On this day, Dec. 15, in hip-hop history...

1998: After rising to prominence in New York's underground mixtape scene, DJ Clue dropped his debut studio album, The Professional exactly 20 years ago on Dec. 15, 1998 through Roc-A-Fella Records.

Before major players like DJ Drama and DJ Khaled made their mark on the game with major label compilations like Gangsta Grillz: The Album and We The Bestthere was DJ Clue. Often revered as one of the DJs who played a major role in redefining the mixtape game, Clue took his brand to the next level when he signed with Roc-A-Fella at the tail-end of 1998, a year that many see as a pivotal one in regards to the progression of hip-hop.

With his ties to legendary New York radio station, Hot 97, and the relationships he developed during his come-up, the Queens native had unprecedented access to exclusive material recorded by rap's biggest names at the time. The Professional featured 22-tracks of never-before-heard music from virtually every New York act that defined that particular era of hip-hop, including Clue's boss, Jay-Z, and label mate, Memphis Bleek, along with Nas, Big Pun, Cam'ron, N.O.R.E, Ja Rule, Ma$e and Mobb Depp, and that's just naming a few of the artists from the compilation's star-studded track list.

As if having a debut album released by the Roc at the height of their popularity wasn’t enough, The Professional was legitimized with an intro from none other than Diddy, who hyped up Clue-minatti as being an innovator among DJs, but also took a second to note the fact that at one time, he wanted to “kill” the Queens DJ for leaking a track from the late Notorious B.I.G.

Among the LP's many acclaimed songs, The Professional's standout single release was the remix to the DMX hit, "Ruff Ryders Anthem." The remix reached No. 47 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart and aside from a new verse from X himself, featured contributions from original members of the Ruff Ryders including Jadakiss, Styles P, Eve and Drag-On.

Outside of highlighting the era's finest, The Professional also served as a jumping-off point for some of the game's up-and-comers at the time. Made Men, a trio comprised of Benzino, Anthony Twice Thou and Cool Gsus, made what is considered to be their first appearance as a group, and the album is also credited for introducing Fabolous into the industry's mainstream for the first time.

Ranked among XXL's top 10 mixtapes of all timeThe Professional would go on to become certified platinum by the RIAA, solidifying its place in hip-hop history as an album that paved the way for so many other DJs to release major label compilations in the years to come. The Roc-A-Fella release would also serve as a launching pad for DJ Clue to open shop with his own imprint, Desert Storm.

Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

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