By: Joe Cardoso
The first full week of Black Music Month is here and we bring the second of our panel of hip hop lovers to share their all-time favorite albums. If you missed the first article, you can read it here and we want to hear from you, the people. Are you a fan of the new school of hip-hop? Did you grow up in the golden era of the 90’s? One thing is for sure, we all love hip-hop and the way it brings people from all walks of life together. So let’s see who made the cut.
Larry Bisagni: DMV born and raised and a real hustler who loves music. I look at what is timeless: any of these four albums could be in a rotation and nobody will tell you to put something else on. In no particular order:
Nas-Illmatic: lyrics were so real and concise. Hard hitting and thoughtful, Illmatic was uplifting and in your face.
A Tribe Called-The Low-End Theory: A breakout masterpiece. This album changed hip hop forever… dropping intellectual rhymes over melodic jazzy samples revolutionized the game. Everyone had to up their game after this one dropped in 1991.
The Notorious-Ready to Die: He didn’t come on the set shaking hands – he kicked the door down. His three-rhyme-per-stanza fused with wit and grit didn’t put Brooklyn back on the hip-hop map… it made Brooklyn the East Coast capital of the scene.
2Pac-All Eyez on Me: I’m really tempted to go with Doggystyle or The Chronic, but it’s fair to pay homage to a lyrical genius that we lost far too soon. Pac was so much more than a gang banger – he was an artist that was fearless and took chances with his craft, both on the screen and with a mic in his hand.
I’m about intellect – music that makes you think is what makes my heart beat.
James Graves: NBS TEAM SIDE SPIN writer resident nerd and hip-hop junkie
No particular order but…
Outkast-Stankonia: first rap album I bought and it was fire.
Lupe Fiasco–The Cool: First concept album I brought and it was amazing to hear this dude paint a picture and rap about characters he introduced from his first album food and liquor
The Eminem Show-Eminem: Based on his maturity through the rap game, his vulnerability on that album, and his passion and bars
Jay-Z-The Black Album: It was the perfect swan song to an artist who defined an era for real. If he actually stopped making music it would be his second best album of all time.
Joe Cardoso: Founder of NBS and the ultimate hip hop junkie:
Man, where do I begin? I fell in love with hip-hop when I was 11 and I heard a dude named LL Cool J, drop”I’m Bad.” The music video was INSANE and the energy and passion he had I had never seen or heard before. It was all gravy after that as I have always been a fiend for dope bars, hard-hitting beats, and a wicked message or story. This was hard but I got it done.
Wu-Tang Clan-Wu Tang Forever: June 3, 1997, it dropped and it changed the game 9 brothers each with different deliveries and sounds it was unreal. It is still one of my go to albums, for a long road trip or to just sit back and chill. “It’s Yours”, “Duck Seazon”, and “Triumph” are classics as they display what the clan is all about and then some.
Outkast- ATLiens: Legendary group and so is this album we all thought we knew what the South was about. Candy paint on cars, slow motion rap and new slang we folks up north didn’t understand. Big Bio and Andre came and slapped us all upside the head! The music was so NEW gospel music and space sound effects what in the world? But it’s DOPE!”Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)”, “Babylon”, “Elevators (Me & You)”.
Jay-Z- The Black Album: I regard myself as one of the biggest Jay fans on the planet and this was the ONE for me. I just hit play and let it bump “PSA” is my theme music for life lol. Brilliant stuff from Shawn Carter and still relevant today.
Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are- Black Star: What can I say two of my favorite MC’s came together for one album and in my opinion, it’s a classic. Showing that it’s not always about partying or drug dealing this joint rocks. From the intro to the end it’s lyrics and smooth beats you can groove to and learn from. Songs like “Respiration”, “Twice Inna Lifetime”, and “Definition” just to name a few. I wish they made more music but if this was all the hip-hop Gods would give me I’ll take it.
Way too many honorable mentions for me but just know my taste in hip hop is world wide, and just keeps growing
Kristen Ashly: Kick a** writer and huge hip hop fan
#1-Wu-Tang -Enter Wu-Tang (36 Chambers): My obsession with Wu-Tang runs blood deep, but this album tops a lot of charts for pretty obvious reasons. It’s hailed as one of the greatest debut albums of all time, and paved the way for rap albums that make us think. It’s like Macklemore said, “That’s what you get when Wu-Tang raised you.”
#2-OutKast -Aquemini: In my opinion, Andre 3000 and Big Boi are on the list of best rappers of all time. This album used instruments like harmonicas and acoustic guitar to form a hip-hop legacy, which was pretty unheard of in 1998.
#3- Beastie Boys -Licensed to Ill: This album is typically considered “Rap Rock”, but the influence of the Beastie Boys on the Hip Hop community is strongly recognized. They carved their own path, and attracted a whole new group of listeners to the genre.
#4- Kanye West-College Dropout: The Kanye we see today feels completely different than the Kanye I was introduced to in the early 2000’s. “College Dropout”, and particularly the track “Through the Wire”, define my high school senior year. The album was all I listened to for all of 2004, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Filled with self-conscious lyrics, fun tracks, heavy sampling, and some pretty big “featuring” cameos, the album was everything a “misunderstood” senior needed in 2004.
Honorable mentions: Eminem-Marshall Mathers LP, Ludacris-Word of Mouf, and Salt-N-Pepa-Very Necessary.
Antwan Staley-Managing Editor of Dolphins Wire and a music fan to the core.
4. The Notorious B.I.G.–Life After Death: It is a shame that kids my sister age (17) and younger don’t know how great The Notorious B.I.G. was. I believe had he not been killed March 9, 1997, he would have become the greatest rapper of all-time. His only two studio albums “Ready to Die” and “Life After Death” were both classics, but I think Biggie was so much more than those two releases. He helped Junior Mafia with their solo album which also helped launched maybe the best female rapper ever in Lil Kim. He was the face of Bad Boy Records and made Sean “Diddy” Combs a ton of money in the process, but back to talking about Christopher Wallace the rapper. I believe the thing that Biggie so great that he was Nas, Jay-Z and 2 Pac rolled into one rapper. He was just as lyrical as Nas, he had the radio and commercial appeal and he even appealed to women. No, he wasn’t the best looking guy on earth, but Biggie had his way with women and had millions of guys wanting to live his lifestyle. The only reason I can’t call him the best rapper of all-time is because he died too soon. You can’t release only two solo albums and be called the best. That would be like someone in the NFL having a few great seasons (think Gale Sayers or Terrell Davis) and calling them the best. Maybe they would have been had their careers not been cut short, but it was. Biggie was just a classic case of a great musician being taken away from us way too soon.
3. Tupac–The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory: No he wasn’t the most lyrical rapper ever, but Tupac Shakur left his mark on the hip-hop game in more ways than one. The thing I enjoyed about Tupac was that he could talk about any subject under the sun. He could talk lack of peace on earth, he could make a diss record, he could also talk about gang life, women, drugs etc. Tupac was so versatile and fun to listen. Tupac could appeal to every person around the world. From a white teenager in Amos, Iowa to a black man in Oakland, California, he had many listeners from different backgrounds. My own grandmother had a couple of his albums and listened to his records and she was in her 50’s then. I use to say Tupac was the greatest rapper ever, but I believe there are two men that have surpassed him. Not that it was anything Tupac did, but when you haven’t released a studio album since 1996, it is hard to stay at the top. The man was so intelligent because he knew his time on this earth would be short and he even predicted his own death. There will never be another Tupac on this earth. Never! His music is so timeless and will live on for years.
2. Jay-Z–Reasonable Doubt: If you knew me in high school, then you knew how big of a Jay-Z fan I was. When the hip-hop community lost Tupac and Biggie, there was a void in hip-hop. Jay-Z stepped up to the plate and arguably became the best rapper in the game from 1998-2001. And for that time, Jay-Z had no challengers until Nas started to challenge in the year 1999 with his song “We will Survive,” when Nas said this line “But, now competition is none, now that you’re gone and these niggaz is wrong, usin’ your name in vain And they claim to be New York’s king?” I believe this is started the seeds of the best hip-hop rivalry of the 2000s. While Jay-Z filled the void after The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac died, he came up short against Nas in their beef. This is not only reason why I don’t have Jay-Z as the greatest rapper of all-time. I just simply feel like Nas is the better rapper, but more on that later. Jay-Z is and always be one of my favorite rappers of all-time. 3 classic albums, 15 years in the hip-hop game and Jay-Z is still considered one of the best in the hip-hop game in his 40s. Anyone that debates Jay-Z in the top two of any hip-hop list, let me recommend the albums Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint and The Black Album.
1. Nas-Illmatic: Greatest lyricist ever. Nasir Jones début album, was released on April 19, 1994 and I believe set the bar high for other hip hop albums. So many hip-hop rappers idolized this album including Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G. and even Tupac. This is the best début album ever in hip-hop history and It Was Written by a teenager. After Illmatic was released, people were already saying that a 20-year-old Nas was the best rapper in the game. Then in 1996, he released It was Written and then, some people didn’t like it because it was a different album from Illmatic. Over time with the help of rappers like Lupe Fiasco, the album would become a cult classic. I belie the reason he is the best rapper ever is because he could rap circles around any rapper I’ve heard. Plus he has the longevity that Jay-Z has and Nas has really just had one terrible album which was before his rebirth and come back in 2001. Me and my best friend in high school use to talk about who was better between Jay-Z and Nas and this was even before the Nas and Jigga beef. After Nas recorded Either and the album Stillmatic, he only confirmed our thoughts about Nas being the better rapper. I can compare Nas’ albums to Jay-Z’s and I believe they are about even. The different is the lyrical content and Nas is and always was above Jay-Z. Hell Jay-Z’s blueprint for his Reasonable Doubt albums was model after Nas’ Illmatic. Any true hip-hop fan knows Nas is the better rapper and I believe this makes him the greatest rapper ever. Nas has released 4 classic albums (Illmatic, It Was Written, Stillmatic and Lost Tapes) and in my opinion, he is the great rapper ever. Even if you listen to Nas’ unreleased songs, it is better than your favorite rappers songs. The thing that truly that makes Nas great, is that when he is on a song with another rapper, he always steals the spotlight. You can’t help to say, damn Nas had the hottest lines in that song.
So what do you think of the picks? Who did we miss? Time to be heard and let the deabte rage on. Thank you for all of the emails and tweets responding to this. It’s a new era in hip hop with a diffirent sound and look. What will be the next big trend or big MC? Is it Logic? Joey Bada**? One thing is for sure, the music will never stop and we are thankful for that.
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