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Added by mojack on 7 May 2014 05:41
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1997: Best Rap Albums

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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (29 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Wu-Tang Forever - Wu-Tang Clan
Well it happened, it's been many listens, several years, and an honest complete lack of faith in it ever changing, but change it has. I've finally clicked with this album at long last. And it's not the kind of click where I'm "oh geez! Why didn't I see it before duh!", it's the kind of click that was hard fought and leaves me knowing just how difficult an album this was to work out. It remains a tough listen and one that I don't blame people for giving up on as I did, not that this changes my grade or recommendation. After all I don't sit well with the idea of punishing an album for being hard to enjoy, so long as it is actually rewarding to struggle over. It sort of highlights the inevitable subjectivity in music brought on by our personal experiences and even personal surroundings, some people get this right away, others fight with it, and because it's the successor to perhaps the most beloved rap album of all those diverging results become all that more radicalized. Those who want and try to hear it like Enter the Wu Tang will fail and be bitter, like me. It's not that album, at all, and it's not any of the solo releases seen between. It's not an immaculate studio project like Liquid Swords, overseen pitch perfect by RZA. It's messy and raw, and no, it doesn't fall into de-facto immaculateness like Enter. It IS messy and raw and shows with every twist, I mean double albums are by nature going to rarely be shimmering airtight works, but the very fabric of Forever ripples with an almost mixtape like feel. 100 degrees of energy is filed into this, but the result is left frayed and more simplistic then it could be. The trick is learning to love this almost primordial Wu ooze, it takes a deep real appreciation of bare bones hip hop that makes it an 80's throwback in spirit, these beats don't get by on bells or whistles, there are few hooks to speak of (and the few there is aren't very memorable), the thump of the drums and the polyrythym is your friend, if you do know how to love just the thump and polyrhythm. It's advanced stuff, for those either naturally well versed in hip-hop or those who have gained that insight and have the patience to put aside the unavoidable preconceptions that ride in with a sophomore album of this sort. When you do, it's a huge messy self-indulgent monolith of pure rap music that you will want to get diabetes from ingesting like the fat kid in us all.

Rating: 5
Highlights: Reunited, A Better Tomorrow, Triumph, Hellz Wind Staff
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People who added this item 75 Average listal rating (45 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Life After Death - The Notorious B.I.G.

The BIGgest album of 1997 without a doubt, Biggie's unfortunate death help to skyrocket hip hop into another level of popularity. I don't know if people remember correctly, but this album was released around the same time as U2's "Pop" and it totally shat on it sales wise. There was just no rock band that could come close to the popularity of Biggie Smalls and Puffy, they really elevated the genre to other heights (for better or for worse). Of course this has to do with post-death hype, but I don't think that anyone can front like BIG wasn't one of the greatest rappers ever and that he didn't deserve the praise. OK on to the music, can Life After Death match Ready to Die? Well yes and no. As far as consistency and overall production, Ready to Die is the better album easily. But that's one of the greatest albums of all time, it's not like anyone has matched it recently either. But Life After Death does see one thing improve over its predecessor, Biggie is an even better rapper than before. There's a big evolution from his style on the first album and this one, he doesn't have to scream his lyrics anymore and he's much more confident and relaxed. His wordplay is twice as strong and his storytelling is much improved (see "Somebody's Got to Die", "Niggas Bleed" and "I Got a Story to Tell"). The times had changed and he had to adapt himself and I think he did it quite well, as far as a solo performance by an MC, I would rank this one as the best of the 90s. Biggie Smalls is simply the MC, probably most complete rapper ever. While Ready to Die did have a few radio friendly joints (mostly "Juicy" and "Big Poppa"), the rest of the album was really hardcore and for the streets. He takes that concept even further with LAD, it's a much more commercial album and it goes in all sort of directions. He really wanted to make something for everyone, and what's great about Biggie is that he succeeds at whatever he does. You can hear him kill Bone Thugs at their own shit on "Notorious Thugs", make a club banger with "Hypnotize", an anthem with "Mo Money Mo Problems", then come back with some hard ass DJ Premier joints. He just mastered everything. My personal favorite on the album is "Sky's the Limit", somehow a followup to Juicy and really executed perfectly. To me the whole album is great, there's nothing really I would want to take off except perhaps "Nasty Boy" but even that one got some very ill rapping so it's still enjoyable. Yeah yeah the beats aren't as good as "Ready to Die", they are more polished and all but they are still quite great, most of them bump or have that atmospheric cinematic vibe to fit Biggie's rapping style. I've got nothing but love for this album, it's not Ready to Die part 2 in style, it is different but it is a classic without a doubt and one of the most important hip hop LP's of all-time perhaps even more than his debut.

Rating: 4.5
Highlights: Hypnotize, Kick in the Door, Going Back to Cali, Somebody's Gotta Die
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People who added this item 18 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 0
After hip hop's world fell apart it at least became fascinating to see who rose to claim empty thrones. Common, once a talented rookie of the alt rap world makes his bid at the territory left vacant by the Native Tongues and other such conscious emcees. And while strong I'm not sure if I'd give him the crown (Mos Def kinda took it first by the end of the 90's). But hey, welcome to the order of knights who would make up the east coast wing of the second wave of alt rap. The main issue here is that the two sides of Common feel a little at odds still, which wasn't the case with Resurrection. I guess he was just having trouble saying goodbye to his old mischief, but bye he does say. If anything I actually think this album tries a little too hard in the first half to be serious and conscious and all that. It's in the second half where he eases up that things actually really start getting great. I almost come away from this thinking Common should give up the conscious angle, Of course he proved completely otherwise on his next release. Maybe what he needed was the influence of The Soulaquarian collective who he hadn't linked up with yet. Namely his muse Erykah Badu.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Retrospect For Life, G.O.D., 1"2 Many..., Reminding Me (Of Sef)
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 8.7 IMDB Rating 0
Jewelz - O.C.
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People who added this item 6 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 0
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 0
Stone Crazy - The Beatnuts
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People who added this item 25 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 0
When Disaster Strikes - Busta Rhymes
When Busta made The Coming he was making a normal hip-hop album in the sense of goals. But between then this? Well...he blew up big time and became a weird idol overnight, so there's an immediate sense that Busta was trying to play to his new role on here that's a shame. It's not all that damaging...but well instead of three Ummah Beats he's opting instead toward having Puffy come in for a track, just that sort of change is too bad. He's a guy who could have gotten any producer he wanted at this point, to me this should have been way better. But it is still good. Like The Coming before it, it has that weird night feel (albeit watered down slightly), and it also works better as a whole then taken one by one. Busta just seems to create his albums with a cohesive feel rather then an individual song by song basis. Everything comes together on the album's hit "Put Your Hands Where My etc." which is fucking excellent (and has easily the best rap video ever). I really miss this era of Busta Rhymes...

Rating: 3.5
Highlights: The Whole World Looking At Me, Turn It Up, Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See, Dangerous
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 0
Necessary Roughness - The Lady of Rage
Poor Rage, she came out too late to properly take off. Timing is everything sometimes. This is one of the final Death Row albums before they hit the ground after falling off the mountain. One of a last trickle that Suge got out before the end. Rage however had been around the Death Row posse since The Chronic! But either she waited or was naturally last in line next to the big names. She's a good hardcore rapper for sure, problem is the production, which isn't even all that bad, just kind of lifeless. If she had gotten something like a 94' Dre produced album...? Man oh man. Oh well.

Rating: 3
Highlights: Necessary Roughness, Sho Shots, Get With the Wickedness, Breakdown
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It's easy to lose faith in the genre's direction even now, imagine how hard it must have been with all the simultaneous shit hitting the fan right after years of gold. It would have been even harder to take if only for the contrast. And so many artists clearly lost their nerve, losing their fire, or basing too much of their approach off simply reacting to what they saw as wrong with the change. But if 97 was a drought, than this album was a lush and vast oasis in it's middle. One of the brightest hopes for hip-hop by the end of 96' were the Fugees, and go figure they almost immediately divided, a neat three way split. However, though the Fugees broke up it's members weren't done by any stretch of imagination. First up for solo duty was Wyclef Jean. Wyclef follows up on the group's swan song with what can be construed as the first true genre hopping rap album, preceding similar moves by the likes of Andre 3000, K-os, and K'naan by years. A heavy dose of Caribbean influence is all over this (especially the Haitian Creole final three song suite), making it deliciously islandish above all else. While most of the best 97 albums either looked to the past or wrapped themselves away in indie murk, this album explodes in forward thinking conscious and creativity. Not afraid to still believe in hip-hop. Because Hip Hop is not dead, it never died. There were always great artists and albums fighting the good fight. Pushing ahead. To give up is to be lazy. Remember this album, the first defiant boom in the face of stagnation.

Rating: 5
Highlights: Apocalypse, Guantanamera, Gone Till November, Year of the Dragon
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People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (15 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 0
Funcrusher Plus - Company Flow
Rawkus records crashed through the ceiling and into hip hop's collective conscious at a perfect time, and this was the album it rode in on. A trio consisting of producer El-P, rapper Bigg Jus, and DJ Mr. Len, they specialized in tripped out grimy underground shit that contrasted sharply and knowingly with the Jiggy rap in vogue at the time. You have to know there was a lot of anger from within rap at the rise of jiggy and latter day mafioso it came from. It can be seen from Black Star a year later, RZA's talk on Forever, and in Kool Keith's "Plastic World" track. This is the atmosphere from where Company Flow and this album came up, a fed up feeling that the only way rap could survive aesthetics intact would be to throw out the mainstream labels and go independent. Company Flow makes themselves sound like something only the underground could love too, the music is dense and strange with a heavy heavy focus on rhyming with few hooks to sate the teeny bopper ear. It's 75 minutes of mostly dudes talking shit as it were a Rakim album. It's sound derives from a mix of RZA and DJ Krush influences and signaled a new era of indie rap that still survives to some extent now. It's a seminal album that alongside the superior Jedi Mind Tricks debut delivers classic hip-hop quality with a sheen of futuristic nightmare, acting like it was rapping from a post-apocalyptic world. And in a way that's exactly what it was.

Rating: 4
Highlights: 8 Steps to Perfection, Collude/Intrude, Krazy Kings, Last Good Sleep
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97' was a rough rough year for rap. It was the sound of a screeching halt in the genre's momentum. And all places suffered. The East Coast fell into what is now known as the Jiggy era, P Diddy took power from the Noir Rap folks and shiny suited his way into infamy. The West Coast had lost it's greatest new star, Tupac, and Death Row Records fractured than collapsed into irrelevance almost immediatley. The South which had a pure resume, and was still quite hopeful as a new frontier thanks to the Dungeon Family, began to see the start of the cheap factory rap it's known for today in the form of No Limit records. Dark times.

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Hip Hop Best Album Directory (21 lists)
list by mojack
Published 5 years, 7 months ago 1 comment



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