Five Albums You Should Be Listening to Right Now: All Hip-Hop Edition

New and classic hip-hop selections from The Smoking Section.

Each week, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: the writers of The Smoking Section, a lifestyle blog about music and culture. Led by creator and editor John Gotty™, the writers, known as The Crew, span the country. Their musical choices are as varied as their area codes.


1. Lil Boosie, Incarcerated

As of this writing, Lil Boosie sits in a jail cell facing murder charges. Odds are he won't see freedom or a recording booth again during his natural life. Given the circumstances, Incarcerated stands as what may be the last studio album in which he had an active hand. "What I Learned From The Streets" plays like a farewell letter to the corners of Baton Rouge and all those who influenced Boosie, for better or worse, while former partner Webbie joins in on "Betrayed." If Incarcerated is Boosie's curtain call, the album stands as a fitting cap for the career of one of rap's unheralded, regional stars. — John Gotty™

Listen: "Betrayed"



2. Kendrick Lamar, Section.80

The last time Compton saw this much energy and press surrounding a single artist, he was short, wore a Jheri curl and Locs, and helped change the face of hip-hop by taking gangsta rap mainstream. Kendrick's a different breed, with street-savvy ways as well as a heart for others. He runs through track after track — shining brightest on "Hii Power" and "Ronald Reagan Era" — with a ferocity rap listeners haven't heard in a while and a gravelly, growling voice that captivates. But songs like "A.D.H.D." are the ones which separate Kendrick from the pack, as he assumes the role of a new-age griot, explaining how '80s babies were affected by the War On Drugs, all while moving around an imaginary house party. Yes, Compton's giving rap a new look once again. — John Gotty™

Listen: "A.D.H.D"



3. Heltah Skeltah, D.I.R.T.

The duo of Rock and Ruck set out to do one thing with this 2008 album: talk unseemly amounts of shit about hipsters, effeminate rappers, and anyone contributing to the downfall of hip-hop. And they pulled it off damn near flawlessly. With D.I.R.T., Heltah Skeltah made a definitive (and criminally slept-on) anti-pop album that only gets better as hip-hop veers further off the deep end. Gritty beats and unforgiving bars characterize every song, cementing Heltah Skeltah's place as the genre's most entertaining curmudgeons. — David D.

Listen: "The Art of Disrespeckanization"



4. Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa, How Fly

There's no solid proof that former First Lady Barbara Bush is aware of Spitta and Wiz's 2009 joint project. Yet, if she is, she's probably appalled. These two bong brothers obviously missed the school assembly warning kids to "Just Say No." Bonded by marijuana, fast women, and overall good times, Curren$y and Khalifa inhaled ganja and exhaled a string of great records before going on to successful solo careers, albeit on different fronts. Their chemistry was so potent (pun intended) that even now the hip-hop community clamors for more. — Justin Tinsley

Listen: "The Planes"



5. Saigon, The Greatest Story Never Told

Today's hip-hop stuffs everything into tightly packed three-minute radio singles, but also blurs the line between a rapper from a pop singer. Saigon and Just Blaze's The Greatest Story Never Told was relegated to major-label purgatory in 2007 for breaking these rules, only to see the light of the day earlier this year via the indie route. It features rhyming couplets of heartfelt social commentary over sample-infused soul production. Highlights include "Preacher"'s verbal snipes at greedy pastors, the motivational "Believe It," and the comic relief of "Give it to Me." — TC

Listen: "Believe It"



Commentarium (21 Comments)

Aug 09 11 - 1:17am

Such variety in this week's list. I am digging this! Thanks.

Aug 09 11 - 1:23am

dammit, I wish I liked rap and hip hop so I could fully appreciate this list.

Aug 10 11 - 10:34pm

This list is dime a dozen street verses Saigon's album actually has a decent production feel to it.

Aug 09 11 - 6:06am

Didn't Kanye and Jay Z just recycle this Otis Redding sample? Everyone just leave Otis alone!

Aug 10 11 - 7:32pm


Aug 09 11 - 12:05pm

Lil' Boosie?!? More like lil' BOOTY! That shit was wack...sounded like something Cash Money would have rejected back in 1998. His voice is annoying and the track was garbage! THIS is hip hop I should be listening to? What about Pharoahe Monch? Shabazz Palaces? ANYONE who is moving the art form forward?!? *deep sigh*

Aug 09 11 - 2:16pm

SHABAZZ PALACES!!!!! that's the hip hop i'm down wit these days.

Aug 09 11 - 2:50pm

Yes! Shabazz needs to be on this list.

Aug 09 11 - 9:35pm

He was on two earlier lists.

Aug 09 11 - 3:51pm

im so sick of Hip Hop , old genre

Aug 09 11 - 9:35pm


Aug 11 11 - 12:50am

Cool story, bro.

Aug 09 11 - 3:52pm

Great list, love that it's REAL hip hop and not the over-produced stuff that gets so much attention these days.

Aug 09 11 - 5:41pm

Yeah I can't mess with Boosie; but this was a solid list.

Aug 09 11 - 6:08pm

Damn. Good list. Sorta getting tired of everyone complaining about Hip-Hop... Especially when the genre is in an amazing place, and only getting better.

Aug 09 11 - 9:57pm

Great list. Kendrick Lamar's Section 80 is one of the best this year. Section 80 and Pl3dge are my two fav albums right now.

Aug 11 11 - 1:29am

re heltah skeltah, the sound file is not the song listed.

Aug 12 11 - 9:30am

There is some great hip hop out there but this isn't it...try The Nextmen, or Visioneers, FDel or Flow Dynamics...this is where hip hop is today....this list is what people who want to look like they are into hip hop play when they are rolling through the hood with their windows up and doors locked....

Aug 12 11 - 11:45am

Hip hop is NOT in an amazing place! Everything is SO darn commercialized. I'm a late 70's, early 80's baby and I have a ear for GOOD hip hip. When u live through Public Enemy, EPMD, Run DMC, Fresh Prince (earlier, Philllyyyyy!!!), LL Cool J, heck, even Kanye when he first came out! Hearing gamechangers like them, then hearing this stuff is hard! today, it's less of an artform and more like entertainment. Just entertainment. And i'm from the hood, so rapping, all the time, about the hood don't do me any good. I see what you see! My brother and son (21 & 14) both say that our rap had more meaning and morals and was overall better than now, give or take a few out now. NOBODY'S ORIGINAL!

Aug 12 11 - 6:04pm

listen to FDel and the rest above....and then see what you think...hip hop still has new and old places to go...

Aug 30 11 - 6:28am

Was ttoally stuck until I read this, now back up and running.