We celebrate the art form’s fifty years of existence, from iconic throwbacks of the late 80s to today
Born as a niche subculture in the alleys of the Bronx, New York, Hip Hop has today become a global phenomenon dictating what’s hot and what’s not, capturing the zeitgeist. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the driving force of iconic music that has shaped the movement over the last fifty years. To celebrate the occasion, we’ve taken a look at five of the most iconic hip-hop albums of all time (according to us).
Public Enemy, ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ (1988)
Hip-hop fans today likely wouldn’t have their share of Biggie and Tupac if it weren’t for Public Enemy’s 1988 album. True to their name, the hip-hop group took shots at everyone, including radio programmers, the prison-industrial complex, the media, the surveillance state, and more, with tracks like “Bring The Noise,” “Night of the Living Baseheads,” and more.
The Notorious B.I.G., ‘Ready to Die’ (1994)
The release of “Ready To Die” marked the transition from hip-hop’s golden age to the modern age we know today. Leading this change was Notorious B.I.G., Christopher Wallace, who until then had been selling drugs to make ends meet, a part of his life that was poured into the rapper’s wide array of hard-hitting, semi-autobiographical songs.
Jay-Z, ‘The Blueprint’ (2001)
If Biggie held the crown, Jay-Z was next in line to inherit it, a claim that he proved with 2001’s “The Blueprint.” Considered one of his best albums of all time, “Blueprint” had all the necessary talent and drama to make it a memorable event, from collaborations with a young and upcoming Kanye to diss tracks against Nas and Prodigy. Described as “Quick and witty, confident and smooth” by Rolling Stone, tracks like “U Don’t Know,” “Izzo,” and “Hola Hovito” have now become staple listens for any rap fan out there.
Kanye West, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (2010)
Once regarded as a genius, it’d be unfair to categorize Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” solely as a hip-hop album. Composed after his infamous VMA incident, the album gave us peak Kanye, with an amalgamation of dexterous rapping, striking visuals, innovative sound design, and of course, luxurious production. Widely regarded as probably the best Kanye album of all time, MBDTF is as close as the rapper would get to perfection before his downfall.
Kendrick Lamar, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ (2015)
Taking the mantle from the greats before him was a kid from Compton with his third album, 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” During its runtime of almost 80 minutes, K-Dot revels in deeply personal stories of colourism, incarceration, wealth inequality, and more, shedding light on the artist’s struggle with materialism and self-love. A critic’s darling, Lamar’s work is described here as “Kendrick’s imagination here is deep and deft, as he dreams aloud of resilience, vengeance, and conversations with religious and rap deities.”
Image Credits – Courtesy Of The Artists
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