I've suffered from record shopping amnesia as far back as I can remember. When I walk into a record store, I often forget what I was planning on searching for that day. On my last few trips to New Orleans, I've set aside all ideas of what music I would like to buy and let the stacks dictate what I will be leaving with. The following photos are from our trip over the holidays…
Clockwise, from left:
1. Black Star – Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, 1998
To me, the 90s were the best era for hip hop. This album is in my top five for the genre. Black Star only released one album as a duo. Their storytelling is a perfect blend of positivity, social consciousness and braggadocio. I first heard the song "Definition" while watching BET's Rap City one afternoon in 1998. It must have been out for a while, because I can remember hearing Mos Def's voice and thinking, "That's one of the dudes who raps on A Tribe Called Quest's 'Rock Rock Y'all.'" His voice is unmistakable. My favorite track is "Respiration." With Common as a guest lyricist, they paint a picture of a living, breathing cityscape. I found this at Domino Sound Record Shack in the Bywater. It's a perfect example of buying a record that I didn't expected to find. I had no idea this was even available on vinyl, so it was an extra special find for me.
2. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris, 2007
The first Queens of the Stone Age album will always be my favorite, but this one is up there. It holds all the classic elements of a Queens record that will stand the test of time: shuffling rhythms, a Mark Lanagan song, falsetto, buzzing guitars. Josh Homme's guitar work on "Sick, Sick, Sick" sounds like coughing to me. "Turning on the Screw" has one of my favorite lyrics of all time: "You ain't a has been if you never was."
3. Nirvana – Incesticide, 1992
If I was stuck on a deserted island and somehow had a working record player and could only have one Nirvana record, this would be the one. It's only fitting to have the song "Big Long Now" on it. And I would listen to "Son of a Gun" everyday before going coconut hunting. ("Up up up and down. Turn turn turnaround. Round round roundabout. And over again.") My two favorite tracks on the album are "Aero Zeppelin" and "Aneurysm." 4. Beck – One Foot in the Grave,1994
During my first semester of college, there was a dude in my art class nicknamed Dirty or Scuzzy or something like that. He loved Beck. While we worked on charcoal still lifes of plastic fruit, he and I had many "philosophical" debates as to which Beck album was better, Mellow Gold or One Foot in the Grave. I chose One Foot in the Grave over Mellow Gold because of its stripped-down folk feel and indie credibility that its release on K Records brought with it. Scuzzy swore by "Truckdrivin' Neighbors Downstairs." Turns out neither of us was right or wrong. Both albums are great for their own reasons and proved to be a precursor for Beck's genre-bending musical career.
Do you have any memories associated with these albums? What are your favorite 90s hip hop records?
Images and text by Eamon Kelly. You can view the entire photo series on Instagram.