There is something so fascinating about hip hop and a reason why we love the genre so much. Tracing the roots of music and story telling takes you back hundreds of years ago to the roots of folklore. Conveying a message, a tale or simply quoting proverbs. Combing these elements of stories, adding poetry and rhythm and you have hip hop. It’s almost intuitive for an artist to relay messages of what they feel or believe in within a song. To take it to the next level and compose a whole album relaying that message is even more courageous. Following the unified story throughout an album keeps the listener intrigued on where it will go next. With that being said we pay homage to creativity, with our list of The Top 10 Hip Hop Concept Albums:
10. Danger Doom – The Mouse and the Mask
The Mouse and the Mask is the collaboration album from Danger Mouse and MF Doom, collectively known as Danger Doom. A super dope idea for an concept album as it connected hip hop and cartoon fans alike. Featuring raps by MF Doom and production from Danger Mouse who threw in samples from Cartoon Networks ‘Adult Swim’, notably from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The rap Meatwad(A.T.H.F) performs on the track ‘Bada Bing’ is from Doom’s ‘Beef Rapp’ on his earlier release Mm..Food. Overall this is an awesome album, with bangin’ beats, catchy Doom flow and cartoon samples. What more could we ask for?
9. Madlib – Vol. 3-4 Beat Konducta In India
We had to show some love to the producer and throw an instrumental concept album onto our list of the the Top 10 Concept albums. What better way to do it then with a Madlib album? The third and fourth installments of Madlib’s Beat Konducta series take listeners on a tour of Bollywood, circa 1975. Beat Konducta In India pays tribute to musical giants largely unheard by Western ears, while keeping the funk levels all the way up. The Bollywood style samples are so smooth to the ear that we couldn’t hesitate to include Madlib within our list of conceptual greatness.
8. Mr. Lif – I Phantom
I Phantom is the debut album from Mr. Lif and it’s a goody indeed. The album was produced by El-P and was released on Definitive Jux. Mr. Lif came out the gates hard with this concept album and speaks about the working life of an African American who is pressured to the rewards of obtaining the American dream. Described as “an exploration of the dynamics of everyday life, and the pursuit of our dreams, in a rapidly decaying society.” It also comes with a narrative to follow the story from death(‘A Glimpse At The Struggle’) to resurrection and ends with nuclear holocaust(‘Earthcrusher’ and ‘Post-Mortem’). Overall it’s a great album and definitely worth a spot on our list.
7. Outkast – ATLiens
ATLiens was the second studio album released by hip hop sensation Outkast, and arguably one of their best albums the duo ever released. ATLiens isn’t your textbook version of a concept album as they touch on various topics like being hustlers and existential introspection but there is the re-occurring theme of being an alien, feeling isolated from typical American culture. This album was dropped in a pretty awkward phase in hip hop history as gangster rap was just emerging. The sampled alien sounds’ and overall concept of alienation is why ATLiens earned a spot on our list.
6. MF Doom – Mm..Food?
Of course Doom had to have made our Top 10 Hip Hop Concept albums list twice. This is an awesome album and could be higher on anyone’s list but comes in at seven on ours. Mm..Food? is Dooms second album under the moniker MF Doom. The food related metaphors and comparisons he throws out are priceless.”He follow flea collar three dollar bills, And squeal for halal veal, in y’all appeal, Dig the real, it’s how the big ballers deal, Twirl a L after every meal”. Overall this album is more of an acquired taste(pun intended), but anyone who can rhyme about food and keep it real gets our attention. We need food!
5. Sticky Fingaz – [Blacktrash] The Autobiography of Kirk Jones
To be quite honest, I did not know much about this album before doing this. A little help from Tech and I realized how dope this concept album actually is. The Autobiography of Kirk Jones is the first studio album former Onyx member Sticky Fingaz released in 2001. He portrays the fictional character Kirk Jones, a felon just released from prison who is now struggling to come to terms with life outside jail. A pretty common concept in hip hop is the struggle of life, but Sticky Fingaz kills it. It hits on a range of topics, ‘My Dogz Iz My Gunz’ is based on some beef he encounters in the streets and ‘Cheatin’, where a rage filled Kirk Jones vents his anger. There were also many notable appearances from Raekwon, Redman, Eminem, Canibus and others, thus earning Sticky Fingaz a prime spot on our countdown.
4. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
As a hip hop fan you knew that Deltron 3030 was going to show up on our list of Top 10 Concept Albums. If you didn’t know Deltron 3030 is the “super group” composed of producer Dan the Automator, Del The Funky Homosapien and DJ Kid Koala. The story of the album is set in year 3030 where Deltron Zero (Del’s alter ego) is in a fight against the corporations that rule the universe. It follows many common futuristic/spacey themes as it is set over a thousand years from now. The theme of the album is apparent with the hit songs ‘3030‘ and ‘Virus‘(personal favorite). Overall this is an awesome album with a concept that is wayy out there, and depending who you are this could top your own personal list of best concept albums.
3. Masta Ace – Disposable Arts
Disposable arts follows a similar concept to that of Sticky Fingaz Autobiography of Kirk Jones in that the story follows a young Brooklyn man’s release from prison. It follows his return home, and his life at “The Institute of Disposable Arts”, a school Ace enrolls in after realizing the struggles of living Brooklyn. The album sold very poorly at first but then achieved much success. ‘Unfriendly Game’ was used in the show the The Wire and ‘Take a Walk’ was featured in the video game Saints Row. The album cover itself shows the underlying theme of the album as Ace is sitting on a car seat, a kind of mock on his own Sitting on Chrome. Disposable arts could be considered some peoples all time hip hop concept album, but comes in at number three on our list.
2. Dr. Octagon – Dr. Octagonecologyst
Kool Keith really outdid himself with this album. This was the first album released under his alias Dr. Octagon. Dr. Octagonecologyst was produced by Dan The Automator and KutMasta Kurt. The album introduces the character of Dr. Octagon who is a extraterrestrial, homicidal, time-traveling gynecologist. His abstract flow and written lyrics made this album a classic in the conceptual world. Dr. Octagon is described as being an incompetent sugeon as many of his surgery patients die. He also pretends to be a female gynecologist to engage in intercourse with female patients. ‘Earth People’ was the standout track on the album, where he combines lyrical flow with his futuristic medical knowledge. Out of all of Kool Keith’s wacky characters, Dr. Octagon was surely the most put together.
1. Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves
Coming in at the top spot of our Top 10 Hip Hop Concept Albums is Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves. This album represents the very definition of a concept album and is a personal favorite of ours here at the Word Is Bond. Almost any critic of hip hop will tell you that this album is the most acclaimed concept album of all time and well, we agree. The story follows an aspiring young emcee named Tariq, played by emcee Breezy Brewing who needs money to record a demo tape before a meeting with RZA. The story follows Tariq, who quits his low-paying job and turns to his friend True, played by emcee Big Sha, who brings him into the world of drug dealing. The two make their way through the drug world, a police ambush, jail, and, finally, a deadly showdown. There are thirty-five tracks on the album that document the story of Tariq’s troubles. Among a crazy list of contributors to the album are Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, Biz Markie, Chris Rock, RZA and others. Columnist Robert Christagu has cited A prince Among Thieves as “the closest thing to a true rock opera that you’ve ever heard.” The overall story, concept, skits and guest appearances mixed with hard hip hop is the reason Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves earned the top spot on our Top 10 Hip Hop Concept Albums.