If someone asked me to get them into gangsta rap, I would have to start with the undeniable classics, the basics, the foundations for the genre: “Straight Outta Compton”, “Power”, “Livin Like Hustlers”, “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”, “The Chronic”. You should know the list. But if that person said “just one person’s discography to define the genre”, it would have to be Compton’s Most Wanted, MC Eiht.
Starting out with CMW, in the span of 3 years dropped three classics and had undeniable growth on each one. He was the guiding voice behind the group, the one most recognizable and quotable. “It’s A Compton Thang” was sparse but funky, with “This is Compton” and “Late Night Hype” being just two examples. Contributing heavily to the best year in hip hop, 1991, with the gangsta tales on “Straight Checkn’ Em” was more hardcore, from the gunshots over the Jaws-style beat of “Drive-by Miss Daisy” to “They Still Gafflin’”, a part two from the previous year’s “One Time Gaffled Em Up”. Also, let it be known, that CMW used the Isley Bros. “Footsteps in the Dark” sample a year before Cube made it the backbone to his good day. Completing this trifecta was the album with one of the dopest titles, “Music to Driveby”. This would have to be one of the jazziest records I’ve heard in the genre, but I mean that in a good way. Listen to “U’s a Bitch” or “Hoodrat”. The album is littered with classics, from the dense “Hood Took Me Under” to the dope scratches on “Another Victim”. And while everyone else was sampling James Brown or P-Funk, CMW stuck with the psychedelic moods of classic Isaac Hayes.
“All For The Money (Remix)”
“Hood Took Me Under (Remix)”
Two years, one movie and a classic single later, Eiht would go solo on one of the most hardcore albums in the history of gangsta rap, this is why I am one of his biggest fans. With the popularity of the West Coast, and gangsta rap at an all time high, and coming off of his classic role in the classic movie Menace II Society, he could have gone towards the mainstream. I was wary, after Snoop put out a party record and Cube opting for NOI g-funk, but Eiht didn’t disappoint. The album he dropped, We Come Strapped, was as if he consulted me personally on what I wanted most in a CD. Pure gangsta shit, not g-funk, but banging tracks with the g-funk whine and obligatory gunshots. And to top it off, it came with the sticker from the record company saying in effect, “we just wanna make money off of this”. From the track that inspired that note, “Take 2 Wit Me” about a shoot out with the cops, through the end, was a masterpiece of Compton gang stories. Eiht would come back two years later with Death Threatz, just as hardcore but with a totally different sound. This sound was more laid back, but that was just a disguise for the lyrics. He came with more gang-identifying tales, from telling you his street (159th Street) several times to the line “everything I was sporting was the color blue/gave a mad fuck who I threw it up to”. Eiht had made his niche by then, and was settling in it.
“The Brew Took Me Under (St. Ides)”
“Geez Make The World Go Round (Remix)”
King of the remixes, soundtracks and guest appearances from ’92-97, Eiht had the opportunity to stretch himself thin but instead produced nothing but heat. From having the lead singles on the Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society soundtracks to his classic “Paper Chasing” on Master P’s “West Coast Bad Boyz 2″ compilation, the soundtrack songs weren’t just leftovers or extras, but complemented his sound at the time. Especially, check out his tracks on Rhyme & Reason, New Jersey Drive and Tales from the Hood albums, all songs that could seamlessly fit into his albums. As well, it’s his remixes that are undeniably classic: “Hood Took Me Under” Remix, “Streiht Up Menace” remix, “Geez Make the Hood Go Round” both the 159th Street and Hood Remixes, “All for the Money” 1\2 Oz remix, “Thuggin It Up” remix and “You Can’t See Me” DJ Slip and DJ Spinna remixes, “Hit the Floor” Daz and Easy Mo Bee remixes, ending the run with the “Way We Run It” remix. Add in his guest spots on Kid Frost, Spice 1 and DFC albums and his St. Ides commercial (I’m not kidding), and there is a level of quality and quantity that are unparalleled.
“Thugin’ It Up (Remix)”
“Straight Up Menace (Remix)”
Amazingly, Eiht has been more active since the hip hop industry tanked than before. Since 2000, he has released 7 solo records, 3 mixtapes, an EP plus a CMW album, two collabo CDs with Spice 1 and one with Brotha Lynch Hung. And still, we are hungry for his DJ Premier produced album. Personally, I also wanted the ECMD album (Eiht & Chill Makin Dollars). He has worked with any and everybody, it doesn’t matter; He’s just as likely to show up in a Wu-Tang video or ODB remix as an SCC video or Cypress Hill remix; whether spitting over a DJ Slip beat or having Premo remix a classic song, Eiht never had to diss anywhere else to let you know where he repped (Compton, fool, Compton!) It doesn’t seem to matter what label he’s on, whether it be on D3 or Hoo Bangin or Real Talk , Eiht will put out gangsta shit. Even on one of the best selling and critically acclaimed dick-riding albums on 2012 he kicked exactly what you wanted and expected. You know with an Eiht album, you are getting gangsta shit, and that is reassuring. Not a pimp, or a lion, or some ridiculous Italian gangster wannabe, but Compton original gang music.
He’s been in the game for a quarter of a century, during the best and worst days for West Coast hip hop; front man for a seminal group, acted in a classic movie, involved in a legendary beef, collaborated with the best of each coast at the top of their game and like he says in one of his most recent songs (Where U Goin’ 2) “And i ain’t here to rhyme like another dude/I keep it Compton any time I’m in the mood”.