Classic Music: INI "Center of Attention" (1995)


Alright, it’s nostalgia time, people. You might need a little age on you for this post. The summer of ’95 was packed with dope music, which would later become classic. I remember riding the 3 train up to 145th Street and Lenox that summer to play ball at “Baby Rucker” park every day during the week. Backpack full of TDK and Maxell cassettes. And they were packed with songs that I had taped off the radio and then edited onto my “master” cassette. Those rides uptown were all about the music I’d have with me. And every summer was accompanied by my own little personal soundtrack. One of the people I listened to way too much that summer, was INI. I didn’t know much about them at the time, other than the fact that Pete Rock was doing all of their beats. And if you knew me back then, you knew how much I worshipped Pete Rock’s music. 

Pete was on Future Flavas on Hot 97 back then, with Marley Marl. So every Sunday night, he would play all of these exclusives from people he was working with. And INI was clearly his focus at the time. I went crazy waiting for this album to drop. It was supposed to come out in ’95, but was shelved by Elektra Records. Why? I don’t know, but tons of underground heads, including myself, went ballistic trying to find all of the songs from the album. When it was finally released by BBE Records in like 2003, we all rejoiced at the fact that we now had all of the full versions of the songs without the radio edits, on CD’s, which was huge at the time.

This album is one of those slept-on classic moments in Hip Hop, that we almost lost completely, due to a label shutting down the release. This is vintage Pete Rock production, with a group of MC’s (Rob-O, Grap Luva, Marco Polo, DJ Boodakhan and I Love H.I.M.) who came together and made a really dope project. I try not to get into which tracks are favorites because this entire album needs to be played. It’s strong from start to finish and takes you back to a time when beats and rhymes actually counted for something. If you dug Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s The Main Ingredient, production-wise, you’ll like this album. Center of Attention is a true Hip Hop treasure from INI, and one that you won’t easily find in other people’s collections. But one that you should have in yours. Definitely go and cop that.




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