Please Jam: Remembering the ’93 Summer Jams

    (Editor’s note: We are interrupting our regularly scheduled PJ steelo so that Vince can take a nostalgic, 20-year trip back to the Summer of 1993. Please Jam…)

    Dre Day” — Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg, The Chronic

    VINCE: The Chronic is really a 1993 album, despite its late ‘92 release. “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang” ruled the winter and most of the spring. And when I say ruled, I mean there was no hip-hop or R&B song even remotely close to its popularity. And then, while it was still bumpin’, Dre and the crew dropped “Dre Day.” Actually, “Dre Day” is the censored, ready for radio (and video…video was very important back then) version. I was only 14 in ‘93, but I can’t imagine there was a more anthemic musical moment than “Bow-wow-wow-wow yippee yo, yippe yay, Doggy Dogg’s definitely in the house/ Bow-wow-wow-wow yippee yo, yippe yay, Death Row’s definitely in the house.” (More likely the explicit version.) And the beat, of course, is heavily owed to George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” which ruled parties ten years earlier. You can just envision some sweatbox house party “freak dancing” (remember that term) to this groove.

    JAMES: I alway appreciate Dr. Dre for being the first one to rattle my eardrums in my rap listening career. This song is one with that effect as well, though sadly I’m down a pair of decent headphones and my laptop speakers aren’t doing this justice at all.

    Amongst iconic lines, where does “Bow-wow-wow-wow” rank? I mean, someone has a career based on it. It’s surely in the top five.

    But whenever Snoop and Dre get on a track, it’s always clear that Snoop was meant to rap over Dre’s beats. It’s the main reason I prefer Doggystyle to The Chronic; there’s less Dre rapping. It’s not that I don’t like Dre as a rapper, but the difference between Snoop and Dre makes me appreciate the song less. It’s like I prefer peanut butter and jelly over peanut butter and peanut butter.

    Also, let me just depress you for a second: I was four in 1993.

    Breakadawn” — De La Soul, Buhloone Mindstate

    VINCE: In the ‘90s, the “radio request” was still a real thing. If you had a jam you wanted to hear, you could wait on hold for the operator to answer and put in your request for the “top seven at 7” or something like that. I didn’t have money to buy “single” cassettes, so I couldn’t go to “Sam Goody” and cop. I needed to take a “blank” that had, at that point, been “taped over” countless times and sit on the phone and in front of the “boombox” so I could request it and then “dub it” when the “disc jockey” “spun it.” I must have called WBLK a dozen times and spent several collective hours on the phone — and in front of that boom box waiting to press record — in May of ‘93. It finally happened one evening. And although there are a few songs that got at me more that summer (namely the Wu joint below), other than the Pac joint below, no song just speaks “summer of ‘93” like this glorious work. This is coming home with salt on your face and black palms from hoopin’ all day. This is drinking water from a hose. This is that feeling of unease you got when biking through “other hoods” to get to your friends’ cribs. This is sitting on the porch, laughing too loud as the sun goes down. This is your Pops throwing burgers on the grill. This is 75 degrees with a breeze. This is Mike Jack with the boom bap. This is too nostalgic.

    JAMES: I listened to De La Soul on YouTube for the first time, and that’s basically the only way I consume De La Soul. I will never have to go through as much effort to listen to a track as you did.

    I wonder how that effects my enjoyment or appreciation for a given song? There is no way “Breakadawn” will ever mean as much to me, or any Millennial, without that feeling of nostalgia, but what about my favorite songs now? Will I ever appreciate a song as much as you appreciate this one since my only experience of “angst” these days is wondering when an album/mixtape will leak early? I haven’t had to wait beyond the expected release date for any amount of music in about two years.

    I think it probably means it will be difficult for me to ever do a “Summer of ‘13” post in 20 years, for example. You have strong memories of this event. I won’t remember the time someone Dropboxed me Doris.

    It probably allows me to be a more productive human being though.

    M.E.T.H.O.D. Man” — Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

    VINCE: Do you hear that kick and snare come in??? RZA doesn’t get enough credit for being so funky. He is going to town on that groove, pulling ish in-n-out right on the precipice of A.D.D. … but with killer precision.

    But let’s talk summer of ‘93 … Wu dropped “Protect Ya Neck” in May. Well, that’s when the single was officially released. Back then, the idea of releasing a underground “street joint” first and then a “radio single” seemed to be just taking root. I don’t think EPMD or Run DMC or A Tribe Called Quest intended to do anything with their first singles other than get on the radio. By the mid-’90s, however, the “street, then radio” M.O. was basically a strategy. This happened organically with the Wu, though. “Protect Ya Neck” got the buzz going toward the end of the winter and through the spring on some, “Who is this fleet of super-dope emcees and what’s with the kung fu samples and … wait, Staten Island reps like that?” Then Meth dropped this joint — it was basically a solo single. The charisma was undeniable, his flow was in the cut like a Bootsy Collins groove, his voice was outsized and his energy was infectious. Meth was a star and if RZA was the driving creative force behind the Wu juggernaut that soon took off, Meth was the megawatt persona. We were deep in the bowels of the summer when this really hit — the hot muggy portion. That’s how this joint (and “How Many MCs”) cooked.

    By the time you went back to school after Labor Day, this was the joint cats were beatboxing and banging out on tables for the cypher.

    JAMES: Method Man just comes along and semi-casually kills one of RZA’s finest efforts. I imagine this track as one where he heard the beat, nodded, and just started rhyming. It sounds like it’s so easy for him, like he’s just doing it in his spare time.

    Weak” — SWV, It's About Time

    VINCE: I typically avoid referencing the videos during Please Jam. This is partly a matter of principle, since this feature is about the music, not the visual. But, really, this is also because PJ is a feature created for new music and, for the most part, music videos don’t matter anymore. Back in the ‘90s they did. “Dre Day”’s popularity had a lot to do with A.J. Johnson’s “Sleazy E” spoof. “N*ggas In Paris” rocked the summer of 2011 and didn’t premiere a video until the fall. That was impossible in 1993.

    What does this have to do with “Weak”? Not much, other than that the first 20 seconds of this video can only be topped in “One Question: Are You Kidding Me?” ridiculousness because Rick Ross and DJ Khaled started making videos. As for the song, I don’t have a ton to say. I was in full-bore “cypher-boy emcee” mode by this point, so I wasn’t rocking with too many girl-group slow jams. My favorite R&B joint of the summer was “Honey Dip” by Portrait, because of that cold groove. But there’s no denying that SWV had the summer on lock from the rhythm and blues side of things.

    JAMES: What do you mean music videos don’t matter? I don’t think that’s accurate at all. The cultural impact of music videos is certainly diminished, but videos are racking up millions of views online. That’s one of the main ways artists make money these days. If anything, music videos matter much more than they used to because they allow artists more financial independence, and thus more creative control over their music. Earl Sweatshirt and Joey Bada$$ wouldn’t be blazing trails in music without that kind of outlet; they’d be a part of the machine, ignored or forced to make rachet music for radio play.

    I’ll take the diminished cultural value of a given video in exchange for the freedom of expression millennial rappers have all day. That expression is what made hip-hop in the first place.

    Backseat of My Jeep” — LL Cool J, 14 Shots to the Dome

    VINCE: This was classic Casanova L, right here. (Shoutout to deputy editor Khalid for submitting this one.) That bassline was nasty. And L was basically giving us a play-by-play of his bed-game. The drive-through setting takes me back, too. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, for my money, my favorite LL joint of that summer was the A-side of this single, “Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag.” That Ester Phillips “ That’s All Right With Me” sample is one of my all-time favs on the low-low.

    JAMES: Of course Khalid submitted a classic Casanova track. As predictable as me putting Curren$y on the site at any given opportunity.

    Anyway, I’m just not a big fan of LL. I don’t know what it is, really. He might just have such a different cultural significance to me that it’s somewhat hard to take him at face value. To you, he’s an originator. To me, he’s more of an actor than artist. It’s not as bad as what young people think about Flava Flav, but Flava can also play multiple instruments and still spit, plus his songs about revolution and unity still ring true today. LL’s last song…well, let’s just not go there.

    I Get Around” — Tupac, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.

    And the winner goes to…

    VINCE: And the winner of the ‘93 summer is….

    Tupac was a star before the summer of ‘93, but it’s my belief that this summer, in particular, is when he became a superstar and a sex symbol. Their was this summer jam right here, accompanied by his lothario role in this pool party video with all the fly brown skins in the two-pieces. And then, a few weeks after July 4, Poetic Justice hit theaters and Pac was the envy of all men playing opposite Janet Jackson. And this was peak-sexy Janet. Pac was on a roll.

    Some of my favorite people in the world are from Oakland and Frisco is one of my fav cities, so I have a special kind of love for all things the Bay. I appreciate that this was Oakland Pac (before Death Row L.A. Pac), bringing in Shock G and Money B from his Digital Underground days (Pac, James, was merely a backup dancer in iconic Digital Underground videos “Humpty Dance” and “Dowatchalike”). As soon as those opening keys drop, anyone my age thinks summer. Guarans.

    JAMES: This is one of my favorite Tupac songs. It’s the song I’m most likely to sneak on a playlist regardless of what the rest of the feeling of the songs are. As I suspected, it’s got the highest number of plays on my iTunes out of any ‘Pac track.

    Was “I Get Around” considered risque back in the day? This strikes me as 1993’s version of “F*cking Problem,” which goes to show how far down the gutter popular hip-hop has fallen (not that I’m hating on it, because I’ll play “F*cking Problem” all night).

    “I Get Around” represents much of the sex-roles that reinforces one of the most stereotypical social norms from the ‘90s: It’s OK for men to sleep around, but not for women. Sleeping around is getting less and less masculine in the “YOLO” era championed by young females everywhere that feel like they don’t need a rationale to justify sexual liberation.

    But any song that goes there is gonna get play when drinks are around. That’s just how it works. And Tupac, Shock G and Money B are three of the flyest to ever do it. Certified Jam, from ‘93 to ‘13, and beyond.