Hay in the Middle

At a time when the eyes of hip hop were fixed firmly on one coast or the other, Crucial Conflict emerged, if only briefly, from the Midwest with 1996's hit single Hay.

Crucial Conflict certainly wasn't the first rap act from the Midwest, but at the time, everyone in my consciousness was there because of their association with one coast or the other. Their fellow Chicagoan Da Brat was in impressario Jermaine Dupri's SoSoDef camp; Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, out of Cleveland, were proteges of NWA member Eazy E; even Common rose to prominence because of a feud with the West Coast. It would be years still before Eminem would rise from Dr. Dre's camp or Nelly and the St. Lunatics would put St. Louis on the map. When Hay hit the radio airwaves, it would embody a bounce many would probably now associate with the south.

Were it not for the south, and specifically the HBCU marching bands nearly exclusively located there, Crucial Conflict may be just another one hit wonder lost in the annals of time. But Hay has become a mainstay in the stands, giving Crucial Conflict notoriety well beyond the radio shelf life of the song. Hay hasn't yet become the crossover hit that Neck is; while a few PWI bands play it, it remains near exclusively in the HBCU band realm. Still, with just about everyone having an arrangement nearly two decades later, Crucial Conflict - or at least their biggest hit - is unlikely to fade from memory any time soon.