From “Illmatic” to “GKMC”, the Start-to-Finish Classic Albums ListPosted by Ryan Buell on 07/08/13 | Filed under Opinion, Debates
For me, the foremost example of this rare category of album is
As far as hip-hop goes, "Illmatic" is the pinnacle of Start-to-Finish albums. In ten songs, Nas paints a better picture of an impoverished life in NYC than anyone ever had, or has since (with the possible exception of Biggie, whose albums don’t meet this category for me personally, which I’ll admit could be due to my own musical preferences). Roughly once a month, I sit down and listen to Illmatic in its entirety, and that’s really the only way to fully appreciate the greatest hip-hop album of all time.
The other album that immediately comes to mind is "Good Kid, mAAd City". Kendrick’s storytelling and lyrical imagery is unrivaled in today’s hip-hop scene. On the album, he depicts a story from his adolescence that casts a startling picture of the struggles of America’s black youth. To summarize in a line, “I wasn’t jealous of the talents they got, I was terrified they’d be the last black boys to fly….Out of Compton.” The album essentially follows a plot arc, building up through the trials on “Art of Peer Pressure,” the sins of diving in “Swimming Pools” of liquor, and into the resurrection of “Dying of Thirst,” before resolving into a grandiose summation on the aptly titled “Compton.” It’s accomplished through vivid skits, a central narrative, and K.Dot’s astounding penchant for passionate imagery, but the end result is an album that requires a start-to-finish listen.
While certain albums obviously fall into this category, the line gets hazy real fast. "College Dropout" seems to fall right on that line. Obviously "Dropout" has a ton of standout songs that can be listened to individually and without any inclination to sit through the entire album. There isn’t one coherent theme to the album, but rather a number of conflicting ideas and moral dilemmas of a young and up start Kanye. Yet the skits lend the album something of a backbone by connecting these quandaries with the question of dropping out of college. The sequencing of songs is impeccable and takes the listener through the up and downs that Yeezy was dealing with at the time. I’m going to go ahead and include "Dropout" on my list, and loosely define the Start-to-Finish Album as any album that is intended to listen to in full to grasp the artist’s intentions, and that is a regular part of your music rotation to do so.
Without further ado, here are my other nominees for this designation. Leave your personal choices in the comments Refined Hype Nation.
"Illmatic" - Nas
"GKMC" - Kendrick Lamar
"College Dropout" - Kanye West
"The Infamous" – Mobb Deep
"Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory" – Tupac
"Random Access Memories" – Daft Punk (I know it’s new and not hip-hop, but seriously, go listen to that shit)
"Reasonable Doubt" and "American Gangster" – Jay-Z
"The Cool" – Lupe Fiasco
"Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" – Wu-Tang Clan
"Aquemini and ATLiens" – OutKast
"Stillmatic" – Nas
"MBDTF" – Kanye
"4EvaNaDay" - KRIT
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