Jan 11, 2011

Best Rap Albums Evar

4:00 PM

The "Best of 2010" lists are all done, so you need a new ranked list to get your blood boiling or validate your opinions, right? BOOM - that's where I come in, with an awkwardly-timed list of my 10 favorite rap albums since 1980.

In ranked order:

Innercity Griots10. Innercity Griots - Freestyle Fellowship
Eazy-E didn't need to go all the way to Cleveland to find a group of street-smart harmonizing double-time rappers - Aceyalone, Myka 9, P.E.A.C.E. and Self Jupiter had already mastered the style just a few miles north of Compton in Leimert Park.

Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers9. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wu-Tang Clan
I wasn't cool enough to have heard "Protect Ya Neck" when it first came out. But as soon as I saw the super-low-budget video of "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man" with hoarse-voiced Meth rapping stream-of-conscious over those clanky keys? Hooked.

Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty8. Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty - Big Boi
It's less than a year old. So what? Sir Luscious Leftfoot took hold of my stereo like nothing I've heard in years. Add the two Andre 3000-assisted songs that Jive nixed but Big Boi leaked on Twitter, and this beats any proper OutKast album. Album of the millennium.

Midnight Marauders7. Midnight Marauders - A Tribe Called Quest
The curvy red, green and black cartoon lady on all Tribe album covers finally revealed her voice on Midnight Marauders, guiding listeners through the pinnacle moment of the group's career: Just experienced enough to create a cohesive, seamless collection of jams, but not so mature that the songs turn tedious.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx6. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx - Raekwon
Combine RZA's best production, Ghostface's rise to the most interesting rapper in the Clan and Rae's freedom to concoct a coke dealer's odyssey and you get Only Built 4 Cuban Linx - an album that takes tons of repeat listens to "get," but never wears you down.

Death Certificate5. Death Certificate - Ice Cube
This is the rap album that would have scared my parents more than any other. Ice Cube romps through these tracks with a clear agenda that features lots of cussing, violent imagery and racial tension, solidifying his spot as hip hop's greatest anti-hero.

Is Dead4. Is Dead - De La Soul
The ultimate solo road trip album. You can't just play a De La record and not actively listen to and decipher the words, so Is Dead, clocking in at over 70 minutes, is guaranteed to keep you awake during that particularly dull stretch of road. The album features De La's best skits (Hemorrhoid and the all-De La, all-the-time WMRS radio station) and song themes that range from funny to dark to absurd.

The Chronic3. The Chronic - Dr. Dre
When fellow hip hop nerds romanticize the early '90s, most of the names that pop up come from the East Coast. But if Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg aren't in the conversation, then we just can't be friends. The Chronic ripped the gangsta-rap blueprint to pieces and published a new one that took over West Coast rap and Billboard - no compromise necessary.

Illmatic2. Illmatic - Nas
If there was a user guide for making a rap album, Illmatic would be the example the instructions were based on. It has all the right pieces: anthems, stories, intricate flows and a bunch of legendary producers' best beats. But no matter how closely you followed the instructions, yours would never come out as good.

Innercity Griots1. Buhloone Mind State - De La Soul
Can you guess who my favorite group is? Buhloone Mind State is one of the first CDs I ever owned. It's also the one I've listened to most and (at first) understood least, which means I've spent a significant portion of my life trying to figure it out. And I've loved every minute of it. De La turned the drab themes of industry fatigue and maintaining a level head into an exciting lyrical labyrinth full of philosophy, riddles and dopeness.

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