8 Albums No Sleep
Due to the fact that I have a new work schedule and subsequently haven't slept in nearly 4 days (keep off of I-25 between Denver & The Springs), I am going to put the World Tour on hold for a week and pimp some music. I really didn't think a night shift would screw me up this bad, but I've been so exhausted that I haven't even checked my email this week. But enough bitching and moaning... I'd like to list 8 hip-hop albums that I think everyone should have in their collection. Why 8? Because everyone does a top-10, or a top 5, and I'm a non-conformist, dammit! These are albums that you can play from beginning to end without skipping a track. They may not be historically important or necessary for the advancement of the genre, but they're great albums and that's all that really matters. Here they are, in no particular order.
8) Mos Def - The New Danger: Mos Def has been around for quite some time now, hosting Def Poetry Jam on HBO, collaborating with Talib Kweli to create the Black Star album, starring as Ford Prefect in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and in numerous other mediums. I liked what he did with Black Star, but his solo album really sold him as an artist to me. He mixes hard rock, blues, percussion-heavy hip-hop and spoken word poetry to create a mash-up of styles that transcends genres. I remember getting into an argument with someone who didn't think he was a hip-hop artist at all, and believed that he should be labeled as "Alternative Rock", a term I absolutely LOATHE. Apparently, if an album has a guitar in it, it's automatically alt-rock. But I digress... The New Danger is a great mix of music that can be bumped in your car, at a party or at a number of different clubs without alienating audiences. He excels at whatever he does, be it film, music, television, skateboarding or poetry.
7) Dr. Octagon - Dr. Octagonecologyst: Just one of Kool Keith's many personas, Doc Oc is my favorite. Kool Keith is bat-shit insane (or at least he portrays someone who is bat-shit insane) and with a production team of Kutmasta Kurt, Dan the Automator and DJ Qbert, this album pioneered space-hop, a futuristic mix of hip-hop, turntablism, thematic vocals and just plain goofiness. If you're not a fan of Kool Keith's rapping style (and many people aren't), at least check out the instrumental album which showcases the superb production of hip-hop's finest. If you enjoy it, prepare for another Doc Oc album due out in late 2007 (a strange semi-approved sequel called "The Return of Doctor Octagon was put out in 2006, but it pales in comparison to the original).
6) Cool Calm Pete - Lost: Cool Calm Pete is part of the mostly unknown threesome called Babbletron, and his shit is smooth, laid-back New York hip-hop. Cool Calm Pete sounds like he's rapping on Quaaludes, and his voice is deep and mellow. Frankly, I was surprised as hell to discover that he's Korean, because his voice has a deep and rich timbre that reminds me of a 300 pound black guy who has just smoked a pound of weed. He's fairly new to to the scene, but keep your eye on him, because his flow is SICK. Even the occasional singles that he releases are up to par with his work from Lost, and he's had Embedded Music and Definitive Jux clamoring for more.
5) Swollen Members - Bad Dreams: Want to hear a pair of Canadians (one of whom is a 5-foot-tall white rapper) put 90% of the US scene to shame? Then pick up this album. Mad Child (the short white guy) is part of the Rock Steady Crew, and can out-freestyle anyone he is put up against. Fellow member Prevail and producer Rob the Viking created an absolutely outstanding sophomore album that you can listen to over and over again. They put on a damn good live show too; when I saw them in Boulder, they hopped into the audience and walked back and forth, rapping amongst the fans. Their subsequent releases have been hit and miss, but I had Bad Dreams in my car CD player for a good 4 months before finally swapping it out. Canada: It's not all curling and Molson Light, eh?
4) Zion I - Deepwaterslang v2.0: I can honestly say that I have never seen a group move a crowd the way that Zion I does. Emcee Zion and DJ Amp Live create banging tracks with socially-conscious lyrics and positive messages. They often preform with rapper Deuce Eclipse, and Deuce and Zion showcase their freestyling abilities at every show. When I went to see them a few years back, the stopped the concert mid-song to kick a rowdy drunk out of the audience who was trying to start fights with random people. "None of that shit here! Only good vibes, we don't want any sort of hatred to ruin ya'lls good time" Zion proclaimed before starting the song from the beginning and ripping up the stage for another 45 minutes. They're humble, intelligent and they tour like maniacs as well. I've seen them at large venues and at clubs where a half-dozen people showed up, and they give it their all, even if no one is there to see it.
3) Sage Francis - A Healthy Distrust: Another white boy who can put Eminem to shame, Sage Francis is not what you would expect from a typical rapper. Straight-edge (although he hates the term), vegetarian and college educated, his command of the English language is nothing short of impressive. He's the first hip-hop artist to be signed to Epitaph, a mostly punk label, and you can listen to this album over and over again and still miss the double-entrendres, puns and metaphors that are squeezed into every song. The very definition of a "socially-conscious" rapper, Sage 's finest work is showcased in this album. He's an outspoken critic of government corruption and consumerism, and was even named as one of PETA's "sexiest vegetarians." I'll put aside my extreme distaste for PETA for the sake of Sage though.
2) Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030: Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, Sean Lennon, Paul Barman, Peanut Butter Wolf and dozens of others appear on this album, creating a futuristic mish-mash of melodic hip-hop. If you liked the song "Cling Eastwood" by Gorillaz, you'll love this album. Del is an amazing rapper, Kid Koala creates some of the most insane noises you will ever hear from a turntablist, and Dan the Automator's production is top notch. This is an album that EVERYONE needs to own. Even if you hate hip-hop, or if you have never heard a hip-hop song in your entire life, you will love it. Words can't even describe how good it is, so I won't try. However, if you are already a fan, you might be interested to know that a new Deltron album is due out in late 2007.
1) DJ Shadow - Endtroducing...: DJ Shadow pioneered a new direction for the genre when he released "Endroducing..." If I had to choose a single album to listen to for the rest of my life, this would be it. Stuttering beats, beautiful piano and organ pieces and obscure samples abound in what could probably be called the grandfather of melodic hip-hop. The only vocals you will find are an occasional movie sample, but the music really does all the talking. Unfortunately for Shadow, this album transcends all future releases and although he has put of some damn good stuff (with the exception of his latest album "The Outsider"), this is something that just can't be topped. It's like the first time you had sex, or the virgin high you got when you smoked your first joint. Often imitated, never duplicated.
Honorable mentions go to RJD2, All Natural, Dilated Peoples, Jurassic 5, 2Pac and a few others, but I don't want to use up all my material in a single article, so you'll just have to wait until later to hear about them.
Seetwist just gave you eight things to do. Why are you still here? Get to work!