Blast Beats is a weekly column in which extreme music artists discuss their favorite hip-hop records.
In this week’s Blast Beats, I Among You‘s Andrew Lima stops by to discuss the top six hip-hop albums that shaped his musical development over the years. Continue reading to check out the list:
There’s a certain stigma when it comes to metal-heads. “If it’s not heavy it sucks” or something like “Fuck (Insert non-metal genre here)!” People automatically assume that their iTunes is filled exclusively with Hardcore/Metal/etc. The same stigma goes for metal musicians. To be a metal musician, you need to perfect your craft. You need to stay in your lane. You need to study discography after discography of heavy shit, right?
WRONG. Remember that kid you saw windmilling on stage with a Behemoth shirt?
He’s blasting Michael Jackson when no one’s around. What about that guitarist friend of yours who won’t shut up about how great Periphery is?He listens to Waylon Jennings when he’s on the road. What about me? Well…I love hip-hop. It’s a genre that I’ve always held near and dear to my heart. It fills that musical void that metal can’t always fill. The wordplay, the instrumentals, and the storytelling keeps me coming back for more. When I’m not jamming to Between the Buried and Me, I’m jamming to Kendrick.
When Lane was reaching out to metal artists for their take on hip-hop records, I had to contribute. These records may not be your favorites, but they hold strong sentimental value and shaped me to become a better musician/writer.
Without further ado, here are the Top 6 Hip-Hop albums that shaped me…
6. Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Blackstar
I was introduced to this Duo in 2003 on an episode of Chappelle’s Show of all things. Chappelle would often have a musical guest at the end of the show and they were always top-notch. On this occasion, Mos Def and Talib Kweli performed “What’s Beef” and I was immediately hooked. In the height of the “bling-bling” era, guys like these stood out. I rushed to Limewire (remember Limewire?) and downloaded their only studio album. To my recollection, It was my first time diving into “lyrical” hip-hop. Hip-hop that wasn’t solely brag-tracks and punchlines. Tracks like “Children’s Story” and “Definition” are cuts that you can sit back, close your eyes, and truly FEEL what they’re trying to convey. It’s emotional, It’s philosophical, it’s funky, and it’s one of a kind.
Mos Def recently announced on stage that there is a new Black Star album in the works. Let’s hope so…The industry can use it right now.
“Twice Inna Lifetime”
5. 808’s and Heartbreak – Kanye West
Put down your pitchforks. Hear me out…
Lyrically and conceptually this might not be the best Kanye album. HOWEVER, this may be the most important one. In the late-2000’s, the crunk/bling era was on it’s way out. Simplistic rhyme schemes and FL-Studio-type beats became more prominent (Remember Soulja Boy?). Hip-Hop wasn’t dead, by any means. It was just in an awkward transitional period. Until, ‘808’s & Heartbreak’… It reminded everyone that hip-hop can be melodic and emotional. When “Heartless” premiered on the radio, I was blown away. The hook was an earworm, the beat was catchy, the autotune was captivating! Keep in mind, this was before autotune was a dead-horse. Kanye couldn’t have chosen a better time to release this record. It influenced so many other artists to take a chance and not be afraid to experiment. Including myself.
“Welcome To Heartbreak”
4. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
Oh Kendrick, how you speak to me…The most recent album on this list, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is on here for two reasons:
1. It’s an amazing album.
2. It was the album that single handedly got me back into hip-hop
Granted, before this album, I was still paying attention to the hip-hop game. However, I wasn’t as invested as I was when I was younger. I heard a few tracks from ‘Section.80’ & ‘M.A.A.D City’ and while I thought K Dot was really talented, I wasn’t entirely blown away. Everybody would compare him to Pac and I would just dismiss it. Was I not hearing something everyone else was hearing? Have I become a snob?
Three years pass and Kendrick released his third studio effort ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ seemingly out of nowhere.
And let me tell you…It hit me like a ton of fucking bricks.
No. TWO tons of bricks.
Anything I can say about this record can’t possibly do it justice. If you haven’t checked it out, just listen to it. Please.
“How Much A Dollar Cost”
3. Man On The Moon – Kid Cudi
After previously hearing Cudi’s feature on 808’s and Heartbreak, as well as his single “Day ‘n’ Nite”, I was beyond excited for his full-length in 2009. Like Kanye around this time, Kid Cudi was redefining mainstream hip-hop. Gone with the industry cliche’s and gone with the “bling” element. It was a breath of fresh air. This record had introspective lyrics, Pink Floyd-like ambience, and an overall cohesive feel. To my recollection, this was the first hip-hop album I’ve listened to in which the songs flow seamlessly into each other. The Dream/Nightmare concepts were executed to perfection and it really spoke to me. To anyone like myself who suffers from anxiety and/or depression, you will literally FEEL this album. I can’t recommend it enough.
Cudi’s latest releases haven’t been up to par, but with such a strong debut, I have no doubt he’ll be recognized as one of the best alternative rappers ever…
“Heart of a Lion”
“Sky Might Fall”
2. Marshall Mathers L.P – Eminem
What can I say about this record that hasn’t already been said? Eminem’s follow up to his critically acclaimed ‘Slim Shady LP’ is no doubt in the curriculum for Hip-Hop 101.
The ‘Marshall Mathers L.P’ is a fucking roller-coaster ride. It’s comedic when it has to be, melancholy when it has to be, and downright uncomfortable at some points.
I vaguely recall my mother breaking the CD in two when she overheard me rapping the lyrics to ‘Kim’.
Looking back, if my nine-year old son was singing “So long, bitch you did me so wrong”, i’d break the CD too. Bless that woman’s heart…
Anyway, this album is a classic. As dated as the Boy Band/Girl Band quips are, tracks like ‘Stan’ and ‘Criminal’ age like fine wine. Say what you will about the “new” Em. Albums like this stand the test of time and influence generations.
“The Way I Am”
1. It Was Written – Nas
Behold. The first hip-hop album I fell in love with. When I got my first portable CD player (some time in 1998) my cousin Mike threw some gems my way. The short stack of CDs he gave me included…
‘It’s Dark and Hell is Hot’ by DMX
‘Tha Doggfather’ by Snoop D.O double-G
Naughty by Nature’s self-titled
‘14 Shots to the Dome’ by LL Cool J
And of course, ‘It Was Written’.
Something about that album cover hypnotized me (and I ain’t talking Biggie).
It said so little, but so much at the same time. I swear, I wore out that repeat button on “If I Ruled The World”; One of the greatest hip-hop tracks ever recorded. Nas’ voice was and STILL is my favorite. It’s conversational, poetic, and a true pleasure to listen to. When it comes to hip-hop records, I don’t want a rapper to yell at me for 45-70 minutes. I want to go on a journey and just clear my head. “It Was Written” still does that to this day. I must address the proverbial “elephant in the room”…Is it better than ‘Illmatic’? It’s all preference. Both are masterpieces. I honestly can’t do one without the other.‘It Was Written’ takes the crown due to it’s impact on me. Now, if Nas can get around to that Eleventh album…
“I Gave You Power”
“If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)”
Stankonia – Outkast
Heavy – Swollen Members
Madvilliany – Madvillian
The Eminem Show – Eminem