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™
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™
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"