What defines a hip-hop classic?

The host of Hip-Hop Hype looks at Kendrick Lamar’s new album

By Andy MacKay

For the month of October, I have a serious question to ask my fellow hip-hop heads out there. What do you consider a classic hip-hop album? The reason I ask this is because unless you have been living under a rock lately, you are aware of the rise of Kendrick Lamar and all the hype and acclaim he has gotten from his peers and critics alike. Kendrick has gotten a lot of attention and has been picked by West Coast legends like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and others in the rap game as the next one to carry the torch of West Coast hip-hop. He independently released a fantastic album last year called Section.80 (which if you haven’t heard yet, I suggest you give it a spin ASAP.)

That album got him a record deal with Interscope and Aftermath, which is the label started up by Dr. Dre himself. All the hype and attention he garnered created a giant buzz for his major label debut . The album was finally released on October 22nd.

Many publications who have reviewed the album have stated that good kid, m.A.A.d. city is not only the best rap album of the year, but also one of the best albums of the entire year. In those reviews though, I have read that they are considering it a classic. This term is a bit polarizing to me.

Even though I am a big fan of the album and think it stands out among most rap released during this day and age, I am conflicted because when I think about the word classic in terms of hip-hop albums, I think Illmatic, Ready To Die, The Chronic, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), etc. Those albums are all over 15 years old and are still being played repeatedly, showing how culturally relevant they truly are. Also, even though those albums I mentioned all are great as a cohesive unit, they all have their standout tracks. For example, Illmatic has N.Y. State Of Mind, Ready To Die has Juicy, The Chronic has Nuthin’ But A G Thang, and Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has C.R.E.A.M. As of right now, I can’t tell you what I think the definitive track on Kendrick’s album because not enough time has passed. I have my favorites, sure, but there isn’t a song on it that makes me just drop my jaw in amazement each time I hear it.

I think the media and fans are rushing to name an album a classic because the concept of creating albums has kind of lost its luster. In the current era, many artists in hip-hop are popular because they have a few hot singles, but when it comes time to actually creating an album, they have little to show for and end up with underwhelming album sales. To contradict that, some veteran rappers still active today like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem, and Nas usually have solid sales because they have created a discography worthy of buying over time, so the consumer has the right to trust that they are going to be putting out a solid product.

To get back to the main point of this post, I think that when it comes to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the critics and fans alike need to rethink the term classic and what it really means. Kendrick’s album came out last week. In my opinion, that is a little too soon to consider something classic. As of now, I really do think good kid, m.A.A.d. City has the chance to become an album that becomes something we consider classic. But for the time being, I encourage you all to let the years pass and let your mind and play button decide if this album (and all hip-hop albums in general) is going to be up there with the Illmatic’s, Ready To Die’s, The Chronic’s, and Enter The Wu-Tang’s.

Hip Hop Hype airs every Saturday from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.

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Comments
2 Responses to “What defines a hip-hop classic?”
  1. Andy MacKay says:

    Mac Lethal,

    You have a very solid argument here. I like the ESPN “Instant Classic” analogy. I am not saying that it isn’t gonna be a classic or anything, but I think that it is just rushed a bit. Give it even a few more weeks or a couple months. I think it is the best hip-hop album since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I think is now considered a classic in most eyes. The consistent storyline is really well done and the skits move the tracks along very efficiently.

    Side note…what are you favorite tracks/lyrics/beats/etc. on GKMC? I am eager to hear what you think.

    Thanks for reading my post and giving feedback.

    Andy

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