Thursday, February 22, 2024

What Makes A Great Hip Hop Album?

January 30, 2021 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( In the most popular music genre in the world, everyone is divided on the topic of what makes a great album and why this album is better than that album. Although there is no absolute right or wrong answer and everyone’s opinion is valid, there is a few things that, to me, set certain albums above other albums.

Some people cannot fathom the thought of someone like Future or Young Thug being mentioned in the same breath as artists like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, but I am here to tell you, that they can. For different reasons, they all contribute to hip hop as a whole and while we can all agree that lyrically, one set is in a different league, one the flip side, I think that we can agree that one set make better and more hits than the other. Simple.

A great or classic hip hop album is made up of a very good mix of three factors. Let’s look at all three and see what role they play in making an album what it is.

hip hop album 2021

Song Quality

Although song quality is a no brainer, it is not as cut and dry as it sounds. The common mistake that people make is that just because a song is lyrical that it is high quality. If this is the case, then New York rappers would undisputedly be on the top of hip hop… but they are not. Why is this? For a long time, it’s been because of their poor choice in beats. No matter how hard your bars are, if the beat is trash, it has a negative effect on the song as a whole. If you have a great beat but you make the song overly complicated with lyrics, you just wasted a beat.

One hip hop group that I discovered over the past year is Griselda out of Buffalo, NY. I loved that they are from an unrepresented part of New York and I love their throwback sound. Even though I love what they are doing and the music that they put out, until they change their beats up, there is a limit to how far they can go. Jay Z was the first to show that the old school boom-bap New York style don’t fly today. Looking at many of the younger rappers out of New York, they don’t use those beats and there is a reason for that.

Album Cuts

Before, I said that lyrics can mess up a song and it can, but depending on the artist, you may want to hear the lyrics presented in the correct way. Album cuts don’t always have to be lyrical though. Sometimes, keeping it simple is best. Even though Drake always have multiple hot singles on his albums, the best songs on the albums are the songs that he is just rapping and he is not trying to appeal to mainstream. An album filled with nothing but attempts at hits is not good. An album of nothing but album cuts is also not good.

A good way to think of it is that the album cuts are the meat and bones of an album. The singles are what bring in the random or “bandwagon” fans, while the album cuts are why those fans stay. Album cuts are for the fans. These songs are usually the ones that tell you more about the artist, what’s going on in their life, and where they can show off more of their skill and versatility. Ask someone who their favorite rapper is, then ask them what are their favorite songs from that rapper. Most likely, they won’t be the big hit singles that the artist have.

Replay Value

All three of these intertwine with each other, but in my opinion, the most important one is the replay value of the songs or album. A song does not have to be lyrical to have high replay value, it has to sound appealing enough to the listener that they want to listen to it over and over again. Nothing else matters if you don’t want to keep listening. This is also up for debate. I can’t tell you what you like or what sounds good or interesting to you, just like you can’t convince me that something that you love to death is the greatest song ever.

The best example that I can give of this is maybe a controversial one, but hear me out. Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp A Butterfly, has very low replay value. Before you jump down my throat, the reason why I say this is because how the album is structured. Many of the songs are two songs in one. I love listening to Kendrick and for the idiots out there that say that people don’t like him because they don’t understand the lyrics, I understand the lyrics. The lyrics are great. The album is great. It’s just not a great listen past the first two or three listens. If you are even a little sleepy, do not listen. Even though the lyrics are great, much of what he does beat wise on the album do not sound good to the ear. It is what it is.

Combined, these three things make a great hip hop album. Think about albums like Good Kid, Mad City and Damn from Kendrick or Take Care from Drake and you have your answer there. Let us know whether you agree or if I missed anything below!

Staff Writer; Tardell Swift

This brother is new to writing yet has many different interests such as gaming, hip hop, wrestling, and manga.

You can follow him on Twitter; PhirewoodGaming and keep up with his thoughts there as well.

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