Bubble Coats, Leathers, Polo Boots & Timbs: NY BOOM BAP
One night, some followers and I had a brief convo about the hip hop sub-genre of Jeep Music. I started pulling up songs and videos, but was led in another direction (although there’s some overlap), to a super specific era & niche of rap music… Let’s call it Bubble Coat, Leathers, Polo Boots & Timbs Music, or Boom Bap.
So we’re going to just spend a little time on this. It ain’t for everybody; this is head nodding, on the block, in the ride with your crew, somebody’s holding swishers, everybody’s calling each other “dun” music. And it’s all from about 93–96.
There’s only one real place to start…
This is pre-bling era rap music; sitting on the other side of the the bright, party vibe of New Jack Swing. The sound was for the street cats…
For all the killas and the hundred-dolla-billas.
Visuals were dark, gritty. Random vacant lots and alleys. Eighty thousand people from the block in the video.
I mentioned head nodding already, right?
Two labels specifically basically owned this micro-genre: Duck Down, home of Smif-n-Wesson, Black Moon, Heltah Skeltah, the ubiquitos Buckshot, and the original gun clappers.
…and the other was LOUD Records, home of Mobb Deep, and 89,091 negroes from Staten Island (I don’t think there’s been anyone else legit in hip hop from Staten Island. It’s not even a real borough) who called themselves Wu Tang.
In the early 90s, there were huge chasms in regional music sounds. This was the era that birthed the East Coast/West Coast beef, and the vibes really couldn’t have been further apart. The irony is that there was a lot of the same subject matter: the streets, your crew, your turf, your rep; everyone just addressed it differently.
We were in a heavy Five Percenter moment (also a heavy Islam moment, also a heavy African heritage moment, all remixed together), and that was evident throughout hip hop. Through today’s lens, some of it — even from our respected legacy acts — is what we’d call Hotep, which is a massive nostalgia killer. At least today’s Hoteps aren’t spitting their stuff over dope beats.
We were also very much about letting it be known we wasn’t no punks. If you feelin’ froggy, son… *Holds up arms like Ice-Cube-as-Dough-Boy on the porch*
I realize you didn’t have to be from/in NY to feel the music, but you may not have known just how NY this sh*t was if you weren’t here.
For example, reggae and dancehall references all up in so many of these joints (even if many of those references are problematic)
As I said in the beginning, a conversation about Jeep Music led me down this road, and there was some crossover between the micro-genres. Many of these songs were strictly for your truck — played loudly — not for chillin’ in the house.
As I also mentioned before, this is the pre-bling era, spanning right up to the beginning of the dominance of excess-rap. We weren’t rapping all about the cars, the designers, the trips to exotic locales and all that just yet; we were still celebrating making it up and out.
To all the people reading this, God bless your life….
Boom Bap rap wasn’t really trying to party, and was looking at party rappers with a hard side eye. EPMD got at them with “Crossover”; Guru and Primo did it with “Mass Appeal”
We talked about this being the era of putting your whole hood in the video shoot in a random lot with trash cans on fire or something, right?
Also, shout out to the original backpack rapper era.
Souls of Mischief are the lone non-NY-tri-state-area rappers here, hailing from The Bay. This sound, however, is right in this pocket. Even the song title “93 to Infinity” is everything, because this song sounds like 1993. It feels like the actual year. How were they so prophetic?!
So, everybody be quiet for a second. Give this your full attention. This is one of the best remixes ever to be remixed (that damn Bad Boy and their 90s remix mastery), but is it not ANYWHERE on any streaming service or iTunes or DSP. And that’s not fair. Because it’s perfect.
Let’s continue on…to another lot with the whole hood (and a young Fat Joe). One time for the days when you could put 60,000 samples on your track with no clearances, publishing fees, or consequences. We’ll never have sounds as layered as this, and what producers like The Bomb Squad did, in music again. ☹️
And super shout out to Yo! MTV Raps and BET’s Rap City for the daily after school dose of all this cultural greatness.
There’s a simple test to determine who’s really about this Boom Bap life:
Is their favorite version of “They Want EFX” this one…
… or this one?
(The correct answer is the second one)
This song is a little earlier than the others in this group, but PRT belong here. When people suggest that Kendrick, J Cole and Chance are broaching pro-Blackness and consciousness in a way that’s new for hip hop, I know they haven’t listened to anything that dropped before 1995.
But you know, try to put young’uns on to this era, they scrunch their face up, like “What is this? You can’t do nothing with this beat? Why is it so slow” (as though what they do now isn’t a super sped up version of our early 90s head nod).
And again, lyrics for some of these sound a lot harsher thirty years later.
The Lost Boyz, to me, were a bridge group between the boom bap & jeep music and party hip hop. Afterall, they were signed to Uptown, the ultimate party music label.
The Lost Boyz also gave us one of the all time great hood love stories set to music. (These lyrics are so simple though…you still have to love it.)
Pour some out for Renee.
Speaking of street cats transitioning to party music…
Still one of the illest beats of all time. People widely respect this track as a jam now, but only in NYC has “Quiet Storm” always been a party song.
When Prodigy died, I was downtown near West 4th St (the Village, for non-NYers), and had the original blasting in my headphones…and it made my really, really mad at gentrification. This song used to feel right walking through that area, but it was jarringly out of place that day.
The two songs I’m going to close with are late in this era; technically into the bling era chronologically. But sonically and topically, they fit right here.
I’ve been sitting on another very NY-centric sermon for the Native Tongues that we’ll get into soon, but we’ll wrap this up with sometimes-considered-periphery-NativeTongues-group The Beatnuts. Even with Pun & Cuban Link on this, to me it always fit the latter end of this subgenre.
Actually, no. I’m going to close with this. One of the best hip hop collabs ever. Also, we need to put some respect on Nice & Smooth’s names.
And before you put your Triple Phat Goose and Averix jackets back in the closet, there are playlists! Grab your drink of choice or light something, pull one sweatpant leg up, and chill for a little while on the streets of early 90s New York.
BUBBLE COATS, LEATHERS, POLO BOOTS & TIMBS for Spotify
And for Apple Music