Aaliyah’s ‘Tonight Show’ Farewell + More: July 25 in Hip-Hop History
Today in hip-hop history is about births — of both artists and notable albums worth revisiting — and bittersweet finales.
July 25, 1951: Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire is Born
One of the most noted bass players in the world, Earth, Wind and Fire’s irrepressibly awesome Verdine White, was born in Chicago, Illinois. His older brothers Fred and Maurice White helped nurture his love of music early on, and Maurice swept Verdine up to play with him when he formed Earth, Wind & Fire in 1970.
“He was the one who really opened me up to being a musician,” Verdine said of Maurice in an interview with Music Radar. “And my father backed it up by making sure I took lessons, which was so important. But mainly, it was Maurice, because he gave me the opportunity to hang around and see his friends and just learn, you know?”
July 25, 1971: Jodeci’s Dalvin DeGrate is Born
Born in Hampton, Virginia, Dalvin DeGrate is the resident rapper for ‘90s R&B hitmakers Jodeci and the brother of group member Devante Swing (whose birth name is Donald DeGrate). In recent years, Mr. Dalvin, as he is best known, has been outspoken about how the group was received back in the day.
“Jodeci, as many records as we’ve sold, we’ve never been invited to the Grammys,” he told FADER in 2015. “Is it because we’re too black or what? We stay true to ourselves. We message try to conform or reform ourselves to what the standard of R&B [was]. We stuck by our guns.”
July 25, 1980: Uncle Murda is Born
Happy Birthday to Brooklyn’s own Leonard Grant, also known as Uncle Murda, who was born on this day in 1980. His discography of 14 mixtapes and counting started with 2005’s Murder Capitol and his most recent mixtape Don’t Come Outside, Vol. 1 dropped in 2017
While testifying in court as a defense witness for crack kingpin Ronald “Ra Diggs” Herron in 2014, Grant said that his moniker Uncle Murda arose from his ability to “kill a track” and “murder a beat.”
July 25, 1989: The Beastie Boys Release Paul’s Boutique
The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique is a sleeper hit that was certified double platinum a decade after its release. The album is now thought of as a breakthrough because of the insane layering of samples by producers Mike Simpson and John King, also known as Dust Brothers, that formed the beds for Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock to shine over.
"Paul’s Boutique was basically John King and I just fucking around with the technology at the time,” Simpson told Wax Poetics. “We were putting together tracks on a four-track and using a little computer sequencer and cheesy sampler. We were laying down tracks and multi-tracking loops, and, you know, this was really early on before… People weren’t hip to looping stuff. We were sort of the first people to take loops and layer loops and multiple crazy textures.”
July 25, 1995: Jay-Z Drops “In My Lifetime”
“In My Lifetime” is one of Jay-Z’s first songs to be officially released, after first being sold on the street.
“Jay was in my crib, me just making beats,” producer Ski Beatz told Complex of the song.“It was all dirty, dusty, crappy sounding. We just did it raw. Straight off the SP, he just came in and laid it down, went to D&D [studios] the next day, dressed it up, and shot a video. That’s not my first song with Jay, but that’s one of the first songs that actually got put out.”
“So I ain’t pressed to make a CD, I took it slow,” he raps on the song.“80% of these n- with deals can’t see me with the dough.”
July 25, 2001: Aaliyah’s Final Performance on The Tonight Show
Dressed in a cool leather cap, Aaliyah performed “More Than a Woman” all the way live with a full band on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Sadly, it was to be her last appearance on the show. She passed away just one month later in a tragic plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001.
July 25, 2002: Noreaga Proves He's ...God’s Favorite
...God’s Favorite was a no. 3 hit on the Billboard 200 and exposed producers The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Hugo), who produced the breakout single “Nothin” and several other album tracks (along with Swizz Beatz and Irv Gotti) to East Coast rap fans. The album also featured appearances by Akinyele, porn star Heather Hunter, Busta Rhymes & Jadakiss, Ja Rule, Nas, Ice T, Cam’ron and more.
July 25, 2002: Nelly Takes Us to Nellyville
Rapper Nelly’s second album Nellyville went six times Platinum, an incredible feat that sadly paled in comparison to the Diamond certification that his debut Country Grammar enjoyed. So while it was a dip in sales for him at the time, it is now in the top 20 of best-selling hip-hop albums of all time fondly remembered as the album that brought the never-ending popular hit “Hot in Herre,” the Kelly Rowland duet “Dilemma” and “Work It” with Justin Timberlake as well as the single “Pimp Juice,” which inspired him to create an energy drink of the same name.
“Nellyville was just this place,” he recalled to Billboard in 2017 on the album’s 15th anniversary. “Just somewhere where I felt like I wanted to take people or that was going to be my retirement place after Country Grammar. And I’m saying this from an artist’s perspective. I’m not saying it as an actual place. But I’m just more in line of an artist’s perspective.”
July 25, 2006: Jurassic 5 Release Feedback
The Los Angeles hip-hop group Jurassic 5 (a play on old-school rap names like the Fantastic Five) was actually comprised of six members for their first three albums, but DJ/producer Cut Chemist left the group before Feedback, which was made by remaining members Chali 2na, Marc 7, Akil, Zaakir and DJ Nu-Mark. The album featured cameos from dancehall duo Brick & Lace, the artist formerly known as Mos Def and Dave Matthews.
“We were kicking it with Dave Matthews on tour and seeing that a lot of his fans were also our fans was one of the motivations behind the song,” Chali 2na told Riot Sound. “Also, [Dave Matthews] being a fan of ours was another motivation behind doing the song. Nu-Mark did the beat and when he did it, Marc 7 was like — you know what, this sounds like a song that Dave Matthews would sound dope on. So we asked him and he was like — yea, let’s do it. He was cool with it, he liked the song. He was geeked about it and the way that the song actually happened, it happened so fast and so clean, when we walked away from it, it felt like, uh oh, this is going to be one of these songs.”
Feedback is the final Jurassic 5 album to date, and the group split in 2007 before reuniting for festival and concert performances in 2013.
July 25, 2006: LeToya Luckett Steps Into the Spotlight With LeToya
A long six years after LeToya Luckett left Destiny’s Child, she released her first solo album LeToya to great success. The album topped both the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Billboard 200 charts and was certified Platinum before the end of 2006. LeToya co-wrote most of the songs on her debut, which also features production from notables like Jazze Pha, Bryan Michael Cox, Jermaine Dupri, Scott Storch and J.R. Rotem.
July 25, 2006: Pharrell Williams Drops In My Mind
After a run of production hits as one half of the Neptunes and dropping two albums as frontman of rock band N.E.R.D., Pharrell Williams ventured into the solo space with his debut album In My Mind. The album featured cameos from Gwen Stefani, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Pusha T, Nelly, Slim Thug, Snoop Dogg with Charlie Wilson, English singer Jamie Cullum and Lauren (aka actress Lauren London).
LeToya Luckett and the 22nd version of the Now That’s What I Call Music compilation kept In My Mind from debuting at no. 1, which settled instead into the no. 3 slot on the Billboard 200. Pharrell would wait another eight years to drop his sophomore solo album Girl in 2014.
On the 10th anniversary of the album’s release, Tyler, the Creator penned a lengthy Facebook missive to pay tribute to“the album that shaped me.” Tyler specifically took the song “You Can Do It Too” to heart.
“That song specifically made me feel safe, and is why I created Odd Future that same summer.”