The 30 Greatest Hip-Hop Demos

Hard as it may be to imagine nowadays, there was a time when you needed more than just an Internet connection and a liberal dose of self-delusion to launch your career as a professional rapper*. You needed the skill to concisely channel your talent into a few choice songs, the resourcefulness to get that material into the hands of the record label gatekeeper who possessed the key to your hip-hop dreams, and a liberal dose of self-delusion. You needed a demo.

True, dropping a noise-making independent single, adding a hot guest verse on yourmansnthem’s record, or being the beneficiary of some good ol’ fashioned show biz nepotism could be more direct routes to getting on. But the traditional demo tape—an industry calling card in the form of a TDK60; that romantic relic G Rap and Erick Sermon once devoted crisp-lisped verses to—was still key to sealing the deal with any potential A&R suitor, and provided the unconnected masses perpetual hope of a seat on the express from ashy to classy.

They don’t make demos like they used to because, well, they don’t make demos anymore period. Blame the Interwebz for saturating cyberspace with more rap “projects” than New York City public housing. Yet as the Web taketh away so doth it giveth, regularly gifting us beaucoup vintage demos and lost OG versions of tracks from the classic hip-hop era like every day is rap nerd Xmas (or at least Kwanzaa). Here are the best in circulation, rap rarity bliss laced with crazy tape hiss.**

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#1. The Notorious B.I.G., Three Song Demo (1991)

#1. The Notorious B.I.G., Three Song Demo (1991)


The Notorious B.I.G. “Guaranteed Raw”

The Notorious B.I.G. “Love No Hoe”

The Notorious B.I.G. “Microphone Murderer”

Originally recorded in B.I.G.’s DJ 50 Grand’s Bedford Ave. basement before being re-recorded at DJ Mister Cee’s crib, this is the big poppa of rap demos. Forget the fact that it won “Unsigned Hype” honors in March 1992, thus piquing the interest of one Sean Combs and leading to B.I.G.’s deal with Uptown (and consequently) Bad Boy. Forget the fact that it represents the start of one of the most comet-like careers in hip-hop history. Just listen and appreciate the beauty in its simplicity: single-take performances, no overdubs, not even any samples. Just a DJ going back and forth on two copies of classic breakbeats, and an emcee ferociously spitting heat, his burgeoning talent only exceeded by his hunger.

Ironically enough, when B.I.G.’s demo was initially aired on WKCR back in the day the reception was less than enthusiastic. Bobbito: “Me and Stretch did a demo battle around ’92 with a group called Bronx Zu and an unsigned artist named Biggie Smalls [with the winner decided by the listeners]. The phones lit up and… Bronx Zu won by a landslide! Obviously, no one ever heard about them afterwards and Biggie wound up being one of the biggest selling artists of the era. Crazy, right?” No such shenanigans in this countdown, though. Now and forever, B.I.G. is king.

Source: Complex.


~ by littlefluffyduck on March 18, 2011.

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