MOST INFLUENTIAL HIP HOP ALBUMS
1. Dr. Dre – The Chronic – When it came out, I was 10 years old, and thankfully, not listening to this album. But the “West Coast” sound that came from this album was the soundtrack for my middle school years. With songs like, “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang”, “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” and “Stranded on Death Row”, I fell in love with the tracks and the smooth delivery of Dr. Dre and an 18 year-old Snoop Dogg. This album cemented my love for hip hop and would eventually lead to my inspiration as I began writing songs of my own.
2. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – e. 1999 eternal – Up unto this point, I hadn’t heard anything like it. Even now, their style is copied, but Bone still has a unique sound all their own that reached its pinnacle with this album. Next to Dr. Dre, these guys were single-handedly responsible for wearing out 2 Walkmans (Middle Schooler: “What’s a Walkman?”) I could listen to this album for days and still not be able to mimic their delivery or even know what the heck they were saying. Awesome.
3. Gospel Gangstas – Do or Die – During my “gangsta rap” phase from 13-16, these guys were Christian music’s only hope of keeping me tuned in. I remember the exact moment I heard the song “Do or Die” at a Christian book store music kiosk thing and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I wrote one of my first lyrics to the tune of “Gospel Gangsta Thang” and turned into a puddle when I met them at Alive ’99. They have always held a special place in my heart and it can be traced back to this amazing album.
4. DC Talk – Free at Last – This album I wasn’t immediately in love with. As a 9 year-old, I didn’t know what to do when songs like “That Kinda Girl” and “I Don’t Want It” came on while I was with my parents. But after a concert in Columbus featuring them as well as Michael W. Smith, I was sold (and I eventually figured out where those songs were and “conveniently” remembered to fast forward through them). My first public rap performance was me performing “Jesus is Just Alright” in downtown Mansfield when I was 10. I was in a dance group in 5th grade that did a routine to “The Hardway.” I love this album.
5. Grits – Factors of the 7 – I was a little late on the “Factors” train. But as soon as I heard it, it was a breath of fresh air that didn’t sound like any Christian rap I had heard before. It lacked the edge that Gospel Gangstas brought, but at the same time their lyrics are something that I still listen to and recite. While there were a couple sweet tunes on “Mental Releases,” this album has 7-9 songs that I kept on repeat and put on numerous mix tapes (Middle schooler: “What’s a mix-tape?”). Favorite songs include: “Hopes and Dreams” and “US Open.”
6. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang – In the middle of my “West Coast” infatuation, this album snuck its way into my hands and with songs like, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin,” “Cream,” and “The 7th Chamber,” I was introduced to the likes of RZA, GZA, Method Man, and the rest of the Wu and never looked back. This album followed me all the way to college as I found a 3’x5’ poster of the cover for this album and through it on my wall. I still have the poster and the regard for this groundbreaking album, but as a youth pastor, my office is probably not the place to display that affection.
7. Jurassic 5 – Quality Control – These are one of my primary lyrical influences. Thank you Tony Hawk for using their music on your Skate Park tour show that was on while I was in high school. The first songs that I heard were, “Improvise”, “Action Satisfaction”, and “Quality Control” (which is #4 on my all-time song list). While in Godsound (don’t act like you’ve heard of us), we actually sat down to write a song together that used their style of having guys only do 3-4 lines at a time (PTI). The rawness to their tracks and focus on their lyrics, are why they are one of my top lyrical influences.
8. The Fugees – The Score – This is the wild card of the group. Another album that was out while I was in middle school (detecting a theme?) introduced me to Lauryn Hill after her role in Sister Act 2 and blew me away. Wyclef and Pras were great compliments to Miss Hill and each of them could bring it. Notable songs include: “Fu-Gee-La”, “Ready or Not”, and a Roberta Flack remake, “Killing Me Softly.” After losing the tape (Middle Schooler: “What’s a tape?”) I re-bought the CD about 5 years later and I realized just what I was listening to and had a greater appreciation for this album. It also has kept me waiting more than 10 years for a follow-up. Still waiting.