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Baker's Dozen

Champion Versions: Steve Mason's Favourite Albums
Joe Clay , March 2nd, 2016 11:04

With his new solo album, Meet The Humans, just released, the prolific musician and former Beta Band man gives Joe Clay a tour of his record collection, meandering through electro, hip-hop, punk and more


Nas – Illmatic
Hip-hop used to be this incredibly positive thing. It started in the ghetto and turned the ghetto, which had been controlled by guns and violence and drugs, into this place where art was just fucking bursting out of it and people were doing all these positive things. And then Public Enemy happened and it got all political, but then along came NWA and gangsta rap and I fucking hated all that. For me it destroyed what I thought was a beautiful thing. Suddenly it was all about death. It was like a fucking death cult. It was a joke. I didn't get it at all. But the Nas album was a return to intelligence and using hip-hop as an art form. He talks about very dark things, but in an intelligent way. His flow, his delivery, is absolutely on point. The production is fantastic. I keep using that word, but I do like pop songs and I'm drawn to hooks and Premier, Pete Rock and Q-Tip are so great at doing that. I remember, I was out with an old girlfriend about five or six years ago and we walked past a record shop and Illmatic was in the window. She was really into hip-hop and I asked her if she'd got it and she said no, so I said, "You've got to get it. It's not an album, it's a historical document." Because it is. He's so young. There's always something so impressive about young people who seem to appear fully formed.

The samples on Illmatic are incredible. There were a few obvious ones but then some that nobody had used before. It seemed to breathe life back into crate-digging. If you kept digging you could find some fresh material.

Exactly. NWA – they'd just find a break and then rant a load of death nonsense all over the top of it. It was uninspiring. But Illmatic was so well put together. There's not a bad bit on it.