Dr Dre: The Chronic (1992)
Dre’s high-pitched synths and low-slung beats, coupled with the lyrical prowess of Snoop Dog and RBX, changed the sound of Hip-Hop forever. The Chronic was also instrumental in the commercialization of gangsta rap by introducing the G-Funk style of hip-hop to the mainstream listeners. In doing this, Dr. Dre was able to propel multiple different artists into the limelight. These such artists include the like of Lady of Rage, Kurupt, Daz, and Snoop Dogg. Even though The Chronic was released more than 25 years ago, Dr. Dre’s influence still remains strong today as his album laid the template for much of mainstream hip-hop for years to come.
Sample lyric: “Never let me slip cuz if I slip then I’m slippin’.” (‘Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang’)
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
With Dr Dre staking a claim for the West Coast’s dominance in ’92, Wu-Tang Clan’s debut brought the focus back to the birthplace of Hip-Hop – New York City. The introductory Wu-Tang album became a career-defining moment for all 9 of its original members. With incredible soul samples by RZA, Wu-Tang’s MCs were able to shine with their masterful display of rapping. The Wu’s members soon went to release critically acclaimed solo albums that defined gritty urban Hip-Hop in the 90s.
Sample lyric: “Feeling mad hostile, wearing Aéropostale, Flowing like Christ when I speaks the gospel.” (‘Protect Ya Neck’)
Nas: Illmatic (1994)
Illmatic is the paragon of lyricism and stellar production. It’s without question one of the greatest East Coast gangsta rap albums of all time. In just 39 minutes, Nas is able to guide listeners through his complex life in the rugged and dangerous projects of New York. With a gritty and jazz-infused production coupled with Nas’ deeply personal and realistic lyrics on his life in New York, Illmatic gives one of the most genuine looks into the life of an artist growing up. Illmatic is a must listen for any fan of great music.
Sample lyric: “I got so many rhymes I don’t think I’m too sane/Life is parallel to Hell but I must maintain” (‘NY State of Mind’)
Kayne West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
After the failure of 808’s and Heartbreak (relative to his other projects) and his infamous interruption of Taylor at the VMAs Kayne’s career seemed to be at the lowest point possible. Outcasted by much of the industry, Kayne went to the studio and created the masterpiece that we know today as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. On the album, Kayne owns his behavior and raps about with unprecedented honesty, while at the same time embracing his portrayed villainy and swagger. With a masterful display of production and lyrics, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the perfect album for any new Hip-Hop listener.
Sample lyric: “Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it / Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it / Guess every superhero need his theme music” (‘Power’)
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
Packed with jazzy, dreamlike production and meticulously crafted lyrics, To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar is a modern masterpiece. A ruthless dissection of America, Kendrick holds no bars on this album as he tackles such as depression, racism and economic inequality in a damning, honest and intense manner. Its frenetic energy contains a real sense of social urgency and has gone on to influence activists all across the nation to continue to fight injustices that preside in modern America.
Sample lyric: “How much a dollar really cost?/The question is detrimental, paralyzin’ my thoughts/Parasites in my stomach keep me with a gut feeling, y’all/Gotta see how I’m chillin’ once I park this luxury car” (‘How Much A Dollar Cost’)