This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with a legendary DJ Kool Herc party in the Bronx on August 11, 1973 commonly cited as its glorious moment of inception. To celebrate for a special edition of Music Week, we asked over 100 names – featuring everyone from Chuck D and Kanya King to top executives, broadcasters, managers, producers and more – to pick and salute one album that impacted their lives and pushed hip-hop culture forward...
50 CENT – GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’ (2003)
Twenty years ago, 50 Cent recast the hip-hop world in his own image with his multi-platinum studio debut, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Its impact is still very much felt today. Need proof? It was the most popular post-Millennium album to be picked in our survey...
“I remember living in Walthamstow playing this in my Golf GTI on repeat. It was an important year for me at the time because the UK scene was shut down by the police and I was looking for inspiration to keep going, and this album single-handedly helped me to power through.” Lethal Bizzle
“This album was a big part of my childhood. When 50 came onto the scene with different variations of rap such as gangsta, loverboy and melodic, he was the artist that the majority of people my age listened to. There were so many different vibes coming from one artist – you just had to love it!” Kilo Jalloh (5K Records)
“This album was a game changer for rap at the time, it was the first time I heard an artist that incorporated melodic hooks whilst staying true to his experiences. The album was raw, authentic and unapologetic, his music felt like the perfect soundtrack to people’s reality at the time. I liked how he would sing on hooks such as 21 Questions and Best Friend [the latter taken from the GRODT soundtrack, 2005], which are songs you’ll still find on my playlist right now.” Moe Bah (5K Records)
“Whenever you’re talking about debut albums you have to mention 50. The former hustler had an impressive gangsta persona and mixtapes that the streets loved, and with that he created a blueprint for new school rappers: Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. 50 Cent’s language is, and always has been, realness. He referenced his shooting, told hood tales, and carried an unapologetic aura. That, alongside two very credible names in the game, Eminem and Dr. Dre, made this truly iconic. I remember being nine years old and hearing Wanksta through my dad’s car speakers. He had this all-white convertible BMW. I thought, ‘Man, this guy is so cool.’ Both my dad and 50 Cent. I mean, who else can make In Da Club for the dancefloor, Many Men for the streets and 21 Questions for the girls? Crazy.” Shayna Marie (Capital Xtra)
“This album made me fall in love with hip-hop. One of the best albums of all time. I’m so happy that Dr. Dre and Eminem took a chance with 50 Cent. This album was so raw and 50 Cent took us all on a journey through all the experiences he lived through, especially as a Black man living in New York. From heartbreak, pain to joy. There are no songs that can be skipped on this album!” Sheniece Charway (YouTube Music)
“It’s my favourite hip-hop album of all time. To me it represents a break from the mould, it’s disruption for my generation perhaps similar to the way NWA’s Straight Outta Compton was for those born before the ’90s. It was melodic rap that still kept its edge, it worked simultaneously to make you feel tough in the schoolyard as well as to make you nod your head while walking home playing it on your flip phone. It represented one of the first times I’ve ever seen a single rapper have the entire game in such a vice grip. It was a time to behold, and it’s one of those things where you just had to be there!” David ‘Sideman’ Whitely (Amazon, +44)
MAIN SOURCE – BREAKING ATOMS (1991)
“While technically my top choice is Illmatic, that album arguably would not have happened if it wasn’t for this incredible slice of classic underground hip-hop. This jazz and soul-infused masterpiece soon became the template for ’90s East Coast Boom Bap. Predominantly produced by Large Professor, with one track by fellow legend Pete Rock, the backdrop throughout is nothing short of sublime. The icing on the cake is the on-wax debut of an unknown teenage guest MC from Queens dropping one of the most breathtaking verses of all time. Nas, one of the greatest to ever do it, appears on Live At The Barbeque. The rest is history…” Simon Barnabas (Global)
DJ JAZZY JEFF – THE MAGNIFICENT/BEAT GENERATION (2002)
“It takes me back to a time when I landed a work experience job at a music PR company located right next to BBE. I was a teenager then and, although I loved their releases, I never mustered the courage to knock on their door. However, just knowing that the music I adored was being released in that small office next door made my dream of having a career in music feel tangible. It was one of those moments that made me realise I was truly working in the music industry. So, this is a heartfelt tribute not only to ‘The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff’ but also to all the talented hip-hop producers out there who have the incredible ability to create tracks that hit hard and leave a lasting impact.” Eunice Obianagha (Enspire Management/UK Music)
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
THE LOW END THEORY (1991)
“This was a huge influence for me, it sounded like nothing else at the time. The beats combining with the jazz cuts along with Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s captivating flows and storytelling resonated with me more than any other rap act from that era. The opening bars of double bass on Buggin’ Out grab your attention and when the beats and vocals kick in it goes up another gear, and still bangs more than 30 years on.” Leon Neville (BPI)
MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS (1993)
“The album that was the most inspirational to me was Midnight Marauders. The production and musicianship was simply ahead of its time. It proved to me that far from what we had been led to believe by mainstream media, there was real space for musicianship and blended clever use of samples within the art of hip-hop. It was so magically musical that its instrumentals alone were worthy of even the finest singers, with production handled by Q-Tip with contributions from Skeff Anselm, Large Professor and the group’s DJ, Ali Shaheed. The rhyme flows of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg made me read every word and study why they wrote what they wrote. For my band D-Influence, it made us study our studio craft even harder – it made us feel there was a place for us in popular music. It was soulful, too. A must for any true hip-hop lover. It forms the bottom end base of my musical DNA.” Kwame Kwaten (Ferocious Talent Management/MMF)
“I always say people throw the term classic around too freely when it comes to albums. For me a true classic album has to be one where every track has been your favourite song in the world at one point. At 12 years old this album definitely had that for me. Tribe were able to create this soulful, timeless masterpiece and cut through all the noise gangster rap was starting to make in the early ’90s. Looking back, that can’t have been easy. The thing I love most about the album is that Phife proved that he wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. Bar for bar, he went in on this album.” DJ Ace (BBC Radio 1Xtra)
Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.