Saukrates – The Underground Tapes

Well, we’re officially old. It had been knocking on the door, but when a rapper about the same age as you can re-release a classic album about 20 years after it’s initial release, well, now said door has been torn off it’s hinges. I can vividly remember when “Father Time” dropped, probably in 1998. I had never heard of Saukrates before that song, but I never forgot about him afterwards. At that moment, Toronto, and Canada in general didn’t have much of an international presence in the rap scene yet. If any presence at all. I remembered seeing a video from Maestro Fresh Wes on Yo! MTV Raps when i was a kid and that was the extent of my exposure to Canadian hiphop.

Saukrates was memorable for a lot of reasons, namely his tough, gruff voice that still somehow flowed like hot butter and ridiculous beats that were filled with classic drum breaks and smart samples. There was an East Coast feel to his music and style but he didn’t come off like another NYC rapper at all. There was something distinctly different about him and the underground hiphop world definitely took notice. Everytime I tuned into Friday Night Flavas (the wildly popular “underground” hiphop show that ran on Friday nights on LA’s massive urban/dance station Power 106) I’d hear “Father Time” or “Hate Runs Deep” or something else featuring Saukrates. Or maybe a track from his TO contemporaries Kardinal Offishall or Choclair. Whatever the case, Toronto was making it’s presence felt in hiphop for the first time, and it would only be 9 or 10 short years later that would Drake drop “You Da Best” and begin the process of finishing the job that Soxx and crew started.

As much as i tend to think like an “old head,” I can appreciate what the kids are doing with hiphop right now. I can’t really listen to much of it, but I get it. And I know they probably feel about 90’s hiphop/boom-bap the way I felt about Sugar Hill Gang and Kurtis Blow when I was a kid – I couldn’t get into it no matter how much I was “supposed to.” I think there’s a specific DNA of a generation, and if you’re born into that time, you have a bit of that DNA wired into you. I’m laced with the boom-bap DNA and I always will be. I don’t expect a 20 year old Lil Uzi Vert fan to spend too much time with our “classics” but I do really hope that a re-release such as “The Underground Tapes” can sneak into the kids consciousness. Everything about the album represents that late 90’s hiphop DIY aesthetic, in sound, style and presentation. It’s an album that would help anyone gain a new appreciation for a very vital moment in hiphop history.