This is a continuation of the first piece I wrote on the dying art and production of the hip-hop concept album. The very format and DNA of rap music makes room for great story-telling and imagination, especially when put that story telling in the hands of a truly gifted MC. So here's a few more hip-hop concept albums (albums that stick to unifying story or theme throughout) that I personally feel true hip-hop heads would appreciate if they have not check them out already:
1. Quasimoto- The Unseen (2000 Stones Throw Records) Oxnard, California MC/Producer and master beatsmith Madlib steps out from his group Lootpack to bring us into the bizarre, spacey, dusty, boom bap world of Quasimoto. Madlib's alter-ego is a helium voiced, aardvark-like monster/creature that we assume is from another planet but resides on earth to smoke mad weed, crate dig for beats and loops, look under girls' skirts, hit people in the head with a brick, stab dudes with pitchforks, and rob rich people for "making his ancestors eat swine". Quasimoto engages in all types of violent and vulgar hi-jinks on this album but you can't help but laugh and kind of wish you kicked it with him in real life. This album is also one of the best produced albums of all time, in my humble opinion.
2. Masta Ace- Long Hot Summer (2004 M3 Music) Brooklyn veteran MC Masta Ace returned 3 years after dropping the classic Disposable Arts with it's prequel Long Hot Summer. LHS lays out the story of how the main character ends up in prison in the first place, which is where Disposable Arts starts out. As a grinding, up and coming MC, he looks within himself to find what he's going to rhyme about, deals with living in an increasingly violent neighborhood, copes with a shady, reckless music industry, and tries his best to keep his criminally minded tour manager/partner on a leash. All the skits and songs connect to tell the story of a summer he won't forget.
3. Mr. Lif & L'Orange- The Life & Death of Scenery (2016 Mello Music) Boston MC Mr. Lif and producer L'Orange join forces on this stellar effort of an album. Lif tells the story of a not too distant future world where music, books, and the arts in general are outlawed, asserting your independence in any way is punishable by death, and man seems to have handed over all power to a faceless ruling class that works it's subjects like slaves. At least until the uprising. Some real interesting story telling goes down over L'Orange's haunting, jazz infused, murky beats, but the whole album's run time is less than a half-hour, so the story progresses quickly.
4. Viktor Vaughn- Vaudeville Villain (2003 Sound Ink Recordings) NYC veteran lyricist MF Doom can be described in a lot of ways: zany, orginal, imaginative, weird...but never wack. On this album he fully takes on the persona of one his alter-egos Viktor Vaughn, who I assume was the insane villain who eventually became "DOOM". Dark, atmospheric, minimalist beats accompany Vik as he brings us into his world of forbidden science experiments, time travel, and weaving clever and dazzling rhymes together like a wizard. This album also made Pigeons & Planes' top 30 underground albums of all time list. Not too shabby.
5. Handsome Boy Modeling School- So...How's Your Girl? (1999 Tommy Boy Records) Left field producers Prince Paul and Dan The Automator take on the personas of Chest Rockwell and Nathaniel Merriweather on this truly inventive and entertaining LP that shows rap can be goofy and enjoyable at the same time. They play the founders (or deans, or teachers maybe??) of the Handsome Boy Modeling School, which is exactly what it sounds like it is. The skits bring the theme together throughout the album and both producers' stellar, true school production gets treatment it deserves with contributions from MCs like J-Live, Del The Funky Homosapien, De La Soul, Grand Puba, Sadat X, Encore and others. By the time you finish the album, you're still not sure what you just listened to exactly, but you'll know it was dope.