As I mentioned in a post here recently, it’s generally accepted in hip-hop, even by the likes of the late, great Noz (rest in power), that hip-hop has been in a downward spiral.
And yet, to read Entertainment Weekly’s recent list of the best hip-hop albums evar, you’d hardly know this is the case. All of the top five albums on the list have been released in the past five years, and four of them have been released this decade. (Note the slight difference.)
Could it be that the Entertainment Weekly list is bullshit?
Before we begin, I should note, for the sake of clarification, that Entertainment Weekly hasn’t actually released a list of the best hip-hop albums evar. Er, at least not this week, they haven’t. What they did is, for their special 1,000th issue, they put together a list of the 100 best albums from 1983 to 2008. I then took said list and removed all but the rap albums.
You can check the resulting list over on my own site.
And now for the fun part: picking apart said list and showing the various ways that it’s bullshit.
First of all, you’ll notice that the list is topped by Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was the number two album on the list overall, second to only Prince’s Purple Rain. As I know I’ve mentioned at some point another either on this site or my own site (I know because people started crying as if they were Young Buck), I’ve never actually heard The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in its entirety, but I figure I’ve heard enough of it to know that it’s not the best rap album evar.
Also, Miseducation doesn’t appear anywhere at all on the hip-hop bloggers list of the 25 best rap albums evar, which I consider about as accurate a hip-hop albums list as there ever was, except for, perhaps, my own. It could be, as someone pointed out on my own site just now, that Miseducation isn’t considered a rap album per se. I only included it in the first place because I saw it mentioned in XXL’s news item on the Entertainment Weekly list.
If I had it to do over, I probably wouldn’t have included it. A list of the best rap albums evar topped by an album by a woman (even though it’s since been revealed that it was written by a bunch of guys) is just… bothersome to me. Not because I hate women. It’s just that times are hard enough for a black man these days. Rap music was the one thing we had to be proud of, and now it’s under attack from all angles by the likes of Soulja Boy, and which ever angry feminist skank put together this list.
But I digress.
Elsewhere, the list isn’t that bad. There’s some overlap with my own list of the best rap albums evar, and, by extension, the hip-hop bloggers list. For example, there’s Enter the 36 Chambers; and Ready to Die; and Three Feet High and Rising; and Illmatic, i.e. hip-hop bloggers’ favorite album evar. None of them are as high as they should have been, but at least Entertainment Weekly had sense enough to include them on the list.
There’s even some places where Entertainment Weekly kinda surprised me. For example, I don’t know if I would have included it in my top five, but if I had to include an Outkast album on my list, which I’m not saying I definitely wouldn’t (even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t), I definitely would have gone with Stankonia, as Entertainment Weekly did. However, I’m sure many in the hip-hop community would beg to differ. If I remember correctly, Aquemini ranked the highest on the hip-hop bloggers list.
On the other hand, there’s a whole lot of wrong to go along with that right. Probably the most glaring example of the wrong album by an artist on the list is People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest. Which is kind of a cool album in its own right (far be it for me to front on any of the first three Tribe albums), but how in the fuck are they gonna chose it over either The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, both of which, as I recall, placed way high on the hip-hop bloggers list?
Other cases where I think they picked the wrong album include Kanye West’s The College Dropout, Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, and The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique. Kanye West probably shouldn’t have been on the list at all, as far as I’m concerned, but if they had to go with a Kanye West album (and I guess they kinda did, huh?), I would’ve gone with Late Registration. As is the case with Stankonia, I’m sure many heads well object, but… well, whatever. I would’ve gone with Reasonable Doubt over The Blueprint, but I guess I can see how the latter has just been so much more influential. Similarly, I’m assuming that’s why Paul’s Boutique is here instead of License to Ill. After all, could there have been a Girl Talk without Paul’s Boutique? (Um, wait!)
Finally, there’s a whole shiteload of people who just plain didn’t make the list at all. Part of it’s that the list only consists of 18 albums. But certainly motherfucking T.I. could have been excised from the list to make room for somebody. The most notable artists I can think of that don’t appear at all on the list are NWA; solo Ice Cube; BDP; Fiddy Cent; and any of the Wu-Tang solos. Honestly, both of the NWA albums are spotty pieces of work (yep), but Straight out of Compton was remarkably influential. I guess they figured the one Dr. Dre album would serve in place of any other NWA-related albums. And similarly, they weren’t gonna put Enter the Wu-Tang and then have any of the Wu-Tang solos. But what about Fiddy? Or is he covered by the Dr. Dre entry? I figured with his popularity, he’d have his own spot on the list. This is, after all, Entertainment Weekly.