On January 23, 1989, Tone Loc dropped his debut album, Loc'd After Dark, and with it dominated popular radio.
The album's radio-ready singles, "Wild Thing," "Funky Cold Medina," and "I Got It Goin On" solidified the charismatic Cali rapper's place on top of the Billboard Charts, skyrocketing him to #1 and selling two million copies. With his sandpaper-smoker's voice, he instantly stood out —and his drawl is still appreciated today. "His voice is ill," Jadakiss confirmed in an interview last year about his all-time favorite voices in Hip-Hop history.
Add that to his laid-back delivery, and it was clear that much of Tone Loc's charm came from his easygoing cool, and his album was a light alternative to some of the harder music that was coming from his stomping grounds at the time, courtesy of N.W.A., Ice-T and others. From the cover of his album, a tribute to Donald Byrd's 1963 album, A New Perspective, to his easygoing lyrical and musical approach, Tone Loc's cool was instantly palatable. Still, in a 2019 interview with Billboard the rapper explained that in spite of his music, he was familiar with gang life.
“The name Loc, a lot of people don’t know, is a gang name,” he explained. “It’s a Crip name. So by me adopting that name, and my records not necessarily being gangsta, I was still kinda up in that realm because I used that name. But only people from Los Angeles would know that. The Bloods knew it, and that’s probably the wildest and craziest thing I had ever done, taking that name, because you could have Crips coming at you and Bloods at the same time. But luckily it was all cool, because that lifestyle was recognized but I didn’t have to go around saying it nonstop. I was trying to be a rapper, and looking to entertain and make people dance. I lucked up into this shit.”
Tone Loc's music proved to be a perfect match for MTV and his Robert Palmer-inspired video for "Wild Thing," stayed in rotation, making him a household name. Though his follow-up didn't perform nearly as well, Loc'd After Dark has earned him a place as one of rap's most distinctive voices ever, with some of Hip-Hop's biggest hits.