about musical experiences™ - part IV

Top 10 Hip Hop : a selection made by Kevin Linus



Haven't had the time to say a proper Happy New Year to you guys so Happy New Year folks! I wish you all the best for this upcoming 2018 year and to start this wonderful year what better than with music? I asked my cousin, who's the most knowledgeable dude I know when it comes about Hip Hop & Rap music to do a quick selection of his favourite albums. 

He has always been an huge fan of this music genera since I can remember. Fact is that when I was younger I remember coming to his house and hear him rapping over his favourite Mc's lyrics, it was crazy & at that time I did not realize that it was cool as fuck... Hope you'll enjoy his selection and listening to it while doing what you're usually doing.


about musical experiences™ - part IV

☞ from left to right


1.   Nas "Illmatic" | (click to listen)  ♬ .01

Often cited as one of the best hip-hop albums of the '90s, Illmatic is the undisputed classic upon which Nas' reputation rests. It helped spearhead the artistic renaissance of New York hip-hop in the post-Chronic era, leading a return to street aesthetics. Yet even if Illmatic marks the beginning of a shift away from Native Tongues-inspired alternative rap, it's strongly rooted in that sensibility. For one, Nas employs some of the most sophisticated jazz-rap producers around: Q-Tip, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor, who underpin their intricate loops with appropriately tough beats. But more importantly, Nas takes his place as one of hip-hop's greatest street poets -- his rhymes are highly literate, his raps superbly fluid regardless of the size of his vocabulary. He's able to evoke the bleak reality of ghetto life without losing hope or forgetting the good times, which become all the more precious when any day could be your last. 

 2. Ghostface Killah "Ironman" | (click to listen) ♬ .01

Every Wu-Tang Clan solo project has a different flavor, and Ghostface Killah's Ironman is no exception. Though it boasts cameos from nearly every other Wu-Tang member -- notably Raekwonand Cappadonna -- Ironman is unlike any other record in RZA's catalog of productions, particularly because it's significantly lighter in tone. There are still touches of the Wu's signature urban claustrophobia throughout the record, but the music is largely built on samples of early-'70s soul, from Al Green to the Delfonics, who make a guest appearance on "After the Smoke Is Clear." Consequently, the mood of the album can switch tones at the drop of the hat, moving from hard funk like "Daytona 500" to seductive soul with the Mary J. Blige duet "All That I Got Is You." Ironman bogs down slightly in the middle, yet the record is filled with inventive production and rhymes, and ranks as another solid entry in the Wu-Tang legacy.

3.  Ghostface Killah  "Supreme Clientele | (click to listen) ♬ .01

Most of the members of rap's Roman Empire, the Wu-Tang Clan, experienced sophomore slumps with their second solo releases, whether artistically or commercially (usually both). The second offerings from Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, GZA, and Raekwon featured some of the old Wu magic, but not enough to warrant a claim to their once total mastery of the rap game. Just as the Wu empire appeared to be crumbling, along came the second installment from the Clan's spitfire element, Ghostface Killah(aka Tony Starks, aka Ironman). Every bit as good as his first release, Supreme Clientele proves Ghost's worthiness of the Ironman moniker by deftly overcoming trendiness to produce an authentic sound in hip-hop's age of bland parity. 

4.   Pharoahe Monk "Internal Affairs" | (click to listen) ♬ .01

After three cultishly revered albums with Organized Konfusion, underground legend Pharoahe Monchcut a solo deal with Rawkus and delivered his debut, Internal Affairs, in late 1999. Both Monch and Rawkus seemed to want to push their music farther above ground, and some longtime followers were shocked to hear a harder, angrier, more profane Monch, who seemed to be courting a more thugged-out audience. But it's a reinvention that doesn't compromise his high lyrical standards, making Internal Affairs a success on its own terms. Sounding like it was sampled from a monster-movie soundtrack, the club smash "Simon Says" sets the tone for the album; Monch delivers rapid-fire, intricately rhymed lines in between shouts of "get the f*ck up!" and "girls, rub on your titties!" It proved to be the most successful crossover bid of Monch's career, and much of the rest of Internal Affairs manages to straddle the underground/mainstream divide surprisingly well. Even when he's just giving shout-outs to Queens, or enlisting guests like Canibus and M.O.P. to help pummel a track into submission, Monch lives up to his reputation as one of hip-hop's most technically skilled MCs. Nowhere is this balancing act more evident than on "Rape," a rather disquieting extended metaphor for his mastery of hip-hop (other MCs just "ain't f*ckin' it right").

5.   Jedi Mind Tricks "Violent by Design" | (click to listen) ♬ .01

When you hear the name Jedi Mind Tricks, a rap duo (once a trio but Jus Allah has since left) is most likely the last thing that comes to your mind. One thing this rap group has in common with the movie from which it received its name is their immaculate production. But unlike Star Wars, Jedi Mind Tricks is rarely heard or seen by the masses. They are what many fans of rap refer to as Underground.

If I could describe Violent By Design, Jedi Mind Tricks's second full-length release, in a few adjectives they would be classic, raw, and visionary. Violent By Design sounds like it came straight off the streets and dwells in a constant darkness not typically heard in hip-hop. To me, this album certainly has the three qualities that make up a great album, amazing production, thought-provoking lyrics, and a continuous flow. Production-wise, this album contains some of the most hardcore beats I've heard since Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the 36 Chambers, this could be the reason Jedi Mind Tricks has garnered so many comparisons to the Clan. Along with excellent beats, Stoupe adds some cool scratching and some very eccentric and sinister-sounding samples. Stoupe's work on this album really solidifies his place with the big boys of production such as RZA, DJ Premier, etc. Jedi Mind Trick are original, focused, intellectual but still extremely lethal with their music. 


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6.  Gza "Liquid Swords" | (click to listen) ♬ .01 

Often acclaimed as the best Wu-Tang solo project of all, Liquid Swords cemented the Genius/GZA's reputation as the best pure lyricist in the group -- and one of the best of the '90s. Rich in allusions and images, his cerebral, easy-flowing rhymes are perhaps the subtlest and most nuanced of any Wu MC, as underscored by his smooth, low-key delivery. The Genius' eerie calm is a great match for RZA's atmospheric production, which is tremendously effective in this context; the kung fu dialogue here is among the creepiest he's put on record, and he experiments quite a bit with stranger sounds and more layered tracks. Not only is RZA in top form, but every Clan member makes at least one appearance on the album, making it all the more impressive that Liquid Swords clearly remains the Genius' showcase throughout. All of his collaborators shape themselves to his quietly intimidating style, giving Liquid Swords a strongly consistent tone and making it an album that gradually slithers its way under your skin. Mixing gritty story-songs and battle rhymes built on elaborate metaphors (martial arts and chess are two favorites), the Genius brings his lyrical prowess to the forefront of every track, leaving no doubt about how he earned his nickname. 

7. Mobb Deep "The Infamous" | (click to listen) ♬ .01

One of the cornerstones of the New York hardcore movement, The Infamous is Mobb Deep's masterpiece, a relentlessly bleak song cycle that's been hailed by hardcore rap fans as one of the most realistic gangsta albums ever recorded. Given Mobb Deep's youthful age and art-school background, it's highly unlikely that The Infamous is drawn strictly from real-life experience, yet it's utterly convincing, because it has all the foreboding atmosphere and thematic sweep of an epic crime drama. That's partly because of the cinematic vision behind the duo's detailed narratives, but it's also a tribute to how well the raw, grimy production evokes the world that Mobb Deep is depicting. The group produced the vast majority of the album itself, with help on a few tracks from the Abstract (better known as Q-Tip), and establishes a spare, throbbing, no-frills style indebted to the Wu-Tang Clan. This is hard, underground hip-hop that demands to be met on its own terms, with few melodic hooks to draw the listener in. 

8.   Non-Phixion "The Future Is Now"  | (click to listen) ♬ .01

Utilizing beats that would do Dr. Octagon-era Dan "The Automator" proud and rhyming schemes that bring to mind early Wu-Tang Clan or mid-'90s Gang Starr, Non Phixion exposes the sound of true underground hip-hop. This is music that reflects the sound and attitude of countless rappers selling their albums out of the back of their cars or in booths on the street, cutting together dirty and disjointed sounds with a confidence and quality that is unique to this particular genre. This would all be for nothing if it wasn't for the excellent raps from Ill Bill, Goretex, and Sabac Red, a trio of rappers who have a Tribe Called Quest-like chemistry. Their clever lyrics, respectable skills, and rough voices make this an intense and dark landmark in alternative rap. The ugly funk anthem "There Is No Future" is an egotistical boast that takes the exact opposite approach of most like-minded artists, bringing up everything from atheism to mosh pits with a thoughtful twist. "Drug Music" is a bright view of drugs and music that takes a few detours but ultimately leaves the listener with a skewed view of their opinions.

9.   Raekwon "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... | (click to listen) ♬ .01

A serious contender for the title of best Wu-Tang solo album (rivaled only by the Genius' Liquid Swords), Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is also perhaps the most influential, thanks to Raekwon's cinematic imagination. If the Genius is the Wu's best overall lyricist, Raekwon is arguably their best storyteller, and here he translates the epic themes and narratives of a Mafia movie into a startlingly accomplished hip-hop album. Raekwon wasn't the first to make the connection between gangsta rap and the Cosa Nostra (Kool G Rap pioneered that idea), but he was the one who popularized the trend. Cuban Linx's portraits of big-money drug deals and black underworld kingpins living in luxury had an enormous influence on the new New York hardcore scene, especially Mobb Deep and Nas, the latter of whom appears here on the much-revered duet "Verbal Intercourse." The fellow Clan members who show up as guests are recast under gangster aliases, and Ghostface Killah makes himself an indispensable foil, appearing on the vast majority of the tracks and enjoying his first truly extensive exposure on record. Behind them, RZA contributes some of the strongest production work of his career, indulging his taste for cinematic soundscapes in support of the album's tone; his tracks are appropriately dark or melancholy, shifting moods like different scenes in a film. Cuban Linx's first-person narratives are filled with paranoia, ambition, excess, and betrayal, fast rises and faster falls.

10.   Wu-Tang "36 Chambers" | (click to listen) ♬ .01 

Along with Dr. Dre's The Chronic, the Wu-Tang Clan's debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was one of the most influential rap albums of the '90s. Its spare yet atmospheric production -- courtesy of RZA -- mapped out the sonic blueprint that countless other hardcore rappers would follow for years to come. It laid the groundwork for the rebirth of New York hip-hop in the hardcore age, paving the way for everybody from Biggie and Jay-Z to Nas and Mobb Deep. Moreover, it introduced a colorful cast of hugely talented MCs, some of whom ranked among the best and most unique individual rappers of the decade. Some were outsized, theatrical personalities, others were cerebral storytellers and lyrical technicians, but each had his own distinctive style, which made for an album of tremendous variety and consistency. Every track on Enter the Wu-Tang is packed with fresh, inventive rhymes, which are filled with martial arts metaphors, pop culture references, bizarre threats of violence, and a truly twisted sense of humor. 

— Albums reviews from the interweb.