My 5 Favorite Concept Albums

Making an album in general is a lost art. The landscape of music in 2010 is to be on shuffle and albums are made to be dismantled. Songs can be deleted before they are understood or accepted within the context of the entire body of work. Not to mention selling an album is way harder than selling a song.

With this fact in mind, looking at concept albums is almost like looking at dinosaur bones, but in honor of High Fidelity, (and my own concept album, Tanya Morgan Presents: Don Cusack in High Fidelity, inspired by it) I think examining my Top 5 concept albums was in order. This can be a very polarizing subject and while I do welcome debate this is my list—meaning it’s by no means a definitive guide to the best concept albums, simply the ones I like. However I’d LOVE to hear what you agree/disagree with.

Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear.
While What’s Going On is the more logical choice with some respects, I have to vote for the underdog of Marvin’s catalog. Basically, in divorcing Anna Gordy (Berry’s daughter) Marvin wound up heading his lawyer advice of giving her half the royalties from his next album in lieu of paying alimony since he was running low on cash. The court ordered-angst of a jilted lover spawned the best diss record to ever be recorded. The album was panned while he was living and was pretty much chalked up as a failure but later down the line it got recognized for the masterpiece that it is.

De La Soul, De La Soul is Dead
This slot could have very well been any one of De La Soul’s albums but it’s generally the one rap album (aside from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx) that always finds its way into a discussion of concept albums, even when genre boundaries are removed. And rightfully so, the flipbook theme was not only executed flawlessly via the skits but the album actually came WITH the flipbook!

The Flaming Lips, Zaireeka
Okay, I’m pretty certain that some of you don’t know who the Flaming Lips are and that’s okay, you aren’t expected to but tell me this shit isn’t mind boggling. Their Zaireeka album is comprised of four separate discs meant to be played on separate sound systems simultaneously. The sum of which, based on the infinite inconsistencies involved, will never produce the same total listening experience upon playback. That’s beyond innovation it’s fucking crazy. It sounds like an artist hell-bent on pushing their personal envelope far beyond its limits. If that sounds crazy what’s even crazier is that the band never officially released a “mixed down” version and word is discs 5-10 are floating around out there. How can this *NOT* be on my list?!?!

The Beatles, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
This is honestly the album that turned me on to the Beatles in the first place. On this album the Beatles play as the fictional band that the album is titled after. Around the time of the album’s recording the Beatles were burnt out from touring and wanted to create an album that could in effect tour for them. The album’s concept wasn’t fully realized and was for the most part abandoned but the project still lives on as a concept album. At times it’s hard to hear a formal concept at all but it can be said that exploring new territories musically counts, too. Dare I say that with no Sgt. Peppers there would be no 3 Ft. High and Rising?!?! Yes, yes I do dare.

Tanya Morgan, Moonlighting
Yup… I abso-fuckin’-lutely did and it ain’t even favoritism, it’s honesty. Moonlighting is an album about a cassette tape being passed around that never finds its intended listener because the song they missed was the one they would have liked. It’s a humorous social commentary on the changing format of sellable music and how the new breed of listener consumes. And while it’s extremely hard to find, the actual cassette tape being played on the album exists in real life, tell me that ain’t G.

Donwill
MC Day Job

  • Dante

    Yoshimi >>> Zaireeka

    • yoprince

      Yoshimi and Soft Bulletin > Zaireeka… but still got to appreciate the ambition

  • shamboogie

    cool choices. one of mines is prince paul prince among thieves. and since we’re talking about concept albums ,here’s a concept mixtape i did called under the purple rain. which is based off of prince’s purple rain flick.

    under the purple rain
    http://usershare.net/08j92dd1qoxk

    • http://www.mcdayjob.com donwill

      man i really need to relisten to that album
      i remember it but i dont REMEMBER it

  • clos1881

    Andre 3000 The Love Below

  • ChiTowns Finest

    SPORTY THIEVZ: Street Cinema. RIP Marlon Brando. one of the most slept on albums ever way ahead of its time. all you youngstas go do your research on this one.

    • GregSIDE

      Yeah, Sporty Thievz were hot. It’s to bad they didn’t really get any mainstream untill “No Pigeons” came out and by then Brando had passed. Damn. That shit brings me back.

    • Lowedwn

      ^^^co-sign, “Spy Hunter” is still my shit

  • http://ericbiddines.com Eric Biddines

    You should have put Will i am’s Songs about girlas album, it was super slept on! basically it’s bout his love life in order from front to end, and it was put together so well that you could listen to the tracks individually and it dont even sound like its meant to be part of a concept,

    • http://www.mcdayjob.com donwill

      will i am ‘i can’t wait’ > estelle ‘american boy’

  • 619

    Here my Dear was the perfect concept album. Marvin gave her that to cover the divorce costs hahahaha! He was burnt for that. He especially went in on ‘Anna’s Song’.

  • http://www.dizastah.com D-I-Z

    Good list. Great topic. This list substantiates itself with the inclusion of Sgt. Pepper’s alone. The only point (artist) I would include…and this is strictly my opinion…is Masta Ace. Some element of his catalog has to at least recieve some sort of honorable mention. I could discriminate between them, but I’ma leave it to the c-boys to do their research and draw their own conclusions. Tanya Morgan is dope and so is Donwill. Keep doin’ your thing homie!

    Gone

  • Bobo D

    I’m going to go left and not choose a hip-hip album (though it’s has elements of hip-hop – beatboxing)

    Bjork – Medulla
    A great concept album consiting of nothing but vocals (a piano and a synth where used only once). Rahzel did some of the beat boxing on the album. It’s defintely one of those albums you have to listen on good quality earphones just to hear the little stuff.

  • oskamadison

    To D-I-Z
    You’re on-point about Masta Ace, especially with “Slaughterhouse” (the album, kids, not the group). As far as the list, I can respect it, even though the only joints I heard was Sgt. Peppers and De La Soul is Dead. Me being the Marvin Gaye stan that I am (I believe he is the greatest male R&B singer that ever walked planet Earth), I’m embarrassed to admit that I never heard “Here, My Dear” so I would substitute the obvious “What’s Going On” (the greatest album ever made, regardless of genre, imo). Also, Nas’ “Untitled”, Gravediggaz’ “Six Feet Deep” (criminally slept-on), Hov’s “American Gangster” (haters, please spare me the arguments), Ice Cube’s “Death Certifcate” (truth be told, “Amerikkka’s most Wanted” could get it too) and I don’t know if this counts but Bubba Sparxxx’ “Deliverance” is one of the many definitions of a tight, cohesive album.

  • SW PHILLY

    MF DOOM : Madvillany and Dangerdoom
    AZ: The Memphis Sessions, the concept of using all Al Green samples was a good look.

    • http://www.mcdayjob.com donwill

      the memphis sessions? when did this happen? ive never even heard of this… sounds interesting. who handled production?

  • matty21

    gotta put t.i. vs t.i.p. up there, i know this is YOUR favs tho… the approach he took n the way he did it was very unique, new, n innovative…when he did those interviews with t.i. n tip sitting there was great lol great entertainment n great idea…he applied the marketing in everything he did in real life leading up to the album release, the concerts he did, the speaches he did, he applied the promotion to real life…it was great, then the album delivered…he actually seperated the two successfully, then brought them together in the end, n showed the two represent him as a man overall, that was my opinion on it…the 2 came together n showed he was a forced to be reckoned with, n no one can stop him…he succesfully broke down n showed who he was, for da most part, dats what an artist is tryin to do… da album overall ends with “my type” this album is me…great concept

    • matty21

      the way he can rhyme about real life, n just talk about real life n events n make them rhyme is amazing…. its like life in rhyme, not many punch lines or metaphors…those 3 interludes on the “t.i. vs tip” were crazy too in that regard, he talked n lived events thru song… life in rhyme

      • http://www.mcdayjob.com donwill

        you know what, i forgot ALL about that joint but you have a great point.

        again i don’t think i would list it but yeah this joint DEF deserves a mention.

  • El Tico Loco

    What about “The Minstrel Show” and “3ft high and risin” just for how the skits flow with the album on both of them.

  • Slangdini

    MM food would be a decent addition but cool list. oh also david bowie ziggy stardust

    • http://www.mcdayjob.com donwill

      man ziggy stardust and diamond dogs both would
      but im too new to the material to really even list it from an informed perspective

      i been playin them both tho

  • http://www.dizastah.com D-I-Z

    You really could go in a lot of different directions with this topic, tho.

    oskamadison: Co-sign on Gravediggaz. Pick that “Here, My Dear” up…it’s a slow burn, but it’s the epitome of raw emotion captured through music.

    sw philly: Co-sign on that Villany, dawg….classic

    El tico loco: Co-sign on the Minstrel Show ..I still don’t understand why people slept so hard on that album. If they wanted to hear The Listening again, they should’ve just listened to The Listening.

  • http://juantimetwotime.wordpress.com juanny love

    Everytime i hear 88 Keys’ Death of Adam…
    I can’t think of anything but the words “concept album”.. but this list is good and it’s been a minute since Sgt. Peppers and De La is Dead.

    Dammit Donald good post.

  • Son of Man

    Jay-Z American Gangster. That album is a classic.

    • GregSIDE

      co-sign

  • Raymond Willis

    I’m With You On MArvin Thats my top 5 album of all time.

    I Gotta put American Gangster up there too, he captured every aspect of that lifestyle on a compact disc.

    i know it recently came out but Relapse was a serious conceptual album, from lyrics to the whole set up, every mix was sick.

    You Know College Dropout gotta be in there

  • Mr. Wattz

    Man, I’ma say either one of Mr. West’s first two albums, but most DEF the “Late Registration” from ’05. The skits are still part of my daily “inside joke” routines 5 yrs later. . ! “Kanye, don’t you ever come back here, taking showers, smelling good n’ shit! Wattz Next?” LMAO

    Say t Like Me, It Sounds Cooler!

  • Tupik

    Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
    nuff said

    • http://www.ANORMOUS.com ANORMOUS.com

      Dr. Octagon hands down.. Automator tried to do it again with Del but he can’t match Kool Keith for a concept like this..
      Dr. Octagon is a time-traveling gynecologist from mars in the year 3000 (yeah where andre got his name amongst other things)
      i know some hip-hop heads can’t wrap their ears around this due to content but the rhyme patterns and production are still next level!!

      don’t forget dr.dooom album where keith buries octagon lol, or sex style, or black elvis

      yeah keith is the king of concept albums no question and the father of multiple aka’s and rhyme patterns from ’88 that still influence todays artists indirectly

      Keith is the most influential and slept-on of the golden-era emcees and still active!!
      (rakim may be more influential but gets the credit)

      even artists like dipset steal mad shit from him.. (they be fans on the low)

      so yeah.. Dr. Octagon!!!!

      • oskamadison

        “Critical Beatdown” forever!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • anutha_level

    Stevie Wonder’s

    “Original Musiquarium” & “Anthology”

    along with ANY of Marvin’s joints…true classics.

    • sb

      those are compilations, not cocept albums

  • Lowedwn

    Lupe Fiasco’s – The Cool
    88Keys – The Death of Adam
    All of Kanye’s joints
    Masta Ace – Sittin On Chrome

  • JamesG

    prince paul a prince among theives best concept album

    • D-I-Z

      I knew something was missing. Co-sign. BEST EVER….and Hon Mention to Sticky Fingaz- Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones

  • Slim da Reazon

    Yo, much respect to Tonya Morgan. Cincinnati stand up!

  • SOUTHSIDE A-TOWN

    co-sign Son of Man. i gotta go w/ American Gangster. i couldn’t even think of a more recent concept album (it could be the weed/memory loss? or just there haven’t been many concept albums lately? iono, i haven’t been around very long). i wanted to say T.I. vs. TIP but, i busted out laughing soon after. *shrugs shoulders*

  • http://www.bboycult.com Don ‘$yk’ McCaine

    Donwill dropped that Marvin heat rock. Very impressive young man.

    O’Jays-Ship Ahoy (do I need to explain this? Also their 1st platinum plaque came off of this))

    Stevie Wonder-Songs In The Key Of Life

    Redman-Dare Iz A Darkside (he flipped out)

    The Miracles-Renaissance (the minus Smokey era)

    ^ Get your samples on youngblood….

  • Curtis75Black

    Damn, all these and no one mentions Sticky Fingaz “Black Trash” The Autobiography of Kirk Jones”. Everyone is on that mainstream shit mentioning Jay-Z’s American Gangster….sad, so sad !! Very glad someone mentioned Prince Paul’s “Prince among Thieves”. Straight up, anything in De La Soul’s catalog.

  • oskamadison

    While we’re on Marvin’s albums, no one’s mentioned “I Want You”. Man listen… if you and the wife (not wifey) are tryin’ to get right (horizontally), a little white wine, a nice joint (optional) and this album will fuck around and have y’all with quadruplets. Beginning to end banger. And on some 6 degrees of separation: Jay Z’s “American Dreaming” from AG came from this album. Check out $yk diggin’ in the crates. I’ll have to pick up “Ship Ahoy” next time I’m at the flea market.

    • http://www.bboycult.com Don ‘Syk’ McCaine

      Sh*t when I see you on here I know I gotta step the game up!

      ‘I Want You’ is official tissue.

      ‘For The Love Of Money’ is on that O’Jays album so you know they are building. We should all know what ‘Ship Ahoy’ is about.

      YouTube it, the whole project is posted.

      • oskamadison

        $yk, You know I gotta throw my two rusty Lincolns in when real music heads are on the scene. I never heard Ship Ahoy in its entirety but I know the O’Jays catalog. Hell, Philly International was the soundtrack to my childhood. On some other shit, even though these cats I’m about to mention didn’t have a quote-unquote “concept album”, in a way, ALL their joints were concept albums because they all had the same recurring themes: love, spirituality and positivity. Of course, the great Eatrh, Wind and Fire (…”they play so beautiful, don’t you agree?”)

        • http://www.bboycult.com Don ‘$yk’ McCaine

          Man I was saving that jewel for the later cats!

          I just came back from the supermarket playing “Runnin’”…

          We can say the same for Barry White (love)…

        • oskamadison

          That whole “All ‘N’ All” album was my shit, down to the interludes. Don’t sleep on “Spirit” either. BTW, pardon the typo.

        • http://www.bboycult.com Don ‘$yk’ McCaine

          Oh never that!

          ‘All N All’

          ‘That’s The Way Of The World’

          ‘Spirit’

          ‘Gratitude’ The live jumpoff.

  • http://www.mcdayjob.com donwill

    black trash and prince among thieves are definitely classic hip hop concept lps

    cube’s first two are heavy contenders
    kanye’s first two (the first more than second) also
    american gangster & deltron
    and masta ace

    these are joints i was weighing including but aside from Death Certificate i just dont really have that personal of a connection to them to list them

    YO did yall know that ‘only built for cuban links’ is a concept lp? it is… CRAAAZY

    • El Tico Loco

      I was thinking OB4CL too but that whole wu catalog before 97 was conceptual and the group and solo album concepts seemed interchangeable between one another.

      • Lowedwn

        I was thinking the same thing.

  • oskamadison

    Here’s 2 more: PE “Fear of a Black Planet” and BDP’s “Edutainment”.

  • oskamadison

    Damn near everything Prince Paul related was a concept album. Here’s another: “Handsome Boy Modeling School”. Now, I ask y’all, who the hell makes an ENTIRE album based on an episode of one of the most obscure sitcoms ever (Get A Life) and make it bangin?!!! Cuban Linx most certainly is a concept lp, for that matter so is “Supreme Clientele”, aka “The Dust Album”, lol.

  • http://Aquilogy.blogspot.com AQUILOGY

    Mr Lif- I Phantom

  • BIGNAT

    88keys- the death of adam

  • Chris S

    Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool

  • http://www.emcdl.com EmCDL

    Damn I’m late as hell, ya”ll pretty much mentioned all the albums I was going to mention. But my favorite ones (anyway) so far are Little Brother’s The Minstrel Show and 88-Keys’ Death of Adam. Lyfe’s first album was dope too; its one of them albums that you just can’t skip tracks over, you got to listen to the whole thing.

  • latino heat

    i know a lot of people have mentioned Masta Ace and Prince Paul already but no one has mentioned some of their later joints that most people slept on. Ace’s, A Long Hot Summer and Paul’s Politics Of The Business. both of these came out well after they were “past their prime” but both are bangin. if you guys haven’t checked them out yet you really should.

    i see T.i. Vs. T.i.p. has gotten a few mentions on this list. i remember when it first dropped everyone hated it. is it gonna end up being one of those albums that people appreciate more with time?

    • oskamadison

      Like Nas’ It Was Written and Tribe’ Beats, Rhymes and Life.

  • George Clooney

    -Death Certificate

    -Paul’s Boutique (The mini opera at the end tells a story, and the album as a whole is a tribute to Abbey Road and Sgt. Peppers)

    -Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars (David Bowie)

  • George Clooney

    And yeah, Slaughtahouse was a crazy album.

  • matty21

    pink floyd’s “the wall” is another one too, i didnt see it get any mentions yet i dont think, i havnt seen the movie but herd it goes right along with the whole album…lots of great posts on here tho, lots of music i havnt even checked out n probably am gonna now, thanx… @latino heat: i think so with the “t.i. vs. tip” album…with me, a couple of his albums have grown on me over time actually, it took time for me to really like them, now its a lil’ different tho…more n more songs have grown on me from da past…i think some music is like that, i wouldnt/couldnt say “just the great is” but a lot of music is a lot different on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th listen n sht… with me, some shit comes out, 1st listen n i love it right away, then it kinda falls to the back… then sumtimes the opposite n it ends up a long time favorite… i think it does have a lot to do with whats hot n whats great…xxl had a blog about that a couple days ago, shouts xxl lol, n good posts n blog here

  • Otto the Rugged Man

    My favorite Hip-Hop concept albums are (in no order):
    * Dr. Octagonecologyst – Dr. Octagon
    * A Piece of Strange – CunninLynguists
    * A Prince Among Thieves – Prince Paul
    * Disposable Arts – Masta Ace
    * Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030

  • eesco

    I love 88 keys album “the death of adam”

  • http://www.facebook.com/maxprofit Max Profit

    Shout out to the Sporty Thieves!

    Organized Confusion “Equinox”!!

    • oskamadison

      Yo, you caught that!! I forgot all about The Equinox. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard that joint in its entirety.

  • wrong

    sgt peppers isnt a concept album

  • SW PHILLY

    TO ^^donwill^^- AZ The Memphis Sessions came out in ’07. That shit sounds better than some cats official joint. Got mine from Amazon…

  • kasiology

    my fav concept album off-top would be Sticky Fingaz’s Black Trash…. dammn dope