This month came the somewhat surprising news that, 14 years after its release, The Roots' album Things Fall Apart has finally gone platinum. An album whose reputation as the group's most critically acclaimed has made it the go-to entry point for new fans as their popularity has grown, it's still kind of surprising that the album took this long to move a million units. It's also one of many memorable albums to be released on February 23rd, 1999, the magnitude of whom perhaps eclipsed The Roots' effort at the time. It is in celebration that we look back at the February 23rd club.
The Roots – Things Fall Apart
While previous Roots albums were well received as enjoyable jam session-extensions, cementing the group as hip-hop's greatest full-blown band, Things Fall Apart is where the group finally reached that next level of cohesive supremacy. Released with four different album covers, it birthed the Rap City #1 hit “You Got Me” that further pushed Eve into the collective rap soundscape, as well as contained the Beanie Sigel verse that got him signed to Def Jam. Viewed by many as the quintessential Roots album, its recent platinum certification proves its thankfully held up well to this day.
TLC – FanMail
Topping the charts this week was the first new TLC album in four years, FanMail. While the success of their follow-up to the multi-platinum Crazysexycool was never in question, what stood out about the album topping the charts at the height of the music industry was that it did so without a music video in rotation on any of the major music channels. In fact, the oft-delayed Hype Williams directed “No Scrubs” video didn't premiere on MTV's “Total Request Live” until several days after the album had hit store shelves, this time containing a bonus verse from Left Eye for our troubles. It went 6X Platinum.
Eminem – The Slim Shady LP
Coming in at the number two slot this week was Eminem's heavily-hyped major label debut The Slim Shady LP. Contrary to TLC, Em's “My Name Is” single had been in rotation for a solid month-and-a-half before the record was released. Anticipating a larger crossover audience than a standard rap release, Interscope made the unusual choice to ship the album in both an explicit and clean version in mass quantities, a choice Eminem later told his “MTV FANatic” he had no say on. It went 4X Platinum.
Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves
It's interesting to note that this week saw releases executive produced by the two most influential hip-hop producers of all time. While Dr. Dre had his hands full with The Slim Shady LP, Prince Paul unleashed his cult classic rap opera A Prince Among Thieves. Telling the story of an up-and-coming rapper named Tariq's struggles getting his demo heard, and featuring an ensemble cast of some of hip-hop's all time greats. While it never went platinum, it did allow Prince Paul to shoot an extended 10 minute music video of the album, which was exclusively aired overseas.
Sporty Thievz – Street Cinema
Finally, this week also saw the debut of promising rap hopefuls Sporty Thievz. Fueled by a substantial east coast hit in "Cheapskate,” the trio soon spawned one of the last great rap response records with their take on TLC's "No Scrubs” titled "No Pigeons.” While "No Pigeons” eventually went gold, the group's legacy is shadowed by rapper Marlon Brando's unfortunate death shortly after, reportedly sacrificing himself to push a child out of the way of a moving vehicle and dying in the process. Lucky for us, his legacy lives on through his music, and "Cheapskate” in-particular is one of the most intentionally-hilarious rap songs ever recorded.