When most heads think of skating, the words “thrash” or “extreme” come up before the words “fresh” or “dope”. Not being a skater, I’ve always seen skateboarding culture as one that would embrace punk before hip-hop, but in the early nineties, that started to change.
My friend Cavan, who used to skate, was the kind of kid who would listen to the Dead Kennedys, then Public Enemy, then Danzig, then Eric B. & Rakim. I remember one day watching some skate videos at his house, and I noticed that Hieroglyphics were playing in the background. From that point on, Hiero’s skateboard fanbase grew, and pretty soon I began to see skater kids at malls rocking the three-eyed face on their t-shirts.
More recently, this generation of skaters brought Strength Magazine on to the scene. Unlike straight up skate books like “Thrasher”, Strength was a weird hybrid of hip-hop meets skate culture, covering everything from Wu-Tang Clan to Pavement.
In 1999, skating may not be the fifth element of hip-hop culture, but hip-hop definitely seems to have become an element of skate culture. With this, Strength releases Subtext, a compilation of west coast underground hip-hop. Unlike many other indy hip-hop compilations, this one has a definite direction, without getting too repetitive. All of our current favorites are here, making this compilation essential listening. Aceyalone wonderfully exercises his stream-of-consciousness style on the Evidence produced “Rappers, Rappers, Rappers 12 for 10″; Del The Funkee Homosapien brings more self produced madness on “Cyberpunks”; Hiero’s most slept on crew Pep Love and J-Biz have their time to shine on “The Prose”; Motion Man and Kutmasta Kurt bounce all over the place on “Clearing The Field”; and Dilated Peoples work the angles on the title track “Strength”. With contributions from The Beat Junkies, Abstract Rude, AWOL One, Rasco, Planet Asia, A-Trak, and more, it’s a solid compilation front to back.
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