Wax Poetics 51 is an all-hip-hop issue with two different covers. Cover 1: Microphone icon Nas b/w Detroit rapper Danny Brown. Limited-Edition Cover 2: No Limit Records (cover feature on production team Beats by the Pound) b/w Ishmael Butler’s new project, Shabazz Palaces. Features on Kurtis Blow, El-P, the Roots, Killer Mike, Robert Glasper, and Coke La Rock. Also in this issue: Oddisee, G-Side, THEESatisfaction, Cities Aviv, and Gangrene (Alchemist & Oh No).
The Illest. Nasir Jones dropped his 1994 debut Illmatic as a living legend. And his use of several superstar producers on the same album set a hip-hop precendent that forever changed the game. Ever the visionary, Nas found stratospheric success with his follow-up albums by defining mafioso rap and embracing a burgeoning NYC production style that some saw as commercial but was really the mark of a new era. Almost two decades later, Nas remains at the top of the list when the conversation turns to MCs, lyricists, and simply who’s the illest.
Fire on the Bayou. With one foot in the Bay Area and another in his native New Orleans, Master P masterminded a multimillion-dollar independent record label that moved gold and platinum hits by the trunkload. Signing a wealth of homegrown talent, No Limit Records came to define a distinctive Southern rap aesthetic thanks to unique album covers and hot tracks from the production mob Beats by the Pound. This is their story.
Last Call. Detroiter Danny Brown grew up with hip-hop. He rapped while still in kindergarten, got hipped to the Wu-Tang Clan by his house DJ father, and came up trying to sound like Nas. After absorbing all forms of hip-hop nationwide, Brown developed multiple rap styles, not abiding by any predisposed ideas of the art form. He didn’t drop his first record until he was in his late twenties, but now after releasing joints with Tony Yayo and hometown producer Black Milk—as well as his own breakout album, 2010’s The Hybrid, and last year’s XXX—he has found his own voice and individuality. Danny Brown enters his thirties with newfound success and a fresh perspective.
Spectral Presence. Ishmael Butler effortlessly made his mark on hip-hop in 1993 with his unique voice and delivery, and the overall musical aesthetic of his group, Digable Planets. After two stellar albums, the Planets disbanded and Butler left Brooklyn, disappearing to his native Seattle, emerging briefly in 2003 with Cherrywine—his short-lived band that was ten years ahead of its time—only to fade into the shadows again. Recently, that familiar voice crept back into our consciousness as a mysterious project popped up called Shabazz Palaces. After two EPs and now an LP on Sub Pop, Butler is finally surfacing and making his true presence known, even if it will take another ten years for it to be fully felt.