10 Things That Were Better About Rap in the 90s, According to the Cast of ‘The Breaks’ - SEEPMUZiK BLOG


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

10 Things That Were Better About Rap in the 90s, According to the Cast of ‘The Breaks’

The Breaks, VH1’s original series about hip-hop in the early ‘90s, provides a window into the genre at a crucial turning point in its history. Though the series is full of true to life details and real music from the era, The Breaks is driven by a talented ensemble cast playing fictional characters that bring 1990 New York to life. We spoke to three of those actors, Antoine Harris, Ali Ahn, and Sinqua Walls, to get some insight into what they learned about ‘90s hip-hop while making the show, what music they grew up on, and what they miss about the music from back then. And for more of the signature flare that made ‘90s hip-hop so iconic, tune in to The Breaks series premiere Monday, February 20th at 9/8 Central on VH1.

1. The Albums Were Cohesive

Antoine Harris: “Back then, you wanted a great single [from an artist] but you also wanted the album to be poppin’. You wanted it to tell a story, you wanted it to have a theme, an objective. I think that was important back then and I wish it was more important now. I was listening to Capital Punishment by Big Pun, and his skits were hilarious, pure comedy. And then it went smoothly into the next song. Now it feels like 12 different people recorded 12 different songs.”

2. MCs Were Storytellers

Antoine Harris: “I loved the stories they told back then, they were craftsmen, they were songwriters. Melody was important back then, it just wasn’t more important than the story, like it is sometimes now. I like the awareness of where they were in space and time. It just seemed like this was 19-whatever, and I’m here, and this is what’s going on with me, and this is what I think about it. You could decipher somebody’s individuality and somebody’s identity back then, I think that was great. Music should always be about emotion and a story, there’s a reason you’re sharing it as an artist.”

3. The Spirit of Competition

Antoine Harris: “The competitive nature of it, it felt more like a sport back then. It still feels like a sport, but it’s a different type of sport, more like ‘I have more than you, so I’m cooler than you.’ Whereas back then, they would speak to that, but it was also: I can rap better than you. I’m a better rapper than you, let me show you why. I’m gonna go slow, I’m gonna go fast, I’m gonna switch my tempo, I’m gonna switch my topic, I’m gonna beat you over the head with my skills. I don’t feel that as much anymore, it’s more like ‘I got a better car than you.’ That wasn’t enough back then. And to me, it still isn’t enough.”

4. Hip-Hop Broke All the Rules of Traditional Music

Ali Ahn: “I actually grew up immersed in the classical music world. I was deeply nerding out, I was a pianist, I went to music school. I was really late to the game with hip-hop in a lot of ways, there was only classical music in my house. And I think that was actually why so many people were attracted to it, it was this thing kind outside any kind of rule or formality. What I was attracted to about it was its irreverence.”

5. The West Coast Ran Things

Ali Ahn: “I grew up on the West coast, so I grew to appreciate East coast rap, but my exposure to hip hop was through Snoop Dogg and Warren G. So the laid back west coast beat is what I associate with ‘90s hip-hop. Things like ‘Gin & Juice,’ all those songs, they put me back in such a specific place.”

6. Female MCs Started To Assert Themselves

Ali Ahn: “One big thing I was listening to was Salt-N-Pepa. Those were kinda my first feminist anthems. We don’t talk a lot about the female rappers, but Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, they were saying things that as a young girl I was kinda floored by, and just kinda owning their sexuality, and owning their power, in a way that was really exciting to me. I can’t think of a school dance where Salt-N-Pepa didn’t come on and everyone freaked out.”

7. Hip-Hop Was the Music of Rebellion

Ali Ahn: “I don’t know if it was coming out of Reaganism or whatever. But that cultural moment of people identifying with the rebel or the outsider, it felt like a bigger pull than it is now. Now, with social media, everything kind of looks the same and subscribes to the same ideas of fashion. But back then, I think the idea was to do the thing that no one else was doing, maybe because it wasn’t so commercialized back then.”

8. New Jack Swing Pulled Hip-Hop and R&B Together

Sinqua Walls: “One of my favorite songs from the ‘90s is Bell Biv DeVoe’s ‘Poison,’ even when it comes on now, I still really like it. My cousin was a babysitter, my sister was a babysitter, I would hear the music they played, and just by nature of being around them, I loved it as well. I was a baby in the ‘90s, especially in the time period that the show takes place. A lot of the music that I was introduced to, that we have in the show, I hear now how it stands the test of time. I think you hear Bruno Mars now keeping that torch alive a little bit."

9. Producers Took Pride in Their Craft

Sinqua Walls: “The artists that I still think have that level of craftsmanship that they had in the ‘90s are the guys that took their time and didn’t try to rush it out. They take time to make sure their instrumentation was good, they didn’t just sample a record and then they’re done with it. DJ Quik is one of the legends, he says producers had to work harder to really make it stand the test of time. That sample approval, they had to work for it. You had to impress the people that came before you from the ‘60s or ‘70s who had that funk sound they wanted to sample.”

10. The Beats Still Make You Move 

 VH1 Dre

Ice Cube and Dr. Dre / Image via Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Sinqua Walls: “A lot of the music that I was introduced to, that we have in the show, I hear now how it stands the test of time. Dr. Dre, old school Snoop Dogg, you hear that beat and everyone starts vibing to it.”