The first time I heard “Only the Strong Survive” by DJ Krush and C.L. Smooth (in 1996, I think), I was blown away. I’d never heard of DJ Krush before, but immediately starting digging for his tunes. I found the album Meiso at Tower Records in Rockville (RIP!) and bumped it nonstop in the whip that summer.
The drums, samples, and vocals just sounded so different from the other hip-hop I was listening to at the time. Add the C.L. Smooth vocals, and it’s a wrap. Japan-based DJ Krush continued to innovate by teaming up with jazz musicians, dropping ill downtempo mixes, and producing smokey hip-hop beats, but I don’t think anything ever topped his Meiso LP.