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Operation Take Back Hip-Hop

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Album Review

One year after combining with former rival KRS-One on Hip Hop Lives, pioneering Queensbridge producer Marley Marl returns with another similarly themed collaboration LP, this time with longtime Juice Crew co-hort and tenured industry ghostwriter, Craig G. In the same vein as Hip Hop Lives, Operation Take Back Hip-Hop proclaims its mission loud and clear with the two legendary veterans looking back to move forward. From the gate, Craig professes to be from an era "when hip-hop knew exactly what it was doing" on "Reintroduction," and goes on to caution over-eager new artists on "Deep Down" and "Just What I Need," claiming that the cloud of stagnation hanging over hip-hop similarly plagues R&B and rock. But all these pleas for "change," "originality," and "somethin' new" come off as a tad catch-22-ish considering the record's true-school revivalist context. Add that to the fact that underground hip-hoppers' gripes with commercial hip-hop (the glorification of violence, copycatting, and, of course, wack MCs) have largely remained the same over the years, the only thing that changes is the scapegoats; while Craig and his brethren may take aim at the likes of T-Pain and Soulja Boy, a decade earlier they were shaking their fists at Mase and Master P. Do the math and Operation Take Back Hip-Hop is itself far from original. Still, if the simple formula of quality beats paired with entertaining rhymes counts for anything, this album has a lot going for it. Marley's production is stellar from start to finish, proving that "DJ Legend" can still give super-producers like 9th Wonder and the Alchemist a run for their money. And one listen to the dazzling album-closer "The Day Music Died," an extended-metaphor joint that imagines the entire music industry adopting hip-hop style rivalries and features such inspired lines as "Celine Dion's crew be buggin' every night/They stuck Cher for her earrings at the Mayweather fight" should squelch any doubts as to Craig's lyrical prowess. Groundbreaking it isn't, but considering some of its contemporaries, Operation Take Back Hip-Hop's 17 tracks of gimmick-free boom-bap are quite an accomplishment.


Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Craig G's career began in the late '80s when he ran with legendary producer Marley Marl and his Juice Crew posse. The Queensbridge rapper teamed with Marley early on, back in 1985, when the two recorded "Shout" and "Transformer," both released by Pop Art Records. Though definitely not as treasured as other Marley classics from the era such as MC Shan's "The Bridge" or Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's "Poison," the recordings were some of the producer's first and remain noteworthy, albeit hard to find, as a...
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