Written by: Majid Tejan-Jalloh
Whenever you hear the words ‘classic album’ what comes to mind? “Illmatic,” “Reasonable Doubt,” “Ready To Die,” “Me Against The World” …”The Chronic“? Every single one of these albums is nearing its 20 year mark…so does this mean that in the time between no other album has come close? Nothing has evolved?
I beg to differ. The rap game has changed in such a way that we have neglected to give some of the more recent masterpieces their proper due. Albums have came and changed the game and we just look at them as run of the mill, never talking about them with the aforementioned.
Just like ESPN would make arguments about 90’s NBA against today’s NBA, I’m sure many would agree that today’s rap artists have done their fair share of work to be mentioned with the greats.So here’s a few albums I feel deserve that classic tag…
Kanye West – “College Dropout”
When Kanye dropped in 2004 the whole world had to pay attention. He had the bear costume, the rebirth of the backpack, and the pink Polo’s. But all that took a back seat to the game changing album that was “College Droupout.” Track by track Kanye made an impact on hip hop and music as a whole. While some of us got used to the “shoot ‘em up, floss, floss” era, Yeezy came in and dropped an album that showed listeners some of these rappers grew up just like us. The tape touched on religion (Jesus Walks), funny family problems (Family Business), and watched as Yeezy showed us his skill of bridging the gap by bringing artists you’d never think would work together, together (Two Words). And who could forget that story at the end? Case closed.
50 Cent – “Get Rich Or Die Tryin”
50 Cent had the world in the palm of his hands in the early 2000’s. He was the king of the mixtape world and signed with two of hip hops main players in Dr. Dre and Eminem. When his album dropped we all knew it would hit, but then it smashed everything to pieces. “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” was the soundtrack to a lot of kids’ high school and junior high days. The impact was felt beyond the streets. 50 was able to capture a whole group at once. Then there was the music. We all remember these songs – “Many Men,” “Patiently Waiting,” “In Da Club” and the list goes on. What makes this a classic is the impact that it had on the whole entire genre. Everyone took a backseat to 50 and his crew at the time. He was either your favorite artist’s favorite artist, or their worst nightmare.
Little Brother – “Minstrel Show”
Now, Little Brother was a lesser known group from the underground comprised of Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, and super producer 9th Wonder. The group got so hot in the underground that they landed themselves a deal with a major label, Atlantic Records, when that wasn’t even plausible at the time. With that deal they dropped “The Minstrel Show” in 2005. The concept of the album was to make fun of what they felt the rap game had become at the time. Some may not agree with that, but this was an amazing album that was overlooked. Song after song Pooh and Phonte attacked 9th Wonder’s freshly chopped soul samples and killed the game. If you like hip-hop and like substance this is a must hear from start to finish.
Lupe Fiasco – “Food And Liquor”
Lupe Fiasco was probably the reason for this list. I caught wind of “Food and Liquor 2” this week and just had to reminisce on what was “Food and Liquor.” That album was a masterpiece. The beats were their own, the concepts were new, and Lupe’s rhymes were fresh. It was hipster and hard enough, the perfect combination. “Kick, Push” caught our attention, but what kept us there was the creativity of a song like “Daydreamin,” the way people could relate to a song like “He Say She Say,” the imagery of “The Instrumental,” and the statements made in “American Terrorist.” If you include the fact that the rhymes were hella dope, you’ve got an album to remember.
Young Jeezy – “Thug Motivation 101″
Now this might cause a few screw faces, but you have to understand, this album was something like theme music to a lot of people’s Summer of 2005. Jeezy took the game by storm and ushered in the “trap sound” that has evolved and taken over mainstream hip hop. He came with his own style of rhyme, ad-libs, swag, sound…you name it and this album had it. This isn’t as intricate as your favorite Tribe album and it certainly isn’t “Aquemini,” but it did what it does for the south and the trap world. You could really feel Jeezy on this album. From the first to the last song, you have a consistent piece of work that even had your favorite rapper bumping it looking distracted.
So there you have it, give or take or few, these are classic pieces of work that don’t get that recognition. How do you feel? Stay tuned for part 2.