High School Reunion: Sean Morris (1992-1996)
Back when I had a hairline, my grades were exponentially better than my social skills. Headphones permanently affixed to my ears tuned out the presumably inane banter of my peers. Bill Clinton’s first term coincided with the second golden era of hip-hop, when ignorance and intelligence may not have done the same numbers, but did get comparable coverage in The Source and on Rap City. I listened to ’93 Til Infinity, Illmatic, Resurrection, and other noted landmarks of the era, but nowhere near as much as Get In Where You Fit In, We Come Strapped, and Operation Stackola.
I never dressed or acted as if I was in Menace II Society; I have always been a sucker for theatricality in art. Plus, there was that teenage angst stereotype to contend with. I don’t remember being angry at anyone or anything in particular, at least not until my family moved from San Francisco to Fairfield at the beginning of junior year. Instead of emerging from my shell at sixteen, I reinforced it with homemade 90-minute mixes stuffed with increasingly explicit content to entertain myself, not to mention my mother and grandfather (who is still a Snoop Dogg fan to this day). Barely scratching the surface of my adolescent music collection, these songs are more memorable than any algebra or chemistry test that I aced or classmate that I concocted an elaborate romantic fantasy about.
It all began with Cross Colours, an Africa medallion, and an X hat…
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – Lots of Lovin
I might have been the only fourteen year-old who kept the didactic soundtrack and thrilling score to Spike Lee‘s Malcolm X in constant rotation.
Terence Blanchard – Fruit of Islam
The Chronic is easily the defining album of the period when gangsta rappers became pop stars.
Dr. Dre – Deez Nutz
“’93 was strictly R&B/fucked up haircut listenin’ to Jodeci…” Bizarre of D12 could have gone on to list dozens of others. No pictures of my flattop fade have survived, so don’t even ask.
Tony Toni Toné – Anniversary
Of all the albums to turn me into a full-fledged hip-hop head, it had to be 187 He Wrote, which directed me to labelmates Souls of Mischief.
Spice 1 – Dumpin’ ‘Em In Ditches
Even though I took Driver’s Ed with everyone else, I didn’t get my license until I was almost twenty. This was my theme song anyway.
Masta Ace Incorporated – Born to Roll
YSB (Young Sisters & Brothers) magazine had a pullout poster of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Big Boi and Andre 3000’s musical and emotional range was immediately, startlingly unique.
OutKast – Crumblin’ Erb
“The people love her because she is and always will be the Queen of Misery!” -Gary Marshall, Soapdish
Mary J. Blige – I Love You
I could not stand the majority of American ’90s rock, and still can’t. I was a decade late to the Exile in Guyville party due to this bias, but the universally relatable Downward Spiral lured me in nonetheless.
Nine Inch Nails – Piggy
I would be remiss if I did not include at least one Bay Area playa. Independent Bay artists were my second favorite rap obsession behind Death Row Records releases.
E-40 – Spittin’
1995 was Wu-Tang Clan‘s creative zenith, from Meth & Mary to Rae & Ghost. In the middle of all that came the hysterical ramblings of a madman genius.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Don’t You Know
Even though I bought Season of da Siccness in June, when I walked out of the mall the sky had turned black. Need I say more?
Brotha Lynch Hung – Siccmade
I didn’t get into Biggie until “One More Chance” came out because “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” rubbed me the wrong way. Thankfully, the bulk of Ready to Die did not contain uninspired samples.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Everyday Struggle
All Eyez On Me hasn’t aged as well as Me Against the World, but aside from The Pirates of Penzance (I was the very model of a modern Major-General) there was nothing that this senior listened to more.
2Pac – Skandalouz
I didn’t switch over to compact discs until 1997, so initially I had no idea why fellow heads were crooning “hell no muthafucka!” in the halls. L-Boogie, come home!
Fugees – Mista Mista