Monday, November 15, 2004


#1, you suckas

Just got around to reading this past week's Entertainment Weekly which ranks the "25 best rap albums of all time". Shout outs to Neil Drumming and Michael Endelmen for putting in work on this entire section. I've said this before and I'll say it again: EW is, by far, the best mainstream entertainment magazine out there. I don't treat it like gospel but there's no one better in their field of publications.

On to the list:
    1. Eric B & Rakim Paid In Full (1987)
    2. De La Soul 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)
    3. The Notorious B.I.G. Ready To Die (1994)
    4. Public Enemy Fear Of A Black Planet (1990)
    5. RUN-DMC Raising Hell (1986)
    6. Dr. Dre The Chronic (1992)
    7. Wu-Tang Clan Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
    8. Nas Illmatic (1994)
    9. A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory (1991)
    10. Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique (1989)
    11. Outkast Aquemini (1998)
    12. Cypress Hill Cypress Hill (1991)
    13. Gang Starr Daily Operation (1992)
    14. Ice Cube Death Certificate (1991)
    15. Jay-Z The Blueprint (2001)
    16. LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
    17. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
    18. Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)
    19. The Pharcyde Bizarre Ride ll The Pharcyde (1992)
    20. Mos Def Black On Both Sides (1999)
    21. Boogie Down Productions By All Means Necessary (1988)
    22. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five The Message (1982)
    23. Missy Elliott Miss E...So Addictive (2001)
    24. Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)
    25. Aceyalone A Book Of Human Language (1998)

I'm not going to quibble with ranking - I always find that to be sort of the least interesting aspect of canon-making exercises since they're so remarkably subjective and can change depending on the day. After all, what's the point is arguing over whether or not Outkast's Aquemini should be #11 or if Cypress Hill's eponymous debut deserved that spot instead?

Instead, let's talk about inclusion since that's what's really at stake here.
  • Album that has no business being here: Mos Def's Black On Both Sides; Missy Elliott's Miss E...So Addictive. I admit, I included it in my book but that was out of 70+ albums. Top 25? Sorry but I'm a big Mos Def fan and really, no way this album is in the top quarter. This is a diplomatic nod on EW's part but there could have been better choices: Common's Resurrection for instance.

    As for Missy, I'm all for giving Timbaland his due but the problem is: he makes awesome singles, not quite as good in the album dept. If you are really about giving some shine to producers than where is Pete Rock and CL Smooth's Mecca and the Soul Brother? That's far more influential in terms of all the young'uns trying to cop Rock's style. Or how about Main Source's Breaking Atoms?

  • So I lied about not quibbling with rankings: Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet. I don't know whether to credit EW with flying in the face of convention but most other lists would have put P.E.'s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back up here instead. And probably higher than #4. Personally, it would have been my #1: no other hip-hop album is as consistent, explosive and symbolic of rap's breakout moment into mass media than Nations. That's no disrespect to Rakim or De La or Biggie, but Nation is far more powerful than any of those albums in its impact, both sonically and socially.

  • Trying too hard for indie cred: Aceyalone's Book of Human Language. A great album to be sure but nowhere near as influential as the Freestyle Fellowship's first two albums, either of which would have been the more compelling choice to offer up instead. To a lesser extent, I'd argue that including Dr. Octogon is another "trying too hard" nod but hell, if you're going to include a token indie LP, it might as well be this one.

  • Nitpicks: Gang Starr's Daily Operation. I've never liked this album and frankly, don't know what the big deal is about its production. To me, Step In the Arena had more enjoyable beats and Hard to Earn was a far better predictor of Premier's evolving production style.

    I'd also put Reasonable Doubt on here instead of Blueprint but I'm not really that mad. Blueprint is a lot fresher in people's minds I suppose.

  • Right On: Outkast's Aquemini. Everybody jocks Stankoniia but truly, Aquemini is 'Kast at their finest.

  • So where is?: Ok, this is what it's all about. Where is Slick Rick's Adventures of Slick Rick? Easily a top 25 entry, especially when you think about its influence on story-telling narrative rapping.

    Where is NWA's Straight Outta Compton? It's only the most important gangsta rap album ever in terms of how completely it changed hip-hop's paradigm. The Chronic was incredibly influenetial in many ways but NWA destroyed and rebuilt hip-hop with this album.

    Where is Too Short? Just saying - can the Bay not eat?

    Where is 2Pac? See above.

    Where is the South? Not surprising that outside of Outkast, the South is invisible. Call it hip hop geopolitics but the South just gets voided on any list that uses NYC and LA as the main frames of reference. But seriously, can the Geto Boys or Scarface not get some love on here?

    Where is Dem Franchise Boyz? I make lists in my white tees.


I was excited to get this since I loved Want One but I have to say, it's the sleepiest Rufus CD I've ever heard. S and I took it up with us to Fort Bragg and give it full listens, on the way up and back. We were both left feeling more than a little bored with it; too many dull moments (the opening track, "Agnus Dei," especially). The album hits a good stride at the end, especially with songs like, "Gay Messiah" and "Waiting For a Dream," but for an album supposedly recorded at the same time as Want One, it's easy to feel paranoid that all the best songs ended up on the first volume and this is basically just scraps. To its credit, the album did sound better the second time but it's not going to magically catapult in quality with every new listen. At least the bonus DVD, shot live at the Fillmore, help rounds out the package.