What Was Your First Hip-Hop Purchase? A DJBooth Roundtable

From A Tribe Called Quest to J. Cole, DJBooth team members share their first hip-hop album purchases.

Today (August 11) marks the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop—that fateful night when Kool Herc introduced a party in the Bronx to the start of what would eventually become a global phenomenon.

Hip-hop as a genre and culture has come a long way over the past four-plus decades, which means sometimes it's nice to simply look back on such humble beginnings as a reminder of how far we've come.

In celebration, several members of the DJBooth squad decided to stroll down Memory Lane, recalling our first-ever hip-hop purchases.

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory (1991)

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Z (Editor-In-Chief): 1991 was a great year for hip-hop. There was Ice Cube's Death Certificate, 2Pac's 2Pacalypse Now and De La Soul's De La Soul is Dead, among countless others classics. But the album I begged my parents to buy for me—on tape—was The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. I was only seven at the time, but Q-Tip had me daydreaming about being a teenager... with a pager. As a kid, album artwork always made a purchase just as attractive as the music itself and the cover art for Tribe's sophomore album is truly a work of art. At the time, I would never have been able to put it into words, but the art spoke to me. Like walking down the cereal aisle with mom and picking out Frosted Flakes because Tony The Tiger wants YOU to eat his product. At the time, The Low End Theory was just an addition to my cassette tape collection. But now? I can honestly say it's the reason why you're reading these words on DJBooth. Yup, that's some butterfly effect shit right there.

Cassidy - I'm a Hustla (2005)

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Yoh (Senior Writer): Growing up, my brother was the album buyer. He purchased 50’s Get Rich or Die Tryin', T.I.’s Urban Legend, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter and Kanye’s College Dropout and I took from him. It was my birthright as a little brother. But when I heard Cassidy rap, “I could sell raid to a bug, I’m a hustler: I can sell salt to a slug” on the radio, fireworks went off. So when I’m a Hustla the album hit stores in June 2005, I couldn’t just wait for someone else to buy it. I got a ride to the local Best Buy and gave the pitiful little money I had to the Philly rapper. Far from a classic but not a purchase I regret; I still play “B-Boy Stance,” “6 Minutes” and “A.M. to P.M.” It's one of the many albums that soundtracked my transitional summer from middle school to high school. Good album, good memories. 

Blackstar - Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)

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Donna (Contributing Writer): My very first hip-hop album was Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, which I almost sat on when getting into my cousin's car after summer camp. I liked the cover because it was orange and that was my favorite color. He let me take the CD, along with Eminem's debut, home with me. "Definition" very quickly became my first favorite hip-hop song because of Mos Def's singing. The jewel case on the original CD was cracked, so I got a blank one from the store to replace it. Years later, I found a sealed, remastered version in my local record shop and bought it as something of a gesture of good faith. 

Nelly - Nellyville (2002)

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Brendan (Managing Editor): I think I’ve heard “Air Force Ones” more than just about anyone on the planet not in the St. Lunatics. While I had been gifted many albums prior (shout out to the legendary Space Jam soundtrack as my first-ever CD) and it would be a few years before my first truly life-changing hip-hop moment (shout out to the first time I saw the “Through The Wire” music video), the first personal rap purchase I made with my own two hands was an edited version of Nellyville. In retrospect, it was extremely mediocre, but it still received daily play in my red Walkman and the fact that the town of Nellyville voted on what the weather should be every month is forever engrained in my memory. Long live “Pimp Juice.”

Lil' Bow Wow - Beware of Dog (2000)

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Dylan (Contributing Writer): My parents didn't play rap around the house much, so my father created a monster the day he came home with a copy of Lil' Bow Wow's Beware Of Dog on CD for your boy. I was off the chains after "The Future" dropped; at 13 years old he was referencing Kool Moe Dee and Michael Jordan before my 8-year-old mind fully grasped who they were. I heard Bow Wow say "my name is" on a record before Eminem. His So So Def debut was the first step on my jagged path into the world of hip-hop history and no amount of fake airplane flights and scrubbery will ever change that. Thank you, Bow.  

Blackstreet - Blackstreet (1994)

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Hershal (Contributing Writer): "I like the way you work it, no diggity" were the lyrics I heard when I listened to the song on the radio. It was the catchiest song I'd ever heard, and these lyrics were burrowed into my head for probably an entire year before I finally asked my mom to buy me the CD for Christmas. Unfortunately, in 1998, before I had access to the internet to check the name of the song or album, I sent my South Asian mother out on a wild goose chase to buy me the Blackstreet album with the song "I Like The Way You Work It" on it. As I now know, of course, the name of that song is "No Diggity." Against all odds, my mom came home with a Blackstreet CD. It was their debut, self-titled album that coincidentally had a completely different song on it, called "I Like The Way You Work." I unwrapped the CD on Christmas, squealed excitedly, and rushed to my CD player to give it a listen. All I wanted to do was listen to that one goddamn song. I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment. I was filled with so much resentment that I never listened to that CD ever again. Fuck Blackstreet and their song-lyric-recycling asses.

J. Cole - Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

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Ryan (Social Media Staff, Contributing Writer): After faithfully waiting for two years, J. Cole's Cole World: A Sideline Story was finally scheduled for release, and I declared that it would be my first CD purchase (I was barely 16). I ignored the leak, waited for September 27, and went to Target with my mom after school. Sold out. I asked my dad to pick it up at the Best Buy near his job, but he said, "No, it's going to be rush hour. Tomorrow." I wanted to cry. Later, as I was moping in front of my computer screen, denying myself the leak, my parents asked if I wanted Chipotle for dinner, and I jumped at the opportunity: "YES! CAN WE GO TO THE BEST BUY THAT'S RIGHT BY THERE!?" It warmed my heart to see other teens buying the album as well. The album wasn't as good as his tapes, but in that moment, it was the best music ever made.

Nelly - Country Grammar (2000)

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Sermon (Research Department): Explicit lyrics are a mother’s nightmare for her nine-year-old baby boy. Despite already being familiar with cuss words and some forms of explicit language, I wasn’t allowed to own CDs bearing the parental advisory sticker. For that reason, I have a clean copy of The Marshall Mathers LP. However, in 2000, my dad decided to sneakily unlock the forbidden gates by purchasing Nelly’s Country Grammar for me at a Fred Meyer after I struggled to pick out a toy. Mom didn’t find out about this until February 28, 2001, when a magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked Seattle and thus my explicit CDs, cleverly hidden behind the friendlier ones, were found scattered on the floor. She wasn't happy.



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