When hip hop was first starting out in places like New York, no one really thought that it was supposed to be a serious genre by any stretch. This was just a fun thing that was happening as an offshoot of disco, and there was no way that people were doing this because they had some sort of almighty wisdom to lay down or anything. A lot can happen in a few decades though, and these records let us know of something much more intense than just the lavish lifestyle.
Whereas some hip hop stars just want to talk about some of the highlights that they get from partying day in and day out, there’s a lot more to dissect on every one of these records, as these rappers use their beats almost like a confessional, either opening up about their past or trying to make themselves a better person in the eyes of their fanbase. It takes a lot of pain to get into the spotlight sometimes, and these almost read like a diary through some of the darker chapters of these artists’ lives, talking through some of the hardest struggles they’ve been through and how it’s something that they’ll have to either carry with them for the rest of their days or helped shape them into a better person.
Regardless of the person making it though, these are the records that you start to really feel while you’re listening to it, almost like you're having a real conversation with the artist rather than the surface level. Hip hop might be fun from time to time, but you’re not just getting a party jam out of this. You’re getting someone’s take on life.
10. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Lauryn Hill
For every great hip hop album that rises to the top of the charts, there are more than a few songs that have a bit of a dark background behind them. Even though both 2Pac and Kendrick Lamar each had hits by themselves, you can definitely hear the fatigue in their voice half the time, being bogged down by the rough upbringings that they had to plough through to get to where they are. Rising this high is never easy, but The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has one thing that most other hip hop records don't have: optimism.
Sprawling out like some sort of education hip hop special, Ms. Hill's only true solo record has some of the smoothest R&B infused hip hop ever committed to tape, with a lot to say about how we treat each other in the process. Even though Ex Factor and Doo Wop (That Thing) might still get sampled endlessly in the world of hip hop, the core message behind those songs still hit hard today, talking about how we're able to treat our fellow man and being faithful to a higher power to help us through the dark times.
There are even a few songs that delve into the kind of heartache that Lauryn was feeling after the Fugees breakup, but she never lets it get in the way of pushing forward and making something better for herself. The next two decades were more than a little shaky for Ms. Hill, but there's a good chance that nothing can dull the amount of sunshine on this record.