Part four of a four-part podcast on 365 days of Albums that we reviewed. A must listen before our first quarter review of 2016.
Twenty-seven of our 30 albums charted number one on Billboard’s Hip and R&B or Rap charts for at least 1 week. Nicki Minaj dropped in 2014 despite appearing on the January 2015 charts. Our albums were ranked according to three criteria:
It’s not about whether we liked it, but whether we were drawn to it. Did we remember it afterwards? Perhaps we didn’t enjoy the album, but we wanted to go back and listen to it. 365 days is a whole year after all.
Depth On Repeated Listens
Layers, motifs, double entendres etc… in lyrics were crucial. This wasn’t necessarily synonymous with complexity, for simple albums poignantly striking specific emotions can certainly have depth even with elementary lyrics.
Were we able to listen to the album and enjoy it after listening for depth on multiple listens? Many albums reveal themselves to be boring or bloated after a number of spins.
This is obviously all subjective. These rankings essentially boil down to a combination of the kinds of beats we like or sounds that we’ve never heard before; lyrics that resonate with us; and whether the album is put together as a cohesive unit as opposed to just a collection of songs.
365 Days Down To The Top 30 Hip Hop and Rap Albums
Shaka Shaw writes how Hip Hop, as described by Afrika Bambaataa, illustrates the culture that the emcees belonged to. Hip-hop is the culture and rapping is one of five elements contained therein—the others being breakdancing, DJing, graffiti and knowledge.
If there’s any distinction to be made, it’s made along the lines of quality or purity. Encouraged by labels, top-selling artists make records now indistinguishable from R&B or pop, appealing to a community in order to secure a place on the charts. Artists and songs are often categorized now based on who they are without identifying what they are. This allows those who have gotten their start within the hip-hop community to make other types of records, and still be classified as “hip-hop/rap” in order to appear at the top of the heap in terms of sales.
Ultimately, there are MCs creating art and contributing to the culture, and there are rappers who are packaged products of record labels, more interested in contributing to their coffers than contributing to the art form or its evolution. Formulaic output and the reluctance to take risks in the industry is just the harsh reality that has resulted from hip-hop becoming so lucrative.
We encountered this phenomenon while listening to and evaluating many albums released in 2015. We feel our list accurately reflects the paradigm within which we live now when it concerns hip hop and rap. Here we go.
Listen to Part 1