The Creativity of Hip Hop Concept Albums

SAM SORENSON | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

One of the most frequent complaints hip-hop receives regards its lack of creativity in the mainstream, that whether in subject matter, sound or rapping ability, hip hop is getting stale. But I will highlight some of the most creative hip hop concept albums and prove that hip hop has never lost its creativity.

My problem with many hip hop concept albums today is they focus on strictly telling a story, which is fine, but most modern hip hop concept albums take on a serious tone. Some of the best hip hop albums ever created are based on characters and work in the absurd. Probably the face of this genre of hip hop is MF DOOM. Known for his various alter-egos, ridiculous concepts and, in my opinion, the best rap flow ever created, DOOM takes on the persona of a notorious comic book super villain. While he has a handful of classic albums, one of my favorites is “MM…FOOD.” Created from an anagram of his name, “MM…FOOD” is a concept album where DOOM uses different food items to narrate his stories. While this may sound strange, songs like “Beef Rap” and “Deep Fried Frenz” are commentaries on modern rap and allegories for DOOM’s persona. This album is an underrated classic that showcases perfect execution of an abstract concept.

Going into the even more absurd, Deltron 3030’s self titled album is a concept album about 31st century oppression. Del tha Funkee Homosapien tells stories about fighting against a New World Order with rap battles and traveling around the galaxy. There are bumps along the way including memory wiping on his quest to destroy the overwhelming control that just a few corporations have over society as a whole. While the idea is entertaining and comical, the album speaks symbolically to classism and the dying creativity in hip hop. Del is one of the most technically interesting rappers on this planet and the production fits perfectly with his flow courtesy of Dan the Automator.

Moving into probably the most absurd, Kool Keith is the mastermind behind some of the most ridiculous concept albums hip hop has ever seen. Arguably his most notable is “Dr. Octagonecologyst,” a concept album about a time-traveling gynecologist from Jupiter. Keith uses his alter ego, Dr. Octagon, to grab attention with sheer absurdity and prove his place in hip hop music. Keith tells vivid stories about his adventures as an incompetent surgeon as he travels back through time from the year 3000. Lines about his 7XL lab coat which has not even been invented yet and treating chimpanzee acne are just some things to look forward to on this album.

These are just three of the most creative hip hop concept albums, illustrating that hip hop is not just about money, cars and clothes. I did not get a chance to mention The Roots’ “Undun” which tells the story of a life but in reverse or what makes “Relapse” my favorite Eminem album. There are many concept albums out there, but I appreciate it when an artist takes on a character in order to tell a story on a more creative level.

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