• 16

    James Brown – Hell

    Year: 1974

    Collecting James Brown on Polydor (‘71 to ‘81) is a certain sort of madness—will you ever get enough? But this, along with probably The Payback, has to be in any record collection. Speaking to Wax Poetics magazine in 2008, Pete Rock said of Hell, “The entire album, the sounds, everything you hear is just pure energy.” Brown put the bang of a ceremonial gong between each track. Golden-era-of-hip-hop producers (like Rock himself) sliced the thing up like a Christmas turkey, which is clear the second you drop the needle on the A-side opener “Coldblooded”—you’ll think you just put on “Baby, You Nasty” by Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth.

    The thing gets thicker as you dig deeper; check the sick loping groove of the C-side closer, “Don’t Tell a Lie about Me and I Won’t Tell the Truth on You.” All of this culminates with a 14-minute take on “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” spread across the entirety of the D-side. Rock could relate; “It defined my father perfectly [Laughs].”