The 90s. It was the height of gangster rap.
It was the era that transformed the touchy rivalry between Bad Boy and Death Row Records, in particular The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) and Tupac Shakur, into what media deemed the East Coast vs. West Coast rap war. Two camps that dominated rap, with the best lyricists of the time, had turned communities – that never met – against each other. Tragically, the violence surrounding that rivalry would ultimately result in the untimely deaths of both Wallace and Shakur.
No track really brings the rivalry to life like “NY 87.” It was an unreleased song from 2Pac, featuring Tha Dogg Pound, the duo consisting of Kurupt and Daz. The fiery lyrics literally stab at the heart of some of the more prominent East Coast rappers of the time, such as: The Notorious B.I.G., Jeru the Damaja, Mobb Deep and A Tribe Called Quest. Regardless of where your loyalties lied during the “war”, it’s hard to not “bob your head” to the cold and deadly flow.
“NY 87” starts off with a battle cry, letting listeners know that “heads is trippin’ out in New York.” However, Tha Dogg Pound’s rhymes respect Method Man, Nas and Redman, all rappers out of New York who they “smoke weed” with. Then, they pay a brief tribute to rap legend KRS One. Once the pleasantries are done, they go after Biggie and a select group of other NYC rappers, warning them to stay out of Los Angeles.
Although the song was recorded in the 90s, it didn’t become widely released until last year. Now, “NY 87” finds its home on Tha Dogg Pound’s latest compilation album – Doggy Bag.
Doggy Bag is a throwback to the G-Funk era of rap. Slower, funk driven beats, with a multitude of layered-synthesized tracks, were the backdrop to street-inspired lyrics. Unlike today’s songs, which are designed to be played in the broad spectrum of clubs and lounges, the songs on Doggy Bag fall more in-line with “car ride” music. Relaxing melodies with harsh, life rhymes are designed to put you in “chill” mode – yet, still keep you thinking.
The compilation highlights songs that incorporated female vocals, giving tracks the smooth, easy going sound of R&B – without sacrificing the gangster sound. This includes the “It Might Sound Crazy” remix, featuring Too Short. “Farewell to My Enemies”, which follows up the remix, is less of a rhyme and more of a reflection piece on gangster life – the purported good and the bad. It also brings up the gang war between the Crips and Blood gangs. “Save a Life,” featuring Ital Joe, brings in a reggae vibe, while talking out against violence and corruption in politics. “Life I Lead” goes back to jazz tunes, once again with hypnotizing female vocals. “NY 87” closes out the album.
Special note should be given to the arrangement of the album. The second half of the Doggy Bag, starting with “It Might Sound Crazy” and ending with “Life I Lead,” really sounds like an ongoing story of a man’s internal struggle between gangster life and the “straight and narrow.” Finally, the album ends with “NY 87,” almost as if a decision has been made – gangster life.
Other guest artists that made their way into the Doggy Bag include: Snoop Dogg, Crooked I, Deadly Threat, Nate Dogg, Jewell, Big Pimpin’, Lady of Rage, Warren G and Michel’le.