1991, Music

A Future Without a Past…(1991) by Leaders of the New School

I must admit that I was kind of charmed on the first listen to this album. That charm wore off a bit with repeated listens – why that happened is probably a long story – but that initial positive vibe is pretty rare for me with hip hop, especially hip hop that is this obsessed with “school.”

The rappers are pretty engaging. I don’t know much about Busta Rhymes as an actual rapper, but he’s pretty engaging here, if a little silly at times. (I know him much better as a celebrity, an actor – seriously – and, um, a “character” for lack of a better word.) Some of the other guys feel a little more accomplished at times, if less distinctive and fun.

The whole vibe is fun and casual and goofy. I suppose you could call it “juvenile” or “immature” and I guess that would be fair. But I have to say that much of the hip hop I’ve been listening to doesn’t strike me as “fun” and this has a palpable sense of fun. In addition to that, it’s clear that they’re talented, even if they are indeed goofy. I’d rather people have a sense of humour, everything else being equal.

The production feels very indebted to the Bomb Squad to my ears, but I don’t really know enough to notice anything else. But it’s a production style I prefer to the more slick west coast stuff or the more wooden and sparse old school stuff.

I understand these guys are not really “leaders” and I know there are more important hip hop records from 1991. But I actually most enjoyed listening to this, which is something I don’t often say for hip hop (as I’m not a fan of the genre). It definitely grated a bit on subsequent listens but I’m trying to remember that initial feeling of surprise.


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