Mixes By Year: 1988 Most Recommended Albums

1988 must first and foremost be known as the year of Hip Hop.  It is to date the most important and artistically prolific year in Hip Hop history and marks a cultural turning point of when the music would begin its ascent to the top of the popular music ladder.  ’88 was also a very important year for indie/alternative music as albums by Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction & The Pixies would be the seeds that would launch the alternative music revolution of 1991-92.

By 1988 the top 40/mainstream music & radio had become utterly dour.  All over the charts were increasingly lame hair bands, along with garbage teeny boppers like Tiffany & New Kids On the Block and has-been boomer artists either watering-down their music or blatantly selling out.  In the pop world only icons like Prince, Madonna, U2, Janet Jackson & George Michael along with the occasional rap crossover hit were saving the mainstream from total despair.  Given that climate it’s not difficult to see why so much of the lasting musical contributions came from the underground

Back to Hip Hop-  though rap music had been both commercial & artistically viable since the late 70’s/early 80’s, 1988 marked its big leap forward.  Prior to 1988 there had been more than a handful of classic singles but only several classic albums released- namely by Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions & Public Enemy.  ’88 flat out doubled the amount of album classics in rap’s pantheon.  Public Enemy released the mind blowing “It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” which to me stands as the artistic pinnacle of the entire genre as well as one of the best albums of the decade and of all time.  Ice T. invented gangsta-rap with “Power” and N.W.A. took it three step further with the nihilistic yet somehow still politically prescient “Straight Outta Compton”- the best album for members of Gen X to use to scare the hell out of their parents.  Both Eric B & Rakim & Boogie Down Productions released their second amazing albums in a row (with “Follow the Leader” and “By All Means Necessary” respectively) and new artists EPMD, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Big Daddy Kane & Slick Rick (in his latest incarnation after an awesome stint with Doug E. Fresh) released stellar debuts.  The old school had suddenly become the new school and hip hop would never look back- samples & production would become more and more intricate and bad language and violence would become increasingly prominent creating a dividing line between those growing with the music and those who could no longer stomach it or who yearned for its simpler days.

The most popular indie & alternative music in ’88 was mainly popular on college campuses and with high school kids in the know- it was mostly unable to sell in platinum numbers.  Yet albums like “Daydream Nation”, “Surfer Rosa” & “Nothing’s Shocking” had certainly built on the foundation set by earlier alternative artists like Husker Du, The Replacements, Mission of Burma, The Minutemen & Black Flag- both artistically and in units sold.  R.E.M., another of the earliest alternative bands, had had something of a crossover hit with their “Green” album becoming its biggest seller to date by far (if not its most artistically successful).  Even further left of center bands like the post-hardcore Fugazi and the industrial Ministry also had their first important releases.

Across the pond My Bloody Valentine were inventing the shoe-gaze movement (a psychedelic cacophony of guitars and synths creating a beautiful wall of sound) while the Happy Mondays were beginning to popularize a rave movement which combined alternative guitar music, house, funk & Northern Soul.  Both would be the main sounds in the U.K. until the rise of Brit-Pop in the mid 90’s

The softer, neo-folk sound was gaining in popularity as well including socially conscious artists like Tracy Chapman, 10,000 Maniacs, Suzanne Vega & Edie Brickell became the mainstream college sound and also moved plenty of albums.  Also the beginnings of an alternative country movement with Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle & Dwight Yoakam as examples of country-ish artists impossible to pigeon-hole to the conservative mainstream country industry in Nashville.  This was the country side rather than the rock side of the alt country movement of Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks etc.. a few years later.

1988 contained plenty of both good & bad but it certainly should be remembered as a bellweather year for both Hip Hop and underground rock music.

The Pixies- Surfer Rosa

Buy Pixies - Surfer Rosa

Buy Surfer Rosa via Amazon

R.E.M.- Green

Buy R.E.M. - Green

Buy Green via Amazon

N.W.A.- Straight Outta Compton

Buy N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton

Buy Straight Outta Compton via Amazon

EPMD- Strictly Business

Buy EPMD - Strictly Business (Remastered)

Buy Strictly Business via Amazon

Sonic Youth- Daydream Nation

Buy Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

Buy Daydream Nation via Amazon

Talk Talk- Spirit of Eden

Buy Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden

Buy Spirit of Eden via Amazon

Ice T- Power

Buy Ice-T - Power

Buy Power via Amazon

The Pogues- If I Should Fall from Grace with God

Buy The Pogues - If I Should Fall from Grace With God [Expanded]

Buy If I Should Fall from Grace with God via Amazon

Eric B & Rakim- Follow the Leader

Buy Eric B. & Rakim - Follow the Leader

Buy Follow the Leader via Amazon

Ultramagnetic MC’s- Critical Beatdown

Buy Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown

Buy Critical Beatdown via Amazon

Jane’s Addiction- Nothing’s Shocking

Buy Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking

Buy Nothing’s Shocking via Amazon

Public Enemy- It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Buy Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Buy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back via Amazon

My Bloody Valentine- Isn’t Anything

Buy My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything

Buy Isn’t Anything via Amazon

Leonard Cohen- I’m Your Man

Buy Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

Buy I’m Your Man via Amazon

Lucinda Williams- Lucinda Williams

*Album not available via iTunes

Buy Lucinda Williams via Amazon

Boogie Down Productions- By All Means Necessary

Buy Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary

Buy By All Means Necessary via Amazon

Slick Rick- The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

Buy Slick Rick - The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

Buy The Great Adventures of Slick Rick via Amazon

Ministry- The Land of Rape and Honey

Buy Ministry - Land of Rape and Honey

Buy The Land of Rape and Honey via Amazon

The Go-Betweens- 16 Lovers Lane

Buy The Go-Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane

Buy 16 Lovers Lane via Amazon

They Might Be Giants- Lincoln

Buy They Might Be Giants - Lincoln

Buy Lincoln via Amazon


Fugazi/Fugazi 7 Songs EP

Buy Fugazi - 13 Songs

*Fugazi 7 Songs EP is part of the “13 Songs” Release

*Not available via Amazon

My Bloody Valentine- You Made Me Realise EP

*Not available via iTunes

Buy You Made Me Realise EP via Amazon

Mudhoney- Superfuzz Bigmuff EP

Buy Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

Buy Superfuzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles via


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