Music always has been and always will be a major influence for this brand. Not in the least hip hop music, a genre that lives and breathes creativity. In the following write-up I’ve listed up my 10 favorite hip hop records, both classics and more underground stuff. More than ever these albums provide inspiration and motivation during this lockdown period. It wasn’t easy to make this list since there is so much good music out there, but these are the ones that made the cut.
10. Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer (2004)
Ain’t nothing like hip hop music. Some wise words from Masta Ace. This feel-good album takes you on a journey with Ace himself and his friend Fats Belvedere through the streets of Brooklyn. If tracks like Good Ol Love and Beautiful don’t put you in a good mood, we don’t know what will.
Favorite track: Da Grind
09. Opgezwolle - Eigen Wereld (2006)
The third and last studio album by Dutch rap formation Opgezwolle is the only non-United States based record in this list. If you don’t speak Dutch you won’t understand a word they’re saying, but you will still be able to appreciate the insane production and frivolous raps this album delivers.
Favorite track: Balans
08. Nas - Illmatic (1994)
Nas without a doubt blew up the hip hop scene with his studio debut. With his unique style of delivery, thrilling lyrical subjects and backed up by producers like DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Q-Tip, we shouldn’t be surprised that many people consider Illmatic the best hip hop album of all time.
Favorite track: It Ain’t Hard to Tell
07. Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein (2001)
Dark dystopian vibes. Harlem hip hop duo Vast Aire and Vordul Mega showcase their skills over EL-P’s sick production. The picture they draw of a poverty-stricken New York is in sheer contrast with the beautiful lyrical poetry. The Cold Vein gained a lot of legacy in the underground hip hop scene.
Favorite track: Iron Galaxy
06. GZA - Liquid Swords (1995)
This list would lose all of its credibility if it didn’t include something Wu-Tang related. Enter the Wu-Tang, Tical, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,... The possibilities were endless, but the proud winner is Liquid Swords by GZA. This record contains, in my opinion, RZA’s best productions. The old movie samples give the album a cinematic and epic vibe. GZA steals the show with a razor-sharp delivery and lyrical brilliance.
Favorite track: Cold World
05. Jurassic 5 - Power in Numbers (2002)
One for the summer. Power in Numbers is a masterclass in sampling. Creating a mellow mood and flavouring the production with some incredible rhymes and a top notch flow, you instantly feel like you’re walking on sunny Los Angeles streets. What’s golden?
Favorite track: A Day at the Races
04. A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory (1991)
Combining jazzy beats with the lyrical interplay between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, this one puts you in an instant happy mood. Social commentary, humor and minimalistic beats. Without a doubt a milestone in alternative hip hop.
Favorite track: Buggin’ Out
03. Madvillain - Madvillainy (2004)
The legendary MF DOOM teamed up with producer Madlib to create Madvillainy. An album full of short but incredibly atmospheric tracks that are the perfect marriage between unique beats and obscure lyrics. Not at all radio friendly and an example of a record that has to grow on you. This gem is an underground classic that is definitely worth the effort.
Favorite track: All Caps
02. CunninLynguists - A Piece of Strange (2006)
Conceptual work of art by American based hip hop trio CunninLynguists. Creating a general atmosphere and vibe throughout the whole album, listening to this feels like going on an adventure through a dangerous but beautiful jungle. Guest appearances by Cee-Lo Green, Immortal Technique and Tonedeff.
Favorite track: The Gates
01. Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008)
The Mineapolis duo Slug and Ant delivered a masterpiece with their fifth album. Slug lifts his storytelling abilities to knew heights in this one. Tales of the common people, convincingly delivered and with an impeccable flow. Accompanied by the warm, soulful and distinctive beats by Ant, this record has turned out to be a modern classic.
Favorite track: Painting
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