Greetings, everyone! This is Kendred Spirit here. I’m a new staff writer of the site and, for my introduction, I decided to not only reveal my top five favorite rap albums of all-time (which is something I’ve never done before) but also really break down why my picks are my picks. In no way am I stating that any of my picks are the absolute greatest rap albums ever released. These are the ones that I personally gravitated to and took something from that others may or may not have. That’s it. So, without further adieu, here’s my list. It’s a long read so, if you’re willing to bear with it, have at it. For my attention deficient folk, go ahead and move on to something else. It’s OK…I still fox witcha!
5.) Nas – Nastradamus [ORIGINAL VERSION] (1999)
For those who can’t read and didn’t notice that I put “original version” in all caps, let me reiterate and elaborate. I am NOT referring to the version that was released in stores that turned out to be a steaming pile of platypus poop. I’m referring to the original version that a lot of people weren’t fortunate enough to hear. In case you don’t know or remember the story behind it, Nastradamus was one of the first rap albums to be heavily pirated via the internet. File sharing was still brand new to consumers, artists and record companies alike and when Nas caught wind of what was happening to his album, he mistakenly thought he would see no profits from it, panicked and went back to the studio and rushed an alternate version…hence the platypus poop. It was a very unfortunate situation because the original version was fucking awesome. Joints like “Blaze A 50,” “Drunk By Myself,” “Poppa Was A Playa,” (produced by Kanye West NOT D-Dot like it stated on The Lost Tapes) and the original versions of “Project Windows” and “Fetus” were way better than what we heard that later on made the album the closest thing to an Illmatic sequel that we’ll probably ever get. Plus, I heard that version during a very low point in my life. I was going through a depression and that album got constant play in my car to and from class at ITT. And damn you Nas for duping me into purchasing that platypus poop at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day. “You Owe Me” some cranberry sauce, motherfucker!
4.) Eric B. & Rakim – Follow The Leader (1988)
Although this is Eric B. & Rakim’s sophomore release, this album was my personal introduction to them. My dad had Paid In Full but that was his and he didn’t play it much around me for some reason. Follow The Leader was the one he specifically bought for me. This album was also my introduction to multi-syllabic rhyme patterns. You had Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap doing that as well back then, but I was six or seven years old and I was listening to whatever my dad was playing at the time. So I guess when it came to the argument of who’s the best between Kane, G Rap and Rakim, my dad picked Rakim. I personally pick Kane now for various reasons I won’t go into on here, but back then all I heard was Rakim and I loved it. “Lyrics of Fury” is still my shit to this day.
3.) Outkast – ATLiens (1996)
EVERY Outkast album is insanely dope but ATLiens has a special place in my heart. It came out while I was living in the suburbs with my dad and it became the soundtrack to my high school days out there and also my traveling music when I went back to Chicago on the weekends to see my mom and baby sister. “Mainstream” remains my favorite Outkast joint and one of my favorite rap songs period. Organized Noize does not get the credit they deserve.
2.) Scarface – The Diary (1994)
Scarface is my favorite rapper. Hands down. And this album is why. Got a backstory for it…like to hear it, here it go. *Cuts to Calhoun Tubbs’s guitar riff.* One day, during my freshman year of high school, I had an asthma attack and I needed to go home and give myself a breathing treatment with my home nebulizer (asthma’s a bitch) so I called my dad and told him to pick me up immediately. He rushed to the school and, when I got in his car, “Jesse James” was playing in his tape deck. I asked him what it was, he told me it was Scarface from the Geto Boys, he let me keep it, I dubbed a copy for myself and played it repeatedly while I was giving myself the breathing treatments. Believe it or not, The Diary helped me cope with my asthma attack and it gave me a different perspective of life itself in the process. I was already fighting wannabe thugs and gangsters a lot in high school before I heard that album, but listening to it only reinforced my philosophy of “just because I’m a skinny, quiet, harmless looking dude who hates to fight doesn’t mean I won’t break a chair over your head or beat your face in with my English Literature book.” No exaggeration…I had to do that a few times. That album touched my soul. Just like…
1.) Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
Never has there been an album I played as much as this one since this one dropped…EVER!!!! I was an official 13 year old member of the “Wuniverse” as soon as I got my hands on the tape…which almost didn’t happen thanks to the clerk at the record store. Even though I had the money to buy it, I still had to get the green light from my mom. She asked the clerk, “Is there any profanity, gross stuff or sexually explicit stuff on this?” The clerk looked at me then said to my mom, “I can’t lie ma’am…everything you just mentioned is on there.” I gave dude a look that read, “OH MY GOD!!! Why did you say that to her?!” But surprisingly, she still let me buy it. Of course I loved “Protect Ya Neck” and of course I loved “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man” and I definitely loved “C.R.E.A.M.” but the song that sold me indefinitely was “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’.” Reason being is that, out of everyone in my circle who loved the album, I was the only one who was a connoisseur of old school kung-fu movies, so, just like the group name, I knew where they got the title to that song from. The mixture of two things I loved (rap and kung-fu flicks) was a sensory overload for me. I loved that album so much that I actually got mad at people who were telling me five months later about an album called Illmatic by some new cat named Nas that was just as or even more dope than 36 Chambers. I thought that was absolutely blasphemous and I intentionally procrastinated on listening to it and delved even deeper into the “Wuniverse.” Also, you know you’ve made an indelible impact on a person when they say Wu-Tang instead of “Woosah” when they get pissed off like I do.
So…like it, love it or hate it, that’s my list, folks! I’ll be dropping other things more sooner than later so until then…love, peace, hair grease and Wu-Tang is for the children!
**Oh, s/n: I have to give an honorable mention to this one…
Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves (1999)
All I’ll say about this one is it’s, by far, the greatest concept album the rap genre has ever produced. I know everybody’s still going batshit over Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City but fuck that. Grab a copy of A Prince Among Thieves, listen to it and tell me I’m lying.
OK, now I’m done. Peace!!!
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