67. Low Profile "Pay Ya Dues" (1989)
Album: We're in This Together
Producer: DJ Aladdin, Doug Young
There is a case to be made for Low Profile's 1989 debut We're In This Together as the greatest L.A. rap album ever made. Even when he was young, WC seemed about ten years older and 30 years wiser than his peers. Every song was delivered as a lesson from a hood elder. At a time when N.W.A was fracturing amidst petty beefs, We're In This Together seemed even more tight-knit and resolute by comparison.
One producer, one rapper. 11 tracks. No interludes. No singing. The front cover showed WC and DJ Aladdin in all-black Champion sweatshirts and snapbacks, glaring at the camera as if to ask the listener: “What do YOU have to say?” “Pay Ya Dues” epitomizes their method. Aladdin beats the sand out of “More To the Ounce” and WC uses three verses to unpack what it means and does not mean to ride a bandwagon. It's also the only rap song that uses the term “peon” as the ultimate diss.
The song's heart is its middle verse, where WC takes a break from breaking balls to draw a picture of his dedication: “Back in the days I drove a raggedy Dodge/Couldn't afford a studio, so we used a garage/Aladdin used to grab a gang of disco breaks/One turntable and a broken 808/My little brother Toones and Frank, they hung around all night/To make sure that the demo was tight/Didn't have an engineer, if you know what I mean/Aladdin did it all at the age of 16.” Before gangsta became glamorized, this pair was the salt of the L.A. earth.