Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – Kendrick Lamar (2012)

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - Kendrick Lamar (2012)

Although my comments about Kendrick Lamar may have given off a vibe that I don’t like his work, I actually really enjoy his work. Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, while a gangsta rap album, is more complex then whatever passes for gangsta rap these days. Yeah, there’s the bangers like Backseat Freestyle, but there’s also songs like Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst which is the complete opposite of a banger. Kendrick Lamar knows how to make an album that is just more than some gangbanger nonsense, which is unusual in gangsta rap these days.

Choice Cut: Swimming Pools (Drank)

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Graduation – Kanye West (2007)

Graduation - Kanye West (2007)

Kanye West toured with U2 at one point. Inspired by U2’s ability to lead arena crowds in song, Kanye decided that he wanted to make hip-hop music that could inspire arena crowds to do the same. The result of this decision was Graduation, which takes a more electronic vibe than Kanye’s previous two efforts. Graduation is pretty unique due to Kanye’s ambitions. I don’t think an arena crowd has the ability to rap an entire song along with Kanye, but for some reason this album makes me feel like I could. The flow isn’t new, but his beats certainly are.

Choice Cut: I Wonder

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Ridin’ Dirty – UGK (1996)

Ridin’ Dirty - UGK (1996)

Even with several unabashed celebrations of the gangsta lifestyle (see Murder, 3 in da Mornin’, and Good Stuff), a big part of what really makes this awesome is the clear-eyed, “holy shit we could die at any minute” bent to their songs. And that’s when this one’s at its best – Diamonds & Wood, Hi-Life, and the all-time masterpiece One Day. The other part, of course, is the beats. The atmospheric, laid-back, late-night Ridin’ Dirty, or the funkiest hip-hop song of all time, Pinky Ring… those are timeless, timeless beats that anyone can get good vibes off of.

Choice Cut: One Day

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You’re Dead! – Flying Lotus (2014)

You’re Dead! - Flying Lotus (2014)

I’ve already covered how Flying Lotus is the grand nephew of jazz greats John and Alice Coltrane, so when I say that this album is a jazz album, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. You’re Dead! is primarily about death, which usually comes with connotations of darkness and heaviness. This album isn’t really dark or heavy though. Sure, this album can get a little slower at times, but I would never say it’s depressing like a lot of music about death is. This album is jazzy, full of life, and experimentation. Kind of an interesting paradox really.

Choice Cut: Dead Man’s Tetris

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III – BADBADNOTGOOD (2014)

III - BADBADNOTGOOD (2014)

III is the first BADBADNOTGOOD album that is all original work. As much I love  jazz covers of alternative hip-hop songs, hearing BADBADNOTGOOD branch off into their own compositions is far more interesting as a listener. III obviously stays more on the jazz sides of instrumental jazz hip-hop, but there’s still plenty of hip-hop inspired moments to be heard on this album. Although III lacks the energy of its predecessors, it’s nothing to be brushed aside. BADBADNOTGOOD takes this album to explore more of the trio’s talents, and the result are extended jams and jazzy beats that do not disappoint.

Choice Cut: Since You Asked Kindly

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Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper (2013)

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As introspective as the drug that provides this album’s namesake, Chance the Rapper knows how to make you think. And laugh. And nod your head. I don’t know many rappers who can use a loop of themselves coughing and make it work. His beats and his wordplay are so far up on that next level that he can do crap like that and make it look like a master stroke. Because it is. He clearly has a big heart, a big brain, and a probably a perforated sheet of something-something in his fridge. Hell of a combo in the rap game.

Choice Cut: Cocoa Butter Kisses
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Run The Jewels 2 – Run The Jewels (2014)

Run The Jewels 2 - Run The Jewels (2014)

“You know your favorite rapper ain’t shit and me, I might be, The closest representation of God you might see” is in Killer Mike‘s first verse of Run The Jewels 2. This is probably the most accurate statement in rap music today. This album is hard. Let me say that again. This album is hard Run The Jewels has managed to rise to the top with the last two albums, and they plan on staying there. Kendrick Lamar might have claimed that he is the king of New York, but Run The Jewels are the kings of the Earth.

Choice Cut: Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
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