The weekend was halftime. Now, we’re in the second half. Who’s gonna win the ga…wait, maybe that wasn’t a good analogy. Check out the most recent installment of the series, and let’s move on!
50. Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo Road To The Riches
(Cold Chillin, 1989)
Kool G. Rap was one of the most lyrical emcees on Cold Chillin’ Records along side Big Daddy Kane. He is listed among one of the top ten influential rappers of all time. In 1989, Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo released their debut album “Road to the Riches”. Armed with a distinctive lisp, G. Rap had an arsenal of lyrics that went beyond the skills of the average emcee. The first single, “It’s a Demo” was released a couple of years before the album was put together. However, the title track, “Road to the Riches” gained the hardcore artist most popularity with its catchy piano chops and witty lyrics. June
49. The Roots Things Fall Apart
Importance is asserted from the jump in Things Fall Apart – the Chinua Achebe-cribbing title, the arresting and devastating cover photo, the insistence that hip-hop is slowly eating itself alive. As an album, its aspirations are lofty, and the record itself sags a bit under the weight of considerable bloat; fortunately, the Roots are in control, and even when the record nears its samey middle section, it still manages to crisply emanate that crisp, insidious knock that the in-the-pocket Roots handle so well. And Things‘ classics are often incredibly exciting: “The Next Movement” still bumps, 12 years on, with a restless, freewheeling energy that The Roots would eventually trade in for artistic merit, Black Thought’s nimble rhyme-off with Mos Def on “Double Trouble” is the stuff mixtapes are made for, and the slinky “You Got Me” boasts a thoughtful premise and perhaps the most irresistible, sultry chorus of The Roots’ career. It’s big, it’s imperfect, and it’s pretty highbrow, all told, but it’s also proof that The Roots are never really off.-Drew
Things Fall Apart was a game changer for The Roots – a breakthrough record both commercially and artistically – and the realization of the group’s potential. It’s early era Roots at their most ambitious and creative, yet with a consistency and focus lacking from their previous work. Simply put; this is the album you always sensed – and hoped – The Roots had in them.
It was with this record that Black Thought emerged as one of the best writers in rap, and Malik was right up there alongside him at that point. Both emcees elevated their lyrical game substantially on Things Fall Apart. The support cast however, is also immense – you’ve got newcomers, associates and established acts; all operating at their highest level. Rarely will you see a guest list so loaded without carrying some dead weight, but everyone who steps up to the mic here is more than capable of holding their own.
13 years on, Things Fall Apart still sound sublime. Singles ‘You Got me’ and ‘The Next Movement’ touch on perfection. ‘The Spark’ and ‘100% Dundee’ are raw rap favourites. Brilliance from start to finish. This album acts as a constant reminder of everything that’s great about Hiphop, and for me, it remains The Roots defining work.-Duan
48. Kanye West Late Registration
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2005)
Even though My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a fantastic album, I still believe Late Registration is Kanye West’s best album. The collaboration with Jon Brion gave the album a twinge of class, a sophisticated sound.
But even more than that, it’s West at his most expressive without sounding forced. His lyrics are smart, honest, and heartfelt even though his rhyme skills weren’t necessarily on point (and really still aren’t). He was still funny and juvenile, but this album seemed to serve more of a purpose. I truly believe he wanted to create a hip hop masterpiece.
It also gave us what I believe to be his greatest moment in music. “Hey Mama” is also one of the greatest and most under appreciated songs in hip hop history. After his mother died, it took on a new life for me. Even though West is in the media for the wrong reasons sometimes, I’ll always cut him slack. Not only does he create fantastic music, he loved his mom a lot.-GG
47. Run-DMC Run-DMC
LL was the dude who kicked down the door and threw the boombox on the desk (in “Krush Groove,” check it out,”) but a year and a half before Cool James announced himself to the world, Run-DMC metaphorically kicked down all sorts of doors with their self-titled debut. Armed with spare production that highlighted a pair of booming voices, Joe and Darryl created hip-hop’s first real album-length statement. “It’s Like That” and “Hard Times” both obviously try to replicate the social message of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message,” but Run-DMC also contains songs like Rock Box, which sounded like nothing that had ever been released previously. That song, more than anything else, set the wheels in motion for the rap genre to move on to the next stage in it’s development.-Big Money
46. Public Enemy Apocalypse ’91…The Enemy Strikes Black
(Def Jam, 1991)
Apocalypse ’91 was the next step in the evolution of Public Enemy, and perhaps more importantly, the last album that could really be called a Bomb Squad production. After taking hip-hop beatmaking to a completely new level on Nation of Millions and Black Planet, Chuck and the Shocklee brothers go to a slightly simplified but no less effective style here. Less noise, more funk. The end result? Classic singles like “Can’t Truss It,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Get The Fuck Outta Dodge,” and the minimalist classic “Shut ‘Em Down.” All due respect to Pete Rock, of course, but “Shut “Em Down” was dope before it got remixed. Chuck D., of course, is as full of piss and vinegar as ever on this album, cajoling and preaching, attempting to spread a message that remains relevant two decades later.-Big Money
45. The Roots Phrenology
Phrenology was probably conceived as a fairly straightforward, mainstream work, but I don’t know that The Roots could make a conventional hip-hop album if someone paid them a million dollars to do so. This album will certainly go WAY over the head of the average hip-hop listener, and although I’ve always been fond of it, it even took me some time to fully appreciate. Just about every part of this album is perfect, from the two interludes (a brief punk-rock instrumental, and a rollcall of rap legends) to ?uestlove’s EXHAUSTIVE liner notes (I see musical history books in this man’s future).
If there are any closed-minded folks out there who still think that hip-hop can’t be musical, or that it has no socially redeeming qualities, one listen to Phrenology will certainly change your mind. It’s an ambitious, intelligent work featuring great songwriting, excellent musicianship, and a sense of daring missing from just about any other major-label rap release recorded in the past decade.-Big Money
44. Ice Cube AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
(Lench Mob/Priority, 1990)
Ice Cube’s departure from N.W.A. was unpleasant, to say the least. If you need any proof of that, check out the long series of dis records they volleyed back and forth-reaching a fever pitch with “No Vaseline,” which appeared on Cube’s next album, Death Certificate. For AmeriKKKa’s Most, Cube decamped to New York. Linking up with the legendary Bomb Squad, O’Shea created perhaps the first West Coast rap album to get solid props from New Yorkers. He also confirmed that he carried most of the lyrical talent in the group. “A Gangsta’s Fairytale” is a conceptual classic, “Who’s The Mack?” may have shown Cube’s former bandmate Dr. Dre that there was some commercial viability in those smooth soul samples, and “It’s A Man’s World” enlists Yo-Yo to offer some counterpoint to the misogny that was running rampant in the genre even then. While Cube’s current status as the modern-day Bill Cosby makes me a little sick, AmeriKKKa’s Most is good enough to forgive 3 or 4 “Are We There Yet?” movies. But maybe not the TV show.-Big Money
43. OutKast Stankonia
While Aquemini allowed Outkast to gain even more commercial love, Stankonia is where they blew it out the box. It was Stankonia, and not the double-solo album, where they first became true rock stars.
Stankonia is all over the place sonically. And I mean that in a good way. Their experimental sound is perfected on this album with very few songs sounding like they’d been created together. Each song sounds like its own project.
Lead single “B.O.B.” will raise your heart rate level just by listening. It’s an Outkast song on steroids. “So Fresh, So Clean” is motherfunking cool. And “Ms. Jackson,” the ode to the baby’s mamas mamas, is one of the greatest hip hop song of all time.
They received all the acclaim for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, but for my 15 dollars, this is the best Outkast album of them all.-GG
42. Boogie Down Productions By All Means Necessary
Boogie Down Productions’ Criminal Minded may have marked the only time a social worker and his client ever joined forces to create a classic album, and the team of Scott La Rock and KRS-ONE appeared to be bound for bigger things. Then, Scott was murdered attempting to break up a fight, and those hopes seemed to be dashed. However, KRS picked up the mantel for himself and Scott, reinvented himself as “The T’Cha,” and BDP was resurrected with 1988’s By All Means Necessary. The album title (and its cover photo) explicitly reference Malcolm X, and KRS saw his new role as a positive force in hip-hop as something akin to the civil rights leader’s role in the black community. Thankfully, the album doesn’t get as heavy-handed as Kris would get on later records-there are still songs like the record company-bashing “Nervous” and the humorous-with-a-message safe-sex anthem “Jimmy” to even out more serious efforts like “Stop the Violence.” Regardless of what the subject matter was, though…BDP was still fresh. For ’88. You suckaaaaaaaaas…-Big Money
41. Black Moon Enta Da Stage
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Black Moon consisted of Buckshot Shorty, 5FT and DJ Evil Dee. With visual help in 1992 from Video Music Box’s host Ralph McDaniels, the group would quickly become recognized for their first classic single, “Who Got the Props”. With Buckshot as the lead, energetic, backpack toting vocalist of the trio, Black Moon raised the bar with a few more singles which caught the ears of its newly found fans. The dark underground single “How Many MC’s” borrowed vocals from KRS-One for the hook and shook the Hip Hop world. A remix version of “I Got Cha Open” was released a year after the album dropped but catapulted the group even more through the ranks. Though “Enta Da Stage” was not a commercial success, it forever remains a Hip Hop classic.-June