The best rap album is Illmatic. You might disagree with me, but I’m not going to argue with you. No. Instead I’m going to do the thing where I plug my ears and scream lalalalalalala for hours, days, and perhaps weeks, ignoring my job, wife, and children until I’m unemployed and alone. But I’m damn sure not going to hear any of the absolutely dog shit arguments you’re going to make about Kanye’s first three Rhymefest albums or The Carter XVIIILMC actually being the best.
Instead, in this age of endless playlist curation, a far more productive activity is taking great hip-hop albums and stripping away all the unnecessary chaff until you have a perfectly formed kernel of rap goodness. Ten tracks, just like Illmatic. No more, potentially less, because while Nas’ seminal work has ten tracks, it only truly has nine songs, as “The Genesis” is somewhere in between a skit and an introductory motif.
So here we go, tearing away the useless filler, songs only included to make good on a guest feature trade agreement, and self-indulgent experimental tracks that were made in a cloud of dab smoke. Some albums get wildly re-ordered, others just have the fatty tumors excised. In the end they all become so much better.
Hating Drake is fun. It’s one of the best online sports. It’s pretty impossible to hate Take Care, though. It’s that good. And could’ve been better with a fewer songs. “Crew Love” goes away because the Wknd is so goddamned whiny. “Make Me Proud” goes away, not because of Nicki, she’s great. It goes away because Drake is a simp-ass nerd on it. Drizzy gets away with an extra one via a double-song track. If I were getting thorough, I’d throw away “Cameras” and just keep the boastful “Good Ones” but this is not a fucking science project, nerd.
1. Over My Dead Body
2. Shot For Me
4. Marvin’s Room
5. Take Care (feat. Rihanna)
6. Underground Kings
7. Cameras/Good Ones Go Interlude
8. Lord Knows
9. We’ll Be Fine
10. Look What You’ve Done
Look, trying to listen to a whole album of Eminem is A LOT now. The fact that we used to put ourselves through that shit is a testament to how much self-hate we harbored from 2000-2006. He says tons of slurs and venerates domestic violence and we were all like, “Well he’s got a lot on his plate.”
I tried to leave a lot of that off. But the far greater imperative was that at this point in my life NOTHING can make me listen to a track featuring D12. So get that shit the fuck outta here. That kind of masochism is unacceptable.
1. The Real Slim Shady
2. Kill You
3. Stan (feat. Dido)
4. Who Knew
5. The Way I Am
6. Remember Me (feat. RBX and Stickyfingaz)
7. Marshall Mathers
8. Bitch Please II (feat. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Nate Dogg)
10. I’m Back
The original double album wasn’t even remotely justified by the overall strength of the material. Life After Death could’ve been a tight 14 tracks and been a worthy follow-up to Ready To Die. But if you cut even deeper and chuck out all the repetition (Niggas Bleed, What’s Beef, and Somebody’s Got To Die are all the same song, so take your pick of those) you get one hell of a record. Biggie gets 11 tracks because he’s BIGGIE.
1. Going Back to Cali
2. Kick In The Door
3. Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems (Feat Ma$e and Puff Daddy)
5. Ten Crack Commandments
6. Niggas Bleed
7. Fucking You Tonight
8. I Got A Story To Tell
9. Sky’s The Limit (Feat. 112)
10. Notorious Thugs (Feat. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
11. You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You
Editing an early Kanye album is relative easy: Throw out the skits and just about anything that doesn’t have a guest rapper or a good co-writer. Done. The narrative of The College Dropout still carries through the material, but it becomes the equivalent of showing vs. telling to use a writing axiom. STOP TALKING, KANYE, AND PLAY THE MOTHERFUCKING HITS.
1. All Falls Down (Feat. Syleena Johnson)
2. Two Words (Feat. Mos Def and Freeway)
3. Slow Jamz (Feat. Jamie Foxx and Twista)
4. Jesus Walks
5. Get ‘Em High (Feat. Talib Kweli and Common)
6. Spaceship (Feat. Consequence and GLC)
7. Never Let Me Down (Feat. JAY-Z and Jay Ivy)
8. We Don’t Care
9. Breathe In Breathe Out (Feat. Ludacris)
10. Through The Wire
Drop your ten track edit in your pants and shake that shit up. Or post it here, or on Twitter. Wherever you want.