Tupac was in Digital Underground
OK, you probably did know this, but it’s still awesome. Check him out with Shock G!
Tone-Loc was a genuine gangster
… as in, he was in the Rolling 60s Crips, and was very much about that life. Dan Charnas’ excellent book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop tells the story of his first recording session, with DJs Matt Dike and Michael Ross:
Dike and Ross discovered soon enough that Smith was two people. On some days, he was Anthony, a nice kid who lived with his mom in a modest house just south of Hollywood: the kid who came into the studio, smoked, and said his rhymes in exchange for bags of weed, provided by Ross. On other days, however, he was ‘Tone-Loc,’ short for ‘loco,’ a guy who left his mother’s home every day to hang out with a notorious street gang called the Rolling 60s Crips. One day, Ross went to pick Anthony up for a session, and Tone-Loc appeared at the door holding a shotgun. On another, Tone-Loc showed up to the studio sweating with a fresh bullet wound in his shoulder. Most days Anthony was the nicest guy on the planet. But some days, Tone could be paranoid and menacing, pretty much scaring the shit out of everyone.
Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” Is Based On an Ice-T Song
Specifically, it’s based on a track of the same name from Ice-T’s 1993 album Home Invasion. Jay-Z lifted the original’s chorus and furnished it with entirely new verses — probably a good idea, considering that the original found Ice-T cavorting with 2 Live Crew’s Brother Marquis, a collaboration that yielded lyrics like, “I got a ho from the East, got a ho from the West/ Got a ho that likes to jack it off and rub it in her chest/ I got a ho from the North, a ho from the South/ A ho that likes to suck it long and hold it in her mouth.”
KRS-One is an acronym
It stands for “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everybody,” apparently — you can hear KRS spell it out in the first verse of “MCs Act Like They Don’t Know” (above).
The Wu-Tang Clan’s record deal changed hip hop (and the music industry)
RZA negotiated an unprecedented deal for his sprawling rap crew: Loud Records could release the album, but the group’s members would be free to negotiate their own solo deals with whoever they liked. It meant the Clan’s influence would be spread throughout the industry — as Charnas wrote in his book, RZA’s genius idea was that, “He would sign the Wu-Tang Clan not to one label, but all of them…. The Wu-Tang Clan became the first hip-hop group to reverse the relationship between record companies and artists. The members of the Wu weren’t branded like property with label logos. Quite the opposite: The labels themselves sought out the mark of the ‘W.’”