In 1988 the hip-hop genre still existed well outside the mainstream, and the controversy surrounding it meant that this Warner Bros. ad from the time was actually kind of risky. Brian Coleman’s new book Check the Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies collects the stories behind classic rap albums from hip-hop’s golden era, as well as bits of historical ephemera.
Tracklist of recordings for the soundtrack to Charlie Ahearn’s prescient and ”ridiculously ambitious” Wild Style, a hip-hop movie made before the term ”hip-hop” had even entered the common parlance. The soundtrack has its own reputation as a cult classic.
A copy of the first demo Kool Keith recorded under his Dr. Octagon moniker, sent out to DJs by producer Kutmasta. Their surprisingly enthusiastic response led to the beginning of Keith’s ”Octagon era.”
An early DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince print ad.
An ad for Ice Cube’s solo debut taps into both the notoriety he’d earned with N.W.A. and the Black Panthers-inspired revolutionary rhetoric he adopted after splitting from the group.
The sleeve for ”Ladies” by electro funk pioneers Mantronix, who helped bridge New York’s burgeoning house music and hip-hop scenes.
A Japanese tour poster for Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s short-lived but highly influential collaboration Black Star, with a photo taken from the cover of Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star. ”Mos was real in and out during that album,” says producer Hi-Tek.
The original digital audio tapes of 6 Feet Deep, the debut album by the NYC supergroup Gravediggaz that brought together RZA and Prince Paul.
Gravediggaz promote a show in typically morbid fashion with an invite designed to look like a toe tag.
Before breaking big with ”O.P.P.” Naughty By Nature recorded one album under the name The New Style.
The first single by Greg Nice and Smooth Bee, who’d later go by the shorter and snappier name Nice & Smooth. Smooth got his break in the music industry writing raps for Bobby Brown.
Wu-Tang member Raekwon’s solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is famous for introducing the character of the Cristal-sipping luxury gangster to the rap mythos and for coming on a purple cassette: ”I wanted to make sure that the average cat who would listen to it had something special in his cassette deck.”
A page out of a scrapbook owned by Steele from the duo Smif-N-Wessun. The pair (Steele and Tek) were a throwback: ”[N]o dance songs; […] no overt political rabble-rousing; no MTV-crossover videos.”
A promotional matchbook for the Brooklyn group Stetsasonic, a sprawling group in the era of solo acts and duos.
The test pressing of Stetsasonic’s ”Just Say Stet.”
A label bio sheet for Stetsasonic, ”America’s Hip-Hop Band.”
Print ad for the debut album by Bay Area political rap group The Coup.
MC Serch’s handwritten lyric sheet for 3rd Bass’s ”Sons of 3rd Bass.”
Invite for a 3rd Bass label showcase.
Print ad for Black Sheep’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing with a photo from the same shoot that produced the iconic cover.
Print ad for Company Flow, the Brooklyn crew that launched El-P’s career.