Tim’s Top 10 Albums of All-Time (At Least To This Point)
I have to tell you all that this list was one of the hardest things I’ve had to get myself to do, because I knew it wasn’t going to be anywhere near easy. Even while going through this list I had to constantly change things because I felt something was missing. This list (to the best of my abilities) contains the quintessential list of albums that shaped my taste in music. To be put another way, I don’t know where I would be without these albums. I can also say that I feel that each one of these albums is timeless as well a masterpiece. So without further ado…
Top 10 Albums of All-Time (In Order from 10-1)
The Who – Live At Leeds (Deluxe Edition): Honestly I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to this album. I remember buying it in the store years ago, and it cost me just about thirty-five dollars. It may be the best money I’ve ever spent on an album. This album truly shows the pure rock fury of The Who. If you have ever had a doubt in your life as to the legitimacy of The Who, please listen to this album. The original album was released with just 35 minutes of the 120, and this album has all of it. This is one of the greatest live albums of all time, no doubt in my mind. Every single member of The Who sounds precise and musically sound. This also might be the heaviest material you will ever here from The Who. From the rapid fire boulder crashing drums of Keith Moon to the lion roaring vocals of Roger Daltrey this album is everything a live album should be and more… Every single song on this album is good and for it’s quite hard to pick out singular tracks that are highlights. From fifteen minute version of “My Generation” to the outrageously heavy cover of “Young Man Blues“, this album has it all. This album may showcase some of the best guitar work that Pete Townshend ever displayed.This album is a must for any true rock or music fan for that matter. I can honestly say if there is one concert in history that I would want to see, it would most definitely be this one.
El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead: There isn’t a better album out there that shows how much you can bend, twist and shake the genre of Hip-Hop than I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Coming five years after his debut release Fantastic Damage, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is one of those albums that is so different that you just can’t put a finger on a definition (except for greatness). I picked up this album a few months after it came out on a whim because I had heard good things. I was totally blown away by this album and how much it brought to the table. This album truly is an experience all in itself. From the first minute that I heard the sample of Donna Hayward & Laura Palmer (from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) I knew I was in store for a wild ride. This album goes through an array of sound scapes that are different yet very impressive. “Tasmanian Pain Coaster” (which is the lead track on the album) might be one of my favorite lead tracks I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, the bleepy synths and haunting piano keys make for a riveting experience. Every song on this album compliments one other and it makes for a great “end to end burner”. Each track on the album beautifully transitions into the next seamlessly, making for a great display of production on El’s part. If there’s one thing that ISWYD proves, it’s that El-P really knows how to make a timeless masterpiece, while at the same time making you wonder what is still possible.
Rjd2 – Dead Ringer: Ramble John Krohn is one hell of a musician and this is his crown jewel of his catalog. I remember hearing this album for the first time in my friend Abe’s car. I’m pretty sure I heard the track “Ghostwriter” and I was immediately hooked on this man’s work. The eardrum assaulting horns were something that I had never heard before in Hip-Hop production and this guy has it. From the moment the album starts 0ut with the track “The Horror” you know that you are going to be on one hell of a ride. Rj cruises through this album sampling left and right, making everything that he does sound like pure genius. The thing that I really liked about this album is that it was mostly instrumentals but, there were a few tracks on here where he showcased some great emcees from his respected crews (MHz & Soul Position). “Final Frontier” featuring Blueprint is one of my favorite tracks Soul Position has ever done, the beat is pristine and Blueprint takes rhyming to a whole new elevation. This is one album that made me look at Hip-Hop production much differently, and for that I will never ever forget this album. Every snare and every hi-hat is so crisp that these beats are almost perfect. This album solidified Rj’s position in the Hip-Hop game as an amazing producer. Even cats like ?uestlove were giving Rj mad props for this album and to be frank, I’m not surprised. The way that Rj takes sounds and cut and pastes them together is something that is truly amazing, this is an album that should not be overlooked by Hip-Hop fans.
Pete Rock – Soul Survivor II: Pete Rock is a guy that words can’t really do justice for. He’s been in the game for game for damn near 20 years, and everything that he has done is a classic. Most producers wish that they could be half as good as Pete is. This is the first album that I was introduced to when it comes to Pete Rock’s material, and it’s also the one that stuck the most. This album has a totally star studded list of guest appearance and some of the best beats you will hear. This album is what you can call the true definition of a compilation. With guest appearances from Skillz, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, J Dilla & C.L. Smooth, RZA & GZA it’s a hard album to top when you are talking about compilations. There is one track in particular that always sticks out to me on this album and it is “Appreciate” featuring C.L. Smooth. The beat that Pete conjures up is full of perfectly placed melodic strings and drums and C.L. Smooth sounds so natural over this beat that it feels like he’s right back at home. In my opinion this whole album is worth the one C.L. and Pete Rock track alone, but to be clear, this whole album is nothing short of excellent. If you are someone that is looking to get into Pete Rock material I would definitely recommend this album. Many people consider Pete Rock to be the greatest of all time, to me this album is a great testament to that statement. If anything else this album proves that Pete Rock knows how to cook up a perfect beat for the emcees he is working with.
Masta Ace – A Long Hot Summer: Masta Ace is a cat that’s been in the game for decades now, and I would easily put him in my top five emcees of all time. I don’t think there is anyone in the game that can flow as smoothly and effortlessly as Ace and this album is the perfect evidence to back up my previous statement. I also have to say that this is one of the best concept albums I’ve ever heard, the backdrop for the concept is a summer in Brooklyn with Masta Ace and his shifty sidekick “Fats Belvedere”. There really isn’t a single bad track on this album and it features some great production to fit Ace’s style of rhyming. Even though this entire album is excellent, the track “Beautiful” takes the album to a whole new level. I remember when my friend Heise gave me this album he told me, “Man I really don’t know if you are going to like Ace…”. I have no idea why he initially made that statement (no offense), because Ace quickly became one of my favorite emcees. Many of you are probably thinking “Well Tim, what about Slaughterhouse or Disposable Arts?”. Let me tell you that those albums are fantastic as well, but this is the one that really introduced and got me hooked on Masta Ace. With cats like Eminem worshipping him, Ace has really taken his places as one of the greatest in the game right now. This album really makes me wish that Ace would come out with a new album, because to be honest as Ace gets older he gets better, just like a fine wine.
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek – Reflection Eternal: This is an album that I really don’t feel that I need to say much about because it speaks for itself so much. I am going to go out on a whim and assume that at least 80% of the people who reads my posts on this blog have listened to this album at least once (if not many times) and have been in love with it since. Hi-Tek & Kweli changed the game and put out one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time. The chemistry between these two is unparelleled and Kweli feads off of Hi-Tek’s beats like a hungry pitbull on steak. Talib Kweli has always been one of the most lyrical and precise emcees in the game, and this might be the best performance you will ever hear him perform. Hi-Tek brings out the best in Kweli and Kweli brings out the best in Hi-Tek, this is evident on this album. Kweli will always be a top 5 emcee for me, and this album opened up a can of worms that will never be closed.
Gang Starr – Moment of Truth: This is one of the most polished Hip-Hop albums I’ve ever heard. Guru & Premier take the state of Hip-Hop to the stratosphere on this record and in my opinion it’s the best album that they ever put out. This is another album that you can put on and listen to the whole thing without even thinking about it because it’s so good. Premier’s beats on this album are so good that I might call his production perfect. There is a line in the first track’s intro that sums this entire album up “That makes me know that we’ve had the right idea in the beginning, and we just need to maintain our focus and elevate. What we do is update our formulas, we have certain formulas but we update em’ with the times. The rhyme style is elevated, the style of beats is elevated but it’s still Guru & Premier”. I don’t want you to think that I’m saying that everything else that these guys did was mediocre because I would never try to convey that message. I just think that this is arguably the best work these two have done together. I might even take this review one step further and say this might be my favorite album of the 90’s. For 1998 this album is way ahead of its time and will always be a modern day classic in my eyes. The title track “Moment of Truth” has some of the most factual lyrics that I’ve listened to in my life, and everyone should hear the track at least once, even if you don’t like Hip-Hop. Many lessons can be taken from this album in the Hip-Hop world as well as real life. This is the quality that DJ/MC duos should aspire to create.
Evidence – The Weatherman LP: I initially thought that this was an album by the group The Weathermen for some reason. I kept seeing this album on everyone’s end of the year list in 2007 and figured I would check it out. Let me get this straight to all of you (which I know I’ve said many times previous) Evidence is that dude that just keep feeding you great music. I remember the first time I listened to this album the lead track “I Know” hit me like a bag of brick mortar in the face, from that moment I knew the album was going to be a classic. The reason I love this album so much is because the production on this album is perfect. This album has some of the best all-round production I’ve ever heard. The majority of the album is produced by Alchemist, Evidence (himself) and Sid Roams. Evidence can bang out some earth shaking beats and his flow is smoother than liquid, and as many of you know, producing emcees are my favorite artists in Hip-Hop. I am going to say conservatively that I’ve listened to this album over a hundred times in the last year. There is absolutely no embellishment when I make that statement. I don’t think there would have been any other way for Evidence to make his debut on the scene as a solo artist. I listen to the song “Chase the Clouds Away” almost on a daily basis in the morning, that song has hit me so hard, it makes me look at all of the positive things going on around me when all I tend to see is negatives. Every time “Mr. Slow Flow” is playing, whatever stereo it is in (be it my car or home stereo) will be on the loudest setting there is. I hate to talk about individual tracks on this album because they are all the embodiment of great songs. Maybe one of the best solo outings I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite albums of all time.
J Dilla – Donuts: For many people that know me, it might be really hard for them to believe that this isn’t number one. That’s because the number one album changed my entire perspective on music. Jay Dee is one of the most influential people I’ve had the pleasure of learning about. I love all of his music and hold him on a pedestal as a producer. I think he’s the greatest producer of all time, and in my opinion there aren’t many producers that can do anywhere near what Dilla did. This album was his pride and joy while he was in Cedars Sinai Hospital before he died. He let the doctors and his mother know that this was the one thing he wanted to get done. The outcome of his extreme dedication is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Donuts is just like the Weatherman LP in the sense that I’ve listened to it so many times, but it never seems to get old to me. I feel like Dilla is trying to tell me something in this album, and when I hear tracks like “Time: The Donut of the Heart” they almost make me cry they are so beautiful. Everything about this album is top notch, from the signature Jay Dee smile on the cover, to the perfect, scattered, bleepy, synthy, hard hitting production that you know and love Dilla for. J Dilla was a producers producer, and this album shows you exactly why people say that. This is a modern day artistic masterpiece, made with extreme dedication, as well as a great love for music. If someone came to me today and asked for the best beat tape that I have, there is no doubt in my mind that Donuts would be it. I hold every production that I hear up to this album because I think it’s the best production I’ve ever heard, and with albums like this Dilla’s legacy will live on forever.
Jedi Mind Tricks – Violent By Design: This album forever changed the way that I listen to music, and it also made me realize where the good Hip-Hop was at. From the first time I heard this album as a sophomore in high school I knew that it was going to be a stepping stone for me in the world of music. Many people consider this album to be an underground classic, and I consider it to be one of the best albums of all time. I was on a cruise with two of my buddies from high school and all I heard from the backseat was, “Should we throw on that JMT?” and I was like what the fuck? I remember when the track “Retaliation” played like it was yesterday. That album had such an affect on me that I went out and bought it the next day. I repped Violent By Design for two straight years, it seemed like by what was my senior year, I had kids coming up to me on a regular basis asking me if they could get this album from me (I’m sure that Ryan & Dan can testify to this). I think this is one of the illest displays of all around talent from a group ever displayed. This album has Vinnie Paz, Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind & Jus Allah all on the top of their game. Everything about this album to me is absolutely perfect, from the production to the lyrics. You have a few guest appearances here and there by members of Army of the Pharaohs, but for the most part it’s Vinnie, Stoupe & Jus making some absolutely incredible music. At the time when I heard this I was listening to mostly mainstream gangsta rap, and this album turned me in a completely different direction. To be 100% honest, I don’t think that I would listen to half of the music that I do now if it weren’t for Violent By Design.
I’m going to follow Erik’s suit and give you guys a mixtape with one of my favorite tracks from each album.
You can download it here.