From '93 Til: Looking Back at JT the Bigga Figga and the Get Low Playaz
Much as we like authoritative titles and watershed moments, there are few undisputed positions in hip-hop. But it's been exactly 20 years since 1993, and what a great year for hip-hop 1993 was. You might say it was the best year for hip-hop, but then again, The Chronic came out in 1992. And Illmatic was 1994. So maybe not the best, but still: Graze even a short list of hip-hop releases from 1993 and it will drop your jaw. Every week there was something new and completely different. 2Pac, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, Guru, Wu-Tang, Black Moon, Digable Planets -- all these guys hit their stride in 1993. But what about the Bay?
S.F. rapper JT the Bigga Figga in '93
Last month we attended a panel discussion in NYC that focused on 1993's immense output. It being New York, the conversation naturally hovered around East Coast music. But the West Coast was thriving, too: Even take L.A. out of the conversation and you're looking at maybe the most formative period for West Coast rap music. So, definitive lists and superlatives aside, we're just gonna take you on a trip -- back to the fall of 1993. Every week, we'll dig up something that came out of the Bay Area roughly around the same time, 20 years ago.
Mike WiLL was making finger paintings in 1993
So now it's early October '93, and here's where we're at in Bay Area hip-hop: The Coup debuted with Kill Your Landlord back in May. Summer's over so maybe you've already been listening to Freestyle Fellowship, the Menace II Society soundtrack, or A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders. You might also have heard Mac Mall's debut record, Illegal Business?, which dropped in July. And of course Souls of Mischief's '93 'Til Infinity just came out (Sept. 28) but you, not yet knowing that it's *timeless*, already rinsed it.
It's around this time in '93 that you're starting to hear JT the Bigga Figga on the radio. Big Fig was just beginning what would be a long and unconventional career that took him from independent producer to rapper to businessman and back. After producing and rapping on tons of records over the years, JT dropped out of public view for several years recently (appearing again earlier this year on a Future and Young Scooter mixtape). But his founding of Get Low Recordz helped nurture young talents like San Quinn and the Game, and his eventual role as an A&R for Rap-a-Lot found him in increasingly influential circles as the years went on.
At this time back in '93, though, Big Fig's main hustle was distributing cassettes of Playaz N' The Game, his second, self-released solo album. Check out "Game Recognize Game," JT's breakout single, which led to, among other things, a "Certificate of Recognition" from the Nation of Islam, as he showed SF Weekly back in 1995.. It also led to his signing with to Priority Records (which distributed new artists like N.W.A. and Snoop). "Game Recognize Game" is a hooky dovetailing of L.A. G-funk and early Bay Area sounds. If you were around the Fillmore in '93, maybe some of this looks familiar. Maybe you even remember tussling at Mo' Music on Hayes. Pick up Playaz N' The Game and you'll find early cameos from Get Low Playaz San Quinn, D-Moe, Rappin' 4 Tay, and Mac Mall. Also see: "Back To The Shit" feat. San Quinn & D-Moe.