Posts Tagged ‘Conscious Hip Hop’


Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Black Up (2011)

Black Up (2011)

This is easily one of the weirdest albums I have hearkened upon. It is my first foray into experimental hip-hop (at least I have heard nothing quite like it), and if it’s any indicator, I will definitely be coming back to it.

Very eccentric beats, smooth delivery, wonky and dubby and glitchy. I actually got Black Up back in 2011 when it first came out, but it’s taken a few listens to digest. Okay, so it sat in my queue for well over a year, but better late than never, right?

The album is surprisingly short – I notice the ten tracks fly by whenever I listen to it, which might make its experimental nature easier to digest.

To me, what makes this album are the amazing beats. They jump around and force you to focus all your attention. There is also some soul infused into it. I like to think of this album as if post-rock and hip-hop married.

Needless to say, the album is a challenge in a good way. Fans of hip-hop looking for something more out there will not go wrong with his.  Maybe it’s a bit pretentious, but hey, it’s what you get your indie friends to listen to get them into hip-hop.

Highlights: An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum, Recollections of the Wraith, Swerve… The Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)


Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)

This is album of the year, hands down. Okay…I wrote this whole other post about this, but accidentally exed out of it, so here’s take two. Sorry for any craptacularness.

I’ve listened to this at least twelve times. It’s not often that I’ll call an album perfect. But this fits the bill in every way that matters to me. There’s not a single bad track. I can listen from start to finish without ever getting bored. There is always something new to discover. None of these songs are surface songs, and all of them say something.

“Sing About Me / I’m Dying of Thirst” will forever go down as one of rap’s greatest songs. 12 minutes of poetic masterpiece. Plus, features from Dre and Drake.

Highlights: everything.

I’ll say it again. Album of the year.

It blends the experimental and the hooks so well. Maybe the typical losing innocence in a harsh neighborhood isn’t new, but Lamar puts his own spin on it and makes it his own. His rapping about religion, family, and conscience add a lot of humanity far beyond the typical guns, violence, and sex gracing most ganster rap. It’s like two wars going on his mind and this album is his poetic gift to the world.

Lots of nods to past masters. At points, felt like I was in 1992, but then it would get all dubby. Very weird, yet awesome.

Don’t miss this. If you’re reading this, then you probably haven’t. But still.

Get it.


Nas – Illmatic

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Illmatic (1994)

I like hip hop, but when I listen to Nas, I love hip hop.  I get that surreal feeling the most when I listen to N.Y. State of Mind.” It leaves me speechless, stunned, and floored every time I listen to it. It’s the perfect rap song – word play, rhymes, beats, production, and most importantly, truth and poetry combine and hit you like an emotional sledgehammer.

I reviewed Jay-Z last week, and nothing of that can compare to this. There is no pop here – it’s all hip hop, the bare bones and roots. The rhythm of Nas’s lines catch you from the moment he says “Rappers I monkey flip em with the funky rhythm I be kickin, Musician, inflictin composition.” It’s not just rhymes, its flow, pentameter, internal rhymes – all that stuff you learned in English class.

Though the rapping itself is beautiful, the subject is bleak. Nas paints stark reality with words and does not apologize for it. He doesn’t just allude to life on the streets like so many rappers do -the entire song is a series of stories that puts you there in N.Y.’s gritty reality . Nas raps about losing innocence, violence, pain, and the sad reality of the human condition. I am convinced that people in the future, if they don’t already, are going to analyze the shit out of this song.

There are many amazing lines, but just to pick a few:

“I got so many rhymes I don’t think I’m too sane,

Life is parallel to Hell but I must maintain,

and be prosperous.”

“It drops deep as it does in my breath

I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death

Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined

I think of crime when I’m in a New York state of mind.”

“I’m taking rappers to a new plateau, through rap slow,

My rhymin’s like a vitamin, hell without a capsule.”

The other tracks are great, too, but nothing compares to “N.Y. State of Mind.” “Life’s a Bitch,” is good, and sums up existentialism in a few words: “Life’s a bitch and then you die, that’s why we get high, cause you never know when you’re gonna go.” Depressing as hell, but that’s what Illmatic is – one way of looking at reality. “The World is Yours” is also very good.

Sadly, it goes downhill from there, at least for me. Maybe I just need to listen to it more.

If you guys know of any other albums that will floor me like this one, please post them below. My favorite thing about rap is probably clever lyricism and delivery, which is probably why I like this one so much – so if you know anything like that, let me know about it in the comments section. I want to continue exploring this genre.