As I chronicled in my previous article, my rap journey began for reals in 1997. And through the next three years, I was able to collect and enjoy some very excellent records. I bought the best records from the 80s such as Public Enemy, NWA, Slick Rick, and EPMD. In addition, I copped the best of the best records that came out during the early to mid-90s such as A Tribe Called Quest, 2pac, Biggie Smalls first record, Nas’s first two records, and my personal favorites Mobb Deep’s The Infamous from 1995 and 1996’s Hell On Earth. And believe you me this is just a small sampling of the CDs that I bought from 1997 to 1999.

But something strange happened to my rap taste around the turn of the millennium. Simply put, they became much stranger. Eclectic. Looking back in retrospect, I can now see the reasons for why this happened. The rap game was changing. The old-school dudes from the 80s were not dropping new records for the most part. And the 90s rappers that I had so much enjoyed had begun to change. They were losing their authenticity. They were becoming the dreaded word of the time… they were becoming COMMERCIAL.

Previously hungry, battle-ready MCs were now targeting the club scene and disc jockeys on mainstream radio stations. When I first discovered rap, it did not matter so much to me if a song had commercial/hit song sensibilities. However, it was the rough rugged and raw music that made me an uber fan. And this need was no longer being met by the top dogs of the day.

So naturally, I turned my sites to the antithesis of the word mainstream, namely the underground. And luckily for me, the underground scene was thriving with plenty of talented artists. They also happened to be “very strange”, at least some of them.

But not all of them were quirky or bizarre, many of them just celebrated hip-hop’s roots such as DJing, breakdancing, graffiti art, and of course MC’ing. In this group of “traditional” artists, you had people like Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, and Lootpack. One thing to note here is that these were all West Coast artists.

But on the East Coast, things were a lot stranger. This could’ve been a coincidence or possibly something to do with the hip-hop culture going on there. My theory is that while the West Coast guys were paying homage to the golden age of rap, the fellas on the East Coast were trying to reinvent it.

And out of this need to be ultra original came artists like The High and Mighty, Company Flow, and Kool Keith with his many bizarre ultra egos. I must note that Deltron 3030 was a “bizarre” release from a West Coast artist (Del The Funkee Homosapien). However, he was teamed up with two producers whose origins are unknown to me.

All in all this period of my rap journey exposed me to the four elements of hip-hop and but also some more mind bending material. This strange mixture involved watching movies like Wild Style, while also embracing the weirdo world of turntablism like the InvisIbl Skratch Picklz and countless other equally bugged-out DJs.

This period would mark the final chapter of my rap journey and it was clear to many that rap was almost dead. It’s fitting that Nas officially acknowledged this in 2006 and declared that “Hip-Hop Is Dead”.

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