The term “classic” is possibly the most overused rating in hip-hop, yet its definition is still wide open for interpretation. I was chatting with M.B. and Rob the Music Ed earlier this week about Nas’s Stillmatic, and while the three of us noted that the album has its blunders (Rob calls “Braveheart Party” the worst rap song ever recorded, ha!) I still hold my ground regarding its classic status. Stillmatic, like Jay-Z’s Blueprint, was a time marker LP. It resurrected Nas’s career, brought creative concepts, made bold statements, and still bumps in my earbuds like it’s 2001.
Just because you might have to skip a song or two shouldn’t disqualify classic status. It’s more about the impact on the time period, contemporaries and hip-hop history. It’s about the overall quality of music, the novelty, how it ages and maintains relevance over time. That’s my “classic” criteria.
Stillmatic isn’t the only one that holds up to this perspective, either. It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, DMX’s first album, is an all-time favorite. Dope rhymes. Dope beats. Proven shelf life. Changed the tone of hip-hop at the time. Established Swizz Beatz as a go-to producer. The album is probably a two-or three-song trim away from perfection, yet it holds classic status in my book. Moving on. Kanye West’s College Dropout is diluted by funny-the-first-time skits, and an extended tracklist that drags toward the middle-end. But is it a classic? Undoubtedly. Get Rich Or Die Tryin’—perfect? Almost. Classic? Yeah!
What do y’all think? Any more imperfect classics? Does a classic album really have to be perfect, or are you just too lazy to tap the “next track” button on the ’Pod? -JFK