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Collecting vinyl records can be a gratifying process. However, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. There’s so much music out there, and it can be challenging to decide which albums you want to add to your collection without making selections that can be deemed as “basic,” including the best hip hop vinyl records.
Here are the 13 best hip hop albums you should own on vinyl:
- Dreamland by Glass Animals
- Because the Internet by Childish Gambino
- Check Your Head by Beastie Boys
- Madvillainy by Madvillain
- Kala by M.I.A.
- Kings & Queens by Jamie T
- Hymie’s Basement by Hymie’s Basement
- Things That Happen at Day […] by R.A.P. Ferreira (Milo)
- Zelda & Chill by Mikel
- Good for You by Aminé
- Limbo by Aminé
- Lofi Dreams by Chill Beats
In the rest of the article, I’ll be discussing each of these albums and why they would make such excellent additions to your vinyl collection. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
In 2010, a group of childhood friends got together and formed a band that would later become a globally-adored indie and alternative rock phenomenon: Glass Animals.
Glass Animals has been a longtime favorite of many indie and alternative fans, known for their creative percussion, cleverly dark lyrics, and catchy rhythmic choices that give the band a unique sound like no other. They’ve served as the birthplace for many indie anthems that are loved by many, even those who are not fans of the genre itself.
However, in recent years, Glass Animals has made a major stylistic shift and drew inspiration from the early 2000s to create their hip hop album Dreamland. Though the album may seem as a rebranding of the band to some, others see it as an evolution. The album may be different than what fans are used to but the band is still fundamentally the same: excellent, innovative, and adored.
Dreamland was released in August of 2020 and offers contemporary and experimental instrumentals, heavily influenced by modern and mainstream hip hop while still maintaining the taste of the band’s classic lyrical genuineness. The album is a revolutionary combination of audible psychedelic color and pop-inspired vocal styles.
“Heat Waves” is trending on TikTok and is currently at 888.6 million streams on Spotify, with “Tokyo Drifting” coming in second at 87.5 million plays. Another favorite is the track “Waterfalls Coming Out Of Your Mouth,” which, somehow, despite all of the genre changes the band has gone through, just sounds so much like Glass Animals.
Dreamland is quite close to a masterpiece. Enjoy a traditional Glass Animals feel blended beautifully with modern hip hop trends that make this album the artistic and beloved piece that it is.
This album is excellent, and it’ll definitely be a tasteful and wise addition to your collection of hip hop vinyl records.
Donald Glover is a beloved actor and musician known for his popular roles in productions like Community and Solo: A Star Wars Story. He creates music under the stage name Childish Gambino and is well known for his song “Redbone” and his popular album Because the Internet.
Because the Internet is the perfect collection of songs for staring at the ceiling and thinking about the world. Glover’s songs invite you to actively contemplate the things happening around you, and ponder your place in it all.
Enjoy timeless hip hop stylistic trends blended with experimental sounds that make Glover’s music so unique. Humanities House claims that “the album was met with mostly positive reviews, but in many people’s eyes, it was seen as a masterpiece.”
This album has earned millions of streams, but its popularity doesn’t deem this album “basic” — it’s classic, and Glover is most certainly a musical genius to say the least. Because the Internet has been constructed in a way that pulls listeners in and never lets them go, trapping them within walls of audible pleasantness and lyrical hypnotics.
Glover’s most acclaimed album indeed deserves to be deemed a masterpiece not only in the genre of hip hop, but the world of modern music as a whole.
With all of this in mind, I highly recommend that you purchase a vinyl copy of Because the Internet as soon as possible. It’ll definitely earn your collection the title of “tasteful.”
Check Your Head was released in 1992 by Beastie Boys, a globally adored rap-rock group known for their innovative combination of punk, jazz, and hip hop.
The band’s third studio album is arguably claimed to be their finest work. Loudwire describes Check Your Head as an “eclectic” concoction of “punk, jazz, hardcore, funk, rock, rap and whatever else they could find in the kitchen sink.”
This album is considered by some to be an eclectic and experimental hip hop masterpiece like no other that saved the career of the band while simultaneously paving the way for many other artists to follow.
While critics call Check Your Head sloppy, the band’s sound is contrarily praised for being an unconventionally stylistic and intentionally different production that resulted in a beloved collection of tracks that would set the table for many future artists to take a seat and devour its influence.
It’s ultimately a classic in the alternative hip hop realm and will undoubtedly be at home in your own vinyl collection.
Madvillainy is a 2004 album created by the American duo Madvillain. Since its release, it has been acclaimed by many who love its unique take on contemporary hip hop trends and its set of colorful yet cohesive tracks that makes the album blend together really nicely. Pitchfork describes Madvillainy as “one of the most anticipated releases in underground rap history.”
Supported with hints of jazz influence and a crisp, pleasing sound, Madvillainy has reached millions of streams on Spotify, with the popular track “All Caps” currently at 52.1 million plays and “Accordion” at 44.2 million. Madvillainy’s tracks are smooth, with clean instrumentals and a soothing sound that’s nearly impossible to stop listening to.
The album is like no other. It’s creative, tasteful, and musically pleasing to the ear. Not only will it sound great on vinyl, but it’ll also look great in your collection.
Released in 2007, Kala by British hip hop artist M.I.A. remains a widely known and beloved classic in the world of alternative hip hop.
Kala combines dance, world music, and hip hop elements to create the unique sound that produced tracks like “Paper Planes,” which was given a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year in 2009. “Paper Planes” is currently at 475.9 million streams on Spotify and has been remixed by other acclaimed artists who have found themselves falling in love with M.I.A.’s talent for musical storytelling.
M.I.A. claims that her work in this album is heavily influenced by her mother and the adversities her parent faced in life, allowing this collection of tracks to earn her mother’s name as its own title — Kala.
Kala features excellent music, but it’s also known for M.I.A.’s “controversial” views on political issues and the fight against censorship in the musical industry. Her songs give you something to think about in context with the world and the negative things that are taking place across the globe.
It’s difficult to not feel inspired after listening to the songs in Kala, because they make you feel like you can take on every trial that comes your way. M.I.A. is an artist whose courage inspires others to feel courageous as well.
Pitchfork claims that “in contrast to her comparatively sparkly and streamlined debut, Kala is clattering, buzzy, and sonically audacious.” It is surely an album like no other, and will change the way you think of not only the world, but of hip hop in general.
Why not add a classic like Kala to your vinyl collection? Owning this album on vinyl will undoubtedly show that you have an honorably open-minded taste.
Kings & Queens was released on September 4, 2009 by English musician Jamie Alexander Treays under his stage moniker, Jamie T.
The album combines nostalgic notes of fast-paced 2000’s indie rock instrumentals with lyrical styles influenced by modern rap and hip hop. Treays managed to create a collection of tracks that feel simple on the outside but carry deep complexities within.
Tracks like “368,” “Sticks ‘N’ Stones,” and “Chaka Demus” offer complex and rhythmic word sequences that almost beg you to sing along, while “Castro Dies” provides a more traditional hip hop sound with its expeditious vocals and lively character. “Sticks ‘N’ Stones” remains a favorite of many and currently has 56.9 million streams on Spotify.
According to The Guardian, Treays “sings about the important things in life” with his lighthearted take on heartbreak, the world, and what makes “life worth living.”
“Jamie T’s great gift, as a songwriter,” says The Guardian, “is his ability to filter the detritus of his own overloaded mind, in order to help us pick through our own.”
Treays is praised for the way he redirects everyday adversities into complex and heartfelt tracks that make Kings & Queens the unorthodox gem that it is. His work is almost humorous in style, and it’s apparent that his perspective is one of jovial nature and a true rarity. He maintains a positive outlook on life while not forgetting to acknowledge the things that hurt, and it’s refreshing to hear that in this album.
So if you’re looking for a creative combo of indie rock, hip hop, and fresh views on the world around us, look no further than Jamie T’s iconically innovative album Kings & Queens.
Hymie’s Basement is an Oakland-based musical duo that was formed in the early 2000s.
Their one album, Hymie’s Basement, was released in 2003. Their work is currently classified as abstract hip hop, with tracks like “21st Century Pop Song” blending alternative sounds with more current takes on hip hop percussion and lyrical structure.
Artists Yoni Wolf and Andrew Broder bonded over veganism and decided to create Hymie’s Basement in an actual basement — the basement of a record store co-owned by Broder’s wife. The album offers an atmospheric sort of ambience so beautiful and high-quality that you would never expect the tracks to have been recorded in such a place.
Pitchfork also says that “while suburban ennui and disjointed American ideology sit at the heart of the duo’s concerns, there are even yet more introspective and emotional facets to their sound… It leaves you exhausted, fulfilled and with plenty to think about.”
There’s something so melancholy about Hymie’s Basement, particularly “21st Century Pop Song.” The lyrics and overall vibes are heavily existential, provoking the listener to not only be a listener, but a deep thinker. It reminds you of nothing and everything all at once, and it’s a really beautiful thing to observe.
The tracks in Hymie’s Basement are abstract, but they lead you in a direction of contemplation and healing nonetheless. The experience of actively listening to their work and thinking about the messages they’re trying to send is something remarkable. You feel like a new person after listening to Hymie’s Basement.
If you’re looking for hip hop with meaningful lyrics and a creatively unique sound, purchasing Hymie’s Basement on vinyl is definitely a great idea. The album is innovatively bittersweet, visionary, and profoundly genuine.
The actual name of this album by R.A.P. Ferreira, also known as Milo, is Things That Happen at Day/Things That Happen at Night, but that’s quite a mouthful. The Wisconsin-based rapper and hip hop artist released this long-titled but brilliant album in 2013.
Childish Gambino’s instrumentals meet Cake’s vocals in Milo’s Things That Happen at Day/Things That Happen at Night. His tracks are unique, to say the least. The album’s most famous song “Folk-Metaphysics” is currently at 6.4 million streams on Spotify.
A review by user ElectricMess on Album of the Year says that the album is full of “sober thoughtfulness” and “entrancing psychedelics” that make it difficult to stop listening.
His work is smooth, and though the lyrics are laced with heartbreak, the sound of Milo’s discography is soothing to the ear. Songs like “Folk-Metaphysics” and “Almond Milk Paradise” offer pleasing and creative instrumentals with complex, thoughtful lyrics that would be nice to hear through the crispness of vinyl.
Zelda & Chill is a lo-fi hip hop album inspired by Nintendo’s phenomenal video game franchise, The Legend of Zelda.
This is the perfect album if you’re in the mood for mellow hip hop instrumentals without words. The focus of this album isn’t lyrical, but fret not; the emotion is still there, and perhaps even more potent than it would be with words to go along with the ambient instrumentals. Enjoy lovable tracks like “Fairy Fountain,” which is currently at 18.6 million streams on Spotify.
Any lo-fi chill hop is excellent to have on vinyl; put it on in the background while studying, working, or even resting for a hip hop kind of ambiance that warms your heart.
According to Discover Magazine, this ever-growing hip hop subgenre is being used by music therapists to rearrange everyday — and often provoking — background noises into something ambient, allowing patients to “better articulate their feelings.”
By turning familiar sounds like coffee shops and chatter into hip hop beats, the result is something relaxing and accessible that brings order to emotional clutter by bringing order to the audible chaos of the world around us.
Zelda & Chill is a great album to purchase on vinyl if you’re looking to get into lo-fi hip hop. With beloved tracks from the Zelda franchise, you’re sure to find familiarity and solace when you hear this record spinning on the player.
With a vinyl copy of Mikel’s Zelda & Chill, you can enjoy the whole experience of its soft traditional hip hop percussion mixed with hints of jazz influence and classic Nintendo tunes that will surely warm your heart.
Good for You was released in 2017 as Aminé’s debut studio album, best known for the iconic track “Caroline.”
Adam Aminé Daniel, known as Aminé to his extensive collection of fans, is an American singer and songwriter who first gained traction thanks to his single “Caroline” and its eventual inclusion on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“The Portland rapper’s debut album balances playful verses and cheerful wit with more revealing moments of introspection,” says Pitchfork. “Despite the album’s overwhelmingly lighthearted mood, though, he doesn’t shy away from making a few more serious statements” about Portland culture and human tendencies.
Good for You is stocked with catchy and rhythmically-pleasing tracks like “Caroline” and “Spice Girl,” which have reached 613.9 million and 165.3 million plays on Spotify.
Aminé’s musical style is an understandable favorite of many. He is adored for his irony and his entertaining character, and is truly adored by every fan he recruits. His songs stay stuck in your head, and the lyrical structure is clever and matched with creative instrumentals that you can listen to on repeat with no shame.
So if you’re in the mood to stock your shelves with a modern hip hop classic, give the album Good for You a go.
Aminé’s limited LP is a studio album available on vinyl only at Urban Outfitters.
Though Limbo portrays a pretty significant change in Aminé’s overall style, the album still packs a punch while maintaining bits and pieces of the artist’s beloved and flavorful character. This album features the single “Shimmy,” which has reached 26.4 million streams on Spotify, along with other tracks like “Compensating” (Ft. Young Thug), which is at 48.1 million.
So if you’re a fan of Aminé and Good for You, you might want to give Limbo a go. Though Limbo features a pretty significant stylistic difference from Good For You, it still sounds very Aminé.
“Aminé is more conscious of the big picture on Limbo,” says Pitchfork, “but there are still a few glimpses of the nonchalant scamp he used to be.”
Not only is the album a great example of fantastic hip hop, but it also makes for a great collector’s item. The physical record itself is a beautiful lime green that’ll undoubtedly look nice on your record player.
Chill Beats is excited to announce that they’ve released their first ever compilation record, and it’s on vinyl.
There’s something so soothing about chilled lo-fi hip hop. Though this subgenre is typically free from lyrics, most tracks are not far from being just as — if not more — emotional as traditional lyrical hip hop. Lofi Dreams is perfect background music for studying, working, reading, gaming, and much more.
“This collectible limited edition press features all 30 tunes from the record on two colored 33rpm standard weight vinyl records,” says Chill Beats. “The record also comes with a high-quality matte sleeve of the cover. There will only ever be 500 and once they’re sold, they’ll be gone.”
If you’re a fan of hip hop and collectible vinyl records, don’t hesitate to put Lofi Dreams on your wishlist.
Why You Should Buy Vinyl
As you might’ve noticed, vinyl sales have absolutely skyrocketed in the past few years, and they’re only growing in popularity.
The world was surprised when, in 2020 — for the first time in 34 years — vinyl sales actually surpassed CD sales, literally turning tables by putting an older medium of music distribution above newer options like CDs.
With digital streaming (and even CDs) being such an accessible way to listen to music, we have anything we want directly at our fingertips. But even as we’re spoiled with the luxury of millions of songs having the ability to fit in our pockets, there’s still something so magical about collecting the albums we love on vinyl.
A good vinyl collection isn’t just a way to listen to music anymore, though many claim that music sounds better on a record player than through a digital device.
Collecting vinyl is a way to make the music we love seem more tangible and real. You can hold it in your hands, hang the album covers on your wall, and watch the record spin. You can see your music as the art it is, and there’s something special about that.
So why not start your collection today?
If you’re a fan of hip hop, add any of the 12 best hip hop albums in this list to your vinyl collection.
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