National Recording Registry: Hip-Hop’s Future Entrees (Hopefully)
What are some accolades you can get as an artist? A Grammy, VMA, Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, many awards and accolades exist for musicians of many genres. Now, of course, do they validate the art of the artists, that’s a whole another topic. However, one thing that seems to hold weight is the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Every year they induct a few recordings — songs or albums — into the library that: “are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”
Pet Sounds…Abbey Road…What’s Going On… the list goes on. These are more than just good albums, but are important to the culture overall; the reason why music is the arguably the most beautiful art-form.
Over the last few years, a few hip-hop albums have been getting registered including, Illmatic, 3 Feet High & Rising, and The Chronic among a couple of others. Now, as hip-hop albums are being recognized as important pieces of music history and American culture, here are 5 albums that would be perfect inductees in future times.
Paul’s Boutique (1989)
The group’s sophomore effort is an album that transcends creativity. Being released to flop in 1989 (especially compared to their equally important debut Licensed to Ill ) but as 30 years have gone by, the beauty and importance of the album has become more transparent.
Paul’s Boutique is a masterclass of the “golden age of hip-hop”. As it essentially expounded on the concept of sampling, turned it upside down, and showed there’s more you can get out of it. Sampling is an art form, that is just as intricate as the traditional music session. Containing “100 to 300” samples, according to producer Mike Simpson of the Dust Brothers, it’s also an album that can never be made again.
Obviously, you can’t recreate the B-Boys songwriting and lyricism, but with how much sampling cost has increased and numerous legal battles over songwriting credits and artists losing credit because of sampling, it’s a time-capsule of what sampling was capable during the ‘80’s.
Put it this way: They sampled 5 Beatles songs for their one song [“The Sounds of Science”]… that happening again is so viciously rare that we’ll see a Sade tour, 21 Savage will release a Ska album with Gwen Stefani, and Kanye will run for president before we’ll see something to that stature again……… Oh, wait.
To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
Conceptually beautiful, consciously prevalent, Kendrick Lamar’s “TPAB” was released to the masses in 2015. Infusing funk, jazz, and soul, K. Dot, Kung-Fu Kenny, the Good Kid in a Maad City, whatever you may want to call him, his album is the perfect mirror of reflection.
On one side, we see a man revealing his faults, insecurities, gripes with fame, fears, depression, and pressure. The flip-side, reveals light, growth, acceptance, empowerment, and hope not only for him but for anyuone listening.
Released during the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement, this album became it’s soundtrack; specifically, the single “Alright” being the song of pain yet hope for the movement. That speaks to the people that feel doubted and stuck in the same route of hopelessness. Even when we feel like we’re being counted out and things will never change, in the end, “We gonna be alright.” Some say it was the album we wanted, but as time continues to pass, we can fully understand it was the album we needed THEN and NOW.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
As the West Coast was on the dominating spree in the early 90s with The Chronic, Doggystyle, Ice Cubes first three albums, Quik is the Name, etc, the East Coast was developing a Jazz-influenced peace movement with the Native Tongues era. That shifted in 1993, when Wu-Tang changed east coast Hip-Hop with their debut.
Dirty, dusty, grimy yet innovating production & articulate, meticulous, cerebral lyricism perfectly corroborates their Kung-Fu and Martial Arts inspired persona and their Nation of the Gods & Earths life teachings. Over 25 years later, this album has become a bible of hip-hop (next to Illmatic), and set the blueprint for the East Coast for the new era, paving the way for future hip-hop groups and collectives such as Odd Future and Brockhampton.
To be able to expand their path, RZA would spark a game-changing record deal with each member signing solo deals with different labels, while still being signed to a label with their group. The group would launch several successful careers in music & film, and an iconic band logo that goes beyond hip-hop.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard once said: “Wu-Tang is for the Children” and that statement remains.
808s & Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye West caused a major divide among Hip-Hop and his core audience with his 2008 release. The making of this album is a topic within itself (which is the case for all of the albums on this list): suffering from heartbreak, grief, discouragement, and crushing emotions, Kanye West departed from his traditional sound of hip-hop and switched to minimalist synth-pop and R&B inspired production and music.
It may be debatable if it’s a hip-hop album since he doesn’t rap primarily throughout the album, but it’s undeniable that its hip-hop influence is important, as it helped spawn a new wave of hip-hop artists of this generation in terms of songwriting and production.
Introducing the world to Kid Cudi, influencing artists like Drake, Juice Wrld, Lil Uzi Vert, 808s and Heartbreak is an album that helped release people’s emotions and carried into the DNA of this generation’s artists.
The collaboration between hip-hop producer Madlib and the late great MF DOOM started with a white lie, and almost didn’t release due to leaks. However, the journey to Madvillainy would come to its conclusion on March 23, 2004, as it was released through Stones Throw Records.
While it wasn’t a commercial hit , the 24-track LP would be a significant point in underground hip-hop and is a magnum opus influencing numerous artists of the future such as Tyler the Creator, Danny Brown, Joey Badass, etc.
Thom Yorke of Radiohead has expressed admiration for the project as well stating on NPR’s All Songs Considered: “What I love about Madvillainy, it’s just on the edge of a freestyling thing all the time and it’s just coming from the back of his head. My friend said it’s Bob Dylan without the folk.”
After more than 15 years, it isn’t just an underground hip-hop album anymore, it’s a piece of 2000's music and hip-hop history. As Earl Sweatshirt once commented, it influenced his generation as Wu-Tangs debut influenced the ‘90’s.