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Ben and Lance’s Top 5 Rap Albums

To celebrate this year’s final article, we’re collaborating to discuss both of our favorite rap albums.

As our final article of the year, we have decided to do a collaborative article, and discuss some of our favorite rap albums of all time. While these are our favorites, they’re not ranked in a specific order, as that would be too difficult; they’re just what we would call our five favorites. We’re limiting ourselves to one album per artist to prevent multiple Kanyes or Kendricks in one list, and also tried to avoid crossover as much as possible to keep things fresh. Also, keep in mind that this could change very regularly; we’re not explicitly stating that these are the five best rap albums ever made, just some of the ones that we enjoy the most.

Ben’s Favorites

Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale by Tyler, The Creator

Favorite Tracks: ‘Manifesto’, ‘Hot Wind Blows’, ‘Stuntman’, ‘Dogtooth’, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’

While I’d rank Igor and Flower Boy above the normal version of Call Me If You Get Lost, I honestly think that the Estate Sale addition to the album elevates the project as a whole to Tyler’s best. The tracklist never felt incomplete by any means, but an extra eight tracks really help to flesh it out. I love the vibe that this record nails; it’s the perfect summer break album, and I have a very positive memory associated with listening to it for the first time among the beginning days of summer break. I think that Tyler nails the aesthetic better here than he ever has before, not only because of the summer feel, but the theme of travel. The whole record has a very specific feel to it that I’ve never seen replicated by anyone else. It’s a perfect mix of Alchemist-type chill beats with bangers; the dichotomy between tracks like ‘Hot Wind Blows’ or ‘What A Day’ and those such as ‘Lemonhead’ and ‘Stuntman’ makes for a really fun listen that never gets stale. I think that this caters to both sides of Tyler more than any of his other projects- he’s still fully able to make hardcore rap, while showing off his talent for more relaxed bars or borderline R&B tracks. I already mentioned The Alchemist, but the best other comparison I can think of is a Freddie Gibbs project like Bandana or Alfredo. I find it strange how much the extra songs elevate this one for me; it just makes the whole project feel a lot more whole. Maybe it’s just the very specific memories I have with it, but Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale is my favorite Tyler, The Creator album, and one of my favorite albums of all time.

Because The Internet by Childish Gambino

Favorite Tracks: ‘The Worst Guys’, ‘Telegraph Ave. (Oakland)’, ‘Sweatpants’, ‘3005’, ‘Flight of the Navigator’

Childish Gambino has a lot of haters, but I cannot help but love his music. Donald Glover is such an interesting person to me, as an actor and musical artist, but I will probably always find his musical alter ego to be his best work. While it took him a little while to find his footing, his sophomore studio album showed Glover at his best in both a production and rapping sense. I find the beats here to be the best out of his whole discography, and nowhere else does Gambino deliver bars as good as those on ‘Crawl’, ‘Worldstar’, and ‘Sweatpants’. I find it to be fascinating how the guy is barely even a rapper anymore since the release of his second album; Gambino’s latest projects have been a love letter to 60’s and 70’s soul music and an experimental half-rap half-pop album. While I love both of those records a lot, I still believe that he’s at his best creatively on Because The Internet. He explores a narrative much further than he ever has on another musical project, exploring the character of The Boy and his discoveries about life, death, and the internet. In fact, the album was released with a 72-page screenplay meant to explain the full story of the album. Glover has gotten much more experimental and weird in recent years, which is something I deeply respect him for, as making the newer kinds of music that he has after albums like Camp and Because the Internet takes a lot of artistic courage. I will always find this to be his best, however. It’s one of those albums I could come back to any day on a whim and be just as enthralled from beginning to end as I was the first time.

The College Dropout by Kanye West

Favorite Tracks: ‘We Don’t Care’, ‘All Falls Down’, ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘Slow Jamz’, ‘Through The Wire’, ‘Family Business’

While I’ve been avoiding listening to Kanye’s music since the Donda Academy allegations a month or so ago, I can’t deny that The College Dropout is one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever listened to. Yes, Kanye has made many great albums, and in my opinion, several masterpieces, but nothing has ever topped his first effort. When people bring up the word ‘classic’ in regards to hip hop, this is one of the first albums that comes to mind. I don’t think there are many albums that are as well defined by that word as The College Dropout; it was a massive success right off the bat, instantly catapulting Kanye into a life of fame (which could be seen as a good or bad thing), and is still what I would consider to be the best example of Kanye’s style. He’s experimented a lot throughout the years, but I feel that this is still the most true to his specific flair. I think there’s definitely an argument to be made that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Graduation are better, but I’ll never love either of those like I love The College Dropout. Sometimes, you can tell that you’re listening to a truly perfect piece of music from the very first track, and I remember thinking that when I first heard ‘We Don’t Care’. The lyrics can be melancholic or sad, but the tone and production is so consistently uplifting and nostalgic that you’d have a hard time finding somebody who doesn’t enjoy it. My favorite Kanye song comes from the last third of the tracklist: ‘Family Business’. Something about that track has always gave me a very specific feeling, and that’s the feeling that I experience with this project as a whole. There’s something oddly comforting about the whole thing; it makes me feel a strange sense of nostalgia for a time and place that I never experienced.

Aquemini by Outkast

Favorite Tracks: ‘Rosa Parks’, ‘Synthesizer’, ‘Slump’, SpottieOttieDopaliscious’, ‘Chonkyfire’

Outkast is easily my favorite rap group, and Aquemini is their crowning jewel. Strangely enough, I preferred ATLiens and Stankonia to this when I first heard them; I think that the longer track runtimes and more experimental production scared me off at first. Upon relisten, however, I recognized Aquemini as the true masterpiece it is, and I have not been able to stop listening to this record ever since. Outkast perfected their southern production and rapping; Andre and Big Boi are truly on another level here. Both rapping like their lives depend on it, some of the best verses I’ve ever heard come from tracks like ‘Rosa Parks’, ‘Skew It On The Bar-B’, and ‘Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2)’. Aquemini is unapologetically southern- this is something I’ve always loved Outkast for, and this is probably the greatest piece of rap music that’s ever come from the South. You can name similar albums to those I’ve listed so far, but there’s really nothing quite like Aquemini; it’s a truly special album that is commonly seen as one of the best of all time for a reason.

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

Favorite Tracks: ‘Wesley’s Theory’, ‘King Kunta’, ‘Alright’, ‘The Blacker The Berry’, ‘i’

While I wouldn’t say that the past four albums are necessarily my ranked top five, I can say with confidence that To Pimp A Butterfly is the greatest album I have ever listened to. No other artist has been able to match what Kendrick Lamar did in 2015, not even himself; it’s the most complex, layered, and fascinating piece of music I’ve ever heard. Kendrick explores targeted and institutional racism in America, police brutality, the exploitation of black artists by the music industry, religion, self hatred, dealing with the loss of loved ones, and many more topics, all in one album. Despite the frequent changes in subject matter, everything still ties together beautifully; I usually wouldn’t give a spoiler warning for an album, but the final half of ‘Mortal Man’ is something that you should experience for yourself before reading about it. The poem told at the end of most of the tracks throughout leaves you wondering where the record is going for the entire runtimes, only to reveal that Kendrick was reading it to the one and only Tupac Shakur at the end, which is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen pulled off in rap music. It’s such a fascinating way to wrap up the themes explored throughout- only someone like Kendrick Lamar could think up something as risky but genius as it is. The production style is much more jazz influenced than anything else Kendrick has made, and I believe that it’s easily the most interesting project of his instrumentally because of this. The jazzy sound on tracks like ‘Alright’, ‘Momma’, and ‘u’ still blend together perfectly with those that explore other sound styles, like the wild synthesizers of ‘Wesley’s Theory’, the R&B beat of ‘Institutionalized’, or the upbeat tune of ‘i’. This is an album I’ve listened to endlessly and closely analyzed more than any other piece of music, and I still feel as if I’m missing some deeper meanings or double entendres on bars here and there. This is probably the most cliche album that somebody could ever has as their favorite; it’s like saying The Godfather is your favorite movie. I’ll refute that by saying that sometimes, classics are classics for a reason, and that is more true in the case of To Pimp A Butterfly than any other album I’ve ever listened to.

Lance’s Favorites

The College Dropout by Kanye West

My top five are also in no order, so get our only overlap between our two top five lists out of the way, The College Dropout is first. The fun, soul-infused beats combined with the electric hip-hop performances from Kanye and many of his friends make this, by a very small margin, his best album to date. The style of these beats are completely original and Kanye actually pioneered a brand new, now very popular style of beats in this one album. For never being a rapper, Kanye does very well and ultimately carries this project with great flows and very funny moments. Overall, the album perfectly encapsulates a specific time and place and ushered in a new age of rap for the following decade.

Heroes & Villains by Metro Boomin

Favorite Tracks: “Too Many Nights”, “Trance”, “Feel the Fiyaaaah”

     There are some of the best Metro Boomin beats all in this one album. It is an amazing compilation of artists such as Travis Scott, 21 Savage, Future, Young Thug, and many more all wrapped in a cool superhero shell. The chemistry on every song is very good, except for Chris Brown, and it is definitely one of my favorite albums to listen to a lot. It is a nice combination of some psychedelic trap songs, some hip-hop songs, and some pop songs. Not only is Metro producing all of the songs, but he is alongside TM88, Honorable C.N.O.T.E., and Thundercat. It is not one of the best and most intricate albums of all time, but I just find it fun and wanted to throw it on this list.

Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A

Favorite Tracks: “Straight Outta Compton”, “Express Yourself”

     An electric album that also is arguably one of the most influential albums of all time. Being the first commercial gangsta rap album, it laid the groundwork for the genre that would dominate the rap genre for at least the next decade. N.W.A consists of many artists, some you might know, like Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and Dr. Dre and some you might not, like MC Ren, DJ Yella, and Arabian Prince. Ice Cube does do the best on the album, which ultimately led to him leaving the group not long after, but Eazy-E’s electricity is also a huge driving force for why this album did what it did for the rap game. The constant flow and consistency throughout the album is what makes it one of the best of all time.

Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne

Favorite Tracks: “3 Peat”, “A Milli”, “Let The Beat Build”

     Lil Wayne is one of the more interesting stories in rap, and he does a good job telling those stories and experiences on tracks with expert production. The album is very Outkast coated, and doesn’t shy away from its southern roots. The lyrics and ideas that Lil Wayne intended to be displayed are definitely heard, and it continues the legacy of good baby photo albums, this one being the funniest. The entire “Tha Carter” series is very good and I would recommend every one, but this one is truly unmatched by any of the others.

Good Kid, m.A.A.d City by Kendrick Lamar

Favorite Tracks: “Money Trees”, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, “The Recipe”

“Is it better than To Pimp A Butterfly?” is a question that I may never be able to answer, but in order to not share too much with the previous list, this is what I chose. The storytelling is truly unmatched by any album ever, as Kendrick talks about his childhood growing up in Compton. While To Pimp A Butterfly has its intricacies in each and every song, I think this album better maintains constant great beats and catchy songs which make for a very enjoyable experience. Kendrick is the greatest lyricist of this time and this album is a full display of his abilities.

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