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Album Review

When Rodney O. & Joe Cooley's first full-length album, Me & Joe, came out in 1988, many hip-hoppers were re-evaluating the Los Angeles rap scene. In the early to mid-'80s, L.A. wasn't famous for hardcore rap; many people associated Southern California with the high-tech, synthesizer-driven electro-hop sounds of the Egyptian Lover, the Arabian Prince, Uncle Jam's Army, and the World Class Wreckin' Cru (the group that Dr. Dre belonged to before N.W.A.). But in 1987 and 1988, the disturbing gangsta rap of Ice-T and N.W.A. was giving people a different impression of L.A. rap — and all of a sudden, hip-hoppers were expecting hardcore rap to come from Southern California. Although Rodney and Cooley both had electro-hop credentials, Me & Joe is essentially a hardcore rap effort. The LP isn't gangsta rap — Rodney doesn't rap in the first person about gang fights or drive-by shootings — but even so, it sent out a message that South-Central L.A. could provide aggressive hip-hop (as opposed to crossover stuff). While some of Cooley's scratching shows an awareness of New York DJs like Jam Master Jay and Cut Creator, Me & Joe doesn't sound it was recorded in the Big Apple. Rodney flows like a West Coast rapper — he doesn't sound like he's from Brooklyn, Queens, or the Boogie Down Bronx — and the production tends to be cleaner than what many New York hip-hoppers were favoring at the time. Me & Joe isn't a masterpiece; as far as L.A. rap goes, it isn't as important or as challenging a record as Ice-T's Power or N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton. But it's a decent and often catchy, if slightly uneven, footnote in the history of West Coast hip-hop.

Me and Joe, Rodney O & Joe Cooley
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