Music’s gotta come from somewhere, and hip hop didn’t come out of nowhere.
This is what dudes in the golden age grew up listening to. I’m serious, Biggie’s Ready to Die starts with the sounds of his birth layered over Superfly (before going onto some other artists, including LL Cool J and Snoop.) These are your favorite rapper’s favorite albums.
Superfly – Curtis Mayfield
The soundtrack for the film of the same name, Superfly is absolutely incredible. It’s only 9 songs long, but there isn’t a second wasted. From the fun tracks to the dark ones to the celebratory ones, it’s a hell of an album. Curtis Mayfield’s swag paved the way for many many rappers.
The album’s pacing also laid the foundation for many rap albums, how it doesn’t linearly progress from slow/sad to fast/happy, but keeping you on your toes from song to song.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
To get his concept album about a returning Vietnam vet released, Marvin Gaye had to fight Berry Gordy (the head of motown), who thought it was trash and not nearly commercial enough for the radio. Gaye refused to record any more music for Motown until this was released.
Written and produced by the man himself, What’s Going On (the lead track) was eventually released behind Gordy’s back and became an absolute hit, leading to the release of the whole album. Like all Motown stuff, The Funk Brothers played on the album, but this was the first time they were actually credited on release. I gotta think Marvin had something to do with that.
Anyways, I promise you that any rapper of a certain age grew up listening to this 1971 album, and at the end of Q.U.E.E.N., Janelle Monáe underscores that, rapping “I’m tired of Marvin askin’ me what’s going on.”
Purple Rain – Prince
Prince hoped Purple Rain would make him a superstar, and it absolutely did. Prince was mad versatile, and in some albums (like Prince) played every single instrument. Anyways, Purple Rain was also a movie soundtrack, showing that hip hop is intertwined with storytelling.
Not that Prince is a rapper, but a hell of a lot of his listeners became rappers. Like Curtis Mayfield, the swag and versatility is undeniable and served many rappers well. Prince wasn’t afraid to come off as arrogant one song and vulnerable the next, and neither are the great rappers.
Any albums I missed? Let me know!
These are just 3 of many, but they are the ones I think are the most infuential and timely for rappers’ childhoods. Also, they are some of my personal favorites.