If there’s one thing that really bothers me, it’s the public’s general disdain for rap music. Average Joe Citizen has no issue with the millionaire in a cowboy outfit, yodeling about cold beer, big trucks, and small town gals on a continuous loop. But when it comes to rap, people will denounce it with the passion and blind hatred of a bible-beater picketing outside a Planned Parenthood.
I understand the arguments against hip-hop, having heard many of them from my wife. When I turn on my High School Rap playlist from the early 2000s, she says the lyrics are ‘bad’ (Note: kinda true). I switch to gangster rap, and she says it’s not appropriate for our 1 ½ year old daughter (Note: very true). So in order to get my fix without my wife hating every second of it, I honed a playlist comprised of very special rap: rap for people who hate rap.
These albums — while technically of the genre — differ from run-of-the-mill rap music. They have soul. Some are upbeat. Some are inspiring and optimistic. Some feature non-traditional production styles. All of them, however, will turn you haters into lovers.
#5/4. Luke Christopher – TMRW, TMRW & TMRW, TMRW Pt. 2
Luke Christopher uses a half singing/half speaking delivery that reminds me of a mid 90s Cake album. This style combined with optimistic lyrics and uplifting choruses make the TMRW, TMRW mixtapes modern day soul music.
#3. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day
I first heard Man on the Moon in December of 2009. It was so solid and so unlike anything I had heard before that I listened to nothing else for like 4 months straight, before eventually playing it out. Because of this, the album remains frozen in time. Hearing it now brings me right back to that winter, which is unfortunate because I was living in a shitty, mouse-infested rental house.
We hired an exterminator, and the mice spent all winter eating rat poison and using their final precious moments to crawl out of their nest in the basement and into my bedroom to die. Every night, I checked my floor, sheets, and pillows for dead or dying mice, turned on Kid Cudi, and went to sleep. Such good times!
#2. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
Applying streetsmart lyrics to musical elements of gospel, jazz and like 20 other genres, Acid Rap is a meditative and nostalgic trip that could serve as the poster boy for psychedelic drug use and its positive effects on creativity.
Also, it’s free. Even after the mainstream success of his third mixtape, Coloring Book (released earlier this summer), Chance remains unsigned and continues to hand out music.
This song, a staple of Acid Rap, was just featured on Obama’s 2016 summer playlist, so that’s neat.
#1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye has my vote for greatest rapper of all time, and whenever I share this opinion with someone, they usually demand an explanation. So I say forget everything you know about Kanye the person and listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Recorded in Hawaii during his self-inflicted exile following the Taylor Swift incident, MBDTF reflects on life in the spotlight while Kanye embraces his role as Hollywood villain.
Despite the laundry list of collaborators — Jay Z, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, Justin Vernon from Bon Iver — and pulling themes from his previous work, this album is its own masterpiece. It’s phenomenal.
If I were assembling a musical time capsule and could include only one album from each decade, MBDTF would be my pick for 2010-2019, and I’m willing to bet nothing released in the next 3 years changes that.