The Evolution of Hip Hop will be a several part series where I attempt to delve into the way this genre of music has changed and grown while attempting to keep it interesting for all of you. I will compare and contrast 3 albums each 10 years apart in release date.
In the first edition of the series we have LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), Outkast’s Stankonia (2000), and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
This album was a follow up from LL to a disappointing 1989 release Walking With a Panther, it was almost entirely produced by Marley Marl and LL, except for one song.
Produced by Bobby “Bobcat” Erving the title track is one of the greatest classic hip hop songs I can think of. The album was supported by 5 singles including this one and carries heavy weight in the realm of old school hip hop. As my favorite Cool J project and possibly one of the most hype old school singles I can think of, Mama Said Knock You Out won’t be going down without a fight.
Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
Stankonia was the effort of a different version of Outkast than previous years had seen. Big Boi and André 3000 fused funk, rave, psychedelia, gospel, rock, and of course hip hop to make one big highly acclaimed album. With production done mostly by the duo and Mr. DJ under the name “Earthtone III” the project flows incredibly well from the experimental beats to Big Boi’s bars to whatever Andre felt like doing on each track. With features like Killer Mike, Erykah Badu, Cee-Lo, B-Real, and several local artists they found by just going to local clubs, the talent is bursting out track to track. Supported by 3 awing singles, this album also has bonus points for nostalgia when I give it a listen.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is arguably the best work by one of the best rappers of all time. After the VMA controversy, but before Watch the Throne, Kanye had all the attention he could. People hated him for his public comments, but from a musical point of view he had released 4 straight stellar albums leading up to this point. With most production by No I.D., Kanye, Mike Dean, and all the other greats that he worked with, as well as the massively fantastic feature list, this album destroyed the charts and the 54th Grammy Awards. 4 fantastic singles and the GOOD Fridays series, there was no stopping Kanye’s 2010 domination.
If I posted every good song you’d almost just be listening to the album, the 2 above are not the best or the only good songs on the album but I will add this and then get down to business…
Mama Said Knock You Out is LL Cool J getting back to being LL Cool J and giving us undoubtedly his best song and definitely a superior classic music video.
Stankonia gives us a view at maybe the greatest hip hop duo ever in a different light, with the catchy vibes and epic all around sound, it surely deserves a spot among the all-time list.
MBDTF (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) gives us Kanye at his best but also at his worst and the whole time its marvelous beats and flawless bars.
All 3 of these albums gave us a different point of view for the artists. Songs on Stankonia like “Ms. Jackson” and on MBDTF its “Runaway” or “Blame Game” and these albums showed these artists as weak and with feelings but also still as the icons they are like on “So Fresh, So Clean” or “Power”.
For the sake of this series I invented a system to give albums a rating that will be used to compare the 3 projects (Tracks on the project, excluding interludes/intros/outros divided by good tracks multiplied by songs I can’t live without). I used it on parts of the 2017 Hip Hop Album Ranking and think it actually kind of works well.
Mama Said Knock You Out: 14/7/1=2
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 13/12/7=7.6
I have no idea if this system actually makes sense but I can’t help but agree with the results. Going from bars and weird songs like “Mr. Goodbar” on Mama Said Knock You Out, to the funky gospel ways of Stankonia, to the awing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, rap evolved in a remarkable way and in this case got better and then better again as time went on. Listen to the songs above and tell me what you think for yourself.
Make sure to check back every day for content from the M-A.C. staff and come back next week for another study into the evolution of hip hop by Mid-American Culture’s resident hip hop scholar!!!