Long before Kendrick Lamar and Madlib, before Dre and Snoop, before Eazy-E and N.W.A., California hip-hop was synonymous with one name: Egyptian Lover. And rightly so. A young student of this even younger culture, Greg Broussard did it all, from rapping and dancing to scratching and producing. In high school, he rapped over self-produced mixes made from the instrumental B-Sides of 45s, sold his tapes by the lockers, DJ’ed lunchroom bashes and hit the dance floor at Uncle Jamm’s Army’s infamous hotel parties, chopping it up with the area’s disco heavyweights while dressed in doctor’s scrubs. As he honed his craft, so too did he begin to lay the groundwork for a movement that would shape the region’s sound.

Thus, in cataloging Egyptian Lover’s development from the early days to the prime of his career, 1983-1988 also documents the growth and evolution of ‘80s West Coast hip-hop, from Zulu Nation-informed electro funk to the porno raps of Too Short.

It all starts with “Egyptian Lover’s Theme” and “Spray It Super AJ,” two instrumental tracks taken from 1983’s long-lost Breaking and Entering Soundtrack, of which only 25 vinyl copies were ever pressed. These tracks, while showcasing the 808 techniques taught to Egyptian Lover by Afrika Islam himself, also provide unique insight into Broussard’s prowess as a composer. Even while simply scratching atop 808s, he initiates a conversation between turntable and drum machine, a call and response cadence in which there is clearly much to be said, with or without vocals. These tracks do an immaculate job of setting the stage for the rest of the compilation, such that if there is one complaint to be made about this anthology, it’s that only two songs from the Breaking and Entering Soundtrack are included. One can’t help but wonder what we’re missing.

The bulk of the other recordings on 1983-1988 were previously released as B-Sides to Egyptian Lover’s singles. A few others come from the 1984 album On The Nile or 1986’s One Track Mind, but they have been re-mixed from the original multi-track recordings by Egyptian Lover and Stones Throw head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf. The audio quality is crystal, the packaging looks great and the curating is equally impeccable. Under the direction of well-known hip-hop journalist Jeff Weiss, the liner notes hew closely to the Brian Coleman format, with an informative essay spelling out the history and legacy of Egyptian Lover’s music, followed by a track-by-track breakdown wherein Egyptian Lover provides firsthand accounts of his creative and recording processes. Without giving too much away, one gem is the backstory behind “Egypt, Egypt,” which was inspired by some laced weed and an encounter with the devil, who appeared in the form of a Saddam Hussein/Prince hybrid. Soooo, yeah.

Lastly, it’s worth considering that 1983-1988, in a way, represents something of a full-circle arrival for Stones Throw. With Madlib doing beats for Kanye and Dam Funk doing beats for Snoop, the weirdo is no longer a stranger. The eclectic, alternative, spacy vibes that have for so long characterized the label are really not so far removed from the funky eccentricities of Egyptian Lover, and so it’s fitting that Stones Throw should be the archaeologist to dig this up.

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