50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 8): Kendrick Lamar, Cypress Hill, Gang Starr, Common, Lil' Kim & more

50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 8): Kendrick Lamar, Cypress Hill, Gang Starr, Common, Lil' Kim & more

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…



“An album that opened my world to the true power of hip-hop. I was fascinated with the storytelling, the journey, the adversity and breadth of influence that made this record one of the greatest. It’s a movie in an album.” Jack Saunders (BBC Radio 1)

“Kendrick Lamar is a poet and, in my opinion, he’s one of the best. I struggled to pick between this and Damn, which won the Pulitzer Prize For Music, but it’s ultimately the story he tells through Good Kid, M.A.A.D city about the experience of growing up in Compton as a young African American man that makes this album stand out. It’s a story that couldn’t be more different from my own, but has themes that resonate with many young people, whether that’s peer pressure, aspirations and anticipation for the future, the strength and freedom found in friendships, expectations from family and, of course, the first explorations of romance and intimacy. It has to be one of the best concept albums ever made and looks the raw reality of his situation squarely in the face. This album takes you on a journey through Kendrick’s fight against the tide – whilst still being proud to call Compton his home.” Beth Sidwell (BPI)


“This album to me is beautiful, artistic and really brave. In a time where people were mostly having success from singles and big club records, Kendrick dug into his roots and influences and brought out something really special. Every time I listen to this album, even eight years post-release, I hear or perceive something differently to the first time I heard it. That is a real skill and what art is supposed to do, make you think, rethink and give you a unique perspective.” Jacqueline Eyewe (0207 Def Jam)

“Undisputedly one of the most seminal hip-hop albums ever created, To Pimp A Butterfly is representative of the landmark in Kendrick Lamar’s songbook where he seamlessly mastered a diverse blend of lyrical poetry with jazz instrumentalism. Continuing to explore the hardships of Compton hood life, institutional politics and race barriers that were examined in such iconic fashion on Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, the tracklist ebbs and flows between poignant storytelling such as How Much A Dollar Cost and stomping anthems like Alright. With appearances by artists such as Snoop Dogg, Thundercat and Rapsody, the result is a flawless concept album that is ultimately revealed to be an ode to the timeless legacy of Tupac. To Pimp A Butterfly will undoubtedly be recognised as one of Kendrick’s greatest and most important works.” Marc Saunders (The O2)


“I was introduced to Cypress Hill via the film Juice, starring Tupac and Omar Epps. That soundtrack opened me up to a wealth of hip-hop, from the likes of Eric B & Rakim to EPMD. Growing up in a small town in the North East, Black Sunday was an education, it was hugely influential in my early teens, shaping my love for hip-hop and music in general – the hooks, the basslines, the samples. It transported me to a whole new world – it was dark, unapologetic, it was goth, it was rap, and it was hard-hitting hip-hop. It’s a masterpiece that still stands the test of time.” Dipesh Parmar (Columbia Records UK)


“I’ve always been a fan of female rappers and Lil’ Kim is the ultimate ‘Queen Bee’ – the first to break through and be extremely respected at her craft in a very male-dominated industry. She embraced her sexuality and femininity and paved the way for many other females to break through.” Amber Davis (Warner Chappell Music UK)



“My album would be No More Mr Nice Guy by Gang Starr as it was my first NYC management experience with Patrick Moxey. Little did we know at the time, but DJ Premier In Deep Concentration gave you a clue that he would go on to be the GOAT! RIP Guru.” Neale Easterby (Empire Management/Payday Records)

COMMON – BE (2005)

“Common’s 2005 album Be was such an affirming record for me in my formative years, the outro on It’s Your World gave me life lessons that I still live by today. The soaring string-led samples speak to the undeniable magic of Kanye West’s production, which is complemented by dizzying backing vocals from John Legend throughout. Common has an unparalleled talent for weaving storytelling, self-reflection and social commentary into a sonic tapestry of tales from the hood. This album made me feel limitless and hopeful, emotions that are the bedrock of hip-hop.” Komali Scott-Jones (Black Music Coalition/AWAL)

“Common’s Be was the soundtrack to my early 20s and got me through settling in London after moving down here from Nottingham. Sample rich, and [co-]produced by J Dilla…” Rich Castillo (EMI)


“This album still sounds as fresh now as it did in ’94. Fusing elements of jazz, punk, funk and hip-hop, Ill Communication felt like an enormous breath of fresh air. I was a skater, I had just started working in the music industry and life was great. This was the soundtrack. From Sabotage, Get It Together and Sure Shot to Root Down, there is nothing to skip. Iconic, inventive, distinctly unique and an absolute journey from start to finish. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time.” Emma Van Duyts (Public City PR)


“Full of hilarious skits and crazy impactful lyricism, it was Busta at his prime telling us how it was bar-for-bar and making us laugh in the process. They don’t make bold, massive, 18-odd track albums like this no more. People are too fearful and are in it to impress the algorithm. He exempted a fearless prose and rose above any rapper at that time. It’s a classic and old skool hip-hop heads know this. For me, I think it beats Dr. Dre’s 2001. It’s one of my fave albums, at least in my top five.” Hak Baker 


“Gunshot helped define Britcore. Outstripping previous debuts by Hijack and Silver Bullet, Patriot Games was custom-loaded with 15 primed sure shots of musical menace, its sampled mayhem riding rampaging basslines and super-fast breakbeats. If DJ White Child Rix was a one-man Bomb Squad with scratch skills to burn, Mercury and Alkaline were fleet-tongued lyrical assassins, blessed with a full clip of ragga-tinged rhymes alluding to their native East End’s shady past. Lean, cinematic and dud-free, it breached the UK charts and laid down the roots for grime.” Andy Cowan (author/Mojo)

Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

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