January: Tone Loc - Loc'ed After Dark
Some may deride Tone Loc as a mere two-hit wonder, but, oh, what a gloriously non-guilty pleasure those two hits were. And don't think the employees monitoring the security cameras didn't notice you cutting a rug in the produce aisle when "Funky Cold Medina" played at the supermarket last week.
What you probably don't know is that Loc-ed After Dark was produced by the same team that gave the world Paul's Boutique. That's right, the Dust Brothers were behind the desk on this platter crafting the samples and laying down the funkiest beats this side of Jabo Starks (the drummer on James Brown's empirical "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine".
February: 2 Live Crew As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Admittedly, the 2 Live Crew stuff has not aged well over the years, but they were perhaps the closest thing to a Sex Pistols that hip-hop has ever had.
March: De La Soul 3 Feet High And Rising and Geto Boys Grip It! On That Other Level
Psychedelic hip-hop? Does such a thing exist? If you were around in 1989, you damn well knew it existed because De La Soul's psych-hop style was everywhere. You couldn't miss it if you wanted to, as "Me, Myself and I" and "The Magic Number" were as omnipresent as any Bon Jovi song of the day. Sadly, this led to a bit of a backlash from which the group never fully recovered.
With all this talk of East Coast vs West Coast, the Geto Boys made damn sure that Houston would be properly represented in the hip-hop nation. They didn't just stop there, though, they defined their own genre...horrorcore...with lyrics that dabbled extensively in violence, horror, and the occult.
June: The D.O.C. No One Can Do It Better
Those who don't think the east coast and west coast rappers ever co-mingled have obviously never heard this joint, which features East Coast D.O.C. teaming up with West Coasters N.W.A. to create a decidedly unique record that, even by the standards of the day, was a stylistic and lyrical departure (no talk of guns or drugs to be found).
Sadly, it would be D.O.C.'s lone masterpiece, as an auto accident resulted in a crushed larynx that kept D.O.C. out of commission for seven excruciating years. Sonically speaking, this is Dr. Dre at his fluid best.
July: Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique and EPMD Unfinished Business
All great albums start out as just "new" albums and they either hit their intended mark, or they do not. If one were to base the worth of this album on its initial reception, it would have been forever filed away in the "shit we can't give away" bins at your local record store. With the passage of time, however, the genius of this album is never short of awe-inspiring as the production by the Dust Brothers literally takes the genre to a whole new level, forcing every other hip-hop artist on the planet to upgrade their approach or be lost in the shuffle.
Released on that same day in 1989 was the second effort by NYC's EPMD, which followed hot on the heels of their debut (Strictly Business), which had been influential for integrating rock and funk samples into hip-hop, as opposed to mostly disco licks.
While most who mention EPMD's greatness are quick to site the group's debut, real hip-hop fans also hold this second effort in high regard. Chris Rock went so far as to place this album at #7 on his list of the Top 25 rap albums ever made. You gonna argue with Chris Rock?!
August: Mellow Man Ace Escape From Havana
Just to get a feel for the kind of rocll that the Dust Brothers were on in 1989, they also had a hand in the producing this album (in addition to Paul's Boutique and Loc-ed After Dark), along with Tony G., Def Jef, and DJ Muggs. make no mistake about it, though, the true star on this album is Mellow Man Ace, whose bilingual rapping style remains without peer.
Imagine, if you will, a hip-hop record with a decidedly latin flavor that nails both the hardcore hip-hop and the slow love ballads,
November: Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock The Incredible Base and Queen Latifah All Hail The Queen
For Rob Base, the tsunami of success surrounding his 1988 smash "It Takes Two" would ensure that it would quickly become the song against which all new Rob Base songs would be judged. Sadly, that wound up placing a lot of undue pressure on an otherwise ambitious, fun, and inspired album that could and should have gotten its proper due.
If you've read this far, the one thing you're probably going to take away from this article is that not only was 1989 a great year for rap/hip-hop, in hindsight, the level of diversity on display is truly staggering. This is made even more noticeable by the appearance of one Queen Latifah's, whose debut effort ranks as one of the absolute best albums in all of hip-hop, spawning career-defining cuts as "Wrath of My Madness" and "Ladies First". The album, also features appearances by the likes of KRS-One, De La Soul, and Monie Love.