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The All-Time MCs

  • Ice Cube
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard
  • Method Man
  • MF Doom
  • Easy-E
  • Busta Rhymes
  • Slick Rick
  • GZA
  • RZA

Ultimate Albums: Essential Listening

  • Squarepusher -

    Squarepusher: Hard Normal Daddy
    This record blew my mind the first time I heard it, and continues to kill me with each successive listen. I think this is the most accessible Squarepusher album and highlights the best of his skills, from micro-surgical beat programs to superhuman bass guitar riffs. Squarepusher's ability to make very emotional music with abstract sounds and programming makes him a member of a very select group of modern composers. (*****)

  • Ice Cube -

    Ice Cube: Death Certificate
    A lot of heads say that Amerikkka's Most Wanted is Ice Cube's finest moment, but even though that is no doubt a dope record, Death Certificate is Cube's masterpiece. The combination of DJ Pooh's gritty 8-bit samples and Cube's prophetic lyrical stylings paint a poignant picture of early 90s Los Angeles. Ice Cube somehow managed, at this point in his career, to be both informative and funny at the same time - a major feat considering that most of the MCs of the time were going in the direction of either being very serious or totally goofy. This album hits hard from start to finish - the perfect soundtrack to a summer day in LA. (*****)

  • Wu-Tang Clan -

    Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
    No doubt one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time, 36 Chambers established the Wu-Tang Clan as living legends in the game. Never before had so many talented MCs combined to form one group. More importantly, when a lot of hip-hop was heading in the direction of commercial crossover, the Wu-Tang Clan threw the rule book out the window and created an urban soundscape that pulled no punches. With each new verse on this record, the Wu blasts you with an uncompromising display of rhyme skills. The RZA's production on this record spawned an entire generation of imitators, none of whom has quote been able to capture the magic of his dark, piano soaked beats and visionary use of themes. Even though this album famously launched the careers of solo MCs that have since become household names, 36 Chambers still stands as the Wu's finest complete work. This is one of my top five favorite albums of all time. (*****)

  • Daft Punk -

    Daft Punk: Homework
    Daft Punk's debut is probably not for everybody, but after listening to this album and discussing it with other music enthusiasts, I know there are a lot of people who are passionate about Homework. The schizophrenic French electronic duo creates everything from housey dance floor burners to hard, acid-singed techno, and everything in between. Some heads dissed Daft Punk because they had some popular success with the singles on this album, particularly Around The World, but the grooviness and staying power of this album are undeniable. This is another top 5 all-time album. (*****)

  • The Orb -

    The Orb: U.F.Orb
    The follow-up to the incredible Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, their first record, this seminal work cemented The Orb's place in the foundation of electronic music. U.F.Orb is characterized by rich, constantly shifting textures and dub reggae rhythms and effects. This is a truly beautiful collection of songs and sounds, as The Orb's keen sense of melody and ability to create a warm sound using electronic sounds shine throughout. I highly recommend getting the version of U.F.Orb with the bonus CD containing remixes of the superlative ambient work Blue Room. (*****)

  • Black Dog -

    Black Dog: Spanners
    I bought this album used from Aron's Records on Highland, listened to it twice, and simply did not get it. I was going through my CDs two years later and was floored. In my opinion, this is the best downtempo album of all time. The intense textures, creative sampling, and deep beats on Spanners make it a phenomenal record. (*****)

  • The Avalanches -

    The Avalanches: Since I Left You
    I have recommended this album to everyone I know who is into music. Truly one of the most unique and effective uses of sampling in history, The Avalanches album melds diverse styles of music in a way that no other record has since the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. This is a continuous soundscape with themes that appear out of nowhere and take you to another planet. A classic summer album, Since I Left You washes over you. If I had a pool, I would host a party and put this record on repeat. (*****)

  • GZA -

    GZA: Liquid Swords
    Besides being my favorite Wu solo joint, Liquid Swords is one of the top 5 hip-hop records on all-time my list. RZA's dark piano-infested beats marry perfectly with The Genius' cinematic rhyme stylings to create a simply earthshaking record. Swordsmen and Shadowboxin' are my favorite tracks on this ridiculous display of skill - but if you listen to any less than this entire record, you are only cheating yourself. "Do you have the cash? Twenty Thousand Dollars?" (*****)

  • Cassius -

    Cassius: 1999
    This is unique and wonderful album for a couple of reasons. When 1999 was released, it was accompanied with a ton of hype - and actually lived up to it. Unlike so many other dance albums that have one or two good singles and a bunch of filler songs, the Cassius debut hits hard from start to finish, with some killer downtempo tracks as well as some of the best pop house tracks of its day. This is a house music classic that actually feels like an album. The funky tracks and incredible use of vocals makes for a delicious album with a super-sexy vibe. Throw this on at a local house party or bump it in your whip on a Friday night. (*****)

  • The Beatnuts -

    The Beatnuts: Beatnuts
    A decade after its release, the first Beatnuts LP holds up as well as any other album out there. Bombastic and often perverse lyrical blasts ride over a brilliant collection of sample-based tracks on Street Level. Humor is another major element of the Beatnuts' swing, and on this album it is meshed perfectly with the group's illustrative dark side. The Beatnuts are at once hilarious and brutal, and the result kills me every time. This album is a Monster. (*****)

  • Beastie Boys -

    Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique
    This Dust Brothers treatment of post-Licensed to Ill Beastie Boys was a quantum leap in the use of samples, and the Beasties' best work. Using literally hundreds of samples in ingenius and often hilarious ways, the Dust Brothers schizophrenic and soulful production is a perfect mix with the still goofy and funny Beastie Boys. I couldn't get over this album and listened to it eight hours a day for about 3 months straight in 1998. You can hear this album a thousand times and still find something new that you didn't notice before. Truly amazing work and an all-time Classic. (*****)

  • Butthole Surfers - Sweatloaf

    Sweatloaf
    Butthole Surfers: Locust Abortion Technician

    In my opinion, one of the best rock albums ever. Achieving the perfect balance of dirt, musicality, and imagery, this album is as disturbing as it is inspiring. This is some seriously fucked up listening material. AllMusic calls this "The aural equivalent of a nightmarish acid trip", which is in this case accurate, but does not speak to the beauty and sheer weight of this superlative recording. This album is superb from start to finish, and Sweatloaf is one of the 10 hardest songs in the history of music. (*****)

  • Madvillain -

    Madvillain: Madvillainy
    Madlib on Beats and MF Doom on the mic. Records like this restore my faith in hip-hop. This has been on repeat for a while now and it is simply a jaw-dropper all the way through. Check out All Caps and Rhinestone Cowboy. This record deserves every bit of critical jocking that it has received since it dropped last year. Not to be slept on. (*****)

  • Prince -

    Prince: Sign o' The Times
    Sadly, I never saw Prince and the Revolution during this period. This is Prince at a point where he knows he's the shit, but is then willing to flaunt it in the face of the general public like he still has something to prove. Stunning songwriting throughout, and the execution of the Revolution at their finest. If this album doesn't send you through the range of your emotions and make you come back more, then you had best check your pulse. This is the best double LP in the history of recorded music, and you can take that to the bank. (*****)

  • Angel of Death
    Slayer: Reign In Blood
    The definitive speed metal album - pure terror from start to finish. With this album, Slayer brought speed, technical skill and the imagery of death far beyond levels only flirted with by their predecessors. Reign In Blood has spawned generations of bands trying to match its weight, but all have fallen short of the album's realness and power. (*****)

Classics: Old School Techno

  • Prodigy - Everybody in the Place

    Everybody in the Place
    Prodigy: Experience

    This album had more popular exposure than almost any other techno record out at the time. I saw them at the Palladium (Hollywood) in support of Experience and Moby opened for them. Holds up extremely well more than 10 years later. Lots of incredible songs. A Must Have (*****)

  • Acen - Window in the Sky

    Window in the Sky
    Acen: 75 Minutes

    An odd record because it is basically 4 or 5 tracks remixed several different times. The remixes are so different that it works perfectly. Killer breakbeats and that huge rave sound. The monster rave anthem Close Your Eyes (Optikonfusion Mix) brought the house down in its day with one of the most wicked drops of all time. (*****)

  • Orbital - Halcyon + on +on...

    Halcyon + on +on...
    Orbital: Orbital 2

    Like William Orbit, Led Zeppelin, and Seal, Orbital has released multiple self-titled albums. The Brown Album continues the tradition of their previous work, creating beautiful soundscapes with electronic beats. Halcyon and Lush stand out as all-time favorites from this genre. Orbital showcases their versatility on this album - music that is as incredible on huge speakers with thousands of people as it is in your home. (*****)

  • Hold It Down
    2 Bad Mice: Kaotic Chemistry

    Some of the sickest, booming breaks ever. This is my favorite full record from this era of electronic music. Hold It Down, Bombscare, and Waremouse are super-sicko sub-shredding bass exercises. A Must Have. (*****)
  • Orbital - Chime

    Chime
    Orbital: Orbital

    The first album from the techno / ambient legends Orbital. Chime is a beautiful example of early soul from techno artists using synths and drum machines. (****)

  • Acperience
    Hardfloor: TB-Resuscitation

    This is the definition of the acid sound, constructed mostly with Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines and the TB-303 bass synth. Hardfloor, the German innovators of the sound, overdrove the wiggly basslines of the 303 and could take the machine from a very minimal, low undertone to a screaming, hi-frequency freakout. This is probably not for everybody, but if you are really into hard technobeats or crazy sounds, this is worth a listen. When I got this it was only on import from Harthouse, but I am sure there has been a re-print at this point. (****)
  • Dominator
    Human Resource: Dominator

    One of the more memorable of the 'Belgian Hoover' tracks. Classic James Brown sample. Made dancefloors flip off the chain in the early nineties. (****)