I Used to Love H.E.R.: What Made Milwaukee Famous

Just in time for the band’s show Tuesday night at Modified, singer/guitarist Michael Kingcaid of What Made Milwaukee Famous offers up the 27th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro).

I think that it would be pretty impossible for me to put my finger on any one hip-hop album that would define my love for the genre. It is much easier, however, to list the rap albums that ushered me into different levels of a deeper appreciation for hip-hop and inevitably permeated into my musical tastes for other genres, too. Some of these were (embarrassingly) spoon-fed to me by society. And I would have loved to just throw out obscure albums that would get respect. But this list is more-so about the rap albums that I wouldn’t be me without. In chronological order, they are:

1. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986)
one of the first two tapes that I ever bought with my own money. it’s remotely embarrassing that this is my entry into the rap world (by way of Aerosmith). but the bottom line is, that particular crossover put rap on the radar for a lot of white kids that wouldn’t normally be seeking it out. in that sense (but not that sense alone), the album is seminal.

  • Run-DMC | Hit it Run

2. Gang Starr – Step in the Arena (1991)
as far as rap ALBUMS go, this one was the first to capture my full attention for the duration of the whole album. there was such a long time that Yo! MTV Raps just had me buying singles for all the songs that I found on there. this album blew my mind from front to back and I must have listened to it (at least) 500 times within the next five years.

3. Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)
I feel like I don’t even need to say anything about this album. this album took everything that everyone loved about NWA, the DOC, Easy, and basically everything about hip-hop to a whole other level. this album put rap on the map as a commercial giant. plus, it’s a phenomenal piece of work.

  • Dr. Dre | Let Me Ride

4. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders (1993)
this one might stand alone as the most solid hip-hop album that has come into my life. it seems like it’d be easy to dismiss this one as something that would be stuck in the 90’s. but put it on every 6 months and see how much of it you can regurgitate. that says something.

  • A Tribe Called Quest | We Can Get Down

5. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
there are so many MC’s that wouldn’t exist without the Wu-Tang Clan that I feel like it’s kind of an injustice that there isn’t a statue of them in NYC. not to mention, Ghostface is still putting out albums that almost always end up in everybody’s top records of the year – every year he puts out an album.

  • Wu-Tang Clan | Bring Da Ruckus

6. Nas – Illmatic (1994)
one of the greatest storytelling rap albums that I own. or at least, it was up until that point in my life. I think that I had to buy this CD twice from listening to it so much

  • Nas | Represent

7. Aceyalone – Book of Human Language (1998)
I equate listening to this album with reading one of those books that change your way of thinking for the next few years of your life, like Breakfast of Champions or Siddhartha. Acey’s message is equally as impressive as his delivery.

8. Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)
I’ve been listening to a lot of Jay-Z recently and I’m pretty sure that he’s my favorite MC. possibly ever. with all the big willy and cash money talk that goes around in hip-hop, his (in retrospect) seems pretty honest. at least, the figures that he starts off touting on his first albums vs. the kind of duckets he throws around these days are reflected accurately in his respective albums.

there are other MC’s and groups that have been equally as influential on my tastes in music (Missy, Outkast, UGK, the Roots, Mos Def). but as far as albums go, those are the pivotal fence posts of my experiences with hip-hop. ok, maybe you could throw UGK’s Super Tight in there, too. but I’ve got plenty more to learn and listen to. and I’m all ears and I’m desperately in need of suggestions because with the year spans listed, I think I’m overdue for my introduction to my next indispensable, hip-hop chapter.

(Click here for all entries in the I Used to Love H.E.R. series.)

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