Group Home: U Faux Rappers List3n Up!
Throughout the history of American music, there are periods and places that stand out for giving us a whole bunch of great artists in a condensed period of time, and ultimately being looked back on as hugely influence moments in music history. Some of these periods and places include the late sixties in San Francisco, the mid-80's on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and the early 90's in Seattle. The mid-90's in New York City is no different for hip-hop.
While hip-hop had established itself almost fifteen years before and was growing in popularity, New York had fallen to the wayside as its bi-coastal cousin Los Angeles enjoyed an explosion of success in the early 90's.
Artists such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A. & 2Pac were establishing themselves as serious players in the music business while drastically overshadowing the rap scene in New York. That is, until a group of ten unlikely MC's released an album called Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in the fall of 1993. This group of course was the Wu-Tang Clan. Their debut album would go on to achieve platinum status and almost single-handedly revive the rap scene in New York. A short time later, other classic albums (most of which were debuts) including Nas' Illmatic, The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die and Mobb Deep's The Infamous were released, fueling a popularity in rap that New York had never seen before.
While most of this music hailing from the New Renaissance of New York hip hop was given its fair day in the sun and enjoyed mainstream popularity, I can't help but think about the albums or artists that fell between the cracks... the albums that may have been stellar, but were just not as well received or marketed as the others. One of these albums that fell into obscurity is called Livin' Proof by Group Home.
Although I wish I could say I found this album while digging through the rap vinyls at Amoeba Records, I must confess that I simply heard it mentioned by a hip-hop producer named 9th Wonder, whose work I enjoy quite thoroughly. Rising to prominence as members of The Gang Starr Foundation and under the guidance of rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier, the rap duo burst onto the scene in 1995, releasing Livin' Proof along with a handful of singles including "Supa Star," "Suspended in Time," and the title track "Livin' Proof." For whatever reason though, the album never took off and is often overlooked when discussing the best rap albums to ever come out of New York.
What makes this album great is the superb production by DJ Premier. As a big Premier fan, I consider him to be one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time, and if I were to make a top ten list of his beats, I could see myself putting two or three of his beats from Livin' Proof on the list. The gritty, raw tone Premier sets for the album reminds me more of a film score than just a collection of random rap beats. With each new song, a new scene is presented, each one telling a tale of drugs, fast money and crime on the rough streets of New York.
Most New York MC's of the day told a similar tale in their songs, and the lyrical content of this album is nothing new. At times, Group Home's Lil' Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker spit a clever rhyme or a solid verse, most coming from the more talented MC, Melachi the Nutcracker, but for the most part, their lyrics fall a tad short of the brilliance we're use to hearing from East Coast MC's of the day like Prodigy, Nas and Biggie. However, both MC's use Premier's beats very well and paint an uncompromising picture of the rough area they grew up in.
As I write this, I'm stuck with a bit of a dilemma as far as how this album is relevant today, almost seventeen years after its release. To be frank, it probably isn't. Neither MC is doing any noteworthy projects today, neither MC works with DJ Premier anymore, and Group Home itself hasn't released an album since the 90's. However, I do feel like this album is very important in the landscape of New York hip-hop and I'm afraid that without a write up such as this, many younger rap fans today may never know about Group Home, and some older fans may have forgotten about it. So please, forgive this unintentional rhyme and give Livin' Proof a listen and hear what you've been missing.
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