Published Tue, September 20, 2022 at 3:40 PM EDT
In 1988 producer, DJ and radio personality Marley Marl was Hip-Hop's greatest and most influential producer.
Just two years prior, he had changed Hip-Hop production by isolating individual kick, snare and hi-hat and re-sequencing them as opposed to looping a drum sample on MC Shan's classic "The Bridge." He'd already played a huge role in Hip-Hop production during the "drum machine era" producing classics for Dimples D., Steady B, Craig G and Roxanne Shante, and his Juice Crew was at their zenith as the genre's preeminent clique in Hip-Hop. Outside of Hurby Luvbug's The House That Rap Built a year before, never had a Hip-Hop producer released a Quincy Jones-styled compilation of artists that they produced.
In Control Vol. 1 was as much a triumph for The Juice crew as it was for Marley Marl. Big Daddy Kane's debut Long Live The Kane, Biz Markie's debut Goin' Off and MC Shan's sophomore release Born To Be Wild dropped in '88 as well, and Kool G. Rap, Craig G., Shante', Tragedy aka The Intelligent Hoodlum as well as newcomer Masta Ace all had debut full-length albums that would arrive within the next two years. In Control was a perfect promotional vehicle for those artists, their releases, and the relatively new Cold Chillin' Records, which most of the artists were signed to.
Musically, Marley provided some of his best work for this project. Craig G's "Droppin' Science" with its "Make It Funky" interpolation and its popular remix which used the same Lou Donaldson "Who's Makin' Love" loop that was later used on Biggie's "One More Chance" remix seven years later is one of Craig G's best and most revered songs, along with "Duck Alert," the Red Alert diss which is also featured.
"We Write The Songs" featuring Heavy D and Biz Markie saw both of the late MCs flexing their playful deliveries over a slow tempo piano-driven track, a favorite on the album. Queensbridge legend Tragedy aka The Intelligent Hoodlum provided "The Rebel" and "Live Motivator," follow-ups to his output billed as The Super Kids. Trag's contributions marked the first time most of us heard the word "illmatic" and solidified the Juice Crew's youngest member as official and ready for a full-length release.
Masta Ace, the Juice Crew's newest addition contributed "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize" and "Simon Says," introducing the world to his clever wordplay. These songs were the perfect introduction for the man who would become the Juice Crew's most consistent recording artist. Juice Crew pillar and one of Marley's earliest collaborators Roxanne Shante's "Wackitt" was a diss aimed at J.J. Fad and a spoof of their popular "Super Sonic."
MC Shan's "Freedom" was musically a throwback to rap music's first generation as he flowed over the "Get Up And Dance" breakbeat to perfection.
"The Symphony" which features Masta Ace, Craig G., Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane is revered as the template for the modern-day posse cut and is arguably the most popular track on the album. Marley's production and the incredible verses from all four MCs created one of the genre's most talked about and celebrated songs completing an incredible album.