Special ED: The First Teen Prodigy of Hip Hop (?)
When we think about the early days of Hip Hop, most of the MC’s that gained notoriety were in their early to mid 20’s. There were only a few MC’s that hit stardom before turning 20 years of age in over 40 years of Rap Music's existence. Young artist would be overlooked by up and coming record labels, clubs and hip hop fans in general. It was like “Come on Shorty, you have a long way to go”. There weren't many Bobby Fischer types in the history of Hip Hop. Better yet, there weren't many discovered or given the opportunity to display their skills. We were blessed to have a few special ones though. You know, artist who were before their time in a sense. Rakim comes to mind as he was only 18-19 during the recording of Paid in Full, and 7 years later NAS, who was 18-19 during the recording of Illmatic. Needless to say, these were some amazing accomplishments by two very young men. A lot of people don’t realize Jay-Z was 25 years old when Reasonable Doubt was released during the summer of 1996. Plenty artist got their big break in their mid 20's. Ok, back to the topic at hand. Speaking of Brooklyn, there was another MC who was only 17 years old that released a song titled I Got It Made. His name is Special Ed.
Barely able to legally drive a car, Special Ed released his debut album,Youngest In Charge on May 16, 1989. Being that the album was recorded in 88-89, Special Ed was 16 years old at the beginning of the project. Almost 28 years later, I still listen to many of the tracks off the album and I’m not the only one. In 2009, Rick Ross recorded the song Magnificent, sampling Special Ed’s classic track I’m The Magnificent. Special Ed even made a cameo in the video, which was a single off Rick Ross's Deeper Than Rap album. If my memory serves me correct, Ross actually flew Special Ed to Florida to be in the video and pay homage. Looking back at his earlier years, Special Ed was well respected as a teen dropping another album in 1990 titled LEGAL. The album spawned the hit THE MISSION and I’m The Magnificent Remix that tore the clubs, radio and house parties to pieces. Special Ed was 2 for 2 and had not reached 20 years of age. The only rappers who saw this type of success so young were Lil Wayne, D-Nice, and of course LL Cool J when Radio was released. You did have Da Youngsta’s, Illegal, Jamal, A+ and Shyheim who were respected by older artists but their success was minimal. Special Ed remains on a very short list of accomplished MC’s who were teen prodigy’s.
Before Nas hit the scene and after LL Cool J’s run, Special Ed was the bridge between the old school and new school in terms of female appeal. Even though Big Daddy Kane was reaching legendary status, Special Ed became the dude females treated like a hip hop version of Al B. Sure or El Debarge. Teen girls had his posters on their walls and collected pictures of him from magazines. I mean, dude made an appearance on The Cosby Show! Even today, If you bring his name up to a female, they will more than likely talk about his appearance before his raps...lol. Outside of the heartthrob appeal, Special Ed had respect from the fellas as well because he could actually rap. Believe me when I say this, dude could spit when he really wanted to spit. Special Ed could freestyle as well, which is a gift that all MC’s don’t possess. Special Ed actually danced in some of his videos but still maintained his lyrical integrity like the aforementioned Big Daddy Kane. Special Ed is actually one of the few MC’s in the history of this genre that had the complete package. The Record Industry, Managers, Politics and Professional Decisions can slow down an artist potential, staying power or career in general. So, what happened to Special Ed?
In 1995, Special Ed released Revelations and this ended up being his last album of the 90’s before his final project Still Got It Made in 2004. If there were any additional songs, mixtapes or albums from Edward Archer, unfortunately I have not heard them. Outside of a Greatest Hits Collection, Special Ed recorded 4 albums. With the skills and marketing ability, Special Ed in my humble opinion should have 7-8 albums. He is the only person who can explain the drastic gaps in his recordings over the 90's decade. I understand that the 90’s had a surplus of great MC’s on the East Coast, West Coast and in the South. That said, I feel Special Ed could have still competed. In 1994, Special ED proved this on the classic Crooklyn Dodgers track produced by Q-Tip. You can also check out Freaky Flow Remix, the 1996 DJ Premier collaboration as well. Special Ed sounded dope and had not missed a step.
In 2017, I still see people dancing in clubs to I Got It Made and singing all the lyrics. That alone is a blessing. I recently saw Special Ed do a cameo on VH1’s THE BREAKS. An actor was playing him during a performance and he was in the cut enjoying the music. The track Come On, Let’s Move It was one of my favorite songs as a freshman in High School. I use to play Special Ed in my Walkman on the way to Basketball practice. In Hip Hop, we have to make sure we appreciate our legends. Special Ed is still respected by artist and fans. A few years ago Special Ed attended NAS Birthday Party and Nas thanked him in front of the crowd for being an influence on his career. I’m sure during the Golden Era and beyond, Ed influenced more artist than we know. Special Ed continues to tour and represent the culture as we speak…. I'm just here to pay a little respect and show some love to The Youngest In Charge.
Special Ed - I Got It Made