21 Songs, 1 Hour, 15 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

If hip-hop’s banner year of 1988 presents a kind of corollary to rock ’n roll’s pivotal mid-‘60s heyday, then Critical Beatdown can be seen as rap’s answer to Blonde on Blonde or Revolver. There were other masterpieces of the time (including landmark works from Public Enemy, EPMD, and Boogie Down Productions) but Critical Beatdown was so masterful, so exciting, and so audacious that there is really nothing else to compare it to. This is the sound of a group riding a tidal wave of inspiration, wholly confident in its own abilities and impulses. Though the album used many well-worn hip-hop sample sources, the brain trust of Ced Gee and engineer Paul C. made every song sound louder, funkier, and fiercer than anything that came before. Then, of course, there are the lyrics. Frontman Kool Keith is part assassin, part alien. He makes complex references to science and outer space, and single-handedly incorporated multisyllabic wordplay into hip-hop, as well as warped innovations like rhyming verses with the same word. Keith didn’t have to brag about how different he was; his every move embodied the very notion of individuality. Critical Beatdown ushered in an era of modernization in hip-hop, but no album bridges the fundamentalists to the futurists with such style.

EDITORS’ NOTES

If hip-hop’s banner year of 1988 presents a kind of corollary to rock ’n roll’s pivotal mid-‘60s heyday, then Critical Beatdown can be seen as rap’s answer to Blonde on Blonde or Revolver. There were other masterpieces of the time (including landmark works from Public Enemy, EPMD, and Boogie Down Productions) but Critical Beatdown was so masterful, so exciting, and so audacious that there is really nothing else to compare it to. This is the sound of a group riding a tidal wave of inspiration, wholly confident in its own abilities and impulses. Though the album used many well-worn hip-hop sample sources, the brain trust of Ced Gee and engineer Paul C. made every song sound louder, funkier, and fiercer than anything that came before. Then, of course, there are the lyrics. Frontman Kool Keith is part assassin, part alien. He makes complex references to science and outer space, and single-handedly incorporated multisyllabic wordplay into hip-hop, as well as warped innovations like rhyming verses with the same word. Keith didn’t have to brag about how different he was; his every move embodied the very notion of individuality. Critical Beatdown ushered in an era of modernization in hip-hop, but no album bridges the fundamentalists to the futurists with such style.

TITLE TIME
4:47
3:24
5:26
2:14
3:15
1:51
3:31
1:58
3:33
3:40
3:43
3:24
3:42
2:32
2:48
4:47
4:26
6:04
4:22
1:10
5:03

About Ultramagnetic MC's

Arising from the Boogie Down Bronx in the mid-'80s as a far-flung hip-hop trio with a heap of new ideas to try out, Ultramagnetic's Kool Keith, Ced Gee, and DJ Moe Love occupy something of a singular place in the old-school pantheon. Combining funk-heavy tracks with jeep-rocking beats and obscure lyrical references, Ultramagnetic MC's have a list of firsts to their credit: the first rap group to employ a sampler as an instrument, the first to feature extensive use of live instrumentation...the first to feature a former psychiatric patient (Keith) on the mic. Early singles like "Something Else" and "Space Groove" were block-party staples and created waves in the underground, eventually landing the group on the disco-dominated Next Plateau label, where they released their underappreciated debut. The following years found the group shuffling from label to label, releasing albums on Mercury and Wild Pitch before splitting to pursue various projects. ~ Sean Cooper

ORIGIN
New York, NY [The Bronx]
FORMED
1984

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