5 Albums for Someone New to Hip-Hop

SAM SORENSON | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

In many of my recent articles I have been talking about hip-hop, assuming that those reading already have an opinion and background regarding the genre. I wanted to take a step back and talk about five albums that I believe to be a good starting point for someone who wants to start listening to hip-hop music. These are not necessarily the five best hip-hop albums nor my five favorite albums. In my opinion, these are the five albums I would recommend to someone who wants to explore hip-hop in 2018. 

A Tribe Called Quest: Midnight Marauders

“Midnight Marauders” is A Tribe Called Quest’s third album and probably their most accessible. Tribe is one of the most influential hip-hop groups of the early 1990s and their music does not sound nearly as dated as some of its counterparts. The rest of Tribe’s work is a great transition point into more conscious hip-hop and New York hip-hop in general. Highlight songs: “Steve Biko,” “Electric Relaxation,” “8 Million Stories.”

Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d. City

Kendrick Lamar is essentially a household name at this point, but if you had never heard a full Kendrick album, I suggest starting with “good kid, m.A.A.d. City.” All of the songs are relatively accessible and the story-telling is top-notch. This is the only album that I recommended with a clear narrative and some people new to the genre may not even realize that hip-hop has a rich community of concept albums. Highlight songs: “The Art of Peer Pressure,” “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst,” “Money Trees.”

Notorious B.I.G.: Ready to Die

If you were to ask any hip-hop fan what they believe to be among the best hip-hop albums, this would likely be mentioned by most. This album has some of the most vivid, gritty and catchy story-telling ever released on record. No album embodies New York street rap better than “Ready to Die.” Not only is the album a true masterpiece, but the context of when this album was released (1994), at the heart of the East Coast and West Coast rivalry, is crucial to hip-hop history. Highlight songs: “Suicidal Thoughts,” “Ready to Die,” “Gimme the Loot.”

Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I would be remiss not to mention something by Kanye on this list. While I honestly recommend people listen to every one of Kanye’s albums because of how different and special they are, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is his opus. The epic scale and pure glamour of this album is an incredible achievement in music. While nearly ten years old, this album sounds like it could have come out in 2018 as it is one of the best produced albums I have ever heard. This response to serious loss in Kanye’s life is a follow-up to “808s and Heartbreak,” and shows what Kanye believes to be a perfect album. Highlight songs: “Dark Fantasy,” “So Appalled”, “Devil in a New Dress.”

Big K.R.I.T.: Return of 4eva

My final recommendation is a mixtape from Big K.R.I.T. that I think embodies Southern hip-hop more than any modern album. Of course I could have mentioned Outkast, UGK or Geto Boys when talking about Southern hip-hop, but for someone unfamiliar with hip-hop, K.R.I.T. is an accessible option that can be appreciated by pretty much anyone. This mixtape says many important things about growing up, race and what to appreciate in life. Highlight Songs: “The Vent,” “King’s Blues” and “My Sub.”

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