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Back To the Old School

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Album Review

It's impossible to describe how fresh this album sounded when first released — producer Kurtis Mantronik utilizes the Roland 606 drum machine more potently than any producer before and as its huge beats kick holes beneath Just-Ice's gold-toothed mumble of rhymes, curses, boasts, and yelps, the party gets underway. Back in 1986, this album burned eardrums and if now it sounds less revolutionary it remains a classic early hip-hop album, one that appeared as radical back then as the RZA's production of Wu-Tang Clan did in the late '90s. Neither Mantronik nor Just-Ice were to match it in their subsequent and separate solo work — it's worth reflecting on what might have been created if their partnership had endured. Opening track "Cold Gettin' Dumb" remains one of the most exhilarating tracks from an era when hip-hop was inventing itself day by day. The chauvinistic "Latoya" booms with block-rockin' beats. "Gangster of Hip Hop" and "Little Bad Johnny" lay the seeds for many an ominous rapper to come.


Born: 22 June 1962 in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '10s

A former bouncer at punk clubs, Joseph Williams, Jr. was the first of the New York rappers to embrace gangsta rap, and when he burst out of Ft. Greene, Brooklyn as Just-Ice, he gained instant notoriety. Muscle-bound, tattooed, aggressive -- he resembled Mike Tyson in more than just looks -- and with a mouthful of gold teeth, he certainly stood out. His debut album Back to the Old School proved he was more than just a pretty face. It came out on the independent New York label Sleeping Bag, and certainly...
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Back To the Old School, Just-Ice
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