The Best Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade: Part Two

You can read Part One here and albums 7, 6, and 5 below

7) The Documentary (2005) by The Game

I'm actually not a big fan of The Game. I think he's got a dumb mo fo name, I think he has little true talent, and I think his overall body of work is sub par. But I'm a big fan of The Documentary.

I think the biggest hurdle this album has to overcome is that it's beat driven as opposed to lyrical driven. You look at the producers for the individual tracks and you see the big guns, guys likes Dr. Dre, Eminem, Timbaland, Just Blaze, and Scott Storch. But at the same time, The Game takes us on a journey about the pain and suffering that occurred in his life and it's these mini three minute adventures that makes this album so great.

Part of the reason I think The Game got signed was in the heals of 50 Cent's popularity and how 50 got shot so many times. So what did the record label do, found another gang banger who got shot a bunch of times in The Game. I know getting shot seems cliche and a dime a dozen in rap music now, but I can't imagine how awful it must feel. Hell, I can barely take a punch to the face nevertheless getting shot at. But it's amazing when rappers like The Game can take such an awful event in their lives and turn it into great music. Hell, I think that's something that even 50 didn't accomplish. Songs that the album's title track that has lyrics like: I came back from the dead/ Without a part of my chest/ laid in a hospital bed on cardiac arrest/ I waited for three years/ While everyone else dropped/ Now I understand why Nas did a song with his pops. OK, maybe not the best example, but I promise you, it's a theme prevalent throughout this album that makes it so good.

In fact, the best song on the album is "Start From Scratch" where The Game relives the night he got shot. I wish his storytelling abilities were a tad bit better because while I can pretty much piece together what happened, I shouldn't have to try to do that in the first place. Like what Immortal Technique does in "Dance With The Devil" I would have liked The Game to have been a bit more clear to the listener. But despite that, what you can hear in the pain in his voice and you forgive him for the other flaws in the song. Anyone can read words off of a page, but music is supposed to inspire emotions and The Game does that perfectly.

I'm a big fan of the major hits from this record like "Hate It Or Love It" featuring 50 Cent and "How We Do" but it's the rest of the songs like "Westside Story", "Start From Scratch", and "The Documentary" that really separate it from the rest. So for being beat driven and for a lack of storytelling ability and skill, The Documentary by The Game drops on this list. But for being aesthetically pleasing and bringing emotion and real life drama into every song, The Game earns a spot on this list.

6) St. Elsewhere (2006) by Gnarls Barkley

What is hip hop? I really don't know. I don't know really the difference between hip hop and rap. And I think you can make a good argument that Gnarls Barkley is pop, not hip hop. They are similarities. Both are vocal central. Both are overproduced. Both are nowadays made for clubs and to drunkenly dance to and are not for artistry sake. And both use beats as opposed to instruments (for the studio tracks anyways. It's considered "novelty" to have live musicians be your back up for hip hop artists.) But maybe Gnarls Barkley is to hip hop what pornography is to the Supreme Court: I know it when I see it.

Plus, the first genre wikipedia mentions about St. Elsewhere is "Hip Hop" therefore it must be a hip hop album. Wikipedia never lies to me.

Part of what makes Gnarls Barkley "hip hop" and so great is the two members (yes, GB is a band and they have two members) D.J. Danger Mouse and Cee Lo (aka Cee Lo Green as he's being called nowadays). D.J. Danger Mouse is one of my favorite DJ's out there. We'll see his greatest work of the decade later on this list, but as I mentioned earlier when talking about Collision Course: great hip hop is composed of great beats as well as great vocals. And Danger Mouse creates some awesome beats. I don't even care what Cee Lo sings about in "Smiley Faces", DJ Danger Mouse created such an uplifting, fun, catchy, foot-tapping, soul-hugging beat that no matter how white or bad at dancing you are, you just wanna get up off your seat and start pretending you're in one of those "Step Up" movies.

But the main reason that DJ Danger Mouse is so good and what really shines through in St. Elsewhere is that not only are all of the beats catchy, but the tone of the beats sets up perfectly with the content matter of the lyrics and matches Cee Lo perfectly. Cee Lo sings about his mental psychosis in the band's biggest single "Crazy" and a straight up Scott Storch or Dr. Dre beats would just ruin the song. But Danger Mouse's beat, and only HIS beat, would suffice and does.

And of course, we have the soulful voice of Cee Lo Green. A man who has recently graced our ear cherries with "Fuck You" and has been doing it since the early 2000's when he was working with his fellow A-T-L natives T.I., Ludacris, and Outkast (all three of whom make an appearance on this list). While the DJ sets up the mood perfectly throwing that perfect fastball down the middle, Cee Lo hits a home run with his beautiful and soulful voice along with his creative subjective matter like in "Crazy", suicide in "Just A Thought", and necrophilia in "Necromancer". Sure, attempting to listen to those songs is like trying to convince yourself to watch "Precious"- you've heard it's good, but do you really want to sit through the subject matter? But Cee Lo's lyrics and voice along with the perfect accompaniment of DJ Danger Mouse's beats makes this album a perfect and hidden treasure in music.

While Gnarls Barkley's follow up album "The Odd Couple" was both a commercial and creative disaster, St. Elsewhere will still hold a place in my heart- even though most people only know "Crazy" by the band. In fact, when I first heard "Crazy" I acted like my typical judge-y elitist music snob self and dismissed it. But after seeing them open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and perform in their crazy costume themed show (every concert Gnarls Barkley dresses up in a theme. During the 2006 MTV Movie Awards, they dressed up in Star Wars outfits) I turned a complete 180 and fell in love with the band.

For being innovative, creative, and not selling out their soul to corporate, main stream America and for turning a side project between two friends into an album that should live on forever in music history, Gnarls Barkley earns a spot on this list.

5) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003) by Outkast

Recently I was at party arguing with some people (a great way to make an awesome first impression bee tee dubs) about who was the better rapper: Andre 3000 or Big Boi, the two members of Outkast. A song from double B came on the sound system and the party was praising Big Boi and I quote "I'm sorry Big Boi isn't crazy and dresses all weird and shit". They have a point. Andre 3000 is so creative and weird and out there that Big Boi's straight up Atlanta thuginess (yes I did just make up the word "thuginess" deal with it) makes him seem out of place. But listen, I'm not that much of a mainstream meat head that when I listen to rap I don't consider ALL verses and all voices and that I haven't already taken that into consideration. I like and respect Big Boi a lot, I really do. But there's a reason that when Eminem talks about the greats in hip hop in his song "'Till I Collapse" that he singles out Andre 3000 and does not mention Big Boi. And by the way, while I have not heard Big Boi's solo album, but I have heard "The Love Below" which essentially a solo album done combined with Andre 3000's solo album "Speakerboxxx" (while that's not actually true, it does seem like it).

I always thought it was a bit of a misnomer that when "Hey Ya" was first released that everyone credited the song to Outkast. Yet the music video only consists of Andre (many of him in fact), every part of the song is sung or rapped by Andre, and it was produced solely by Andre (although in all fairness Big Boi along with Andre have the sole writing credits to the song). The songs seemed to be the brainchild of Andre 3000. "Hey Ya" came out when I was in high school and a friend of mine told me that Andre had to be essentially forced into creating the song. But I was young and naive at the time. If you go back and look at what Outkast had done before this album you would have not only seen that "Andre dressed all crazy and shit" but "Hey Ya" is the typical Andre 3000 song. I think people liked it because it was so catchy but they fell in love with it because it was so original. At it's core, the song is about two people in a relationship and struggling with it. With lyrics like: You think you've got it/ Oh, you've think you've got it/ But got it just don't get it/ Until there's nothing at all. Ask anyone who's been in a long term relationship- it's hard as shit. And while the music in the background doesn't really match up, I just take "Hey Ya" as Andre 3000's "crazy and shit" take on relationships. Maybe sometimes to get away from those pains and feelings all we really need to do is "shake it like a Polaroid picture" (SIDENOTE: Polaroid recently released a statement to not shake their pictures anymore. In a related story, Bacardi has released a statement to not drink like it's your birthday.)

"Hey Ya" (and rightfully so) is on everybody's top five list for best songs of the decade and "Hey Ya" and "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" won every acclamation in 2003 including the Grammy for Album Of The Year. The other two singles "Roses" and "I Like The Way You Move" (a Big Boi heavy song) are very good and help strengthen the album but the one thing that hurts this album is the one thing that hurts every two disc album- there's too many damn songs. There's a reason most albums only contain 12 tracks, not 24. There's a reason TV shows only last 13 episodes because then you get the "Community" effect where the first season (24 episodes) are hilarious and then second season kinds sucks because you wasted all of your funny material in the first season.

But overall, it's a great album and it's great to see both members of Outkast shine and play to their different strengths. And since two members could not be more alike, it's pleasure to get many different takes and viewpoints on "Speakerboxx/ The Love Below" and for that along with giving the world "Hey Ya" Outkast earns a spot on this list.

10 comments:

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Unless your top 5 includes Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt.II, Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon, MF Doom's MM Food, and like everything from Kanye tied for #2 or #1, then a pox to this list.

Also, no love for the Black Album?

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

I will also accept an inclusion by Madvillian in MF Doom's stead.

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Also also, no Gorillaz?

Sexy Rexy said...

Woah, hold your horses on "The Black Album" and Kanye talk sucka. There's still four more spots to go!

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

also also also, i'm sure Eminem would kick your ass if he's not on this list.

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

I dont even like Rap and I know you're missing the above ;)

Sexy Rexy said...

Jesus Christ DME shut your face, stop giving away my 1 through 4

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK3O_qZVqXk

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

I dont even know your 1-4. I listed like 8 names/albums. I'll re-ignite my complaint when I see the top 4 :)

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Also x5, have you heard Big Boi's new album and Kanye's new album? Fucking delightful