Last week I unveiled the first 10 albums which I deemed as the most influential in Hip hop since 1989. A few people were surprised at some of the choices but if someone really dissects the game up of hip hop you will see why. But, without further ado it is time to unveil the last 10. Don’t forget these aren’t considered to be the best albums of all time necessarily but the most influential.
The Roots- Things Fall Apart (1999)
The Roots had been a staple in hip hop for over three previous recordings that were all critically acclaimed but it wasn’t until Things Fall Apart were they able to make a big influence. The album title came from the Chinua Achebe novel of the same name. The Roots were able to show that the concept of a band (headed by Amir “Questlove” Thompson) and a dope MC (Black Thought) could be relevant and have a voice in hip hop. Things Fall Apart was able to show hip hop and the music industry that Hip Hop could have musicianship and rhymes. Classic songs such as “You Got Me” featuring Erykah Badu and Eve, The Next Movement, and Act Too (Love of My Life) featuring Common are few of the songs that show the soul of this album.
Juvenile- 400 Degreez (1998)
Southern music has had a lot of influence on hip hop in many ways but it wasn’t until 400 Degreez that people really started to take notice at Southern/ New Orleans hip hop as a global thing. Southern rap had Outkast, No Limit, Goodie Mob, UGK, and others but many people looked at them as anomalies. When people heard the gritty sound and flavor “Ha” people didn’t know how to even perceive it. 400 Degreez introduced the world to a label that would still have influence today Cash Money records, Lil Wayne, and dope producer Mannie Fresh. It was when Jay-Z jumped on the “Ha Remix” and the never overplayed party/club song “Back That Ass up”. Mannie Fresh beats over the raspy delivery of Juvenile on tracks such as “Back That Ass Up, “Follow Me Now”, and “Rich N*****” were able show how that southern sound could transcend anywhere.
Eminem- Marshal Mathers LP (2000)
The white rapper was in many ways a unicorn in hip hop until Eminem came on the scene with his first album The Slim Shady LP. The Marshal Mathers LP influenced hip hop on a mainstream and introspective level. Many times MCs would only talk about their lives from the perspective of being the best and on top but not many would talk about the anger and disgust they have for the world inside. The Marshal Mathers LP was a big middle finger to the world from Eminem and he was able to get away with it. Eminem wasn’t a white guy trying to act black for the sake of being in hip hop. Eminem was a white guy being myself in hip hop. This album was able to resonate with not only hip hop fans but the mainstream audience as well. Now it very well maybe because of his complexion that it was able to cross over so much but you cannot deny the energy, creativity, and lyricism. Songs such as “The Way I Am”, “Stan”, and “Drug Ballad” are all highlights of this influential.
Dr. Dre- The Chronic (1992)
When compiling this list this album was one of the first one’s I thought of and is also arguably the most influential hip hop album of all time. The album was named after marijuana and an ode to how high this album would make the listener feel. Dr. Dre changing the sound of how an album would sound and feel. The sound defined the essence of G-Funk by slow banging beats and melodic synthesizers, with P-Funk samples, female vocals, and laid-back lyrical delivery. This was one of the first albums that was able to truly cross over “gangster rap”. Every person from kids living in the inner city to the country club couldn’t deny The Chronic. The whole Death Row movement and introduction of West Coast legends Snoop Dogg, Daz, Kurupt, Warren G, Lady of Rage, and Nate Dogg infused the album. No one could deny that this album from top to bottom was a blueprint for the sound of hip hop for the future. Songs such as “Dre Day”, “Nuthin But a G Thang, and “Let Me Ride” were a few of the highlights of The Chronic.
A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders (1993)
A lot of people always argue if this album of their earlier opus The Low End Theory were their best project. I would say that this project was the most influential not only for the sound of the album but also its ability to display how a hip hop group could have longevity in the game. Few artists were able to stay together and keep a high level of artistry for three albums straight. With the changing landscape of hip hop with the influence of West Coast influence and the beginning of a new East Coast sound starting to develop. Midnight Marauders was able to hold on to some of the vibe of past hip hop but also able to combine itself with were the future of hip hop was going. A Tribe Called Quest was knew they couldn’t go the hardcore route that hip hop was starting to evolve into but knew they could still keep their sound but just enhance it to stay relevant and in people’s headphones. Records such as “Electric Relaxation”, “Award Tour”, and “Sucka N****” are massive highlights of A Tribe Called West showing how a group can stay relevant in hip hop.
Nelly- Country Grammar (2000)
Many people sleep on the influence of Nelly and particularly Country Grammar to hip hop. The Midwest was beginning to make some headway in the early 2000s and Nelly was one of those people who helped kick in the door. Nelly was able to combine melody and lyrics together that would get people singing along and getting many of his songs stuck in their head. He was able to master what many artists going forward emulated from Drake, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and a host of others began to do. Country Grammar not only was able to appeal to rap fans but also the mainstream as well the key was that Nelly still kept an edge about him that kept respect within the hip hop community. Country Grammar influenced the Midwest region in the aspect of opening the door for many more Midwest artists to get the opportunity on the bigger scale. Tracks such as “Country Grammar”, “E.I.”, and “Batter Up” should the world how to have some Midwest swing.
Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death (1997)
In part I of this post I mentioned three east Coast albums that helped New York come back from the West Coast sound that was dominated the airwaves of the early 90s the third one was Notorious B.I.G.’s first project Ready to Die. However, the album that may have had the most influence on hip hop was his double disc album Life After Death. At the time Bad Boy Records was seemingly was trying to make that transition into the shiny suit and jiggy movement that they went through after Biggie’s death Life After Death was the happy medium for both hardcore rap fans and those who wanted some of that jiggy/pop feel. Before Biggie, Tupac was able to have a successful double disc LP and arguably Life After Death is the last great double LP. Life After Death was able to create the blueprint of how to have a pop feeling album with hip hop influence and hardcore influence. He was able to do even speed up his flow and stay bar for bar with Bone Thugs N Harmony on “Notorious Thugs”. Notorious B.I.G. was able to take lyric jabs at many of his detractors such as Tupac, Nas, Raekwon, Jeru The Damaja, and Ghostface Killah and keep people dancing at the same time. With production laced from D. Dot, Stevie J, RZA, DJ Premiere, Havoc of Mobb deep, and a host of others it was an album that was a great swan song for the slain MC. Records such as “Hypnotize”, “What’s Beef?”, and “Sky’s The Limit” are a few of the albums many highlights.
Kanye West- The College Drop Out (2004)
Kanye West started out in hip hop as the proverbial underdog since even the people on his own label only wanted his around for his beats. What came from this frustration hip hop not believing in him being a respectable MC was The College Drop Out. The album’s production, lyrics, emotion, and even guest appearance influenced hip hop in the aspect that a regular person who wasn’t the general archetype of hip hop artist at the time could make music that people loved. The album also was a voice for the everyday person who was striving hard to get a piece of the “American Dream”. Songs such as “Spaceship”, “Through The Wire”, and “Jesus Walks” are some of the many highlights of how The College Dropout brought an aspect of soulfulness that hip hop had lost.
50 Cent- Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)
Most people didn’t pay attention to 50 Cents first project Power of the Dollar and he fell into an abyss that many rappers never get out of. It wasn’t until his mixtapes came across Eminem that he was able to find a new life. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was able to tie together the street messages with a radio feel. What birthday party is complete without “In The Club”? For the good or bad 50 Cent on this album began to make the idea of “beef” a profitable thing. His lyrical and physical war with Ja Rule and Murder Inc records single-handedly in many ways brought a whole record label down. This album showed hip hop if you just go hard with robust energy and able to combine that with great production that people will ride with you. 50 Cent was able to catapult himself from this album into movies, the successful G-Unit records, and many other investments. Songs such as “21 Questions”, “Pimp”, and “Many Men” should how hip hop could still keep its edge and still be a commercial success.
The Fugees- The Score (1995)
Many underground hip hop heads were down with Pras, Wyclef Jean, and Lauryn Hill on their first album Blunted on Reality. When The Score came along hip hop didn’t know what do with a mixed gender group such as The Fugees but The Score was able to show how the balanced effort of testosterone and estrogen on a track could be something golden. The album which was described as an audio film took the listener on a different journey. This album was able to show how a group could have social consciousness and lyricism and still relate in the current state of hip hop. They were able to take the islander feel of music and combine hip hop. Many groups had women in their crews but Lauryn Hill was able to show how much a woman could shine within a group. Few people can deny the level of lyricism from Lauryn Hill on this album, Wyclef’s creativeness in song concepts and production, and Pras’ presences and voice were able to show how a cohesive album could be delivered. Classic tunes of this album include “Ready or Not”, “Fugee-La” the melodic Roberta Flack’s remake “Killing Me Softly sung by Lauryn Hill.
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