Emerging at the tail end of the “Golden Age” of hip-hop, Smif-N-Wessun’s 1995 debut, Dah Shinin celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year. From the first hypnotic bass note of the opening track, “Timz N Hood Chek,” the album is classic East Coast Hip Hop. Raw and rugged, with subtle nods to Jamaican deejay toasting, the release marked the arrival of Boot Camp Clik with an exclamation point.
Today, hip hop is rife with slick, polished solo artists, but the mid ‘90s were dominated by gritty groups and Smif-N-Wessun was competing for airwaves with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Fugees. This makes the fact that all five of their singles cracked the Top 50 of the R&B/Hip-Hop charts even more impressive. The album reached #59 on the Billboard Hot 200, and standout track, “Bucktown” cracked the Hot 100 singles chart. More telling is the fact that “Bucktown” took the top spot in US Dance Sales. The track is a certified club banger, and the chorus, which proclaims Bucktown as the “home of the original gun clappers,” is about as catchy and pop friendly as hardcore rap can get.
A lot has changed in the 25 years since this classic was released. Trends have changed wildly, and 2015 unfortunately saw the passing of hip-hop great and fellow Boot Camp Clik member, Sean Price. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this release is simultaneously timeless and a time capsule of gritty New York City rap in 1995. Never resting on their laurels, Smif-N’Wessun released a new album, The All, in 2019, and are commemorating their anniversary with music and merch releases this year.
For more, be sure to stream both albums below. In case you missed it earlier, check out Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony if you haven’t already.