Collection: Essential Hip-Hop Albums

It started in the mid 1970's at Bronx block parties in NYC where B-Boys danced while MC's rhymed over DJ's like Kool Herc or Africa Bambaataa who were extending short breaks in funk records with the use of two turntables and two copies of the same record. Rapping has it roots in a unique NYC convergence of cultures, including the influence of Jamaican toasting, revolutionary poets, and in-the-pocket funk grooves. Disco Rap polished the street sound in the studio where MC's rapped over disco instrumentals on labels like Sugarhill and Salsoul or Electro tracks like Planet Rock and Boogie Down Bronx. After Hollywood and television jumped on the breakdance wagon a number of commercial takes on Electro and party-style Hip-Hop broke into the mainstream in the early 80's. The next wave was more aggressive in contrast to the party music that came before it. Groups like Run-DMC and UTFO were reacting to the commercialization of the sound. They were often using drum machines instead of live drum sounds as well. This period was followed by the Golden Age of Hip-Hop with groups like Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul taking the art form of sampling to new heights while injecting Hip-Hop with socio-political Afrocentric content, both lyrically and visually. West Coast Hardcore Gangsta Rap like N.W.A. had controversial, violent, and misogynistic lyrics which changed the image of Rap drastically, but underground sounds from West Coast groups like The Pharcyde, Souls of Mischief, and Jurassic 5 were a rebuke of those values. By the mid 90's, a new and bigger wave of commercial success took West Coast rappers like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, and Notorious B.I.G. into full mainstream consciousness. Meanwhile East Coast groups like Digable Planets, Wu-Tang Clan, and The Roots made waves with distinctive new sounds. Southern Rap groups like Outkast and Goodie Mob also brought their regional style to a National audience by the mid-90's. The eighties had already seen a fusion of Hip-Hop and Rock, for example when Run-DMC sampled Aerosmith, but the 90's took the fusion into a full blown sub-genre. Making music for predominantly white audiences, Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, and Nu-Metal groups like Limp Bizkit augmented the sound for a new crowd. In contrast, Instrumental Hip-Hop and a short lived sub-genre of Trip-Hop was popular with the crowds who liked the beats and textures, but passed on the rap elements. In the early 2000's rappers like Jay-Z, Nas, 50 Cent, and Eminem saw a new level of commercial success. By the mid 2000's commercially successful Southern Rap subgenres like the Crunk sound of Lil Jon and the Trap sound of and Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz had also risen up to Pop status. Glitch-Hop was a West Coast Electronic music form that combined the glitchy rhythms of Aphex Twin or Autechre and fused them to a Hip-Hop sound. Since the 1990's popular Hip-Hop's wide appeal has made it a dominant form of, or influence on, Pop music. In many cases the line between internet-age Hip-Hop and Pop is so blurry it's indiscernible. At the same time there are plenty of acts focused on the art of lyricism or creative beatmaking, rather than achieving pop status, so the soul of Hip-Hop is not dead. This collection is a small representation of all things Hip-Hop from the most underground to the biggest Pop sounds. - Scott Boutin