Blank Thought's Top 10 Most Influential Rap Albums
Hip-Hop Producer & Rap Aficionado Blank Thought has a high respect for the Hip-Hop genre and takes a major influence from the greats in his own music. In this exclusive Music Mondays article we break down Blank Thought's Top 10 Most Influential Rap Albums and break down why these projects made the Blank Thought cut.
Welcome back to those who have continued to read & welcome to all of you reading something from me for the first time! As I transition from artist interviews to album reviews for the time being, I wanted to do something I feel is very important as someone sharing my thoughts on other people’s music. First off, I wanted to establish that I will only ever write about things I really love. I find criticism in a place like this to not only be practically a lot less fun to write, but also is unnecessary in a world where criticism is at an all time high and support for small artists is few and far between. Secondly, it's important to me that I establish some of the pieces of music that make me the musician and person that I am today. It’s always been hard for me to understand someone's opinions without some context as to how those opinions came to be. So without further ado, 10 rap albums that made me fall in love with the genre.
The First Album
Honorable Mention - Good Kid Maad City by Kendrick Lamar
If there was an album I could credit as the first that I really fell in love with the genre, it would be this one. I still remember hearing Tookie Knows II for the first time and being blown away by the knocking beat and cold verses. With tracks like Ride Out, Lord Have Mercy, JoHn Muir or WHateva You Want, this album is diverse and cohesive. While this album covers so many different sonic influences and structures, it still manages to feel smooth and showcase Q’s patent delivery and flows. It’s a perfect album for those just being introduced and hip hop heads all around the world.
Favorite Songs: JoHn Muir, Tookie Knows II & Ride Out
Abstract Hip Hop
2 - So the Flies don’t Come by Milo (now known as R.A.P Ferreira) and Kenny Segal
Honorable Mention - Maps by Billy Woods
The more verbose and almost spoken word style has really caught my ear recently, with amazing artists such as Earl Sweatshirt, Elucid & Billy Woods being in constant rotation. But, the album that has grabbed me the most is this one. Milo is slick and smooth with his style, while also being lyrically dense and engaging. Upbeat tracks like yomilo directly contrast with souvenir with Hemlock Ernst to create a beautifully diverse and jazzy sonic palette. Kenny & Milo are both at the top of their game here, with both turning in some of my favorite performances I’ve heard from either so far. The features are also of note here, with the 4 on here being perfectly selected & utilized for their unique talents, especially with Elucid on going no place. A fantastic project that gives you a lot to sit with, I would recommend this to anyone with the ear for a great writer.
Favorite Songs: napping under the echo tree, going no place & souvenir
Cold Weather Music
3 - I don’t like shit, I don’t go outside by Earl Sweatshirt
Honorable Mention - Songs of Sage: Post Panic by Navy Blue
Speaking of albums with incredible writing, this is a contender for my favorite rap record ever. Every second of this album is made with intention, with a welcoming but cold atmosphere that will pull you in everytime. When I was in the heart of the winter in the northeast, this was my go to. With this release, Earl builds the perfect bridge between his debut Doris & his next release Some Rap Songs. It’s gloomy and dusty, but Earl is as energetic as ever and spitting some of his best verses. Every track is perfect and never outstayed its welcome. The features are perfectly placed and delivered every time. Anytime I hear Huey, I listen to the whole project immediately and that’s the best compliment I could give the project.
Favorite Songs: DNA, Faucet & Grief
Alchemist collab album
4 - The Price of Tea in China by Boldy James & the Alchemist
Honorable Mention - 360 Waves by Durag Dynasty
The Alchemist is a monument in hip hop to me as an aspiring producer. To work with essentially all of my favorite artists, to create such a rich atmosphere & the longevity that he's done it. But, out of all my favorite Alchemist collab albums, the Price of Tea in China has always held a special place in my heart. The gloomy and melancholic atmosphere permeating the album struck me from the moment I first heard it, while also some downright evil tracks being sprinkled throughout. Each feature feels purposeful and perfectly placed, each beat compliments Boldy perfectly & Boldy has great verse after great verse. Boldy’s flow in specific throughout this project is genuinely insane at moments, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Boldy is all flow and no substance. His verses on Carruth, Surf and Turf, Grey October and many more showcase his ability to rap with the best of them.
Favorite Songs: Scrape the Bowl, Mustard & Surf and Turf
New York Hip-Hop
5 - Enter the 36 Chambers by the Wu-Tang Clan
Honorable Mention - Hell on Earth by Mobb Deep
Living in the Northeast for most of my life, the cold becomes an inevitability. You know that between the months of October and March, it would be bitter, cold and just generally hard to be outside. So, as soon as I heard Survival of the Fittest by Mobb Deep, that cold grimy New York style instantly took hold of me. While many great artists and groups have lived inside this sound such as the aforementioned Mobb Deep, or Griselda, but no group has ever made a mark in this genre like the Wu-Tang Clan. And this album is proof. The raw energy of this album is absolutely captivating in both the production and lyrics. The flurry of different rap styles, voices & inflections with the consistent lyrical greatness is something that is very rarely put to record, nevermind curated to this extent. RZA is one of the greatest producers to ever live and this album is part of the reason why. Iconic song after iconic song, one all time great verse after another. An album whose highs that were reached have never truly been replicated.
Favorite Songs: Protect Ya Neck, 7th Chamber & C.R.E.A.M
6 - Aquemini by Outkast
Honorable Mention - A Piece of Strange
Southern hip hop feels like its own world, and I love it. It feels so unique from the West or East coast styles of the last 20 years in so many different ways. You have cities like Memphis, Houston and Miami that have their own flavors to create a melting pot of sounds. But no other city has the impact that Atlanta has in the culture and sound of the south. Whether it’s modern giants (who we’ll get to in a second) like Future or Migos, or legends like TI or Outkast. Outkast is one of the greatest groups of all time, and Aquemini has them firing on all cylinders. They have great projects like ATLiens that could easily end up on this list, but Aquemini has all the pieces of a great album. There is fantastic and lush production, with Andre 3000 and Big Boi absolutely ripping apart every track from a rapping perspective. Even some of the more laid back cuts like the title track, you have Andre & Big Boi going back and forth dropping some of their best verses. A truly perfect album to me that has so much heart and soul with the technical skills to boot.
Favorite Songs: Aquemini, West Savannah & Skew it on the B-Bar
7 - DS2 by Future
Honorable Mention - Savage Mode 2 by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin
As much as I love music that really makes you think and look at life in new perspectives, sometimes I want something different. Trap has made up a lot of my listening history up to this point because there is something about the production that has always enamored me. I love artists like the Migos, Young Thug, Young Dolph, Gucci Mane and many others, but no one has truly put things together for me like Future. Past his versatility, lyrical skill or longevity, there is just an art to the way that he puts together albums. And DS2, with the assistance of Metro Boomin and a stacked list of producers, is easily the peak to me. The production is hard hitting, varied and extremely catchy while Future is in rare form lyrically. The flows, the charisma and the delivery of every bar on this album is extremely easy to feel and really get into. What stands out with this album in particular to me, is that it is extremely consistently great. From track one to the long thanks track at the end, every track has its merits. DS2 is a fantastic album that deserves to be talked about in the all time great conversation.
Favorite Songs: I serve the base, Thought it was a Drought & the Percocet and Stripper Joint
Classic Hip-Hop Album
8 - Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z
Honorable Mention - The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest
While I always had an appreciation for Jay-Z’s music before I really knew his discography, I never could have guessed I would love this album as much as I do. Boasting the best track run of all time to start the album, track after track on this album is incredible. From some of the best hip hop songs ever like D’Evils and Dead Presidents 2, to some absolutely incredible collaborations like Brooklyn’s Finest or Can’t Knock the Hustle, every song brings something new. The sound on this album is really what I imagine the 90’s sounded like looking from the outside. Jay-Z is one of the greatest rappers ever and I don’t know if he has ever reached the highs he did here in his long and storied career.
Favorite Songs: Dead Presidents 2, D’evils & Feelin it
9 - Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
Honorable Mention - The Cold Vein by Cannibal Ox
I hate to use the word “experimental '' given the buzzword it has become in rap as of recent, but real boundary pushing music is some of my favorite to get released. Whether it be something as recent as Armand Hammer’s We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, or like the honorable mention of the Cold Vein, they bring me new things to uncover with every listen. But none have ever truly clicked like the ride down the downward spiral that is Atrocity Exhibition. This album is comfortable making the listener uncomfortable in the best ways musically. The production is eerie and weird in every turn while still being incredibly catchy, while Danny is in rare form bringing us into his mind and his very real struggles with addiction, death and loss in the most eclectic and entertaining way you could imagine. There is no experience like this record, and it continues to stand as a monument of modern hip hop.
Favorite Songs: Tell me what I don’t know, White Lines & Lost
10 - Orpheus vs the Sirens by the Hermit & the Recluse
Honorable Mention - To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
I’m a sucker for art that creates a fictional world that the person experiencing it has to take in on its own terms. This is definitely categorized more in the film and visual entertainment industry, but the best albums can do the same. And while an album like To Pimp a Butterfly is as sharply written and executed as it is well produced and varied, something has always connected me to Orpheus vs the Sirens. As a fan of Greek mythology in general given my childhood, this album is so incredibly constructed. Ka’s writing is on a different level, with him using the myths and their stories to paint a picture of the world for him. Animoss is also in rare form, with the soundscapes being created here that feel perfect for the subject matter, while also being catchy and extremely atmospheric. It's so hard not to get sucked into this project with Ka’s hard hitting lines & Animoss giving him a perfect canvas to paint on.
Favorite Songs: Golden Fleece, Atlas & The Punishment of Sisyphus
As always, thank you to anyone who took the time to read. I honestly just love speaking on some of my favorite projects, and just having a platform to talk about music in general. I appreciate and love all of you, new reviews are on the way soon!
Written By Blank Thought: linktr.ee/b1ankthought