From Mobb Deep to Diamond D: Mark Ronson names 5 albums to listen to before you die
Mark Ronson is undoubtedly one of the most influential producers of the 21st century, a creative who can turn his hand to any genre and make pure audio gold. The British-American musician’s CV is as impressive as you will find so when he says this is an album you need to listen to then you sit up and take note.
Ronson’s New York heritage is key to the start of his career with early production credits including work with Wu-Tang Clan legend Ol’ Dirty Bastard and rapper Saigon. However, it was in 2006 when he produced Amy Winehouse’s timeless album Back To Black that Ronson started to get the deserved acclaim for his work. It was this moment that proclaimed him a producer of the times.
In the years that followed Ronson has released five of his own albums, most recently the 2019 record Late Night Feelings which featured the wonderous ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ with Miley Cyrus. He has flirted with most contemporary genres and is a frequent collaborator with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and even produced the most recent record from Queens of The Stone Age which exemplifies just how versatile Ronson’s talents are.
We are revisiting the producer’s choices from this feature in NME from 2018 in which they spoke to a host of different musicians and people in the public eye about the albums you need to listen to before you die.
Mark Ronson’s 5 favourite albums:
Mobb Deep – The Infamous
The Infamous is the second studio album by iconic American hip hop duo Mobb Deep which was released on April 25, 1995, by Loud Records. The star-studded album features guest appearances by hip-hop legends such as Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Q-Tip.
“The rhyme that always comes to mind is from the song ‘Shook Ones’ where he goes ‘rock you in your face, stab your brain with your nose bone’ which I always thought was one of the most graphic rhymes of violence that existed, certainly on a great hip hop song that you would hear on the radio all the time,” Ronson said of the record.
“The song ‘Shook Ones Part 2’ was just one of the most sinister incredible hip hop records to ever be such a huge club record. It was the absolute biggest song you could play, the dancefloor would just go insane. The song was so aggro and sinister but girls really liked it.”
Diamond D – Stunts Blunts and Hip Hop (Chemistry)
Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop is the stunning debut album from MC and hip hop producer Diamond D which was released on September 22, 1992. The album features some of the earliest appearances from Diamond’s later D.I.T.C. partners Big L and Fat Joe, as well as his crew the Psychotic Neurotics.
Speaking about the work, Ronson said: “Nobody’s going to dispute that Dre is the greatest hip hop producer of all time, but there’s something about hearing Diamond over his own beats, you can’t imagine any guest star coming on and sounding better than he does.” It’s not just a sound that impresses Ronson but the way the record capture the moment.
“The thing about that era is they’d be laying three or four samples over the two of one track and you had these amazing sound collages that you couldn’t get away with these days because you’d just get sued and no-one can afford top pay for samples anymore.”
Brand Nubian – One for All
One for All is the debut studio album by American hip hop group Brand Nubian, released on December 4, 1990, by Elektra Records. The album didn’t sell as many copies in comparison to its counterparts but tapped into a certain market, all of which fell in love with the politically charged and socially conscious group.
“Even though Grand Puba was the star of Brand Nubian and went on to have the biggest solo career, all three of them were pretty amazing rappers,” Ronson said, continuing his education in hip-hop.
“It was just before hip hop went downtempo and got a little moodier and all the beats were harder and eerier. It was that era when you didn’t sound soft if you were rapping over an uptempo happy beat. They had great production and used really cool samples from soul and reggae.”
Pete Rock and CL Smooth – Mecca And The Soul Brother’ (Elektra)
Mecca and the Soul Brother is the 1992 debut album from the New York hip-hop duo, Pete Rock and CL Smooth. The seminal album has been widely acclaimed as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, it was mostly produced by Pete Rock which made the debut even more impressive.
Speaking about his choice, Ronson explained: “The old art was that each song on your record had to have a different kick and snare and you’d be digging the crates for some obscure drum break. Maybe there’d be one bar of something that you could chop up.” It was a difficult time to be a DJ so Ronson recognises the extra talent needed to create such a record.
“Pete Rock was known as the king of finding samples and his drums, the way he programmed them had a really human feel as if there was a jazz drummer playing it, except they had these really fucking heavy kicks and snares.”
Smif-N-Wessun – Dah Shinin (Wreck Records)
Dah Shinin’ is the debut album from American East Coast hip hop duo Smif-N-Wessun, the groundbreaking record was noted at the time for its heavy hardcore lyrical content and production, which was handled by Da Beatminerz members DJ Evil Dee, Mr. Walt, Rich Blak and Baby Paul.
Mark Ronson: “These people were just writing shit ‘cause it was good and it was getting on the radio anyway. No-one was like ‘you’ve got to have n R&B sung chorus here’.” Reflecting on an industry that now uses several songwriters per track, Ronson is clearly in love with the music of the past.
“So you get songs like ‘Bucktown’ and ‘Sound Bwoy Bureill’, where it feels like the beginning, when you listen to great rock’n’roll shit in the 60s there was no formula to it, they just happened to be making really good shit. That’s what a lot of the mid-90s era of hip hop – before people started thinking ‘we’ve got one song for the club, one song for the girls, one song for the radio.”