To celebrate the long, long overdue digital release of two of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time; Black Star’s “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star” and (my personal favourite) Mos Def’s classic solo debut, “Black on Both Sides” we’ve decided to take a look back at the late 90s/early 00s hip-hop label that released both records and launched a new era of independent hip-hop, the legendary Rawkus Records.
The label was established in 1996 by Brian Brater and Jarret Myer, focusing on local, underground talent from the New York area which would lead to the discovery of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Company Flow and producer DJ Hi-Tek amongst others. The label came to establish it’s own sound and identity with its artists typically favouring a mellower, traditionally east coast style with beats being crafted off vintage jazz and soul samples which recalled the Native Tongues movement of the late 80s/early 90s (Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers). Lyrically too, the concerns were more conscious, with many of the rappers focusing on social problems and political themes rather than resorting to gangster rap cliché.
In addition to it’s direct signings, the label was also famous for its ‘Soundbombing‘ and ‘Lyricist Lounge‘ compilation brands both of which were always synonymous with quality and featured other, like minded acts like Q-Tip, Common, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples and Rage against the Machine‘s Zack De La Rocha as well as other East Coast talent such as Prodigy, KRS One, Royce Da 5’9″ and Rah Digga – A pre-fame Eminem even made more than one appearance this label’s releases
This playlist gathers together some choice cuts from the label’s catalogue.