The 30 Greatest Months in Rap History

29. March 1987

Notable Events:
- Boogie Down Productions' Criminal Minded is released on 3/3/1987
- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's Rock The House is released on 3/19/1987

And it came to pass in the seventh year of the Reagan Administration that a crack cocaine epidemic grabbed inner-city America by the neck. Although L.A. was the epicenter, the rock plague spread across the country, devastating a generation and turning many urban communities into zombie-filled war zones. In March of that year, rap duos from two East Coast cities released debut albums that were diametrically opposed in every possible way, yet each marked the beginning of a brilliant career. First up was Boogie Down Productions' Criminal Minded, in which The Blastmaster KRS-One and DJ Scott LaRock put the realities of daily life in the South Bronx during the crack era on wax in a way never before imagined. Songs like "9MM Go Bang" and "The P Is Free" left nothing to the imagination, and the beats (thanks to an under-the-radar production assist from Ced Gee of Ultramagnetic MCs) were even more relentless than The Blastmaster's braggadocios rhymes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum stood DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, whose light-hearted debut album Rock The House dropped a couple weeks after Criminal Minded. Their LP was all about fun, and thus, 100% devoid of social commentary (unless you count the I Dream of Jeannie theme song–sampling hit "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" or the lesser-known answer record "Guys Ain't Nothing But Trouble" featuring Ice Cream Tee). Will and Jeff's native Philadelphia was just over 100 miles southwest of the Bronx, but you'd think it was another planet if it weren't for Schooly D's alternate take of life in the illadelph. The Fresh Prince made a conscious decision to use his story-telling skills to entertain rather than inflame, and that instinct has served him well as he went on to be the first rapper to win a Grammy or star in a TV show. Today he's one of the highest paid matinee idols of all time and Jazzy Jeff remains one of the greatest DJs ever to touch a turntable. Scott LaRock would be murdered shortly after the release of Criminal Minded. As for KRS-One? He went on to become a philosopher, author, lecturer—all while maintaining his status as an MC-in-Good-Standing over 26 years after his debut. —Rob Kenner

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