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Hip-hop generations: Defining albums

Brian Velez

Issue date: 4/11/07 Section: A&E;
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Hip-hop music and culture have gone through many changes since the era began in 1975. Here are some of the most defining albums in hip-hop history.

Run DMC: Run DMC 1980 -1985
While acts such as Whodini and rappers Kurtis Blow maintained the party attitudes of the early decade, Run DMC combined street attitude of Hollis Queens with rugged production of heavy drums and snares courtesy of then-producer Russell Simmons. The group's recording success would only, thrive through the 1980s, yet the impact of their music and songs like "Sucker M.C.s," "Its Like That" and "Rock Box" would create enough momentum to influence every rapper and DJ in the years to come.

NWA: Straight Outta Compton 1985 - 1990
Los Angeles has always been plagued by gangs, violence and drugs.

In 1988, NWA would place the sounds of an entire city in to a 13-track classic album: Straight Outta Compton.

With most of the lyrical ability coming from 19-year-old Ice Cube, 23-year-old Dr. Dre as producer, and Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella, the group would influence and jumpstart the careers of Snoop Dogg, Bone Thugs N Harmony, The Game, Eminem, West Side Connection and the now-defunct Death Row Records.

Wu Tang Clan: Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) 1990 - 1995
While socially conscious and Afro-centric sounds of groups Tribe Called Quest and Brand Nubian were dominating the early 1990s, Wu Tang Clan's 1993 debut would begin a new era in both street and conscious hip-hop.

36 Chambers would be the East Coast answer to hardcore albums being made by Dr. Dre and Death Row Records at the time on the West Coast.

Instant classics from the album would include "C.R.E.A.M." "Can It All Be So Simple?" and "Method Man."

Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt 1995 - 2000
Shawn Carter's 1996 debut album would pave the way for everything high-class and expensive in hip-hop, such as today's redundant references to Rolls Royce automobiles and trips to the Bahamas.

Reasonable Doubt set the bar above gangster rap and transformed it into a Mafioso state, which included driving Lexus vehicles, making various references to gangster movies such as "Carlito's Way" and "Scarface," popping bottles of Crystal champagne while, as Jay-Z says, everyone else thought it was beer.

Although Reasonable Doubt has only sold one million copies to date, it remains the album that defined the so-called "Jigga Era" of the late 1990s influencing The Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, Ja Rule and 50 Cent.

The Clipse "Lord Willin" 2000 - 2005
These days, every rapper wants to sell bricks of cocaine, or at least they say they do.

"Lord Willin" by Virginia duo The Clipse was released in 2001, giving birth to the unlikely hit single "Grindin" followed by "When The Last Time."

References to the drug trades have always been relevant in the genre, yet "Lord Willin" would become the album that swung open the doors for Southern drug-dealers-turned rappers, such as Rick Ross, T.I. and Young Jeezy.

Hip-hop is the rebellious offspring of funk and soul music. Changing styles and orientation every couple of years, the genre has been filtering through its likes and dislikes.

It is unknown what course hip-hop will take toward the end of this decade, but a path free of excessive gang talk, drug paraphernalia and materialism is a beacon of hope toward the next era-defining album.

Brian Velez can be reached at
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