Appreciating classic, impactful rap albums
Justice Mory | Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Over the last two decades, countless hip-hop/rap albums have been released for public consumption. Among these are albums that were received as being “decent” or “good.” This is not a bad thing, but some of these albums need to be seen as what they are: classics. These include, but are not limited to, Kanye West’s “808s and Heartbreak,” Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon: The End of Day,” and Joey Bad*$$’s “All-Amerikkkan Bad*$$.” They are classics to me, in the sense that they are unique, trendsetting and influential albums in some way or another, while also being musically great albums to listen to and enjoy.
In late 2008, Kanye dropped his fourth studio album “808s and Heartbreak.” Many in the hip-hop community felt this project was a failure, as Kanye ambitiously stepped away from the sound that made him famous for something new. The album, heavy in emotions for anything in mainstream hip-hop, coupled these emotions with 808 drum patterns and autotune to create a sound that is prevalent now, but in 2008 was still years ahead of its time. Further, the dark, melody-driven songs that blurred the lines between singing and rapping were something not everyone was ready to embrace. However, despite critical reactions from the hip-hop industry, it is an important album not just in a commercial sense (it was successful numbers-wise) but in the fact that the sound permeated the future of the industry. This sound has directly influenced popular artists such as Drake, The Weeknd, Juice WRLD, Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler the Creator and Travis Scott, to name a few who now dominate mainstream hip-hop.
“In the night, I hear ‘em talk / The coldest story ever told / Somewhere far along this road / He lost his soul to a woman so heartless.”
“808s and Heartbreak” contributor Kid Cudi’s debut studio album “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” was created in 2009, and its legacy has reached classic status over time. This album was a form relatable self-expression delivered by Cudi to his listeners in which he established his own sound, with the soundscape inspired by groups such as Electric Light Orchestra and Pink Floyd. His goal is to share his personal feelings and struggles in his music in ways that can resonate with his audience and their own lives, and on this album, he achieves that. This album was successful and not critically attacked, but over time, it has become clear that this is a classic album.
It is incredibly unique in the way it draws inspiration outside of hip-hop to create a new sound, as well as the emotional honesty the album features as a whole. The intro and outro commentary of the album makes it clear what the album is about, and the story the album hopes to create. Kid Cudi has gone on to inspire many fans and other artists through his music as authentically as I have seen, and I think this album specifically will be remembered for decades to come, and deservedly so.
“I try and think about myself as a sacrifice / Just to show the kids they ain’t the only ones who up at night / The moon will illuminate my room and soon I’m consumed by my doom.”
Joey Bad*$$ released his album “All-Amerikkkan Bad*$$” in 2017. This album was a bold and commercially risky approach to a full studio album, as it was a strong and passionate political commentary on the systemic issues that affect African Americans in the U.S. Three years later, the issues discussed are as relevant as ever, and while confronting these issues in an entire album was not the most popular choice at the time, this album is really powerful in the messages it gets across. It adds to the increasing public and mainstream awareness of racial injustice in the country, and is one of the more impressive displays of purpose-driven music as well as rap ability I have listened to. The lyrics are deep, but conveyed in a way that comes off as passionate, urgent and personal, highlighting issues in a way that listeners can grasp and think about.
“The first step into change is to take notice / Realize the real games that they tried to show us / 300 plus years of them cold shoulders / Yet 300 million of us still got no focus / Sorry America, but I will not be your soldier / Obama just wasn’t enough, I need some more closure / And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over / Let’s face facts ‘cause we know what’s the real motives.”
If anyone out there has not listened to these three albums, I would highly recommend doing so whenever you’re listening to music next. Not all music is for everyone, but I believe these albums to be extremely important to hip-hop and pop culture, as well as really solid projects to just listen to. They have become even better with age, and in time, will be revered universally by the hip-hop/rap community as classic albums.
Justice Mory is majoring in Business Analytics and is part of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. He is from Southern California and now lives in Duncan Hall. His main goal is to keep learning and to continue to become more informed. He can be reached at [email protected] or @JmoryND on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.