Seems like as good a time as any to throw this out there:
^^ I've been listening to this a lot lately, for the first time in a few years. I really overdid it with this album when I first got into it, then again in the mid-2000s, so I tend to forget about it when talking about my favorite hip-hop releases.
But shit guys, is this album great or what?
Not only is it one of the best hip-hop albums of all time, but "Definition"/"RE: Definition" (combined) make up one of the best hip-hop songs
of all time.
I actually think this album is deeply underrated, despite its cult classic status. Think about it, was there any other record that took a more direct stance against the gangsta culture that dominated rap on both coasts throughout the '90s? There were a lot of records in that decade that were pointedly non-gangsta, but many of them still contained elements of the ultraviolent, druggie culture.
But here we have two formidable, and then relatively obscure, rappers making what amounts to a protest
album against gangstaism. Two dudes standing up and shouting "They shot Tupac and Biggie / too much violence in hip-hpp!" That was ballsy as hell, considering the album came out in 1998.
Also, it's a record carried by vocal delivery — it's RAP, and the lyrics and vocals are the dominant instrument — that doesn't make you wish there was some flashier production. Instead, these voices (Mos Def never sounded better), grip you and pull you along. It's conscious, but not lazy or laid back. It's peaceful, but still aggressive in its flows and choruses. This album is more important than we know, and it's just worlds ahead of most of the shit that dropped in 1998, in both style and substance.