Hip-hop for Newbies: Introduce me to the genre.

Living close to a college radio station gives one a chance to broaden one’s musical horizons. Listening to KNMC (K Northern Montana College), I’ve heard enough hip-hop to make me want more. Being a rock fan, I have little idea how to best introduce myself to this radically different style of music.

So, Dopers, help me here. Who should I listen to? What albums should every hip-hopper have? I’m not interested in music as fashion, but I enjoy music as culture and history, and, of course, music as entertainment.

So what should I buy?

I’m no hip-hop afficianado, but I do like some artists.

My favorite hip-hop albums are:

Blackalicious–Blazing Arrow

Beastie Boys–Hello Nasty, Check Your Head, and Ill Communication

Coming from a rock’n’roll background, I’d definitely suggest starting with The Roots. Their recent Phrenology was their best, but albums like Do You Want More?!?!?!?! and Things Fall Apart are much good.

Then, of course, you’ll be ready for something using actual samples and stuff, and you could do a lot worse than OutKast. Stankonia is one of the greatest albums ever made in any genre.

Hardcore-wise, you’ll want to know a lot about 'Pac, so All Eyez on Me is a good one to check out, along with something by Biggie (so you get both coasts in on the action), probably Ready to Die. Nas’s Illmatic is still, to me, the best gangsta-yet-intelligent album out there.

Those might get you started…

I’d recommend starting with Jurassic 5. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard people say “oh, I don’t listen to much hip-hop… well, other than Jurassic 5, and [insert one or two other acts here]”. It’s basically just really well-crafted, infectious and smart hip-hop.

After that, I’d check out Aceyalone, Deltron 3030, Cannibal Ox, and Aesop Rock. I’ll second Blackalicious and The Roots as well. You’re also going to have to listen to Public Enemy, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest as well, in order to fill up your oldschool quota.

If you want to get into the more abstract/nerdy/experimental side of hip-hop, check out Themselves and El-P (or, well, anything on the Dej Jux and Anticon labels.) It’s not something for everyone, probably not people new to hip-hop, but if you’re one of those people who go “oh, all hip-hop sounds the same to me, it’s just a rapper over a repetitive beat”, then this’ll shut you up. :smiley:

Some of Dryga_Yes’s suggestions are on point, but for someone starting out a hiphop collection I would make different recommendations. Without going too pre-1990s, I’d say:
[ul][li]Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle (this was the pre-eminent album of the early 90s, and a must have classic now)[/li][li]Tupac, Greatest Hits (2Pac is considered one of the best rappers ever, and this is a Best Of album that will let you see his style develop)[/li][li]Notorious BIG, Life After Death (Biggie is a must have)[/li][li]Outkast, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (for an older album) or Stankonia for something more recent[/li][li]A Tribe Called Quest, Anthology (this is the Best Of of one of the best hiphop groups ever)[/li]Black Star, Black Star (this was a collaboration of Talib Kweli and Mos Def, two of the most talented guys out there)[/ul]Some of the other suggestions people have made are pretty specialized, and not as well known. This doesn’t mean they’re not worth hearing, but what you’re looking for is a generalized intro to hiphop. Biggie, Pac, Snoop, Tribe, these are the basics that any hiphop fan knows. Some of the ones I listed are Best Of albums, which will let you hear their styles develop over the years – all the better for someone new to hiphop.

Since the 90s have been fairly well covered, I’ll just remind you that De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill and Run-DMC’s Raising Hell are three of the best rap albums ever made, and if you’re interested in music as culture and history, these three are a must. Raising Hell could be seen as the first fully formed rap album; Licensed to Ill was the first time white rappers did hip-hop as well as black rappers, and introduced fully hip-hop to the world; and 3 Feet High and Rising made amazing breakthroughs in sampling as an artform.

I’d second most of what was mentioned with the exception of Tupac and Biggie - call it blasphemous but I never understood the appeal of either. To me their images are more than their music ever was.

Hearing PE, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest called “old school” makes me feel really old. The defiition of “old school” is always shifting, as I remember these as being brand new and really different.

Anyway, albums you can’t go wrong with:

Beastie Boys - Paul’s Botique
A Tribe Called Quest - Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders
Public Enemy - Fear of Black Planet and It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
De La Soul - De La Soul is Dead, Three Feet High and Rising
Nas - Illmatic
NWA - Straight Outta Compton (some filler, but overall pretty good)
Eric B and Rakim - Paid in Full, Follow the Leader
Gang Starr - Daily Operation, Hard To Earn
Run DMC - Raising Hell
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
Ice-T - Power
Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded, By All Means Necessary

There are also hudreds of classic hip-hop tracks that are either singles or from weak albums that are required listening - if it’s been sampled or reappropriated a couple of times, there’s usually a reason for it. Start tracking down samples and re-used lyrics and you’ll discover all sorts of great songs that are the basis for all the new stuff.

If those guys are now “old school,” then what do the young whippersnappers these days call the Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash? Ancient school? Geesh.

It might be worth noting that back in the day, hip-hop and rap were distinct genres.

To some, hip hop and rap are still considered separate genres, and it could be argued that rappers like Tupac don’t fit the former category.

For one thing, hip-hop is supposed to be somewhat positive and upbeat. One of the interesting things about rap is that it explores some very dark themes.