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LewisGT
post Apr 22 2020, 04:56 PM
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Similar idea to a thread in the 00's forum but for the past week or so I've been listening to one classic Hip Hop album from the past 20 years and positing short reviews on my Twitter. I thought it might be a good idea to post my (slightly) longer thoughts about them here. Anyone is free to join in or talk about any other albums too.



See my twitter thread here:
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LewisGT
post Apr 22 2020, 04:57 PM
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OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below 5/5

2003, UK #8, Billboard #1






As a 6 year old child in 2004, I was obsessed, like most of the world, with a single called Hey Ya which according to the music video was recording by a band of Andre 3000 clones. I mightn't have known what a Polaroid was, but the line "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" was etched into my brain. I was so obsessed with this song in fact, that my Dad decided to buy me my first ever album. It was indeed Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the 2 hour 14 minute long, 2 disc double album by OutKast where most of the album sounds nothing like the catchy hit single. It's safe to say I didn't fully appreciate the brilliance of this album at the time but over the years my love for it has grown immeasurably.

After 4 albums together and being at the absolute height of their popularity, Andre 3000 was beginning to want to experiment with a different sound than the one he and Big Boi had perfected as a duo and so, after briefly moving to L.A. to start an acting career, he recorded a solo album with little rap that musically incorporated a much wider range of influences, mainly jazz, funk and soul. However Big Boi wanted to stick to rap so formulated his own album. Much was made in the media about the separate recording sessions and rumours of their demise as a group was rife. These rumours ultimately proved true because after one more album, the soundtrack to 2006's Idlewild, the due did split. In the end, these albums are essentially two solo projects sold together, Andre only appears on 1 Speakerboxxx track (Ghetto Musick) although he does produce/write on three more and Big Boi only appears once on The Love Below (the excellent Roses). However this did not stop the album from being highly acclaimed. After three consecutive albums that peaked at #2, this because OutKast's only number one album on Billboard (while getting certified diamond and 11x Platinum) and racking up 4 non-consecutive weeks at #8 in the U.K. album chart. Their domination didn't end there. The first singles from the album, Hey Ya & The Way You Move spent 10 weeks occupying the top 2 positions in the hot 100 with both getting a turn at the top. Eventually the album swooped the 46th Grammy awards, winning the ultimate prize of best album.

I love Andre 3000. He's the man that got me into rap music and if you asked me which member of OutKast is my favourite, it would be him no question. But out of the two albums here, I think Speakerboxxx is better. There may be nothing on there that can match the epicness of the Hey Ya/Roses double-punch on TLB but overall, it's a much more concise, hard-hitting and punchy album. It might be more formulaic, but it nails that formula right down to a T and is worthy of being called a masterpiece of the rap genre. The Love Below is an album with much bigger swings and ideas but in turn ends up missing the mark more often. The Love Below has a runtime of 79 minutes which does feel maybe 10 minutes too long when you're listening to it, especially if you listened to Speakerboxxx first. Even with that said, I cannot rate this album any lower than 5/5. It has a special place in my heart. Don't worry I won't be able to write this much about any of the following albums. laugh.gif

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HausofGhibli
post Apr 22 2020, 06:14 PM
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Great idea Lewis!

Not heard the OutKast album or familiar with much of their material, but I will rectify that after this glowing review ohmy.gif
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LewisGT
post Apr 22 2020, 08:22 PM
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QUOTE(Hauspital* @ Apr 22 2020, 07:14 PM) *
Great idea Lewis!

Not heard the OutKast album or familiar with much of their material, but I will rectify that after this glowing review ohmy.gif


Please do check some OutKast out, one of my all-time favourite artists for sure. Stankonia is another classic album too. If you do listen to S/TLB, I would recommend to spread it out and not listen to it all in one 2-hour sitting though there are some parts of The Love Below (especially the 5 minute instrumental remake of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music) that will feel unnecessarily dragged out. laugh.gif
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LewisGT
post Apr 23 2020, 04:49 PM
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Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap 4/5

2013, UK N/A, Billboard #5






Look at almost any list of the best rap albums of the 2010's and among it you will find Chance The Rapper's 2nd mixtape. Originally released as a free download, the album still ended up debuting at #65 on the Hop Hop Billboard album charts just through illegal bootlegs of the album put on iTunes by other people. It was also certified diamond by webiste Datpiff for having 10 million downloads from the site. This was the follow-up to his 2012 mixtape "10 Day", recorded during a 10 day suspension he had from school for possession of weed. Acid Rap deals with the consequences of becoming famous while still in school, including humorously referring to the attention he got from girls when he went back to school on "Good Ass Intro" and turning into a person he Mum doesn't like in the album highlight "Cocoa Butter Kisses". The album eventually got a proper streaming release in 2019, just before the release of his debut "album", the critically panned 'The Big Day'.

The Big Day was panned, especially by fans, for sounding nothing like his previous work and listening to this you can see why. Personally, I loved The Big Day, yes it's cheesy and is the album equivalent of the Borat "My Wife" meme but I found some real gems on there and enjoy its more soulful and poppier elements. Acid Rap is obviously the work of a rawer, less experienced artist. It feels much rougher around the edges that the slick, highly produced TBD. Where TBG feels like an album that has went through a committee, Acid Rap feels more off-the-cuff and natural. In fact, Chance has admitted that LSD was consumed during the albums recording and there are times where you can feel that influence. There are some incredibly serious topics discussed too. Pusha Man/Paranoia expertly tells the haunting tale of how when most students can't wait for the summer as their off school, Chance hates it because it's the time of the year where people die most in the crime areas of Chicago he grew up in. "Cause everybody dies in the summer, Wanna say your goodbyes, tell them while it's spring. I heard everybody's dying in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring"

As I mentioned earlier, my favourite song on this album is Cocoa Butter Kisses featuring his close friends from childhood Vic Mensa and, weirdly enough, Twista. Here Chance reminisces about being a kid going to Chuck E Cheese and getting aforementioned kisses from his mother. He contrasts that his current loss of innocence, getting high and irritating his family. It's a topic that could be cheesy but he makes it work. Twista's plays the role of the OG mentor to perfection too. However there are a couple song on here that just don't work for me. Mainly 'That's Love' and unfortunately the Gambino collab "Favorite Song" that contains some dodgy, completely out of place homophobic lyrics that seem to go against the public persona Chance has created for himself.

If you listen to this on Spotify, the track 'Juice' didn't get its sample cleared in time so is replaced by a 30 second message explaining what I've just said. The video is on YouTube though.
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LewisGT
post Apr 25 2020, 03:07 PM
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The Streets - Original Pirate Material 5/5

2002, UK #10, Billboard N/A






The debut album by (at the time) 22 year old Mike Skinner, recorded using a laptop in a empty wardrobe in his rented flat in London, using his duvet and mattress to reduce echo. Musically this album is hard to define to a genre. Skinner claimed he didn't like direction UK hip hop was moving to, claiming it's like "someone from Reading pretending to be Biggie or Q-Tip". Instead he found his own distinct, very British way of rap and combined this with the beats of UK Garage to form something completely original and revolutionary. While being born in London, Skinner was brought up in Birmingham, something that is evident when you listen to his music. Because Skinner doesn't really rap, he speaks in a way that can only be described in tone and topic as mundane but real. Listening to 'Original Pirate Material' isn't like listening to a large studio release, it's like listening to your mate at the pub telling anecdotes about his week. In fact the song 'Too Much Brandy" is just this. The whole song is just a retelling of a story a mate told him about when he got too drunk once and it's in this mundanity where the album truly shines brightest. Spin nails it in their review by stating "Skinner nails the quiet desperation of the white working class like a pub-hooligan Marshall Mathers, with all of Slim Shady's good humor and none of his insanity". The Streets is the perfect title for this project as this is the music of the common man, this is the sound of the streets.

This vibe is summed up perfectly in the title of the album and also in it's 2nd track "Has It Come To This". The repeat of "Original Pirate Material, you're listening to The Streets. Lock down your aerial" in the chorus is not only irritatingly catchy, it also describes the perfect way first to listen to this album. This is not the music in the mainstream that you're going to hear in the charts or on the TV. Like most of garage music, the only place to hear this is on underground Pirate Radio stations. Until it wasn't. Somehow, this slice of unbraggadocious, none glamourised urban realism became the mainstream. Skinner elevated himself from his rented flat in London to the face of UK rap scene in the early noughties. This album was subsequent nominated for Mercury Prize & BRIT awards, named as the 43rd best album of all-time by NME and the best album of the 2000's by The Observer.

While most of the topics discussed on this album are trivial there are some hints of a larger importance. The song "The Irony Of It All" is the stand-out for me. In this song, Skinner takes the role of two people arguing, one is 'Terry': a frequent drinker of alcohol, and the other is 'Tim': a smoker of Marijuana. The song contrasts the societal opinions on these two people with the effects that these two drugs actually cause. Here's some selected highlights of the lyrics

"I down eight pints and run all over the place
Spit in the face of an officer
See if that bothers ya, 'cause I never broke a law in my life
Someday, I'm gonna settle down with a wife"


"You know, I don't see why I should be the criminal
How can something with no recorded fatalities be illegal?
And how many deaths are there per year from alcohol?"


'A Grand Don't Come For Free' will always remain The Street's masterpiece but this is a great companion to that album.
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dandy*
post Apr 25 2020, 04:31 PM
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I was never able to get into that Outkast album. I do agree that the Big Boi side was the better and more cohesive effort though, I can sit through that where as I find a lot of the Andre 3000 disc really self indulgent.

Original Pirate Material was a good album though, I've never actually heard any of his others ohmy.gif Obvious choice of favourite for me but it has to be Weak Become Heroes
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LewisGT
post Apr 26 2020, 08:53 PM
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QUOTE(dandy* @ Apr 25 2020, 05:31 PM) *
I was never able to get into that Outkast album. I do agree that the Big Boi side was the better and more cohesive effort though, I can sit through that where as I find a lot of the Andre 3000 disc really self indulgent.

Original Pirate Material was a good album though, I've never actually heard any of his others ohmy.gif Obvious choice of favourite for me but it has to be Weak Become Heroes


It's a shame to hear you say that about the OutKast album. It's still an all-time classic for me but maybe opinion is changing on it. I saw Billboard released an article last week ranking every album to have achieved diamond status and they ranked it really low claiming that "no one listens to it anymore". That broke my heart a bit.

Original Pirate Material is indeed great wub.gif You must listen to 'A Grand Don't Come For Free if you enjoyed OPM. It's a very similar album in tone but he fits in really a compelling narrative that goes through every track. biggrin.gif
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LewisGT
post Apr 26 2020, 08:54 PM
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Kanye West - The College Dropout 5/5

2004, UK #12, Billboard #2






The first album by Kanye was a long time coming. The first recording on this album date back to 1999 and it was pushed back three times after its original August 2003 release date due to Kanye's perfectionist nature before originally releasing on 10th February 2004. Kanye had long established himself as a hot producer, mainly working with Jay-Z, but was struggling to get accepted as a rapper in his own right. At the time, gangsta rap was the most prevalent style in the rap genre and this album is anything but. Kanye found his own lane, especially with a track like 'Jesus Walks'. Now seen as a bona fide classic but at the time, his label was telling him that to release it would be career suicide. They told him no radio station would dare play it but he stuck to his guns and released it anyway. His ego has certainly inflated to a size no one on the planet could justify but it's moments like these why I can see why some people (mainly himself let's be honest) call Kanye a genius. The video for the song is brilliant representation of the songs message too. If you haven't seen it, a man spends his time building a cross but then it reveals he is a KKK member building it for a disturbing purpose. He sets the cross on fire but it is knocked over by wind and falling down a hill. As he chases it, he catches alight from the flames (literally burning for his sins) and realises the error of his ways. Out of nowhere, a rainstorm appears and he is saved, showing that everyone, no matter what they've done wrong, can be forgiven by God. I'm not at all religious, but this is separates itself from almost every other piece of Christian music (including Kanye's recent album) by having a clear purpose and a message that can be applied to both religious and non-religious people alike. This isn't preachy or holier-than-thou, this is affecting and real. Kanye sums up the genius of the song best himself when he raps

"So here go my single, dawg, radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won't get played, huh?
Well if this take away from my spins
Which'll probably take away from my ends
Then I hope this take away from my sins
And bring the day that I'm dreamin' about
Next time I'm in the club, everybody screamin' out"


While I had already heard near enough every song on this album before, listening to this last week was the first time I had ever sat down and listened to it start to finish. It's a pretty brilliant album and it's a shame that his level of quality control has seemed to have dipped a lot in the years since. Minus the skits which I could leave, every track here is unskippable. It's nice to hear a less confident, more humble Kanye here. He sounds genuinely grateful to be recording music on this album, especially on tracks like "Through The Wire" that references the near-fatal car crash he was involved in before recording the track and Last Call, the albums closing track. On this he takes the opportunity to appreciate what others have done for him while telling the story of making the record. One thing that I think people forget about this album is just how witty it is. So here's a short list of the three most humours bars across the album...

1. "Oh my god, is that a black card?" I turned around and replied, "Why yes, but I prefer the term African American Express" (Last Call)
2. "And they DCFS, some of em dyslexic / They favourite 50-Cent song '12 Questions" (We Don't Care)
3. "She got a light skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" "Got a dark skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" (Slow Jamz)

Aside from the well-known singles, my personals standout tracks are "Never Let Me Down" & "Get Em High". NLMD is a cool collaboration with Jay-Z and spoken-word poet J. Ivy. The song has a killer chorus and is one of the best-produced tracks on the album. A bit of a forgotten gem in his discograhpy. Get Em High features Talib Kweli & Common and is a track purely designed to showcase their talents on the mic. The flows here are all so smooth and the song is well worth a listen.

Overall, I still think Kanye is a better producer than rapper, I've always claimed that he's one of the best producers of all-time but on this album, he gets the rapping spot on too. None of the tracks on this album are my absolute favourites of his but I think the album works so well on a whole that I could be tempted into calling this his best album.
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LewisGT
post Apr 30 2020, 07:21 PM
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Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2 4/5

2014, UK N/A, Billboard #50






Run The Jewels is a super-group duo consisting of Killer Mike & El-P. As a fan of OutKast, Mike is somebody I was familiar with as he is all over their albums. In fact, he made his debut on 'Snappin' and Trappin' on OutKast's 2000 album Stankonia. El-P was a successful rapper and producer in the alternative hip hop genre and after being introduced to each other by Adult Swim executive Jason DeMarco in 2011, they decided to form a partnership that resulted in 2013's critically adored 'Run The Jewels' album. But it wasn't until their sequel the next year that people really started to take notice. Publications that ranked this as the best album of 2014 include Pitchfork, Complex, Rolling Stone & Spin. During the production of the album, they offered silly crowdfunding opportunities to mock the ridiculous 'goals' often found on Kickstarter. One of these was the offer to make a remixed version of this album where all the instruments are replaced with cat noises and after a group of fans decided to raise the $40,000 dollars necessary for this to happen 'Meow The Jewels' was released one year later. So if you were thinking of checking this album out but were put off by the normal instrumentals then I might just have the album for you.

What separates this from other bigger-name collaboration albums (like Jay & Kanye's Watch The Throne or Drake & Future's What A Time To Be Alive) is the clear and genuine chemistry between the pair. They complement each other perfectly, El-P's often fun and random lines get contrasted by the darker and serious tone of Mike. This album often feels like an attack on the ears. The bars are unrelenting and urgent and the beats are all over the place, sometimes synthy, sometimes grimy, but always heavy. I think Dan Rys sums it up well in his review when he says "an album that doesn’t ooze confidence so much as shoves you in the chest with it." If I were to pick a standout track, I would probably say 'Early'. A track that covers the topics of police brutality and corruption with an eerie chorus from a featured Boots. The song is incredibly interesting coming from Mike who's father was a policeman who actively discouraged his son from doing the same.

This is a really good album to listen to and with a pretty brisk runtime of 39 mins, there is no opportunity to get bored or tired with what's on display. However, for me, this album just doesn't have those stand-out, killer singles that their unimaginatively named 2016 follow-up 'Run The Jewels 3' does. There are no moments on this that can match the pure thrill of tracks such as Call Ticketron or their now definitive hit 'Legend Has It'. That's why I think this is the perfect background music album, when I'm really in the mood for some RTJ, I'll listen to 3 but when I just want some good background music to soundtrack my day I can't get any better than to throw this on. They've recently released a couple of new singles so I imagine RTJ4 is soon to come.
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LewisGT
post May 5 2020, 04:11 PM
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Childish Gambino - Because The Internet 3/5

2013, UK N/A, Billboard #7






Donald Glover was a successful name in comedy before he began his music career. His first notable gig was as a writer on Tina Fey's sictcom '30 Rock' which lead into him being cast in 2009 as Troy Barnes in one of the greatest sitcoms off all-time, Community. After releasing some mixtapes that went largely unnoticed, he adopted the stage name 'Childish Gambino' through use of an online 'Wu-Tang Clan name generator' and released his firs album, Camp in 2011. He recorded this album with the composer who worked on Community's score 'Ludwig Göransson' who has since continued to work with Glover alongside creating the soundtracks for films and shows such as Creed, Venom, The Mandalorian and Black Panther, which won him Oscars & Grammys.

But it is his second release, 2013's 'because the internet' that really helped him breakthrough as a musician and in turn is what I'm discussing here. The album is a concept-album, revolving largely about the internet, hence the title, told through the lens of a character called 'the boy': A rich and spoiled young adult who starts off as the stereotypical narcissistic, over-confident 'influencers' you would associate with social medias such as Tik Tok and throughout the album he admits and his loneliness and depression which leads to his downfall. Glover released a screenplay, made to read in sync with the album to give it more context. And while this is fascinating, I think it comes to the detriment of the album. Their are parts of this album (Playing Around Before the Party Starts, Flight of the Navigator etc) that I just find boring on their own. Like an ok song with a brilliant video, (ironically something else Gambino has been accused of with 'This Is America), the added media should be something that enhances the listening experience, not something that is necessary.

While the album doesn't always bat a thousand, there are some strokes of brilliance. Sweatpants & 3005 are two 10/10 tracks that I still spin regularly to this day. Sweatpants is one of the best-written brag tracks I've ever heard, every line could be an Instagram caption! Rapping from the perspective of 'The Boy' allows him to adopt a different, more obnoxious tone than he would when rapping as himself and is one in which he absolutely nails. 3005 is a completely different song. While it initially might sound like a love song ("I'll be right by your side, 'til 3005"), it is anything but. A very existential song about his complete fear of being on one's own. The song shows his need to be with someone to feel any sense of worth and the line "I used to care what people thought, but now I care more" is one that always hits me. Not because it's something I particularly relate too but the way he sells it feels really real. It's also a nice play on the famous Eminem bar "I used to give a f**k, but now I give a f**k less".

Overall, I feel I have to give this a 3/5 even though I really want to rank it higher. He's just got better with every release since for me. While his latest, '3.15.20' has got a pretty muted reaction in general, I find it a natural evolution from this where he has mastered the mix of genres and ambience music to create a masterpiece.
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Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 25th May 2020 - 07:12 AM