Hip-hop stands as one of the few uniquely American cultural developments of the last century, yet the genre remains misunderstood. The artistic subculture first combined spoken poetry with instrumental beats, original compositions and sampled elements from across the spectrum of blues, jazz and rock and roll, building on what came before to create a cultural juggernaut and global phenomenon.
Because the lines between pop and hip-hop have blurred over the last two decades, a majority of casual listeners continue to define the genre based on what they hear on the radio. Many music fans paint the entire hip-hop world with the stereotypical brush rather than take the time to understand it.
Whether you’re a hip-hop fan since birth or just looking for an intro to the genre, these ten classics deliver.
And Parental Advisory Warning: many videos feature lyrics NSFW.
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The Chronic marked the solo debut of Dr. Dre, formerly of N.W.A., who staked his claim as one of hip-hop’s most respected production innovators. Released in 1992 on his own Death Row Records label, the album features guest appearances by Snoop Dogg, who used the album as a launch-pad for his own career. The album peaked inside the top five on Billboard, going triple platinum and widely popularizing the G-Funk sub-genre within gangsta rap. This album remains among the most influential of the nineties, known for its top-notch production values. Dre waited a decade to release a sophomore effort, but as far as singular debuts go, this one’s a can’t miss.
Essential Tracks: “Let Me Ride,” “Nothing But A ‘G’ Thang,”