Hip Hop Recommendations
January 15, 2004 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I consider myself pretty versed in all genres of music except classical and hip hop/rap. There's already been a classical thread--I'd like some suggestions for hip hop. However, I have criteria [mi].

I absolutely am not interested in anything misogynistic (meaning it has any lyrics where a woman is referred to as a bitch or a 'ho or talks about violence against women) or sexist, or anything that represents "thug life". At the same time, I am NOT interested in getting into a discussion about whether or not such and such is misogynistic, sexist, or whatever.

In the past, I've been recommended Eminem, Jay-Z, Del the Funky Homosapien, and others and have hated them all for the reasons above. In fact, the only contemporary rap I've liked has been Blackalicious (I have Nia and A2G). Can you suggest what I should checck out? Links to reviews or official sites would be great--especially any links with an MP3 or two. Thanks!
posted by dobbs to Media & Arts (69 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Check into the indie/underground hip-hop scene. You'll find more to your tastes in that subgenre than in the top 40 stuff. (That said, I don't have any names for you. I'm sure someone else will be able to fill in the blanks.)
posted by me3dia at 12:10 PM on January 15, 2004

Oh, one major to try would be Tribe Called Quest.
posted by me3dia at 12:23 PM on January 15, 2004

one of hip-hop's all-time greatest albums has to be Digable Planet's 'Blowout Comb.' it continues to sound fresh now, even though it was released in 1994, and fits your bill nicely.

there are some OK descriptive reviews and song samples on amazon.com: here.
posted by callicles at 12:25 PM on January 15, 2004

Look to your left, dobbs, I'm in the boat with you. I second your request.

My own fumblings in the dark have found warmth with DJ Shadow (try Endtroducing), Q-bert (try Wave Twisters) and Massive Attack (try Mezzanine). I'm notoriously bad with music categorizations, so take pity on me if these aren't what you mean by hip-hop. There's certainly little rap in any of them. Oh, and yeah, Tribe Called Quest rubs me the right way too.

BTW - if you're able to find one thing you like, use it to find more here: Gnod's Statistics. Just enter the band name in the URL, replacing spaces with "+"
posted by scarabic at 12:25 PM on January 15, 2004

Excluding any reference to a woman as a "bitch" or is strange, since "bitch" is, by definition, a bad tempered woman, and there is clearly certain cases where such a label could be placed on a person without it being misogynistic. I know you don't want to get into that, but it's still a point worth making.

or anything that represents "thug life"

Define "thug life"? Is a song about someone who grows up in a ghetto without a real good chance of leaving and turns to drugs or drug dealing representative of "thug life", or is it only "thug life" if they rap about being a pimp and beating up women? There are so many different things you could mean and excluding them all leaves out an entire realm of social commentary.

You could try Cannibal Ox or El-P, but you might find something in there that offends you.
posted by The God Complex at 12:28 PM on January 15, 2004

Mos Def.

Mmm yes.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:32 PM on January 15, 2004

Jurassic 5- esp. Quality Control.
posted by COBRA! at 12:37 PM on January 15, 2004

Warsaw Pack is another really good political group and they have a couple mp3s on their site (We Conquer is really good). Of course, if you're offended by political commentary that unflichingly lambastes the western world, you might not like it.
posted by The God Complex at 12:38 PM on January 15, 2004

Response by poster: scarabic, yeah, i'm familiar with all of those artists and like them, thanks. i guess i should have been more specific: it is rap I'm looking for, not turntablism or other subgenres or hip hop. however, i've been chastized for using the turn rap so went with the more vague hip hop.

God Complex, by thug life I'm just talking about songs about putting a cap in your ass and such and how tough one happens to be. It simply doesn't interest me. Even slightly. I really don't care about leaving out a realm of social commentary. I'm just looking for solid music (good beats) with strong rapping that isn't about how someone else is worse than me or I'm better than someone else. I find that very boring. If you're familiar Blackalicious, you'll know that they rap about social issues quite a bit (the lure of money, eduction, whatever). I'm not afraid of social commentary, I just don't want to give more money to people who sing songs like "Kim" and "The Ruler's Back", etc.

On preview, thanks everyone. Keep 'em coming.
posted by dobbs at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2004

The only notable hip-hop I've heard in the past few years I've enjoyed (with the exception of the already-mentioned sample-god DJ Shadow) would be cLOUDDEAD. Even my mother likes it.
posted by Jairus at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2004

I absolutely am not interested in anything misogynistic (meaning it has any lyrics where a woman is referred to as a bitch or a 'ho or talks about violence against women) or sexist, or anything that represents "thug life".
I don't care for this sort of thing either, but if you're on a search for artistic enlightenment, you shouldn't rule anything out. If you were to apply this criteria to opera, for instance, you'd never hear "Don Giovanni" or "Cavalleria Rusticana." If you were to apply it to 1960s rock, you'd never hear "Hey Joe" in any of its ten million versions, or "Under My Thumb" by the Stolling Rones. Open up, it's beautiful and (sometimes) ugly world of art out there..
posted by Faze at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2004

It's tough to find good hip hop that is completely clean. Some recs:

- OutKast
- Public Enemy
- De La Soul
- LL Cool J
- Missy Elliot
posted by mkultra at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2004

Spearhead is another good one. Not strictly hip hop, but there's definitely that influence there.
posted by cmonkey at 12:43 PM on January 15, 2004

I'm also bad with categories, but I like abstract, and/or humorous, and/or down-beat/trip-hop, and/or jazz-inflected stuff such as:
The Herbaliser (e.g. "Very Mercenary")
DJ Vadim
and other Ninja Tune acts. Also:
DJ Krush (Japanese)
DJ Cam (French - "Mad Blunted Jazz" is a must)
DJ Shadow
DJ Spooky
MC Solaire (French) is supposed to be good, but I haven't heard any of his stuff.
posted by carter at 12:44 PM on January 15, 2004

is pretty cool. Hip-hop from the midwest.

I also really like listening to all of Outkast's stuff.

This is coming from a guy who listens to acoustic and folk rock.
posted by tomorama at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2004


the roots

posted by th3ph17 at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2004

Oh! I forgot to recommend my sister, Eternia. No thug-life lyrics or anything. And she was voted "Canada’s Dopest Female MC” by Exclaim Magazine.
posted by Jairus at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2004

I'll second J-5 and Tribe, and toss in Dialated Peoples, KRS-1, J-Live, Common, People Under the Stairs, De La Soul, and The Roots. They're not all 100% clean, but my tolerance for the kind of stuff that you want to avoid is pretty low and I enjoy all of them.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:57 PM on January 15, 2004

I am really into the streets right now. He can be very, erm, British, but his lyrics are pretty amazing. I will second The Roots suggestion - start with Phrenology, their newest album.
posted by Quartermass at 1:00 PM on January 15, 2004

Try Viktor Vaughn's Vaudeville Villain, or Mr. Lif's I Phantom.
posted by drobot at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2004

Sorry, that should be Dilated Peoples....
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2004

for pc hip-hop you could do worse than disposable heroes and spearhead, i guess (old stuff).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2004

dobbs, i got into blackalicious because i was a fan of Saul Williams...hip hop meets slam poetry. Fantastic. Also, for a bit more jazz, try Sekou Sundiata's Long Story Short--he was Ani Difranco's poetry teacher, and is on her label, doesnt' have his own site, but you can listen to various tracks on amazon.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2004

Sage Francis Sage Francis Sage Francis
posted by jennyb at 1:12 PM on January 15, 2004

Try some of the older stuff, too, like Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Heavy D, Run DMC, EPMD, Black Sheep. What I liked most about hip hop was hearing old jazz tunes sampled. Digable Planets definately fit the bill.
posted by inviolable at 1:12 PM on January 15, 2004

No hip hop collection is complete without Del La Soul's Stakes is High.

If you'd like to get a nice mix of old school rhymers, check out DJ Shadow's Diminishing Returns, if you can find it. Nice two hour mix done origianlly for BBC's Essential Mix, then released to a two disc set. Highly recommended.

And then my personal Hip Hop classic fav, Digital Underground's Sex Packets. A little more ghetto, but man, thems some classic beats. Def. not thug life.

aaaaaaaaaand if you wanna find some more, try EPMD or Eric B and Rakim.

posted by Hackworth at 1:20 PM on January 15, 2004

Go to the roots, no not The Roots, but:

Run DMC - Raising Hell
N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton [but it is "gansta" so watch out - but still a pillar]
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions
Wyclef Jean - Carnival
Aceyalone - Accepted Eclectic
Freestyle Fellowship - Innercity Griots

Second [third?] Dialated, Digable, Del, Mos Def, Outcast.
posted by plemeljr at 1:22 PM on January 15, 2004

people under the stairs
de la soul
KRS-1 (plus Boogie Down Productions) (I like Return of the Boom Bap)
Tribe called Quest (must have, smooth)
Digable Planets (very hip)
Pete Rock & CL Smooth (classic stuff, very intelligent, album: The Main Ingredient)
GZA (from wu-tang clan but he has some sophistication)
Handsome Boy Modeling School (smooth jazzy)
EPMD (classic rap)
Aesop Rock (Labor Days is just pure fun)
posted by vacapinta at 1:27 PM on January 15, 2004

the streets has been one-upped by a certain Dizzee Rascal. third fourth fifth Mos Def, Coup, PE.
posted by grimley at 1:43 PM on January 15, 2004

Smooth and intelligent:
- A Tribe Called Quest
- De La Soul
- Digable Planets
- just about anything produced by Pete Rock (for bonus points check out his instrumental albums)
- The Roots
- Blackalicious (and in fact most Solesides/Quannum will suit you well)
- Common (aka Common Sense - great rapper)
- Hieroglyphics (see here)

Higher on the grimy scale:
- Nas (first album only - Illmatic)
- Wu-Tang Clan (first album and maybe second, as well as a few select offshoots: first Method Man, Raekwon, Ol Dirty Bastard, and anything by the GZA)
- Cannibal Ox
- Company Flow

The fundament/Old School:
- Run-DMC
- Beastie Boys (Paul's Boutique is essential)

There is much more out there. If I had to pick three for the neophyte I'd say A Tribe Called Quest (first three albums), De La Soul (just about everything), and Digable Planets (either album). I wouldn't stop there, though.
posted by Succa at 1:46 PM on January 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

oops, forgot Pharcyde - A bizarre ride to tha Pharcyde...a landmark West-coast album.
posted by Succa at 1:49 PM on January 15, 2004

Here's a few that haven't been mentioned:

Talib Kweli
Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli)
Brand New Heavies - Heavy Rhyme Experience (various MC's perform with the Brand New Heavies)
DJ Spinna - Here To There
MF Doom (also records as Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah)
The Pharcyde
Roots Manuva
Zion I
posted by modofo at 1:54 PM on January 15, 2004

Jurassic Five.
Black Eyed Peas.
Public Enemy.
Kool Moe Dee. (I Go To Work is so high school, but still so good.)
Digital Underground.
Mos Def.
posted by grabbingsand at 2:01 PM on January 15, 2004

Got to go with the poet supreme, Rakim. First album Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full is an absolute classic (read the Amazon reviews of this one!), the second one Follow the Leader is close.

I also like Sage Francis mentioned above, as well as Rehab (maybe not what you're looking for...but some ill poetry nonetheless) and Typical Cats.

If it's hardcore poetic skills you want, and clean and positive to boot, nobody does it like Aesop Rock. His newest Bazooka Tooth is fly.

You brag about your four-figure watch/I clock 99 cent wristbands/and still know the time when your record flops.
posted by vito90 at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2004

KRS-One -- it doesn't get more positive......

But if you found Del objectionable, you might run into some issues anywhere. Del is pretty clean, isn't really about gangsta life or mysogyny (despite being Ice Cube's cousin), and some of his albums -- Deltron 3030, Heiroglyphics Crew's Third Eye Vision -- are straight nasty.

When I first got into hiphop. I found it did me well to follow producers and labels as well. Check out Dan the Automator -- he did Deltron, but see also Handsome Boy Modeling School (a concept album built loosely around a sample from the old Chris Elliot show "Get a Life), he also has a good one called Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, featuring vocals by Faith No More's Mike Patton, but the beats are hip hop.

A great album if you're on the liberal side of the Mumia debate is called "The Unbound Project" -- check out Aceyalone's track "Miss Amerikkka."

One thing -- I was the same way when I first got into hip hop, but part of the game is the gangsta stuff. You'd be unwise in my book to not listen to Tupac because he is a convicted rapist and a gangta or to miss Illmatic because of the gun references. There are some incredible lyrical and musical occurrences in these albums that should break through regardless of the content. I mean, I think Eminem's content mostly sucks, especially early on -- when it was all about hating his mom and killing his girlfriend. But you gotta hear his flow.

More favorites, mostly mentioned here already, are Freestyle Fellowship, Shadow, Biz Markie Blackaliscious (check out Blazing Arrow, the most recent, better than Nia I think). Anything on the now-defunt Rawkus records, especially Soundbombing I & II -- II is the shit. Latyyrx and the Soulsides crew, which includes but is not limited to Shadow and Blackaliscious. DJ Z Trip for mxes of old and new with classic rock -- if you know the Pharcyde's Passing Me By (on Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, a must have), you'll flip when you hear it laid perfectly over Pat Benetar's Love is a Battlefield.
posted by whoshotwho at 2:15 PM on January 15, 2004

I was going to write a well-informed response, but... well... mostly EVERYONE beat me to it. Trust them, dobbs. They knowest what they're talking about.

Some of the listed artists may actually deviate from your restrictions from time to time, but most of those listed are associated with what might be called "positivity" in their lyrics and overall outlook. I also dislike a lot of the thuggish fake gangster stuff, and where I've found solace is in more positive artists like those listed above.
posted by VulcanMike at 2:20 PM on January 15, 2004

Everyone's favorite albino rapper from Minneapolis, Brother Ali.

Atmosphere (Slug), also from Mpls, talks about women, but more in an EMO kind of way.

I'll definitely go along with Aesop Rock, Common, Sage Francis, The Roots.
posted by emoeby at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2004

I came of age listening to hip-hop, and I can say that your criteria is going to severly limit what you listen to, especially if you're not going to entertain any grey areas.

For example, on MF Doom's album last year as King Geedorah Take Me to Your Leader, there's a fantastic cut featuring Hassan Chop, in which he discusses all of his friends who have died or been sent to prison. It's definitely about "thug life", but it's also poignant and incredibly moving.

OutKast, who are basically The Beatles of hip-hop, are a pretty socially conscious group, unless that social consciousness happens to get in the way of them throwing down a phat track.

Some great albums you should check out are the King Geedorah mentioned above, OutKast's Aquemini, Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet (which has a great cut, "Revolutionary Generation," that's very pro-woman), MF Doom's Operation Doomsday (which has some excellent parody of the "thug life"), and Prefuse 73's One Word Extinguisher, an album that's on the very cutting edge of what hip-hop is. Oh, also Madlib's newest, Shades of Blue, in which he remixes the Blue Note catalog. Quite impressive.

Anything by DJ Shadow is probably going to be, like Blackalicious, very accessible hip-hop and probably a good primer. Also, check out Massive Attack's Blue Lines. That's a great starting point.

What would also help answer your question (as I see lots of different kinds of hip-hop listed here) is if you're interested in DJ or MC skills or both. Different artists have different strengths, and you might listen to an album only for the production, not necessarily for the lyrical content.

Based on your question, you seem to be focused on the lyrics - Eminem and Jay-Z get some of the best production in music today - so you might want to stick exclusively to DJs.
posted by rocketman at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2004

Excluding any reference to a woman as a "bitch" or is strange, since "bitch" is, by definition, a bad tempered woman.

I think a "bitch" is, by definition, a female dog. It's perfectly possible to have a song about a bad-tempered woman without implying that she's a dog.
posted by oissubke at 2:22 PM on January 15, 2004

Oh, BTW, that's MC Solaar, not Solaire, and I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) he's Senegalese, not French.

French rap would be Assassin or Mr. Funkyman, of which the former is by far the better, and about umptybillion others I've never heard. (Is it gangsta-ism if you can't understand the language?)

You may have heard Assassin, briefly, in Matthieu Kassovitz's "La Metisse," AKA "Cafe Au Lait."
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:27 PM on January 15, 2004

By the way, thanks to everyone who contributed to this here thread. You've given me some names to explore.
posted by rocketman at 2:31 PM on January 15, 2004

I concur with Aesop Rock, and Anticon is very good as well.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:54 PM on January 15, 2004

A review of Scribe's album.
posted by holloway at 2:58 PM on January 15, 2004

I think a "bitch" is, by definition, a female dog. It's perfectly possible to have a song about a bad-tempered woman without implying that she's a dog.

The whole thing about Black culture referring to men and women as "dawgs" and "bitches" (how come nobody complains about the dog stuff?) started way, way before rap/hip-hop: "Let Me Be Your Salty Dog".
posted by timeistight at 3:05 PM on January 15, 2004

2nd on the Spearhead. First album (Home) in particular.
posted by daver at 3:23 PM on January 15, 2004

!Ya se fue! !Ya se fue! !Ozomatli! If the Gypsy Kings grew up in East LA, had a social conscience, and knew some fabu rappers. (KRS-1, for one.)Makes my booty shake and my mind expand.

The J.Davis Trio from Chicago - "Chicago's very own all-live, martini-flavored, hip-hop band". Witty, positive and always well dressed. Hipster without being cynical, smooth but still on the sway, badASS version of Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman".
posted by pomegranate at 3:24 PM on January 15, 2004

Natural Resource and Jean Grae's solo efforts.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:26 PM on January 15, 2004

posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:28 PM on January 15, 2004

I think a "bitch" is, by definition, a female dog. It's perfectly possible to have a song about a bad-tempered woman without implying that she's a dog.

And it's perfectly possible to have a song about a bad-tempered woman and imply that she is a dog. Misogyny is usually reserved to describe the hatred of women, not woman. It's not impossible to think someone might have a great deal of contempt for an individual and express part of that contempt--or anger--in the form of an insult. If you look up "bitch" in the dictionary you'll see that one of the alternate meanings is, in fact, an ill-tempered woman, often listed under "offensive" (as it is at dictionary.com). Of course, if the intent is to offend, that shouldn't be a problem. In much the same sense, I could just say a woman was "ignoble" or "abhorrent", but it might not pack the same punch depending on the situation.

Frankly, it's a bit of a boring way of going about it, but it gets the point cross relatively effectively and unless there's a pattern of hatred for women I fail to see a significant problem.

Anyway, this has probably been discussed on metafilter at least three times before, so I'll let it go at that.
posted by The God Complex at 3:28 PM on January 15, 2004

I guess my point would simply be that it irked me when the original poster framed the comment in such a manner as to suggest that anything containing the word "bitch" in reference to women was misogynistic and then dismissed out of hand any arguments to the contrary, as if you can make some wild assertion and then continue on with normal discourse.
posted by The God Complex at 3:32 PM on January 15, 2004

You might want to press people to recommend specific albums, as many artists can vary greatly in quality from release to release.

For De la Soul, I'd take 3 Feet High and Rising, De la Soul is Dead, or Buhloone Mind State. I think their output went downhill quickly after that (coincidentally around the same time they stopped working with Prince Paul), despite Hackworth's high opinion of Stakes is High.

For A Tribe Called Quest, The Low-End Theory is the keeper.

Handsome Boy Modeling School's only album is swell (Prince Paul, again).

The Herbaliser's Blow Your Headphones is quite good, if a bit uneven, with the standout tracks featuring the abovementioned Jean Graea (aka What? What?).
posted by sad_otter at 3:54 PM on January 15, 2004

dobbs, i just asked the humongous-and-educated I Love Music a similar question, the hundred answers to which are here. I don't share your crazy fear of "thug life," but I was curious about whether there was any good 'conscious' hip-hop out there, because I had been bored to tears by the usual suspects (Common, Diggable Planets, De La, Aesop Rock, Jurassic 5, and even Blackalicious). Anyway, take a look - there are tons of recommendations there.

The stuff I like and that qualifies for your requirements? I second the King Geedorah, The Streets and Mr Lif recommendations, and if you like OutKast, look at Cee-lo. Frankly, though, you're not going to find the best of hip hop by limiting it to people who talk about middle-class white issues, with middle-class white language. (Heck, a bunch of the best classic rock'n'roll doesn't meet your standards.)
posted by Marquis at 3:59 PM on January 15, 2004

Some new ones nobody has mentioned, that fit your needs:
the album Material Intonarumori (Bill Laswell produced) has some great stuff on it, especially the tracks by Ramm Ell Zee.

Others: Automator with Kool Keith from No Categories: A Ubiquity Compilation Volume 1; Moka Only, Mystik Journeymen, Troublemakers, Yesh, Scienz of Life

I could go on, but that is some of my favorite stuff, along with Blackalicious, of course.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:32 PM on January 15, 2004

I'll echo all the recommendations for Jurassic 5 and Aesop Rock. I particularly like J-5, especially their first full-length, "Quality Control."

I also love, love, love Deltron 3030 (it's Del tha Funkee Homosapien, produced by Dan the Automator, with scratches by Kid Koala...all in a futuristic space-opera concept album.) I also like some of Dan the Automator's other projects, including the "Dr. Octagon" album with Kool Keith and Handsome Boy Modeling School.

Have you thought about some of the scratching albums out there? There's an amazing one with Cut Chemist and DJ Spooky.
posted by Vidiot at 5:33 PM on January 15, 2004

Oh, and in case anyone didn't know, El-P--the rapper I recommend earlier--is the ex frontman of Company Flow. Fantastic Damage is a wicked cd.
posted by The God Complex at 5:40 PM on January 15, 2004

What timeistight said.
posted by rocketman at 7:18 PM on January 15, 2004

I just have to second the Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli) album as one of the freshest records I've heard in a long time.

the new Diverse album is quite interesting, though I'm only getting into it now. So that's a qualified recommendation.

And check out Prefuse 73, who's hip-hop is so fractured, syllables only, really, that nothing gets through but the groove.
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:57 PM on January 15, 2004

I totally forgot about Ozomatli. They're a cross between latin music and hip-hop. I don't really like a lot of their latin beat songs and usually delete them, but the hip-hop tracks are great. Check out Coming War, Party People and Super Bowl Sundae.
posted by tomorama at 11:10 PM on January 15, 2004

i've seen people mention some of their artists, so i might as well mention that just about anything from the anticon label should work for you.
posted by joedan at 1:10 AM on January 16, 2004

Without a doubt Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher was one of the best albums released last year in any genre. It was also one of the most critically acclaimed. I should point out that it is more instrumental-based hiphop = less rap, more sample. Two other suggested artists on the psychedelic hip-hop (as I like to term it) end of things: cLOUDDEAD and Boom Bip. Really good stuff. Search for them at AMG for more info.
posted by Onanist at 2:20 AM on January 16, 2004

...and Existereo! Plus, some swedish artists well worth checking out: Nadasdi, Rodan and Prosperous Half.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:18 AM on January 16, 2004

J5 are really just doing it in an old-school style. Why not start at the beginning?

Rapper's delight

'I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie
to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop
the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie
to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat'

The Message

'A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin' on you but he's frownin' too
Because only God knows what you'll go through'

Possibly the birth of 'concious' style.

Also the Electro albums give you a feel of the progression of hip hop from disco to electro to old school. Starting in 1983 the series continued through the eighties, changing it's name to 'Hip hop' after Electro 16, I believe.

UK hip hop is often claimed to be more concious than US.

African, South American and Cuban hip hop are all F R E S H at the moment.

Read Marquis' link above.

If you want to delve further, the 'Ultimate Breaks and Beats' albums contain many early (and well used) tunes that were used as breaks.

You may not find the best hip hop on major labels or in chain shops, who have the proclivity of pigeon-holing hip hop as 'thug life' self-agrandisment for their convenience.
posted by asok at 7:02 AM on January 16, 2004

I'd like to echo endorsements for Atmosphere, Sage Francis, Themselves, and Aesop Rock. You should also look into Eyedea & Abilities, Non-Prophets, Buck 65, Sole, Living Legends, RJD2, and Mr. Lif.
posted by subgenius at 7:59 AM on January 16, 2004

dobbs, listen:

Rise Robots Rise had the best rap music wedded to the worst cover art in music history. They put out two albums in the early nineties and then went on to become a kind of industrial-trance band called Fibre. If you find either of the albums, get it immediately. You will like it. Both albums are great, up to the last song, which pretty much sucks on each. This guy's assessment of the first album (self-titled, 1992) is pretty spot-on.
posted by soyjoy at 1:40 PM on January 16, 2004

The Goats: Tricks of the Shade.

They were a Philly outfit who used to perform live (with dummers and muscians of all things). Their main writer was a guy named Oatie Kato who left after this album (he's now teaching biology in NY). They produced a few other albums but they were nothing compared to Tricks of the Shade. It is a monumental and quite astounding album. One of my top three of all time. It is also very political and satirical - and even though it was written in something like 1990, much of what is said is still relevent. Particularly as the name-checks given to Bush Sr handily name-check the current President, too.

The greatest gig I ever attended was The Goats supporting Luscious Jackson supporting the Beastie Boys, London Astoria. Christ, what a night that was...

God knows where you'd find a copy of it anymore. Must be in a few second-hand places online. Well worth seeking out. You can d/l the tracks here (for a fee):
posted by humuhumu at 3:42 PM on January 16, 2004

I would like to make the addition of Guru's Jazzamatazz (I, II, and Streetsoul) albums to this list of the most highly esteemed.

good to see The Goats are not forgotten!
posted by elphTeq at 4:56 PM on January 16, 2004

See also Organized Konfusion.
posted by Voivod at 10:52 PM on January 16, 2004

Also, J-Live's The Best Part is incredible.
posted by rocketman at 4:45 PM on January 17, 2004

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