Hip-Hop can certainly exist as its own entity, but it is also important to remember the connection that it has to rock ‘n’ roll. The first rap video that appeared on MTV is called “Rock Box,” one of Hip-Hop’s biggest hits ever, “Fight For Your Right (To Party),” has a guitar solo in it, and rock has continuously been sampled by rappers to help them make some of their most memorable music. And those are just a few of many, many examples.
Ultimately, rap would not be what it is if it weren’t for rock ‘n’ roll. And so in honor of rock music kicking down the proverbial door to let Hip-Hop in through window in more ways than one, AllHipHop.com has created a chronological list of 10 outstanding rock albums every rap fan should own.
Are You Experienced (1967) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience: This debut album is mesmerizing because it expanded everyone’s understanding of what could be done with a guitar. Hendrix himself once said, “It’s a collection of free feeling and imagination.” The psychedelic vibe of the record was a perfect soundtrack to the counterculture environment of the times – not unlike Hip-Hop in the decades to follow. Plus, the title track is regarded by many as having the first scratch on record and it was sampled by The Pharcyde and Cypress Hill for two of their biggest hits, “Passin’ Me By” and “How I Could Just Kill a Man” respectively.
Toys in the Attic (1975) by Aerosmith: While their 1986 collaboration with Run-D.M.C., a remake of “Walk This Way,” is this band’s greatest contribution to rap, it would not have been possible without this album. Not only does it contain the original version of the song, but the entire LP is very diverse. And its ability to bring so many styles together successfully didn’t just change rock ‘n’ roll, but all of music. It’s all killer no filler. So after 40 years, Toys in the Attic still holds up and continues to mold millions.
Damaged (1981) by Black Flag: Black Flag was to rock what N.W.A was to Hip-Hop – a group of people that scared the establishment because of the way they voiced their frustrations with it. MCA even refused to release the album and deemed it “anti-parent.” However, with Henry Rollins as the new lead singer, the group created a hardcore punk rock classic whose influence only looms larger with time. And rightfully so. In just under 35 minutes, the music angrily rebels against society (“Rise Above”) and satirically makes fun of people for falling victim to it (“TV Party”).
Out of Step (1983) by Minor Threat: Musically, this album is great. That isn’t what makes it stand out though. It’s the songs’ messages and themes. For instance, while lots of rock music tackles the broad theme of anger, Minor Threat provided listeners with something specific they were angry about like being on the outs with a friend (“Betray”) or holding onto meaningless grudges (“No Reason”). The “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” thing was certainly in existence, but, unlike the aforementioned cliche, these tunes dealt with topics that the majority of rock fans could identify with on an individual level.
Reign in Blood (1986) by Slayer: Rick Rubin, Reign in Blood’s producer, recently described the album perfectly: “It was punk energy but with a precision that punk rarely ever had. It was much tighter than punk.” Therefore, it transcended heavy metal stereotypes and the attention was placed on the mind-blowing speed of the music and reality-based evils that songs addressed, most notably the references to Josef Mengele and the deadly experiments that he performed on prisoners at Auschwitz in the album opener “Angel of Death.”
Nevermind (1991) by Nirvana: The impact of this album cannot be overstated. It put the final nail in hair metal’s coffin and ushered in grunge music to the mainstream. But in addition to its affect on popular culture, the songs themselves are very poignant in both music and lyrics. From the angst of the opening chord progression and drums on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to the sad words of “Something in the Way,” Nevermind demonstrated strength in vulnerability in a manner that music never really had before… And hasn’t again since.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) by Red Hot Chili Peppers: This is one of the funkiest collection of rock songs ever made. Flea is a master bass player in every respect, Chad Smith’s drum kit couldn’t get hit harder, and John Frusciante is a guitar virtuoso. Then vocally, Anthony Kiedis balances his rapping and singing beautifully. As the album title suggests, lots of the songs are steeped in sex. However, there are also moments of great introspection too (i.e. “Under the Bridge,” “I Could Have Lied”). All things considered, it has a real coming of age feel to it and because of that it was (and still is) both personal and popular at the same time.
The Downward Spiral (1994) by Nine Inch Nails: The second album from Nine Inch Nails is incredible. While concern over lyrics like, “I want to f*** you like an animal” and “God is dead and no one cares” got people’s attention, the quality of material was strong enough to keep it. Whether it be the precious w#### in “Reptile” or the crown of s**t in “Hurt,” Trent Reznor’s exploration of his own despair is taxing. But it never comes across as a pity party. Instead, it’s an artist using creativity to confront their demons and assure others that they are not alone in their feelings of misery.
The Battle of Los Angeles (1999) by Rage Against the Machine: On the back of this album’s jewel case it says, “All sounds made by guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.” Keeping that in mind, Tom Morello’s ability to make a guitar sound like turntables is incredibly dope on “Mic Check” and the harmonica effect he brings to “Guerilla Radio” is certainly a standout. Then there are of course his incredible riffs. Combine that skill level with the social awareness of Zack de la Rocha’s lyrics and the result is the pinnacle of rap-rock.
Wasting Light (2011) by Foo Fighters: The album was recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage and kept entirely analog until post-mastering. Because of that, it captures a lot of real sounds that contemporary music has been lacking in recent times. Lyrically, the songs are more revealing too. And the way “Walk” and “I Should Have Known” come one after the other to close out Wasting Light is really powerful. It is a great conclusion to the best Foo Fighters release to date.
What rock albums do you think are essential in every Hip-Hop head’s collection? How do you think rock has influenced rap and vice versa? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!