Max Fierke

never met a *nix system I didn't want to be friends with

My Hip-Hop Top 5 List

Max Fierke

July 31, 2015

I recently migrated my site over to a new platform I'm building. As part of that, my blog has come with, and by "come with" I mean I deleted my Tumblr(s) and neglected to migrate any of the content because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. One of the posts I had on my old blog was a post from 2012 or 2013 about my top 5 or top 10 hip-hop albums (my memory is hazy, it wasn't a very well-written post). Needless to say, the past few years have seen a flurry of amazing albums that have definitely knocked off some items from the previous list. I'd like to share an updated list with a few reasons as to why they're on my top 10. These are not necessarily the albums I found most influential, but they are the ones that I will be sharing with any future kids and grand-kids I may have, if a Trump presidency does not leave us in a Fallout-esque post-apocalyptic Hellscape.

1. good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar

I feel like this is one of those albums that is assumed to be on every hip-hop fan's top 10 list (and for good reason). I've listened to this album an uncountable number of times. My profile may have a number, but I guarantee that number is off by at least 50. There was a period from around when the album came out (October 2012) to around September or October 2014, where I had probably listened to the full album at least once or twice each week.

For me, the album is the hip-hop equivalent of the TV series Arrested Development in terms of complexity and nuance. Never before have I heard an album with such a well-constructed & complex narrative comparable to that of a great novel. I believe it will have as much cultural significance in the next 50 years as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band had in the last 48. It was the first album that made me think "I want to make my baby-boomer father listen to this" because of the importance I place on both the narrative and the musicality. Furthermore, behind all of the lyrical complexity, the production was truly next-level and somehow made it possible for me to listen to it as many times as I did without getting sick of it. There are lots of albums out there with as good or better production, but somehow none of them captivated me the way GKMC has and continues to.

I've elaborated more on this album than I likely will on any other. If I had to pick one track to represent for the whole album, it would be Sing About Me. I hold this album to be important enough that schools should have it as required listening in junior high or high school.

2. Graduation by Kanye West

Most people will probably place My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at the top of their lists (which is more than fair). However, Graduation occupies a special place in my heart being one of the first albums I really connected with. Graduation dropped when I was in 8th grade, which is a terrible time for anyone. Self-esteem was at a low, and for me, Graduation was the jerry can I stumbled upon in the desert. To this day, no album gets me feeling better when I'm down than Graduation. And no track boosts my self-confidence like The Glory.

But with my ego
I can stand there in a speedo
And be looked at like a fucking hero

How could that not make you feel better every single time you hear it?

3. Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star by Black Star

This is a near-perfect album. The lyrics intertwine so well with the production. It's a tremendous feat of sonic balance. The narrative is fantastically well-crafted. It's understated and supremely well-delivered. To extract a collection of lines would, I believe, do a disservice to the cohesion the duo so eloquently instilled within their hallowed words. An album of self-empowerment and Black empowerment, it's truly a cultural masterpiece.

4. To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

Most, if not all, of the reasons for placing good kid, m.A.A.d city where it is apply to To Pimp A Butterfly as well. However, TPAB is not simply a hip-hop album. It's a smorgasbord of my favorite genres, encompassing hip-hop, R&B, jazz, and funk. It feels eclectic, surreal, and sometimes other-worldly.

5. The Black Album by Jay Z

This is my favorite album from Jay. Yes, Reasonable Doubt is better, but The Black Album has so many iconic tracks that routinely bounce their way into my mind, but never stick around long enough to annoy.

Allow me to re-introduce myself
My name is Hov, OH, H-to-the-O-V
I used to move snowflakes by the O-Z

I've entered many rooms as that verse has dropped and it has always helped as a confidence booster. I mean, I'm not HOV, but I do feel like him for a second when I hear that drop.