Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, compiled by guitarist Lenny Kaye and Elektra Records head Jac Holzman in 1972, is the most important multi-artist compilation album ever released. Collecting twenty-seven garage rock singles ranging from one hit wonders to completely forgotten regional acts, Nuggets was one of the primary influences of the earliest punk rockers and has spawned innumerable sequel and imitators. The vibrant reissue industry, best exemplified by labels like Light in the Attic, Numero Group, and Now-Again, would likely not exist in its current form were it not for the precedent set by Nuggets.
Among the many current reissue labels, Chicago’s Numero Group best exemplifies the spirit of Nuggets in the twenty-first century with their Eccentric Soul series. After releasing fourteen Eccentric Soul volumes spotlighting obscure regional soul labels, Numero Group released their magnum opus, Eccentric Soul Omnibus Volume 1, last year. This box set consists of forty-five 45RPM singles by assorted talent show winners, would-be superstars whose careers stalled, and other artists far from the soul canon. The box set is an indispensable collection of sonic artifacts that more than likely would have disappeared into the past without the label’s efforts.
Soul and rock have benefited most from this reissue boom, but one genre remains woefully unrepresented: hip hop. The hip hop canon was codified by The Source’s Top 100 Rap Albums list in 1998, causing a lot of smaller acts and artists outside of New York and L.A. to struggle for attention. The mainstream Southern hip hop boom of the early 2000s partially rectified this problem, but earlier regional acts still generally languished in obscurity. Recent acts such as A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$ and the Progressive Era, and SpaceGhostPurrp, along with his gigantic Raider Klan collective, have been taking bits and pieces of these earlier regional artists’ work and have been fashioning new sounds heavily rooted in those traditions. These old styles and sounds require more attention than ever in light of these new acts.
Hip hop deserves its own Nuggets, its own Eccentric Soul, and Spray Cans is a piecemeal attempt to provide the outer edges of this art form with the archive it deserves. Spray Cans will be a regular feature on this site spotlighting 12” singles by hip hop artists that warrant more attention: regional curiosities, forgotten underground artists, songs that got some radio play when they came out but haven’t found their way into the canon, well known rappers and producers slumming it on singles by unknowns, and so forth. This was an era where biting was strictly forbidden, regionalism reigned supreme, and hundreds if not thousands of great 12” records were being released every year. These pieces of hip hop history should not be left in the past. I’ll be focusing on the first twenty or so years of hip hop’s recorded history, although the featured singles will be predominantly from the nineties and I’ll probably occasionally highlight singles from the new millennium. Spray Cans Vol. 001 will be coming later this week.