BLOG: When S.H.E. Loved Me Back

My most personal “hip-hop” memory knows no competition in my thoughts. You would’ve thought the setting was some alternate reality version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where, instead of books, rap music was outlawed. My bedroom was turned into ground zero for rebellion. At any moment, the authorities could’ve busted in, armed with “Turn that noise pollution down!” commands; the New York City premieres of songs the likes of Nas’s “I Gave You Power” cut short.

This wasn’t a futuristic world, though—it was suburban New Jersey, circa 1996. Or any year from 1993-or-so onward; fact-checking off of memory is blurrier than a car’s windows after a hot-boxing session. Every Sunday night, starting promptly at 10 p.m. eastern time, I’d locked myself in my room, sitting next to my dual-cassette-playing stereo, FM dial tuned to Hot 97, ready for Marley Marl and Pete Rock to “lay some treats on usssss!” Me, specifically, with a fresh blank tape in one of the two cassette decks. Being that the Marley and Pete’s “Future Flavas” show kicked off at such a late hour, and Sunday being a school night (in ’97, I was merely a high school sophomore), I had to drown out the sound by plugging headphones into the stereo. This allowed me to blast the music at full volume, which made the tape-dubbed versions play at maximum boom. Without those headphones, mom and pops would’ve shut down the operation upon first bass line.

It was me against the system. A lame and humble match of wits between a hip-hop-loving kid and his just-don’t-understand parents. It was also the closest I’ve ever felt to being “hip-hop.”

The procedure was simple yet effective. Whenever Marley Marl and Pete Rock dropped something new, I’d push down the Play and Record buttons simultaneously. It was all about instinct—if the track began with scratches and vintage boom-bap bass, I’d assume it was either some new DJ Premier, or, at the least, a passable Preemo knockoff, so I’d record it. If a kung-fu sample opened the song, it had to be Wu-Tang, and anything Wu was an instant record. The process went on for three hours every Sunday, thanks to the equally-great “Stretch Armstrong Show” that followed “Future Flavas.” Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito’s two-hour serving of exclusives was where I first heard Eminem (in the form of “I Just Don’t Give A Fuck”), as well as records by soon-to-be-personal-favorites such as Screwball, Dilated Peoples and Company Flow. By the 1 a.m. mark, I was exhausted, yet beaming from all the quality hip-hop. Monday mornings, on the other hand, were Hell on earth. (How fitting, then, that my first listen of Mobb Deep’s “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” was orchestrated by Sir Armstrong)

On any given Sunday, I could’ve filled up an entire 80-minute blank cassette, sides A and B consumed. The goodness continued on through the week as I’d chop and screw what I’d taped as if I was some low-rent, suburban Ron G. Totally pro bono, I’d then distribute my Maxell-packaged “mixtapes” throughout my Bergen County, New Jersey, Catholic high school. Proof that hip-hop truly was, and still is, worldwide.

There’s a point to this one-way trip down memory lane. I’ve been on the XXL team for nearly two months now, and since day one I’ve repeatedly asked myself, “What does hip-hop mean to me?” The complete answer deserves more than one blog, so I then started trimming the response down to a simple, “What’s my most personal memory of hip-hop?” Without a doubt, it’s those nights as a youngster when Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Bobbito and Stretch Armstrong introduced me to the latest and greatest in hip-hop. Shit that I’d otherwise not hear or ever knew existed. Later this week, I’ll dig some underappreciated albums out of the dirt to give the discs their just due—all of which I first caught wind of thanks to those childhood days when I couldn’t live without my radio.

It’s your turn now. Do you have a hip-hop-specific memory that’s totally your own? Or at least feels totally personal? I apologize for the stuffiness of this topic, by the way. It’s never a bad thing to momentarily bypass the jokes and shocks, though, right? If I’m wrong, then let me know. I’ll gladly turn the sarcasm back on. —Matt Barone

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  • General

    Good post.

    Its funny me and my boy Sly used to put together mixtapes all the time with the latest joints we could get our hands on by recording them off the radio mix shows, and then we would add a track or two from somebody that we knew that wanted to get their shit out too and sell them in school or down at the basketball courts at Central…

    Everybody needed a good mixtape source growin up, of course now that’s the internet, lol

  • Pierzy

    For me, it has to be when G-Funk was at its pinnacle. That was the moment when hip-hop really crossed over and became more than just a niche genre of music. Before that, if you listened to hip-hop and you were white, you wanted to be black, you were a “wigger,” etc… After Dre, Snoop & co. hit, EVERYBODY was down with Death Row. I remember little blond girls yelling “BEYOTCH!”

    So, for one moment, I have to say the first time I heard The Chronic. It was just so different from anything else and Snoop was so raw on the mic. That album – and that time period ['92 - '95ish] – changed everything.

  • King Joffy Joe

    Damn you Pierzy! I was gonna say the same exact thing! Oh well. Nothing for me to do but give you a “co-sign”.

  • Brooklyn

    i was mad young at the time, but i clearly remember the hype when biggie and craig mack were coming out, and puffy had released their mixtape in the box that had big mack on the cover. my cousins had that shit and i remember them being mad excited and saying that biggie and mack were gonna bring ny back because cali was doing it big at the time with dre, snoop, doc, ice cube and tupac.

    • Federal Ranga

      Really, please watch my vlog. My mama said she can only watch it so many times to try to get the number of views up, and I know there is only gonna be like 4 niggas from the Commission that watch it. Please, please watch it. I’m trying not to shoot it at the Shell station anymore. I did one from my bedroom and one from the basement, please. I got one on a park bench. I even tried one without the glasses, although I couldn’t see shit. Please watch it. Please. You can even catch some footage of South Beach.

  • Chris Cash

    I hate to say but my memory is a tad more recent, but when I first heard Collge Drop Out it open so many doors for a lil nigga from Texas. I have always loved hip-hop but it seem like I never had a place in it not being a thug.

    I grew up on Scarface, 8ball & MJG, No Limit, Sauve House, Bone Thugs, Snoop and Pac,
    but when I heard College Drop Out I was introduced to Kweli, Mos Def and Common and Kanyes beats. I hated Jay-Z just cause he was from New York, but once I figured out Kanye produced for him I was hooked. After Jay-Z I looked in to Nas, and now Jay and Nas are my 2 favorite MCs. I was a tad close minded but know I love all TRUE hip- hop.

  • P. Harris

    for me it was that whole mix tape era when I was in high school Clue 456… Clue for president, Envy etc. We had the Underground 88.1 that only came on from 11p-2a I’d get my tapes and stick them in the deck and just record the first hour, if I was still up I’d flip the tape and keep it going… It was always fun to take my tape out the next day and put it in my walkman and listen to it all the way on the bus ride to school… and being pissed because it stopped recording right in the middle of “Hurricane Starang”…. I rewinded the tape and kept listening to half of the 1st verse… damn…

    That’s when I was closest to hip hop…

  • King

    I bought Illmatic at a time I was coming off drugs and all my friends were in jail. I would blow trees and listen to Represent and swore to god I was in Queens. It was a great album that helped take my mind off of things and I really started to understand the complexities of lyricism, and how deep, and insightful hiphop could be.

  • ole dirty marmot

    Late nineties,East Village.Right outside the Astor Place train station,headed to the D train.There was a guy with a mic stand,amp and guitar set up.This one dude was on the mic just fucking around,while the other guy played his guitar.As I strolled past,the guitar man asked me out the blue if I could rap.I told him yes,and the other dude laughed and stepped off,and I stepped up.I literally zoned out.I freestyled for like 45 minutes,until the amp battery started to fizzle.Pedestrians walked by and marveled at the whole situation,and some made small donations.It was totally random and spontaneous,the way real hip hop occurs.At a certain point I stopped,dude gave me a couple bucks,and I bounced.The crazy thing is this brother I knew back in Cali happened to be walking by and we both bugged out like,yo,what are the odds,right?I mean,if that isn’t living hip hop,then what is living hip hop?

  • Tony Grands

    Best Hip Hop moment…..
    When LL’s Radio came out (early 80′s) & my dad bought me one of the mono (one big speaker) boomboxes from Zody’s. He was pretty cool, so he let me carry that thing everywhere we went, pumping LL [||].

    Worst Hip Hop moment…
    When Wendy’s (or some company) had a commercial with a white dude dressed as MC Hammer, performing “Can’t Touch This”. Thats when I realized that America thought our culture was bankable nonsense, & there would be no turning back. It seems I was right.

  • BJ

    I’m from Atlanta and back then Ryan Cameron hosted “The Fresh Party” on V103. I remember when he used to play The Show by The Get Fresh Crew and DJ Quick’s Tonite. Ryan had a that personality that let me know this music was real and my parents hated it. My father would call it “spit” music because of the Fat Boys and Stick Em. My sister used to spaz out when JJ Fad, Salt N Pepa, or Lyte would come on. Hip Hop was this undeniable energy that was all about expression your uniqueness and your unity at the same time. I still remember breaking out the plastic tabs from the top of my tapes so they couldn’t be accidently dubbed over. That was love.

  • Jamal7Mile

    I had a ball hanging out with local Hip-Hop cats who later went on to get national and world-wide shine. Too many stories! One of my favorites was playing video games/drinking with MC Breed a few years back. I was going berserk when the man started answering my questions about him working with Tupac!! Breed was one of the coolest cats in the game. He truly loved what he did and he never stopped doing what he did. At the time of his death, he had a bunch of BANGERS ready to come out (trust me, I know/possess this). Hopefully, his brothers will release them anyway.

    R.I.P. Eric Breed

  • OG Matt Herbz

    Y’all don’t feel the nostalgia in this piece?

    I used to be home on a Friday night next to the boombox cassette-recording “Friday Night Flava” on V103. If I had to dip, I would just let shit ride and when I got back, I dubbed the bangers over to another tape. Of course, they didn’t play much West Coast or even New York shit, but it was enough to keep my in the zone while riding the bus to school.

    I had no social life back then so the radio held me down and kept me together.

    –OG Matt Herbz–

  • leontheprofessional

    …man. this was a GREAT article…

    my hiphop memories are similar. growing up in ottawa, on (canada) we had one local station — chuo 89.3 (it always seems to be 89.something in every city!), and every friday, from midnight to 3a or so in the morning they’d play underground hiphop. mannnn, i copped EVERYTHING from that station. EVERYTHING. it kept me in tune w/ where i wanted to take mine… and i was too young to even really stay up that late, but my older brother would slave the nights on that play/record w/ the maxell tape joints x headphones… man… the good ol’ days… i remember when i first got that ‘paparazzi’ by xhibit before ANYONE had heard it..! 1996!!! :)


  • fredMS

    on sunday nights on hot 97 now they play fucking reggae.

    i was born thru mr. c’s throwback at noon which i listened to everyday in the summer. and saturday nights at like 1 am they used to play some good stuff. idk if they do anymore, stopped listening.

  • DBlock

    future flavaz >>>

    that was where i heard “holocaust” for the first time… and the og version of quiet storm (no havok on the chorus)…. they dont make radio like that no more…


    had to be first time hearing the first wu album.i loved kung fu flicks and they had parts from movies i knew in the songs. i was going crazy and all my friends heard it as well. walking hom from school yelling with your friends wu-tang clan ain’t nuthin to fuck with. then doggstyle that ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none changed my life.
    i was around the culture when i was younger because my older bro had me out late to carry records to parties but i was not really into it then. i remembed he worked i think at a store named paragon so he always had me wearing shit like you gotta wear this to come out. when i see my bro and his friends they be talking about old times and be saying you was there. we met so and so your ass didn’t care you wanted to go to sleep. the order i took the elements in was the dancing. then graf the music then trying to dj and rap.

  • EmCDL

    Ahh it was around 3rd or 5th grade for me. Listening to 92.1 (if I remember correctly) late at nite when I didn’t have a tv or video games to play because I stayed on punishment from the moms. I remember listening the hell outta PM dawn’s The Bliss Album since that was the only rap album I had that my sister gave to me when she gave me her cd player. The Bad Boy era did it for me too no doubt…Brand New Flava In Ya Ear Remix was my ish!

  • Maurice Miller is Pos P.

    Back in 7th and 8th grade (’96,’97) i used to do the same thang fam. Turn off the tv and sit and wait for the double mixshows that came on HOT 97. I mean to me that was heaven on earth because in the suburbs in jersey all these dudes used to front like they were the hardeset. So when strech armstrong dropped the redefintion and defintion songs that shit took me to another planet! word!!!! I could on for days about those two mixshows!!!!! Damn i wish i could find my tapes!!!!!

  • joe jackson

    My most personal moment was when my sister was about 18 and I was about 8-9ish. She had just copped the purple tape and I was looking at it like WTF is this thing?? But then I put it in the player and was like yo, this is off the hook. I stayed in my room for about a week straight, right after school just thumpin the shit. Then only years later when I started to actually appreciate ol hip hop as a form, in its “golden era”, did I realize what the ‘purple tape’ really was. I started out just as a fan of the sounds, the beats, the rhythm and content…just how music should grow on people, out of its pure elements. Thats my most personal hip hop moment!

  • das

    since i’m a old head (over 30) i can truly say that i’ve seen hip hop at its prime and i have a lot of memories. One of them is when i was in alabama going to college (i’m from brooklyn) and i would have harlem music hut send me mixtapes and ups it for me. I used to love putting out of state kats on. The youngings nowadays got it good now compared to when i was paying 10 a wop for these tapes man i would put kats on to exclusives this is back in 94, 95, 96 when the music from NY still had its identity. As soon as i got my box i would bring out my boombox and walk around campus pumping new Biggie and i was just so proud i was from brooklyn back then. on a side note the music from the south was much harder back then but being from ny we didn’t hear that out there so i got put on to the greats (suave house no limit rap a lot) it just seems like the music today is so watered down that’s its a shame but thats another topic………

  • dj blendz

    my thing was thursday nites 1am to 5am listenin to Bob and Stretch(that’s riiight they started on WKCR in ’91 b/4 their HOT 97 gig) recording all the exclusives and not to mention all the artists they brung up their from jigga to big L to nas b/4 they was “big”..

    • oskamadison


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  • Tony Grands

    1580AM KDAY…..RIP

  • D Rhyme

    bein in Cleveland Ohio didnt hear alot of east coast hip hop lovin it though remember listenin 2 wzak(93.1)”before they went str8 ol school r&b on us lol”i’d tape the friday night and saturday night mixes lookin for any hot joint i could get my hands on and in the infancy of my rap career i “recorded” my first mixtape spring 96 over such beats as hay,4th chamber,liquid swords etc and dubbed it for my peeps 2 hear.That was so hip-hop 2 me and i miss those days….

    • Reemycks!

      You Got Damn Right!!!! Cleveland mix shows were the shit! 108 Club Style on WDMT. The 93 Mix Party and Rapper’s Delight on WZAK. Plus 15 years of For Lovers Only. All of these shows made me the walking iPOD that I am today.

  • mazemayhim

    1992-The Wake-Up Show with Sway, King Tech & Joe Quixx in the mix(eventually, DJ Revolution replaced dude). From 11pm-2am on Friday nights I would have my deck on 106 KMEL and a tape in the deck, ready to record everything from Luniz-”I Got 5 On It” to Wu-”Protect Ya Neck.” I was in the Bay Area and a nigga knew about East Coast niggas like O.C., East Flatbush Project, Black Moon, Wu-Tang, Nas, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and plenty more thanx to the Wake-Up show. Oh my God! That’s where I heard ALL the rarities, b-sides and 1-hit blunders/wonders. Now I live in Sacramento and I don’t get to listen to the Wake-Up show smh @ least I got the memories. I think I’ma twist up da tree and just slap every album I got from the class of ’93 starting with Enta Da Stage aka “rawest East Coast album that wasn’t Illmatic and didn’t come from Shaolin.”

    • latino heat

      @ Mazemayheim
      i feel you on that homie. also we had Big Von on Wild 107 Saturday nights from like, 1-4 a.m. playing all the underground east coast shit that we could only read about in The Source at the time. believe it or not we didn’t get mixtapes in the Bay until 2001. so i relied on those shows for all my real hip hop. i would tape the shows then go to school on Monday like “you gotta hear this new…!”

  • GO-Getta’

    I really feel in luv with this b**tch in the early 1996′s. Most mcs were born & gone in that period.
    Lyrically,production & the competition-wise as a whole made me wanna wifey her & made luv 2 her till she can’t walk no mo’

  • BigDan!

    My earliest hip-hop memory was jumping around as a little kid to Will Smith’s “Boom! Shake the Room” But the best (apart from listening to brilliant albums) was Q-Tips’s performance at Good Vibrations festival on the Gold Coast (Aus) earlier this year. Just as the song “Feva” began so did the torrential rain which justed added to the crazy atmosphere. Pharcyde and Wale did great sets earlier in the day too.

  • mj

    mine will always be the first time i started listning too rap/hip hop when my oldest brother came home from the Airforce when he was stationed over sea’s in Germany, he came home with boxes and boxes of cd’s of so many artist i have never heard of. I would pick through each box and listen to every cd wether i liked it or not. It was mostly eastcoast, so i grew up all my young life loving eastcoast, underground hip hop/rap. Then the Yo Mtv rap thing came along, getting busted by my parents late at nite yelling at me too shut it off, its bad for my brain. Im so glad i didnt listen too them. Loving Hip Hop through the late 80′s and all through 1990-1999, that music can never be replaced. The Roots, Warren G, Souls Of Mischeif, Keith Murry, Common, Hip Hop/Rap will always be Part of my Life!!!!!

  • 11KAP

    The best of hip hop was when they comingled its roots back with reggae and reinforced the strength of true emceeing with hip hop/reggae. no one else has been able to compete since then, in my ears. That’s what needs to come back, because that was original and only few real “poets” can do it.

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  • http://xxlmag johnny r

    Future Flavas was my shit! then Hot 97 sold out and got rid of all the good shows. Does Lisa Evers show even come on anymore? What happened to Hot 97? lol

  • tronthadon

    Damn my fundest memories came from elementary skool im from tha souf so when no limit came to tha sceen i swore i was a soulja…i even had tha fake no limit tank and chain..i would fight every week cuz a nigga would tell me my shit was fake cuz it was to flat..lmmao

  • oskamadison

    There’s too many Hip-Hop memories for me to narrow down but I could give a random few:

    Watching my older cousin cut up “Apache” (from “The Adventures Of Flash on the Wheels of Steel”)…watching “Video Music Box and seeing Run-DMC on the Fresh Fest tour in ’85…the first time hearing “I Know You Got Soul” and thinking it was the illest shit I ever heard…listening to “Illmatic” after getting blunted for the first time (a process I’d repeat countless times in ’94)…walking through 2 feet high snow during the blizzard of ’96 bangin’ GZA’s “Liquis Swords” on an insane mission to find some trees…hearing Mista Sinista from the X-ecutionerson doing his “Theme From SWAT” routine on the Stretch and Bobbito show (WKCR) and almost waking up the whole house…I could go on and on and on…

  • da kiid

    earliest hip hop memory was late 96 i was 9 i got my hands on the makavelie tape from my older sister man i can remember clear as day jammin 2 pac on one side and foxy browns the ill nana on the other man i listend 2 dat tape so much pacs voice got horse it was like nothin i herd b4 in my life i was hookd man i took dat tape everywhere till this day one of my top 3 fav albums

  • BeerGangsta

    Pete Rock is Underrated! Him and CL Smmoth had some good jams out then. I am glad to see that XXL did not give up on them.

  • a0r1an

    mine has to be the first time i heard low by flo rida. I mean i really felt like that changed the way i hear music.

  • KL Fella

    Being a young kid in Malaysia then, I was smitten by Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. It may sound corny however that really opened me up that there was these stuffs called rap and hip hop.

    Later I shifted to a state near Singapore and i stopped listening hip hop as it was damn rare to get anything related to it down south border. However i got my itch back once I heard Bone Thugs’ Crossroad when I travelled back to the capital city during school breaks. They really blew me off then and they still do, then others followed like Coolio’s Gangsta Paradise and Fugess’s Ready or Not

    Then it was Diddy’s and Biggie’s record that got on to me and since I never looked back. One of the tapes that got me into deeper with hip hop was when i gathered much money to buy a Year 1999 Grammy Award Rap Nominees Compilation. That tape really had me to save for 2 months as it was damn expensive I had to order from the local record store. Back then, in a chinese small hood, all you got was chinese bubble pop and geeting rap records was hard as hell.

    There was no such thing as mixtapes however with now, as I am typing this on my blackberry, the nearby bootleggers are selling Souljaboy’s mixtape hosted DJ Drama.

    the internet really helped me alot. i mean like now I am the only fella in the office banging ‘House of Flying Dagger’ thanks to internet.

  • yeah

    new york in the 90s was the best radio ever. that was living hiphop was. pete and marley especially when pete used the sp for the remixes mad shit official that the other dj shows didnt do. does anyone have these tapes?

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