Why don't more rappers draft one producer to take care of the beats for an entire album? Some of the greatest hip-hop albums in the history of the genre sound that way because they have such a cohesive sound, with themes that can be revisited and sonic markers that can work with the lyrics, not just next to them. Think about the greatness of Run-DMC (whose Jam Master Jay handled all the beats), Public Enemy (with the Bomb Squad matching Chuck D's aggression note-for-note) or the insular worlds created by the early work of the Neptunes (like Clipse's Lord Willin') or Timbaland (like Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's debut Supa Dupa Fly). For the best proof that it's a system that works, look no further than legendary tag team Gang Starr, whose critically-acclaimed smash album Hard to Earn was released on this day in 1994.
Gang Starr consisted of rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier. The premise was simple: Premier crafted the beats (cobbled together from soul samples and his deft scratching) and Guru provided vivid, literate lyrics delivered with a deadpan flow. They were never hit makers, but every album in their catalog is considered something of a modern classic.
And they never sounded right apart, either. Though Premier lent out his production services to dozens of other rappers (he produced everybody from Snoop Dogg to Alicia Keys to Christina Aguilera), nobody ever seemed to wrap around the tracks the way Guru did. And Guru experimented with various versions of his Jazzmatazz series, but he never sounded as sharp as he did next to Premier. They were a formidable duo who casually tossed off jaw-dropping tracks like "Mass Appeal" (Hard to Earn's centerpiece track) like it was easy.
It's almost time for Christmas, which means that the mood around the MTV Newsroom is getting pretty festive and everybody is going to start hitting the road soon (or just getting ready for a long winter's nap). We'll be taking off Friday (December 24) in observance of the holiday, but if anything huge happens, you know you can always count on your friends here at MTV News to deliver up-to-the-minute information on all the latest breaking news.
In the meantime, if you need to get into the Christmas spirit, we have got the best solution known to man (or beast): Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis," one of only a handful of truly exceptional pop-oriented Christmas songs (including Shane MacGowan's "Fairytale of New York," Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and the recently-released Coldplay track "Christmas Lights"). Produced by Rick Rubin in 1987 for a pair of special holiday compilations (A Very Special Christmas and Christmas Rap), the track puts the greatest hip-hop group of all time at the North Pole and tracks Santa's trip into Queens on Christmas Eve.
Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay were arguably at the height of their powers in 1987, as they had released back-to-back smashes in 1985's King of Rock and 1986's Raising Hell, and they were about to drop the smashing Tougher Than Leather. While "Christmas in Hollis" was embraced when it was originally released, it didn't chart until 13 years later after slowly becoming something of a holiday tradition (as well as appearing in "Die Hard" and on "The Simpsons"). Not only is it a great song, but it also has a fantastically fun video. Think of it as our Christmas gift to you.
By Rahman Dukes
Gone but not forgotten. This past weekend family, friends and fans came out to say their final goodbye to record spinner DJ Hideo, who passed away the week prior from complications from colon cancer. The famed Bum Squad DJ who coined the phrase "Live Life" admitted himself to a local hospital back in February when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that had already spread to his liver. To raise awareness on the deadly disease, Hideo launched a blog that gave frequent updates on his condition.
The last blog entry, posted on April 24, read: "Hi everyone! Wanted to let everybody know that I check in back @ Mission hospital last week because of the weakness that I’ve been feeling for the past week. My vitals are stable and now need the assistance of a ventilator to breathe. I’m very aware of my condition and communicate in writing. Right now, the one thing I really do miss is drinking a nice ice cold soda."
Sadly enough, those would be Hideo's last words. That same day, Hideo passed away surrounded by family and friends.
Hideo was well known as a professor at the Jam Master Jay Scratch DJ Academy and more importantly his stint at radio station KKBT 100.3, where he worked as a mix show director for a decade. Hideo also worked alongside West Coast legends Cypress Hill.
In support of the Hideo legacy and to assist with the mounting medical bills, Hideo's Bum Squad family will hold a special tribute concert tonight at the Highlands Hollywood in Los Angeles. Check it out if you're in the neighborhood, both to help out and to pay your respects to a great talent.
The week was only four days long, but it ended up being one of the busiest weeks in the history of the MTV Newsroom blog. It's easy to see why, as we had constant updates from the ground in Haiti, tracked the end of the war between Conan O'Brien and NBC and caught up with Nick Jonas, Rivers Cuomo and Prince. Before you speed out to see "The Tooth Fairy" or crank up your copy of the performance's from "Hope for Haiti Now" (available on iTunes for $7.99), check out the links below for anything you might have missed this week.
» If you haven't been following along with all of the reports from student volunteer Alison Smith and the MTV News team in Haiti, be sure to check out all of their dispatches to get a sense of what's going on in Haiti and what still needs to be done.
» And if you missed any of Friday night's historic "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, you can read all about it on the live blog here. Remember that you can continue to give via HopeForHaitiNow.org.
» Conan O'Brien had his final week as the host of "The Tonight Show," so we looked back at O'Brien's best moments from his seven month run on the show.
» Also, now that Conan doesn't have a television home, he should know that the invitation to work at MTV is open.
» The audition episodes of "American Idol" soldiered on, but the mass of mediocre performers sent to Hollywood forced Jim Cantiello to coin the term "Golden Picket."
Today would have been legendary DJ Jam Master Jay's 45th birthday. The man born Jason William Mizell was tragically gunned down in a recording studio in Queens back in 2002. As a member of Run-DMC and on his own, Jay was an inspirational member of the hip-hop community who touched most everybody he met — including Eric "Shake" James, one of the DJ's closest friends who provided this remembrance for MTV Newsroom.
By Eric "Shake" James
JMJ, what can I say? You're the greatest friend anyone could hope to have. Thank you for everything you taught and showed me, from explaining why songs are put in order on CDs to how to write with melody in mind to how to just be a great person.
I remember when you used to tap your foot when you listened to demos or new music. If a cat got the JMJ foot tap, then you knew it was hot! Remember when I was about to get that production deal, but I turned it down and you asked 'Why?' I told you that if I took it, then we wouldn't be able to hang out any more.
I remember when Onyx was making their second album and they were trying to come up with a title. Fredro Starr called you and said it was between Three the Hard Way and All We Got is Us. You asked me which one, and I said All We Got is Us, and you picked up the phone and called Fredro and said, "All we got is us!"
I remember how excited you were when I told you that 50 had signed with Dre and Emimen. I remember how excited you were when I told you I was having a son. (I think you were more excited then me.)
So happy birthday, my dude. God needed a DJ. You are always on my mind and forever in my heart! What's my name? I can't hear you! A little bit louder!
Check out LL Cool J's memories of JMJ.
By Rahman Dukes
If you ask iconic New York City graffiti artist Phade (better known as Shirt King Phade from the legendary Shirt Kingz) about the current state of hip-hop, he'd more than likely tell you it's alive and breathing and resides in the Bronx, New York.
Whether you agree or disagree, Phade has been around the culture for decades and just like any other passionate hip hop fan is entitled to his opinion. But the difference between Phade and your average fan is Phade has lived the life of a rapper. And his crew, the Shirt Kingz, are his clique.
For those who may not be aware, Phade and the almighty Shirt Kingz carved a name for themselves in hip hop history by hooking up some of the '80s biggest acts with customized clothing. From LL Cool J to BBD to Biz Markie to Jay-Z, you weren't considered royalty in hip-hop if you didn't own a piece of clothing from the Shirt Kingz.
While the days of Phade and his brothers Nike and the late Kashim designing shirts for the likes of Big Daddy Kane (featuring cartoon character Wyle E. Coyote holding a bottle of Olde English malt liquor) have passed behind him, Phade and Nike still remind the hip-hop community where the origins of the music came from: the art.
For the past week, Phade has been hard at work on his latest masterpiece: A mural for the Hip-Hop Cultural Museum located in Harlem, New York. Read More...
As a tribute to their contributions to music, Run-DMC will receive their own street in Queens, New York, where the group first came together. 205 Street, in the Hollis neighborhood, will be renamed "Run-DMC Way." The re-naming will also act as an appreciation for Run-DMC member Jam Master Jay, as 205 Street is the location of the mural that memorializes the DJ, who was killed in a still-unsolved shooting in 2002.
By Jenna Talavera and Kathleen Newman-Bremang
Chris Brown is scheduled to appear in court today for his arraignment on felony charges of assault and making criminal threats. The singer could face more than four years in prison for his alleged altercation with girlfriend Rihanna. Will his attorneys enter a plea or ask for another extension?
With T.I. facing a prison sentence of one year and one day, Mixtape Monday has put together a track list of some of the MC's hottest tracks. Check out the behind-the-scenes info that Tip and top Atlanta DJs gave us about making the songs. And this is only part one!
Run-DMC officially became Kings of Rock when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday. Read our recap of the historic night and catch what Eminem had to say about the iconic group. Then read some heartfelt words about the induction from Eric "Shake" James, a close friend of the late Jam Master Jay.
MTV caught up with Zac Efron at ShoWest, and the former Disney heartthrob talked about everything from girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens to bonding with his "17 Again" co-star Matthew Perry.
Minutes after Run-DMC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight, we got an e-mail from Eric "Shake" James, one of the late Jam Master Jay's closest friends, who was at the ceremony in Cleveland:
To me this is the greatest night in hip-hop!!! Run-DMC in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, wow! Remember the "King of Rock" video? "You don't belong here; this is for rock stars only." Now we're here, and we do belong!!!
Even though my best friend in the world, Jason Mizell, couldn't be here, I look up in the sky and feel him smiling and watchin' down!!! 1st to go gold, 1st on MTV and still making moves!! I see his boys, and I know he'd be (and is) so proud of them and his wife, Terri!!!! What an honor this is!!! We love and miss you, Jason!!!