Words by Cosmo Baker—
Cosmo Baker has the distinction of being one of the only DJs we know that pretty much every other DJ rates. Not only does the co-founder of Brooklyn party/remix collective The Rub have impeccable taste, skills and instincts when it comes to playing records, but he’s a veritable font of knowledge about hip-hop, soul, reggae and every other music genre that matters. Fortunately for us and readers of his fine website, he likes sharing that knowledge. Here, the Philadelphia native breaks down Almighty & K.D. Ranks’ “Trenton Where We Live” and “U Can’t Escape The Hypeness” by Blvd. Mosse, two records that highlight the little-known role that nearby Trenton, New Jersey played in the meshing of rap and reggae in the early 1990s.
Trenton, New Jersey is one of those anomalous cities that exists in a sort of bubble all its own. Definitely urban but nestled far away from the major hubs that dominate the Northeast corridor, Trenton is far enough away from both Philly and New York to have developed it’s own flavor, yet stay relevant and in tune to both those spots.
When the first wave of Jamaican immigration hit America starting in 1900, many of those folks hunkered down in the New York area, and then spread out from there to places like Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. Trenton became one of those hot spots and Yard sound ending up influencing some of the that city’s top rappers, notably Poor Righteous Teachers and YZ. But right around that time when the reggae-rap hybrid was bubbling, the late Tony D (the legendary and unheralded producer of YZ, PRT and many more) put his indelible fingerprint on two other great records of that time from that region. The first being Almighty & K.D. Ranks’ funked-out “Trenton Where We Live,” and the second is the Wings-sampling “U Can’t Escape The Hypeness” by Blvd. Mosse. Released in 1991 and 1990, respectively, both of these songs are great examples of the tested-and-true formula of spitting 32 bars and then having your partner chat either great, or mediocre (this is COMPLETELY subjective) reggae lyrics as the chorus. Bibbity bibbity bing bong, flashit!!!
Obviously this trend just got bigger and more refined as the years passed but I wanted to give a nod to a city that definitely helped put this style on the map. Too bad it doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves, but as the city’s famed bridge says, “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”