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November 12, 2003

The Hiphop Equivalent of Xanadu

Infinite Monkeys poses and answers some hella interesting questions. What are the hiphop equivalents of rock albums.

1. The Velvet Underground - "Loaded" (i.e. the "commercial" album by a critically acclaimed band that you really liked the best, but told everybody you liked "The Velvet Underground and Nico" because it was cooler to like that record)

That's easy. Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys. But of course I said "Licensed to Ill".

2. The Clash - "London Calling" (i.e. album by a previously good and critically acclaimed group that was now "firing on all cylinders")

I'd say that De La Soul really hit their stride with AOI Mosaic Thump. Stakes Is High was a comeback album. The first AOI was a triumph and the second AOI borders on a masterpiece. So Mosaic Thump gets my vote.

3. R.E.M. - "Murmur" (i.e. debut album that caught everyone off-guard and effectively started a completely new "scene")

Everybody is tempted to say De La, but nobody actually followed De La lyrically. They were not pioneers because no significant portion of hiphop went in that direction. I think Wu Tang changed hiphop itself more significantly. Nas brought back one-up lyricism back to the days of LL. But what Wu Tang did was introduce the lyrics behind the beat and a surfeit of syllables, they also took rhyming in turn to a new level and changed the way people advertised and emphasized their crew. So Enter the Wu-Tang.

4. The Beatles - "Let It Be" (i.e. absolutely wretched excess that effectively ended the career of a previously magnificent group)

Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age by Public Enemy. Enough said; PE is dead.

5. Joy Division - "Closer" (i.e. album by a group that everybody pretended to like, but were actually complete crap, unless you were one of the five people on earth like Paul Morley who had some kind of gnostic experience causing them to worship Ian Curtis as the new messiah of rock)

Without question this would be 'To The East - Blackwards' by X-Clan. There are no cornier rappers on the planet. This is rhythm straight from 1979 and the Gary Byrd Experience. Only people who were addicted to the Afrocentric Idea coudl vibe with this album. Where are they now?

Bonus: Name the hip-hop equivalent of the "Xanadu" soundtrack, and explain why.

This is almost an impossible question. Xanadu was an attempt by mainstream pop artists to create a desexualized form of disco. So I would think of a collaborative album of pop rappers doing soft rap. The closest thing I can think of to that would be 'Back on the Block' by Quincy Jones. But Back on the Block was not a real hiphop album. On the other hand you can't consider Xanadu to be a real rock album either. I guess that's the point. Nevertheless both were very popular, masterpieces of contrivance.

Posted by mbowen at November 12, 2003 11:50 AM

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