By: Joe Cardoso
Hip hop music, what people thought would be a fad has turned into an unstoppable force of nature in the music world. The names and style have changed but the passion fans have for this genre of music hasn’t. For some people it’s the neck snapping beats, for others it’s the storytelling in the lyrics or a punch line that makes you think or laugh. For many, the music gives them a voice to be heard and tell the world about the struggle they face daily. Others love to hear someone express the tough times, or joy they are feeling. June is Black Music Month and I have put together a panel to discuss some of our favorite moments in black music. The first topic was what are your 4 favorite hip hop albums of all time and why. The panel is made up of all races and ages but we all share a deep love for hip-hop. Music sees no color but without any debate, Hip-Hop was started by African Americans. So let the debate begin and please tweet and email your picks. This is meant to be fun and informative let’s get cracking.
Mark T. Wilson writer for INSC Magazine Bronx, NY
1. The Roots- (Illadelph-halflife) By far one of the most slept-on albums in Hip Hop history. What the Roots were able to do in a time when the music landscape was more concerned with bottle-popping and body dropping, the Roots displayed pure lyricism. Black Thought, Malik B, and Dice Raw took fans back to a time when Hip Hop was reserved for the kids in the park and lunchroom cyphers.
2.Nas- (Illmatic) How can we not have a list where possibly the greatest Hip Hop album of All Time is not mentioned? Illmatic meant more to music than most people will ever admit. Nas dropped dead in the midst of what was perceived to be a takeover of Hip Hop by the West and South. While Nas talked about violence, it was done so in a subtle way that painted a picture of every ghetto neighborhood in America. Illmatic was a portrait of a kid looking out his project window.
3.Wu-Tang Clan (Enter The Wu-Tang 36 Chambers)
Why not? Name another album with so much riding on it, production wise, skills and marketability. The Wu delivered an album that has withstood the test of time on every level. Each song was crafted to fit every style of each MC that it’s proven that RZA was way ahead of his time on the production level. Each MC came different on every 16 bars spit giving the album a mixtape feel. 36 Chambers may be the grittiest Hip Hop Album of All Time.
- Jay-Z – (Reasonable Doubt) It didn’t matter to me that The Source cheated this album out of 5 mics. While many will disagree with its place in Hip Hop history, to me it meant so much more. Reasonable Doubt was the soundtrack to my life when it was released. Drugs and violence were the norm in music then, however, Jay gave you a different insight into the game. His witty persona and clever punchlines made you sit and think about the pitfalls of the game while you were enjoying the fruits of your labor. Each track was like a playback of yesterday’s events that still till this day when I listen I have to do so with my eyes closed and reminiscence.
Warren Shaw: Host of The NBA Baseline and owner of ShawSports.net
My affinity to hip-hop is acutely based on my childhood and teen years. So I’m dating myself without question, but some of my first impressions about hustling, spitting game, and excessive cursing came from hip-hop. That certainly isn’t a glowing endorsement but I learned about things that I truly only wanted to listen to and not necessarily do in many instances—if that makes sense. Furthermore, hip-hop taught me the use of vocabulary word-play and how my words could be used to truly impact those who heard them. Narrowing down a list of the four best albums is impossible for me, so it’s more of the albums I enjoy to listening to the most but my feeble attempt is below.
Ready to Die-Notorious B.I.G. There are only a handful of albums that people can mimic from intro to outro including skits and I feel like Ready to Die fits the bill. With three true crossover tracks that appeal to people from any generation of hip-hop (“One More Chance”, “Juicy”& “Big Poppa”) this has to be on everyone’s all-time list of classic albums. Hidden gems like “Warning”,”Gimme the Loot”,and “The What” featuring Method Man give this album so much edge and provides me with hip-hop quotable I use daily. Don’t agree…”C-4 to your door, no beef no more.”
The Blueprint-Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt is J’s most critically acclaimed work and contains my favorite track Can I Live, but The Blueprint started the “Kanye beat” era which was a special time for me musically. With the exception of ‘Hola Hovito, I don’t skip any songs on this album—ever. The Blueprint embodies Jay-Z’s wit and double entendre flow. U Don’t Know, All I Need, Song Cry and Renegade scream excellence to me. Also if you’ve never heard the ‘U Don’t Know’ remix with M.O.P. go listen to Hova’s verse on that right now.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)-Wu-Tang Clan I don’t care how vile or over the top one might feel about the Wu’s debut album—to me, this goes hard from start to finish and embodies knuckle-dragging rap. True fans of NYC based hip-hop struggle on which track is the best but if you tell me Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ isn’t your favorite you best Protect Ya Neck. The ‘Torture’ interlude initially made me feel some type of way but I’ve grown to love it as insight to the very twisted many styles the Wu provides.I’d be low key shocked if this isn’t on most people’s list.
College Dropout-Kayne West Long before Kayne went full Kardashian, he created College Dropout which inspired the “soul beat” style of hip-hop. No producer turned rapper had legitimately captured the culture’s audience since Dr. Dre until Kanye released this masterpiece (we can’t be friends if you throw a name like Master P at me). ‘Through the Wire’, ‘All Falls Down’ and ‘Jesus Walks’ carried this album to mainstream appeal but ‘Get Em High’ and ‘Two Words’ shine for me. I do indeed miss the old Kanye.
Honorable mentions: ATLiens, Low-End Theory, Midnight Marauders, Resurrection, Illmatic, Doggystyle, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, The Chronic, Paid in Full, Cypress Hill, Good Kid M.A.A.D City, The Score, The Marshall Mathers LP, Get Rich or Die Tryin, Things Fall Apart.
Matt Smith Waldorf, MD: Lifelong hip hop lover and a believer of dope lyrics over beats
DMX – It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot
Biggie – Life After Death
Gang Starr- Moment Of Truth
Wu-Tang Clan- Wu-Tang Forever
No particular order….
All have original lyrics that are relatable and not outlandish. Plus I still listen to these regularly and each time it’s like listening to it the first time.
Tito Ortiz Harlem, NYC Hip Hop is in his blood!
Low End Theory- Tribe Called Quest From the Jazzy Beats to the Poetic lyrics L.E.T is to this day my go to CD when I want to chill!! I love hearing Phife and Tip go back and forth and they were having fun with it too!
Enter the 36 Chambers- Wu-Tang Clan One of my favorite groups! Rza Beats, Kung Fu influenced.. conscious lyrics hustler anthems 9 styles of flow!!
Enter Da Stage- Black Moon The reason why some people still call me a Backpacker!! At this time in my life I was where BCC was!! I felt like every song, every lyric was describing what me and my boys were living. Hustling and blazing!!
Ready to Die – The Notorious BIG
I can close my eyes and picture this entire album as a video or movie..like the soundtrack to his life was the movie playing in mine!!
Smiff N Wessun – Da Shinin
Nas – Illmatic
A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauder’s
GW Gras: Writer for NGSC.com and GeeSteelio.com, host of “The Only Show That Matters” New York:
- Life After Death by Notorious B.I.G:
The fact that this album was a double-CD – only adds to its perfection. The lyrics, story-telling ability, production and the overall eerie feel to this album makes it timeless.
- In My Lifetime, Vol 1 by Jay-Z:
Most think of the “best” Jigga album and will say Blueprint, Black Album or of course Reasonable Doubt. Vol 1 for me though holds a special place – tracks like “Lucky Me” and “You Must Love Me” fell way under the radar and should be rediscovered by hip-hop loyalists.
- Hard to Earn by Gang Starr: Not too many duo’s, even at their best could touch the chemistry of DJ Premier and Guru together. And THIS was the best they ever sounded together — bow down.
- Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous by Big L: For the last spot I almost put Outkast, Mobb Deep or eve Jay-Z again but I gave it to the late-great Big L. This album had continuous play in my walkman and CD player (yes, I’m an “old-head”) for years. On this album Big L represented the B-boy mindset of NY at this time. Still to this day a punchline and metaphoric king when discussing lyricists.
What do you think about their picks? Share your thoughts and BE HEARD! And we aren’t done, see who James Graves, Antwan Staley, Kristen Ashly, Larry Bisagni and myself picked as our all time favorites. Who did we miss? Let’s have some real fun with this. If you haven’t heard some of these classics, get those Spotify and Apple Music playlists updated!
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