On this day in hip-hop history, Whodini becomes the first hip-hop act to have a Top 40 album, Deltron 3030 visits the dystopian future, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek team up, Ludacris drops his major label debut, and Eminem and Wyclef Jean are born.
1984: Whodini makes rap history with Escape
Whodini dropped their second studio album, Escape, in 1984, which was recorded over a two-week period at London’s Battery Park Studios. The album spawned three major hits for the group, “Freaks Come Out at Night,” “Friends” and “Five Minutes of Funk.” Off the strength of those singles, it became the first hip-hop album to chart within the U.S. Top 40, and was also one of the first rap albums to be certified platinum. Whodini’s crossover success helped propel hip-hop forward, showing just how lucrative the genre could be, but also highlighting its influence on pop culture. Group member Jalil spoke about Whodini’s influence on rap music and culture in a 2004 interview.
“What Whodini brought to hip-hop culture was that we dressed to impress,” he said. “We put the style into the hip-hop outfits. When cats was just wearing sweat suits we brought the proper attire. We brought the silk, we brought the leather. Outside of that, Whodini brought the originality to the music. Before we started, everybody was always using somebody else’s jams. It’s repeating now, but we brought the originality to the music. The third thing is, remember when everybody had dancers? We started that. We brought the dancers behind the rappers to the game. We took the basics from hip-hop on the streets and traveled with it on the road. We added on to that by going platinum, with our style actually the first to go platinum, then Run-DMC, then the Fat Boys. Those are the things we brought to the game.”
2000: Deltron 3030 reveals a dystopian future
The self-titled debut album of supergroup Deltron 3030 (producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, DJ Kid Koala and rapper Del the Funky Homosapien) arrived just in time for the new millennium. A 21-track concept album set in the year 3030, the record is a dystopian rap opera which stars Del in the role of Deltron Zero, a soldier who is rebelling against the New World Order.
“Deltron’s a lot of work, man, lyrically and spiritually,” Del admitted in a 2013 interview. “He’s not someone who I live as every day – he’s not part of my world, the regular world. So to be able to come up with all of this stuff, all of this stuff that goes really deep, it’s like writing a movie or something. You’ve got to do some research.”
The album spawned two singles, “Time Keeps On Slipping” and “3030,” though it barely cracked the Billboard 200. Nevertheless, it resonated beyond the charts, becoming an underground staple in alternative pop culture circles.
2000: Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek drop Train of Thought as Reflection Eternal
In 2000, wordsmith Talib Kweli and Cincinnati producer Hi-Tek formed Reflection Eternal and dropped their debut album, Train of Thought. Tek had previously worked with Kweli on his album with Mos Def, Black Star, and reconnected with the emcee to create one of the most acclaimed rap albums of the early ’00s. The album helped usher in the new soul sound that was being honed by the Soulquarians, with rich bass lines, liquid guest vocals and Kweli rapping at his height, delivering bars about living, surviving and thriving in spite of oppressive circumstances. Kweli talked to Complex about how the album’s lead single, “The Blast,” almost didn’t happen.
“The Reflection Eternal album was completely recorded and done and we handed it to Rawkus and we were ready to go. Then Rawkus was like, ‘There’s no single that we feel comfortable with on this album,’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? ‘Move Somethin,’ that’s the single.’ They were like, ‘It’s cool, but we feel like there should be another record. So you gotta go in the studio and make another record with a single in mind.’ This pissed me off because I felt like I put my heart and soul into the album. I’m like, ‘Who the fuck are these fucking rich white dudes telling me that I don’t have a single? What the fuck do they know?’ But we went in the studio anyway. The beat for ‘The Blast’ was very old. My manager at the time, Corey Smyth, was stressing me like, ‘You guys need to make a record that says how to pronounce Kweli’s name, because no one knows how to do it.’ Hi-Tek was like, ‘Well this record kind of sounds like they’re saying ‘Kweli.’’ And Corey was like, ‘You should rap on that beat and make a record and say Kweli over and over again.’ … Rawkus, they were right about that. As soon as that record came out it took off for us, especially on the West Coast. Both Snoop Dogg and DJ Quik had radio shows on The Beat, 92.3 at the time, and those two guys were very very instrumental in spreading that record. They both played that record a lot on the radio show. Hi-Tek worked a lot with Snoop Dogg over the years, and that was the start of it… “
2000: Ludacris releases Back for the First Time
Ludacris returned with his sophomore album, Back for the First Time, in 2000. The record mostly served as a major label reissue of his independent debut, Incognegro, with the exception of a few added tracks, including “Stick ‘Em Up,” the Neptunes-produced “Southern Hospitality,” “Phat Rabbit” and a remix of “What’s Your Fantasy?” featuring Shawnna, Foxy Brown and Trina. Released on Def Jam South/Disturbing Tha Peace, Luda’s fame skyrocketed with the album’s release, becoming the label’s flagship artist. The success of the album showcased Scarface‘s executive skills, as he was the label’s president, and reintroduced playful rap to landscape with his comical bars and vibrant videos. The album is triple platinum and set Luda up for the continued success he’d experience on his follow-ups Word of Mouf (2001) and Chicken-n-Beer (2003), and The Red Light District (2004). Luda talked with HipHopDX about how the album’s lead single almost didn’t happen.
“I put out ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Game Got Switched’ produced by Organized Noize on the B-side,” he said. “I remember having a lot of conversations about which song everyone thought would work better, so I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but I put my money on ‘What’s Your Fantasy’ after putting my faith out there. But it was close to being ‘Game Got Switched.'”
Wyclef Jean and Eminem are born
In 1969, Wyclef Jean was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. Coming to prominence with the Fugees, Wyclef has gone on to achieve solo success since the Fugees dropped their final album in 1996, The Score. He’s sold over 10 million albums and has emerged as an actor and political activist. Marshall Mathers was born in 1972. Considered one of the best emcees ever, and one of the best-selling artists of all-time, Eminem has had 10 No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 220 million records worldwide.