Looking Through Time: 1987
With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 1987.
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full
Hip hop before 1987 was a bit of a mystery. No one really knew where the genre was going or what would become of it and the genre was, frankly, starving for some real stars. To usher in what would later be known as “The Golden Age of Hip Hop” were many influential MCs and groups, but maybe none more than Eric B & Rakim. On Paid in Full, the duo combined Eric B.’s very 80s production that used a lot of sampling and record scratching with Rakim’s incredible rhyme skills. Rakim represented one of the first MCs to use complex rhyme schemes, something that is prevalent amongst the best MCs today. Rakim could go bar to bar rhyming words within each bar, while also rhyming the different bars together. He is still widely considered to be one of the best MCs ever and with the help of Eric B. would help to begin the elevation of hip hop to all new heights. – David Arroyo
Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
Boogie Down Productions was comprised of South Bronx, New York artists KRS-ONE (an acronym for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everybody) and DJ Scott La-Rock and in 1987 they released Criminal Minded, one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time. From cover art to lyrical perspective, Criminal Minded laid the foundation for what hip hop would become.
On the cover, KRS-ONE and Scott La-Rock are seen flaunting an arsenal of weapons, the first time any hip hop release had such a cover. Sonically, the album uses a wide range of samples, such as James Brown, AC/DC, The Beatles and Billy Joel. Also, the album contains tracks like “9mm Goes Bang” and “P is Free,” which are the earliest examples of first-person perspective gangster rap songs. Criminal Minded also contains tracks like “South Bronx” and “The Bridge Is Over,” which are diss tracks to Queens, New York. During this period in hip hop history, a Queensbridge hip hop collective called The Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions had beef over where hip hop originated. During the creation of Criminal Minded, DJ Scott La-Rock was shot and killed. This moment is pivotal in hip hop history as it showed that the content in the music is not that far removed from real life for hip hop artists.
Because of its lyrical content, varying samples and lifestyle outside of music, Criminal Minded will forever be regarded as one of the most influential albums in hip hop history. - Jerome Taylor
U2 – The Joshua Tree
Rarely is an album so great that it is synonymous with rock and roll itself. Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles’ Abbey Road and the Eagles’ Hotel California are just a few of these albums. Irish rock band U2 joins the shortlist with 1987’s The Joshua Tree.
Before the album’s release, U2 had already gained some attention with records like War and The Unforgettable Fire, but it was The Joshua Tree that cemented U2’s status as rock and roll gods.
The Joshua Tree begins with three of U2’s most well-known and beloved numbers, all of which were released as successful singles later on. The first of these is the show-stopping “Where the Streets Have No Name,” followed by “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You.” All three reached number one in Ireland and the latter two reached the top of the Billboard chart in the United States. But the greatness does not stop here. Every song on this album is a classic. Some of the highlights include one of U2’s heaviest and most biting pieces “Bullet the Blue Sky,” the beautiful ballad “Running to Stand Still” and the short yet exciting “In God’s Country,” among others.
The Joshua Tree certainly did not go unnoticed, as it became U2’s highest-selling album and was listed at number 27 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. To commemorate its 30th anniversary, U2 has gone on tour, playing The Joshua Tree in its entirety for every show.
In an era dominated by pop, U2 combined elements of classic and alternative rock to become one of the greatest bands of the era and all time. With The Joshua Tree, U2 earned that title. – DJ Bauer
R.E.M. – Document
The alternative rock band R.E.M. released their fifth studio album Document on Sept. 1, 1987, moving the band to more popular and mainstream attention and success. The album holds some of R.E.M.’s most popular and recognizable songs, even in modern day 2017. Tracks like “Finest Worksong,” “The One I Love” and especially “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” which were released as singles and all held a spot in the Billboard Hot 100 & Mainstream Rock Tracks and the UK Singles Chart at some point, “The One I Love” even peaking at number nine at the time of its release. These songs have been used in numerous television shows and movies, making the sound that R.E.M. so innovatively created relevant in the years following.
Document gained the band their first platinum album and positive critical reception. Robert Christgau, a famous rock critic and music journalist, praised Document and called "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" an inspirational title. David Fricke, a reviewer for the Rolling Stones, felt that the album was R.E.M.'s finest to date, and said that, "Document is the sound of R.E.M. on the move." The album has a feel-good, old fashioned way about it that is guaranteed to make anyone from the time period feel nostalgic. It is also guaranteed to give you smile no matter what age or generation you come from. – Lilly Adams
David Arroyo is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jerome Taylor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Lilly Adams is a freshman majoring in film/video. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism