Blast Beats is a weekly column in which extreme music artists discuss their favorite hip-hop records.
In this week’s Blast Beats, Detach the Islands drummer Emmett Ceglia discusses his top 12 favorite hip-hop records of all time. His picks range from classic albums from Nas, to more eccentric and contemporary acts like Death Grips and Run the Jewels. Continue reading to check out his full list.
THE BIG XII:
This list is in no particular order except for the first entry…
1. Aceyalone – A Book of Human Language
This is hands down my favorite hip-hop record. It came at a time when I was just digging into the genre in a more serious way, and the first time I put it on, it blew my doors off their hinges. ABOHL is an exercise in understanding the art of making a record, but then using that knowledge to bend, warp, and break the rules. There are no features and only one producer, Mumbles, so the record feels like one cohesive, environment. However, the amount of variation here is ridiculous. These twenty tracks have it all: thesaurus shredding word play, odd metered beats, captivating topics, engaging interludes, meticulous production – you name it. I’m still inspired every time I put it on, and if I do nothing else other than spreading the word about this criminally underrated gem, then mission accomplished.
2. Nas – Illmatic
What hasn’t been said about this LP already? If you have yet to hear it, then you’re missing an undisputed classic. A young Nas puts on a clinic in emcee wizardry, and my New York City subway rides could hardly have a better sound track. Also, I highly recommend Matthew Gasteier’s book on the album which is a part of the “33 1/3” series. He provides more detail and insight than any review ever could.
3. Death Grips – The Money Store
Loud, paranoid, and innovative as hell, this beast opened me up to the Onion Tor underworld that is Death Grips. By the end of, “Hacker,” I’m ready to set up a freedom tower and destroy the digital system from the inside out. While it’s a combative listen through and through, there is virtuosic musicianship woven into all the chaotic musical zig zagging and vocal venom. And damn are the hooks sticky too. Gaga can’t handle this shit, and I haven’t stopped having fun yet.
4. Pro Era – Peep: The aPROcalypse
East Coast 90’s hip-hop is my sweet spot in the genre, and while the music doesn’t necessarily have to be made in the 90’s, it’s that feel, that attitude, that atmosphere which I enjoy so much. So when a posse of thirteen kids from New York makes 2012 sound like 1992, I don’t have the reflexes to download their tape fast enough. The flows and the beats are grade A, and the chemistry oozes out of this thing in every direction. Some emcees get more airtime then others but no one ever explicitly dominates. It’s a party, through and through. Drop the needle.
5. Gorillaz – Gorillaz
This one’s an odd ball, an eclectic, catchy, oddball, and we have to give our outliers their just due. The instrumentals are firmly rooted in hip-hop and trip hop; of this, there can be no doubt. And, while Damon Albarn is singing instead of rapping over almost every cut on here, the record never seemed like it was trying to be something it wasn’t. It all congeals quite seamlessly, even with so many different layers of color being painted over each other. Del tha Funky Homosapian is the only vocalist actually spitting any bars on here, but his two cuts are gold. One of them being hit of hits, “Clint Eastwood,” – my favorite song of all time. It was because of Gorillaz that I was then brought to…
6. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
An airtight concept record if I’ve ever heard one; Del, Dan the Automator, and DJ Kid Koala team up to make an utterly immersive vision of the future in the year 3030. The world they build is so thoroughly clever and every detail so well thought out that I never lose the feeling that I am right there with them in their space ship cruising through the post apocalypse. It’s a masterfully crafted good time from the flows to the beats, to the St. Catherine St. interlude selling prosthetic limbs on the street, so go treat yourself.
7. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
When this shit comes on, I am the baddest motherfucker on earth! I hear El P spit something as hard as, “Teabag a piranha tank,” and I just can’t help but feel pumped up through the roof. The chemistry between Killer Mike and El P is ebola level infectious. No matter how I’m feeling, I get swept up in the raucous mood. However, the dynamic duo is more than just braggadocious bombast because the more low key and conscious cuts on this record are well executed too and essential to keep it all from going stale. RTJ have all of their weapons on display here, and they’re at the top of their game.
8. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
They got the jazz man; they got it on lock. This was another of those eye opening records for me that hit right as I got into college. It changed the way I grooved on the drums and helped break me out of the techy, robotic playing I was getting stuck in. That first bass lick in, “Excursions,” comes in, and I’m right back to that time; alzheimer’s doesn’t stand a chance. This whole LP is effortless in its ability to both be smooth and knock the trunk of my car at the same time. It knows exactly what it’s got goin’ on and lays it out for you with a positive, friendly, “Let’s Hang,” attitude. I’m just hangin’ with the Tribe on Linden Blvd. They got the vibe, and so by association, I got the vibe too.
9. Blu – NoYork!
This is some whacky, bouncy, trippy roller coaster ride that Blu and company take me on with spin of NoYork!. I mean, the cover alone says volumes about the kind of environment the listener will be walking into, a deluge of ideas and no real way to slow them down. It is very much representative of the 2010’s LA beat scene it was spawned from, so if you’re looking for a solid peek into that, Blu won’t steer you wrong. Speaking of Blu, I don’t understand where some of these flows come from because the way he rides the line of being on the beat sometimes makes me wonder if he’s actually in control, but by the end, he never fails to reassure me that he, in fact, is. Prepare for a kaleidoscopic experience with replay value out the wazoo.
10. DJ Shadow – Entroducing…
When one thinks of Plunderphonics, who else comes to mind? This record put sample based music on the map, and DJ shadow does it so artfully, so gracefully he makes it seem that the true home of his source material was actually on Entroducing all along. The musicality of this record is a marvel to me; the guy obviously has a ridiculous ear because some of the ideas layered on top of each have me scratching my head like, “How did you hear that from over here and then that from over there and have the foresight to unite them?” All the heaps of technical proficiency aside, the emotional impact of an original song still comes through just the same on these cuts, and I think that that’s the true magic of the LP.
11. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
Alright, remember when I said NoYork! was a whacky record? This is that but with all of the colors reversed and then thrown into a straight jacket down the stairs. On these nineteen tracks of manic, barely controlled chaos, Peggy hurls you through a dark winding gauntlet of not giving a single fuck. Like Entroducing, Veteran gives me those head scratching moments of pause, saying, “How did we get here man?” Some cuts stand taller than others, but it all works together to make a mosaic of modern hip-hop’s experimental other half. By the way, if all you’ve heard is, “1539 N Calvert,” so far, strap in because that shit’s a set up.
12. Vanilla – For What It’s Worth
This little ditty is a beat tape, and in a sea of beat tapes these days, it’s worth mentioning because it still stands out to me. It just does the thing it does so well, so elegantly. Twenty jazzy cuts of buttery smooth goodness and not one track falters. FWIW can be listened to with focused attention as well as in the background with equal effectiveness. It’s the definition of vibe, and if what its got to offer is what you’d like to order, then you’ll be supremely satisfied.