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Firebird Balalaika Ensemble
Come hear one of the best Balalaika ensembles around. The Firebird
Balalaika Ensemble will perform heartwarming Russian and Eastern
European Christmas music on traditional instruments today at 12:10
p.m. The performance is in the University Hospital Lobby on the first
floor. Best of all ... it's free!
of the highs and lows of 1996
'Tne Fugees saw success in 1996.
De La Soul (center) and Shaquille O'Neal (right) released big records last year.
By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
It's been one crazy year for the hip-hop community. In
A6 Bugs Bunny began his basketball / rapping career
(c heck out the "Space Jam" movie and soundtrack). And
coincidentally, so did Shaquille O'Neal, with his $120 mil-
lion trade to the Lakers and the release of his third album,
"You Can't STOP the REIGN," which, unlike his previous
two, is actually pretty good. Rap-A-Lot Records turned 10,
Chuck D'(of Public Enemy fame) started his own label (Slam
Jamz) and Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight changed
the company's name to "The New and Unto'uchable Death
Row Records." I wonder how long it took him to come up
with that moniker.
*ut seriously, Death Row Records was unquestionably
the central rap-world newsmaker of the 9-6. Did a week go
by when the Death Row camp wasn't the center of some-
thing? News surrounding the label and
its artists included the expected albums
released by Tupac Shakur last year -
the two-CD "All Eyez on Me" and the
posthumous "Makevelli" - have gone
multi-platinum while the Lady of Rage
remained completely unheard from. Dr.
Dre made a surprise departure from
jath Row to begin a new label,
ermath Records, while Shakur's
death on Sept. 13 tops the list of news
stories. Some of Death Row's decisions
were so outrageous you didn't know
whether to cry or laugh, like when
Knight signed MC Hammer to the
label, and then promoted the minimally
talented Danny Boy as Death Row's
first venture into R&B. Lastly, we have
the .release of "Death Row Christmas." Tupac Shakur had t
6e possibilities for jokes are endless. albums in 1996, but
And it didn't end there. On Nov. 26,
Suge Knight was found guilty of violating his probation by
beating a man. He's been in jail since October, and now he
may be sentenced to up to nine years in the pen. Plus, as
reported by the Los Angeles Times, the FBI is probing possi-
ble Death Row involvement in drug trafficking, money laun-
dering and other gang-related activities (The FBI has not con-
firmed or denied these reports). It will be interesting to see
what comes of all this.
For all its intrigue, the Death Row hoopla unfairly cloud-
over the many other happenings of the year. Heavy D's
umption of the presidency of Uptown Records on Jan. 25
received relatively little coverage. The Aug. 2 murder of
Rap-A-Lot recording artist Seagram Miller went underre-
ported, as well as MCA's decision to purchase controlling
interest in Interscope Records from Time Warner after pres-
sure to stop supporting hardcore rap. Other interesting
events included Craig Mack's decision to leave Bad Boy
Records (there was probably some bad blood between him
and CEO Sean "Puffy" Combs), FatLip's decision last sum-
mer to leave Pharcyde and 01' Dirty Bastard's decision to
change his name to Cyrus and to shave that crop of crabgrass
off of his head.
In terms of big names in hip hop '96, we had the Fugees
killing us softly with their sophomore smash "The Score."
With more than 11 million sales worldwide, this trio - and
especially member Lauryn Hill - has created a comfortable
niche for themselves. Meanwhile, "ATLiens" and "Soul
Food" propelled Atlanta-based groups Outkast and Goodie
Mob, respectively, into the limelight and
proved that there's more to Georgia than
peaches, Confederate flags and booty-
The return of the Long Island trio De
La Soul with "Stakes Is High" was one
of the biggest breaths of clean air the rap
community has felt in a long time. Their
constant attacks on the wannabe playas,
hustlas and macks soiling the rap biz
brought a much needed level of realness
to the game. And of course no rap group
praises can be sung without dedicating a
verse or two to the Lost Boyz and their
debut album, "Legal Drug Money." The
group's raspy voices and raw flava,
exuded on cuts like "Jeeps, Lex Coupes,
Beemers and the Benz" and "Renee"
o successful made them one of the year's most promi-
was also murdered. nent new groups.
Solo rappers who hit big in '96
included the almost shy-sounding Nas ("It Was Written"),
zaniac Busta Rhymes ("The Coming") and the stoic new-
comers Jay-Z ("Reasonable Doubt") and Smoothe da
Hustler ("once upon a time in America"). And let's not
forget the great LL Cool J and his '96 release, "Mr.
Smith," on which he continues his personification as the
ultimate ladies man (just in case his older cuts like
"Jinglin' Baby" and "Around the Way Girl" didn't con-
vince you). Incidentally, he also has a "Greatest Hits"
album out now.
Here's wishing the best to hip hop '97.
efunct group Arrested Development continues spilling
ebut solo album, "Speech."
nitely grounded in the East Coast underground, is
r solo release, "kollage," proves that only the igno-
of "Beats, Rhymes and Life," the group's fourth
le if you're true to the mission.
)ay in the Life of My Asspipe" interlude on their album
abut release, aptly titled "This Is My First Album."
est solo release, "Doggfather," features him rapping
the decade. Maybe Shakur's death or all that heat
Buc Wild was right to advise him to "consider crawl-
>rking on Doggy Style Part 2.'
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