Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

These are the albums you should put your kids onto out of respect.

You know when you play a Playboi Carti song in front of your grandmother and her face contorts into a pretzel because 1) she can't understand anything that's being said, and 2) it's too vulgar for her despite her not comprehending the slang. It's a very different face then when you play a Kendrick Lamar song in front of your grandmother and she slightly nods and goes, "He is a very talented man." Rap isn't for everyone and every grandmother, and not all rap albums are made equal. Some albums show more merit than others and some are just really good for frat parties. Here are ten essential hip hop albums every music lover should know.

10. Nas Illmatic

Any good intro into the rap/hip hop genre should start or lead to Nas' Illmatic, a landmark album that put east coast rap on the map. (See, I'm already making those bars.) Nas crowned himself the king of New York and subsequently every rapper after him would attempt to claim the throne. Illmatic is a poetic mix of solid production and exceptional lyricism detailing the drug underworld in New York and Nas' personal struggles navigating manhood. Quality beats, lyrics, and sharp storytelling make Illmatic an essential hip hop listen.

9. Dr. Dre The Chronic

Dr. Dre The Chronic

Priority Records

You have to give credit to the west coast. Dr. Dre made gangsta rap palatable to a commercial audience. The Chronic propelled the career of Snoop Dogg and gave us G-funk. Featuring some of Dr. Dre's best production and bars, The Chronic is a sexy, violent look at gangster culture and the crazy stories that come with it.

8. A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory

Any one of their albums will do. Midnight Marauders is excellent too. Conscious, intelligent rap with jazzy, soulful beats, A Tribe Called Quest showed that rap could be enticing and still smart. Tackling race, politics, and sex, The Low End Theory (and most of their albums) provided an alternative sound and perspective in hip hop.

7. OutKast ATLiens

Andre 3000 is at his prime on this album. A true gem of southern rap and southern culture, ATLiens shows OutKast in refined form.

6. Danny Brown Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown is one of the most underrated lyricists in rap. Witty, vulgar, and quick he can often overwhelm the average listener. Atrocity Exhibition is the definition of a performative rap album that displays the aesthetic and intensity of its subject matter. Detailing Danny's battle with addiction, the album is a claustrophobic look into the psyche of a man enabling his worst inclinations.

5. Tyler the Creator Flower Boy

You either love him or hate him, but Tyler the Creator made something special with Flower Boy. Not too many mainstream rappers would explore their sexual identity on record or even admit to their femininity and insecurities as openly as Tyler. Intimate, sweet, and genuine, Flower Boy is a queer rap album from an artist that has grown and expanded since his debut. Wonderful, bouncy, colorful production backs up some of Tyler's most confessional and enduring work.

4. Lauryn Hill The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

A feminine critique of love, self-respect, and community, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill stands as one of the most enduring hip-hop albums ever. Lauryn Hill showcases the fearless voice of a woman in a male dominated space and sets the record straight that you can be complex and strong and still feminine.

3. Madvillian Madvilliany

Madvilliany

Stones Throw Records

MF DOOM rhymes paired with Madlib's unconventional production make for an entertaining and refreshing rap album. Funny at times, pessimistic in others, Madvilliany is a cartoon-esque masquerade filled with hysterical samples and clever rhymes.

2. Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part One (4th World)

Poetic and performative, New Amerykah is a beautiful look at politics and Black identity. Incorporating funk, soul, and hip hop sounds, the album is a dense exploration of hip hop's impact in music and Black culture and the healing qualities of storytelling. Touching on topics of slavery and the exploitative nature of fame, New Amerykah is a sincere love letter to Black art and Black history.

1. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

A masterpiece and exceptional achievement in hip hop, To Pimp a Butterfly revived conscious rap at a mainstream and commercial level. Kendrick gets deep and personal with the help of jazz, soul, and funk sounds. Cinematic and visual, To Pimp a Butterfly is a sharp critique of American race relations and celebration of Black culture. Featuring spoken word, audio recordings, and an interview with Tupac, the album is a conversation about self-love, community, history, and freedom.


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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Satire

To Donald Trump: 5 Ways You're Actually a Flawless Being Doing a Beautiful, Unbelievable Job Right Now

You could resign if you want to, but then who will keep America so GD great?

With Donald Trump making a visit to Bangor, Maine today, the editorial board of the Portland Press Herald issued an op-ed calling for President Trump to resign.

The harshly critical piece entitled "To President Trump: You Should Resign Now" was framed as an open letter to the president and got straight to the point with this opening plea, "We're sorry that you decided to come to Maine, but since you are here, could you do us a favor? Resign."

In recent days even George W. Bush has been critical of President Trump's response to protests, so this new piece quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. Obviously this is another baseless attack from the lying news media—AKA lügenpresse. Considering how delicate our president's ego is—he's our special little guy—we can only hope that Donald Trump didn't see the letter; but just in case he did, it's worth writing another one to lift his spirits. So here's our best attempt—with lots of pictures and flattery to keep him reading:

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MUSIC

Experience Vinyl is the online record store trying to save vinyl

REVIEW | The former subscription service now offers a store full of limited edition vinyls and artists' top ten lists

Facebook

Experience Vinyl captures the specialness of vinyl with limited releases and exclusive designs.

Vinyl records, audiophiles will assert, store music with sound quality that's superior to CDs or digital streaming. They are physical artifacts of music to counter digital compression and electronic reproduction. They are special but, for many, this specialness does not justify the cost and inconvenience of vinyl. Why buy a delicate, cumbersome record for $30 when you can find it in a massive Apple Music or Spotify catalogue for ten bucks a month? Why resort to a record player and all of its speakers and wiring in a time when even CDs are relatively inconvenient?

Experience Vinyl is a new online store that started as a combination of vinyl—recorded music's original format—with one of the newest trends in online shopping: the subscription box.

The store achieves what is most important in selling vinyl records: making them valuable, worth the playback process and the price tag. Not merely a record-a-month club, Experience Vinyl offers exclusive, limited edition presses of classic records that often feature unique designs and bonus gifts.

Talib Qweli's top ten. (Facebook)

Its cherry on top? Each month's record is chosen by a guest curator, a recording artist who creates a list of their ten favorite albums. The artist writes a letter explaining their top three and the number one choice goes to the presses to become a limited edition vinyl.

Experience Vinyl started as a monthly subscription box but has quickly readjusted its strategy and ended the subscription aspect of the service. Each month still features a new artist who picks a new record but instead of subscribing to the service, customers simply browse the store and order the record if they want it (or wait for the next month if they don't). The company explained the change: "We've decided to forgo the subscription model so we can focus on our current and future curators and on making each box really unique and special. We're really excited to be able to include more additional content by switching to this model."

With guest curators such as Elton John, Carlos Santana, Grace Slick and Brian Wilson, the records available will be diverse and, almost certainly, exciting.

I signed up during the last month before the subscription format ended for Carlos Santana's top choice: Miles Davis's Sketches of SpainSketches of Spain. The Experience Vinyl package is what makes the record more than simply an album. The box contains a booklet with a copy of Santana's handwritten list, his notes on his top choices and, most importantly, the record. Not merely a black disc, Sketches of Spain came on a beautiful red and yellow swirled vinyl that looks fantastic when it's spinning on a turntable.

This is the way to re-popularize vinyl: it has to be an experience beyond the music. Jack White activated all of the potential of the vinyl record with his LP, Lazaretto. The "12" Ultra LP" contained bonus tracks hidden under the center labels, tracks played at different speeds, spinning holograms and backwards queuing. The record debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and broke the record for single-week vinyl sales.

Jack White created an experience beyond the music with Lazaretto. Experience Vinyl is following his lead, attempting to make the vinyl record special and valuable. The object isn't to save vinyl, as some might dramatically say. It's to popularize it all over again, in a different way—to raise it to a platform that's higher than music distribution. The success of vinyl depends on the creativity of the artists beyond the music. It depends on their ability to make it a unique artifact.

Follow Experience Vinyl on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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