Growing up in DC

I was exposed to a lot of rap's early sounds. Grandmaster Flash, Whodini, Doug E Fresh were sibling staples. When I was shipped off to college in Australia, I was suddenly on my own in terms of nurturing my hip-hop tastes. My peers listened to big rock sounds from the UK and US, or preferred the local indie bands to my "jungle music." Occasionally alternative radio would play some gangsta rap just to prove they had the stones. (JJJ national radio got flak once from the suits for playing "Fuck Tha Police" uncut, and in protest, programmed NWA's "Express Yourself" on a loop for 12 straight hours.) I snatched up anything I could afford from the local record store. I recall buying 3 Feet High And Rising based entirely on the album art. It was very hit and miss: Booyah Tribe, Sex Packets, MC Brains (that was a miss.) Anything and everything Public Enemy.

I spent my first 2 years at University studying towards a degree in genetics, but began to get existential chills when I looked around at my lab partners: social cripples, the lot. I started taking humanities courses, beginning with an Intro to Feminist Studies. I pulled consecutive all-nighters completing my first essay, on Simone De Beauvoir. I got through it by playing It Takes a Nation of Millions... over and over and over again. With Millett, Gilligan, Dworkin on the prowl, it felt good to have the S1Ws in the room, watching my back. But it was also the first time I had harnessed music purely for energy. The Bomb Squad powered me like a combustion engine. On the downside: I would commit the frequent freshman sin of incorporating rap lyrics into my essays. I think I may have worked a Tribe Called Quest verse into a paper on Pan-Syrianism.

I got into TCQ via the "Native Tongues" fraternity of De La Soul, Jungle Bros, Queen Latifah, Monie Love. I loved their first record, though mostly on the strength of the great old material it looped in long greedy lengths. The Low End Theory, on the other hand, was a brand new sound. This post-gangsta jazz rap was so proudly bare, like a bonsai tree. White people LOVED this record. White college girls loved this record. All you white girls out there who were in college in the early 90s, was this the first hip-hop record you ever bought? Sure you danced to Cheeba Cheeba and Bust a Move like you were Kate Beckinsdale in The Last Days of Disco, but first album? Ladies, let us know your first rap CD in the comments box.