Hip Hop hasn't always just been about trappin out the bando, percocets, or being bad and fake "boujee". There are so many intellectually stimulating albums from legendary artists who have indebted an incredible mark on hip hop culture and the urban community over the past two decades. While it was so hard to narrow it down, here are our top 10 intellectual albums to influence hip hop culture! THEY definitely have done a lot #fortheculture!
10. A Seat At The Table x Solange
If you’re looking for an album that you want to relate to and be moved by on every level, “A Seat at the Table” is definitely the one! This album speaks so many volumes. It’s safe to say Solange wasn’t afraid to be raw and channel all her emotions on this project. As one of the few albums that recognize the issues in the black community, she’s proven to us that resistance doesn’t always have to be aggressive through her use of mellow harmonies and powerful visuals. #BlackTwitter even once said if the song “Cranes in the Sky” doesn’t move you, you haven’t been through enough. Having been inspired by a rough patch in her life, Solange was able to heal by focusing on literal construction as she would see cranes in the sky. On the other hand, her other tracks “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “F.U.B.U” promoted self-love and preservation in the black community. The visuals for "Don’t Touch My Hair” alone celebrates the community by showcasing the many different hairstyles that black culture has to offer and the dazzling dance moves.
9. The Cool x Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco, the innovator of tranquil knowledge assessing. The Cool album is his perfect example of this. Lupe does a perfect job of subtlety putting enlightenment ideas into one's mind, that will eventually spark a change in your attitude towards life. Before Kendrick Lamar’s, Kung Fu Kenny representation of the asiatic black men, we had Lupe Fiasco sparking these ideas into the masses with his single “Paris,Tokyo” off this album. Other singles like “Superstar” is used to promote pride in our community ; taking a page out Nas’s book for this method. The 20 song project ends perfectly with “Blackout”. Not that many people still listen to Lupe Fiasco (unfortunately), but this album right here is definite must listen.
8. DAMN. x Kendrick Lamar
1-2-3-4-5, Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper alive! That's a bold statement from Kung Fu Kenny but I wouldn't disagree. Although Jay Z, Andre 3000 and Eminem are still alive, Kendrick has definitely sealed that top spot recently. With 2 albums on this list, that should say it all. DAMN. makes an appearance on this for its invigorating tone and Lamar’s ability to not only be honest but to seemingly speak to the subconscious of the urban community. “I got royalty, got loyalty inside my DNA” and the persona Kung Fu Kenny (reminiscent original asiatic black men) is a beautiful example of this method. He keeps the title of each song simple and to the point, so the listener will be able to comprehend the subject matter with no confusion. DAMN. is at #8 on this list because of time; give the album more time to resonate with the urban community and we will all surely feel its effects.
7. Amerikkkan Corruption x Capital Steez
Rest in Paradise to Capital Steez. Truly gone too soon. Steez anti-government, philosophical persona was the match that set the fire for the young legend, Joey Badass, to prosper in the industry. Steez philosophies is entrenched in Badass’s career. The album that got these philosophies known to world was, Amerikkkan Corruption. Just like the previous album on this list, Steez takes us through the corruption in our government, but also shows us what this corruption can do to one's mental health. Unfortunately, his death will be marked as an example of the effects of a corrupted mental health state. Only reason this is below Control System, is due to the fact that his ideas/philosophies are conveyed in a more abstract, raw, & gritty manner.
6. Control System x Ab-Soul
Ab-Soul is the most underrated rapper of all-time. Every project released has some type of intellectual concept. This one makes the list because of the systematic way he is able to expose the systematic oppression the government oversees. Ab-Soul delivers a plethora of common sense in solving much of the problems here in America (ex. “If all the gangs in world unified, we’d stand a chance against the military tonight”) which is a blessing for a world filled with a lack of common sense. Control System not only wakes the mind up on government matters, it also as a few enlightenment gems that will do the same, such as the single “Pineal Gland” & “Illuminate”. Open your eyes & listen to Control System.
5. Baduizm x Erykah Badu
Who doesn't love some Erykah Badu? Miss Badu created her own lane in hip hop and R&B with her classic "Baduizm" album. Exploring and blending the intricacies of sensuality and spirituality, Baduizm blessed us with unforgettable vibes like "On & On" and "Otherside of the Game." Neo-soul was born from this amazing project, paving the way for artists like India.Arie and Floetry. For those who appreciate a smooth mellowed R&B tip with saucy lyrics that make you think, Baduizm is definitely worth a listen or five.
4. To Pimp A Butterfly x Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp A Butterfly. That title and the album cover itself is enough to get this project on the list. Part of what makes the project a classic is the musical influences on the album (The Isley Brothers & James Brown) as well as the powerful yet subtle messages to the urban community. The immaculate concept of a caterpillar representing us prior to gaining knowledge and the butterfly representing us after; the pimping coming from the government because of the our vast amount of knowledge. The album promotes freedom from mental slavery. You can go deeper into the meaning behind this butterfly analogy which will lead us to topics about felons, mind control and slavery but I’ll save that for another conversation.
3. It Was Written x Nas
Nas. One of the greatest philosophical artists to roam this Earth. “It Was Written” just so happens to be the cornerstone of this aesthetic. With references to the Bible and Quran, this album introduces us to the spiritually inclined Nas. The album takes you down a path of self-reflection and community reflection; where Nas makes you think into deeper levels of why the urban community and our people are in the condition it's in. Singles such as “If I Ruled The World” was a strategic song meant to restore pride & spark interest in intelligence in the urban community. Nas, the greatest philosopher of our generation; It Was Written, a classic art piece for the ages.
2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill x Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the most legendary hip hop albums of all time. Notice how I didn’t say legendary female hip hop albums. This album transcended gender barriers and resonated with the urban community as a whole. With iconic songs like “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “Lost Ones” and “Ex-Factor”, Ms. Hill blessed us with timeless life lessons on self-worth, confidence, spirituality and love. This album compelled us to self reflect on our means of reaching success with the classic question: "how you gon' win when you ain't right within?" That question alone digs deep at the plight of the urban community's endless search for success all while staying true to its roots. Ms. Hill definitely change the game with this one and we are forever grateful.
1. Aquemini x Outkast
Outkast’s Big Boi (an Aquarius) & partner, Andre 3000 (a Gemini) combined the name of their respective zodiac signs to create the name of their 3rd album , “Aquemini”. Way ahead of its time, Aquemini tops our list due to the various topics covered on the project. being released in 1998. From virtual reality, to liberation, black economics, and the illuminati, Aquemini is an album that every urban intellectual should listen to at least twice. The duo was able to effortlessly weave intellect and rhythm into a soundtrack without corniness, mostly through storytelling & creative skits. The instrumentation in every track has a spiritual aura around it-- making the listener feel in-tune with the knowledge being given. Aquemini will plant the seeds of awakening. If you’re woke already, it’ll definitely keep you awake!