Classic Albums: 'Criminal Minded' by Boogie Down Productions

Classic Albums: 'Criminal Minded' by Boogie Down Productions

Published Thu, March 3, 2022 at 12:55 PM EST

There are albums that seem to be part of you — like an appendage. Then there are albums that are more in line with self-discovery — like realizing mayonnaise doesn't belong anywhere near a piece of bread. I consider Boogie Down Production's debut album, Criminal Minded, in the latter category.

I was born in '83, so it would be quite strange for me to have vidid memories about an album that came out in '87. But that's the real beauty of classic albums.... they seem to discover you at just the right time and place.

I come from an era where a visit to Blockbuster was as magical as a trip Disney Land. Perusing the shelves full of various VHS tapes — all with colorful imagery — was a gateway to exotic locales, titular heroes, and of course, the big bad villains who I always had a thing for.

I remember staring at the Marlon Brando on The Godfather and pressuring my parents to let me watch it. Of course, I didn't know that they knew that the film featured a scene with a severed horse head in a bed. So, they'd always just say, "Next time..."

KRS-One Performing at 2021 Verzuz Battle

Credits to: Getty Images

Unlike our visits to Blockbuster, school wasn't a place where my parents could mettle. And at Haven Middle School, Hip-Hop tapes and CD's were shared, passed, and traded amongst a web of IOU's, trades during lunch, and lost bets.

Like with The Godfather cover, I vividly remember seeing KRS-One and Scott La Rock on the cover of Criminal Minded. To that point, my experience with Hip-Hop albums was more in line with Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, and Young MC's Stone Cold Rhymin', which in retrospect, look like attempts to be smooth rather than authentic.

But Criminal Minded.... the CD felt like an invitation to a secret society.

While the album cover may have suggested that BDP might have started with "9mm Goes Bang," they instead, invited listeners in with "Poetry." When I finally got a hold of Criminal Minded, this song really drove home a point that great albums truly have an ebb and flow quality to them.

"Poetry" evokes feelings of other classic album openers like "NY State of Mind" by Nas, "Excursions" by A Tribe Called Quest, "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A, and "Ambitonz as a Ridah" by 2Pac. All of the aforementioned songs prepare the palette for what is to ultimately to come: a unique, regional perspective. You have to remember, without the Internet, a lot of kids thought "rap" existed in some magical and fictional realm like Gotham City.

And then we got "South Bronx."

To a Midwestern kid, the Bronx was a place that we might have heard of, but not something committed to memory like the state capitals. While a more complete understanding of "South Bronx's" place in The Bridge Wars would be clearer as I got older, in the moment, it gave me all the qualities I thirsted for when visiting Blockbuster. I was transported to a time and place that I knew nothing about. It was an audio history book on the creation of Hip-Hop; Herc, park jams, Bronx River, DJ Red Alert, and Flash. Now, lyrics like, "The real Rock Steady taking out these toys" makes perfect sense. But then, it was like he was speaking a completey different language.

The aforementioned "9mm Goes Bang" solidifies Criminal Minded as a classic album. While hindsight can often diminish the impact of songs, I believe that a lot of artists like Nas, JAY-Z, and Big Pun owe a lot to this particular song. The utilization of a first-person narrative — whether imagined or factual — gives life to not only the narrator, but also the world in which he/she comes from. For me, "9mm Goes Bang" is "Stairway to Heaven," mixed with "Hurricane," with a twist of Black Caesar.

MC Shan:

Credits to: Getty Images

The wonderful thing about classic albums like Criminal Minded is that it transports us back to a time when an answer to a question wasn't just a Google search away, and not knowing something fully made it that much more enticing. KRS-One and Scott La Rock's masterpiece required someone to actually sit down and pay attention. Was I maybe a little too young to understand it completely? Absolutely. But that's part of the fun of Hip-Hop. Like with a movie poster, there's the art work, and then there's the nuance of the actual story once you obtain a little wisdom.

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