat, he was arrested in April 2014 (on charges that were later dropped), and in August 2015 he filed for bankruptcy because of mounting taxes and child support payments. Even www.thug.com is no longer the hub for intellectual debate it once was.
“The fact that [DJ Quik’s] managed to sustain his place in the game for so long and still have core identity is unparalleled. In addition, he never wants to cheat his audience and always wants to give us something new every album. ‘I’m going to keep growing, and when I stop growing that’s when y’all can stop buying my records.’”
DJ Quik’s promise of artistic growth, made four months after the release of his fourth album, Rhythm-al-ism, has been fulfilled. With Rhythm-al-ism, Quik began moving away from gangster rap and toward a more R&B-influenced sound; Quik told Complex that a then-recent friendship with El DeBarge made him feel “not so rough-around-the-edges” and that he became “like an R&B pretty boy.”
“Try catching up to Jay Dee when he’s working. Go ahead, try it. Call his manager, Tim Maynor, who’s probably chasing him too. Call his Slum Village counterparts, T-3 and Baatin, who are probably with him, working as well and ain’t too easy to find themselves. Call Slum Village’s label, Barak Entertainment/A&M. Hell, call A&M’s Cali office. Go ahead.”
The work from which Jay Dee (a.k.a. J Dilla) couldn’t be torn away from was Fantastic Vol. 2, the only official release by Slum Village’s original lineup. J Dilla’s remarkable work ethic yielded hundreds of instrumentals for the likes of 2Pac, Mos Def, De La Soul, Q-Tip, Common, and Busta Rhymes. The producer’s premature demise in 2006 hasn’t fully stemmed the tide of material–various labels have released five posthumous LP’s, plus numerous EP’s and singles. J Dilla wasn’t the only original Slum Village member to meet an early grave; Baatin, who struggled with schizophrenia, died in 2009.
“Xenon [Entertainment] actively targets…the undertapped (sic) Hip-Hop market by forging relationships with urban entities like Rap Pages and members of the Wu-Tang clique such as La The Darkman. But forging a relationship with Wu-Tang was inevitable…So Xenon stepped to the plte and renamed some of its titles Enter the 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Ol’ Dirty Kung Fu and began offering them as the Wu-Tang Collection, Wu-Tang Collection II, and 36th Chamber Collection…”
Ads for Xenon Entertainment’s reissued Blaxploitation and kung-fu flicks were rap magazine staples in the ’90’s and ’00s. RZA’s interest in film long predated whatever dubious dealings were involved in lending the Wu-Tang name to rebranded kung-fu movies, but the Xenon-Wu-Tang partnership would prove to be an interesting segue in his career. In May 1999, Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was released with a soundtrack featuring an original score by RZA, and songs by the Wu-Tang Clan and Wu associates of variable quality. Jarmusch’s follow-up to Ghost Dog, the anthology film Coffee and Cigarettes, also features RZA, who discusses the deleterious effects of the titular vices alongside GZA and Bill Murray.