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Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums for People Who Don’t Like Hip-Hop

VO: Matt Campbell

Script written by Q.V. Hough

The genre of hip-hop beholds a variety of sounds and influences, and yet still some people refuse to open their minds. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums for People Who Don’t Like Hip-Hop. For this list, we’re looking at the albums that could most appeal to hip hop haters.

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Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums for People Who Don’t Like Hip-Hop 

The genre of hip-hop beholds a variety of sounds and influences, and yet still some people refuse to open their minds. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums for People Who Don’t Like Hip-Hop.

For this list, we’re looking at the albums that could most appeal to hip hop haters. Keep in mind, we’re not counting the down the “best” hip-hop albums of all-time - such as Nas’ “Illmatic” - but rather those albums that can easily draw in that uninformed friend through their use of elements from outside genres, as well as their refusal to adhere by the typical hip hop clichés.

#10: “Kala” (2007)

Many people associate hip-hop with inner city America and street lifestyle, but M.I.A’s Kala reminds of a collective world beat. It’s a dance record at its core, but the fusion of cultural music creates a sound that’s more heritage and less about typical rap clichés. A catchy track like “Paper Planes” brilliantly sampled The Clash and it became a cultural phenomenon by way of “Pineapple Express”, perhaps appealing to a stoner demographic. Intellectually and artistically,M.I.A. demonstrates a connection to her past while providing a musical aesthetic that one can easily move their body to. And if you don’t feel that, perhaps you have a difficult time feeling music in general?

#9: “Raising Hell” (1986)

Now this is the album that first exemplified how the genres of rock and rap can intermix. Featuring a variety of old school classics, including an iconic collaboration with Aerosmith, “Raising Hell” lays down the fundamental core of hip-hop: beats, rhymes and bravado. But you don’t need to inherently connect with the lyrics to fully appreciate the album, as the accessible party rock nature means that anybody can press play and just kick it. Of course, the delivery of the lyrics can potentially reel in the uneducated hater of hip-hop, considering the style of a track like “It’s Tricky.” All in all, the album progressed the art form of rap in the mid-80s, breaking down barriers and opening minds in the process.

#8: “Graduation” (2007)
Kanye West

In the age of the Kardashians, Kanye West is a recognized figure of pop culture. Of course, not everyone may understand why he became a celebrity. With the release of his third album Graduation, Kanye embraced a larger sound, most notably for the anthemic “Stronger.” It’s a perfect starting point for anyone hoping to learn about the artistry of Kanye West, as it’s not quite reflective of his more bombastic side, but rather of someone inventing his craft by exploring various genres. Taking inspiration from indie music, the lyrical themes of existentialism transcend above culture identity and musical tastes. And if it feels right, then it only makes sense to graduate to Yeezy’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

#7: “Be” (2005)

Produced by Common’s fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, this album reflects the latter’s creative aesthetic pre-Graduation. For Common, it allowed him to re-emerge as a prominent lyricist, complemented by a more focused and somewhat commercial sound. Given the context of Kanye’s willingness to explore a more social groove, “Be” can easily be enjoyed by the non-believer, as the inherent message of the title urges one to be happy with themselves. Then there's “Go!”, which features an appearance from singer-songwriter John Mayer, highlighting the idea that some hip-hop music relies heavily on musical and personal ideology rather than adhering to perceived genre restrictions.

#6: “Acid Rap” (2013)
Chance the Rapper

If Common and Kanye border on the line of the old school and the new, this album definitely represents a modern train of thought. What's important to understand is that Chance the Rapper is truly independent as Acid Rap is a mix tape, not an official studio release. As a result, the experimental instrumentals and mind-opening verses produce a free-flowing musical experience, almost like a conversation. In fact, it’s been called “gospel rap,” which communicates the inherent positive nature of the overall message. And most importantly, it’s a documentation of timely issues, insinuating that perhaps labels aren’t as important as understanding who you are as a person. So, if you want to feel good and maybe look inward as well, this album is as good a way as any.

#5: “The Low End Theory” (1991)
A Tribe Called Quest

If you like jazz, chances are you’ll enjoy kicking back to this album. Released in a time when alternative hip-hop wasn’t quite a thing, The Low End Theory exudes a natural cool with a tinge of surrealism. That’s largely due to the vocal delivery of Q-Tip and his co-hort, the late Phife Dawg. From the opening track “Excursions” to the concluding posse cut that is “Scenario,” it’s clear that A Tribe Called Quest works just outside the box. If you’re that person who places all rap groups IN a box, well, “The Low End Theory” may provide a telling clue as to how the genre evolved through original artistry and respect for the past. Tribe’s follow-up Midnight Marauders is also highly recommended for that someone looking to feel some good music.

#4: “Hello Nasty” (1998)
Beastie Boys

As one of the more iconic groups of the 1980s, the Beastie Boys influence permeates throughout pop culture. That success continued well into the 1990s, with 1998’s Hello Nasty acting as the cherry on top of a decade filled with critical acclaim. From “Fight for your Right” onward, the Beastie Boys' music has always been more about having fun than contemplative verses about the state of the world and music videos for tracks like “Intergalactic” are part of the experience as well. But if you’re not convinced by Hello Nasty, then check out Licensed to Ill or Paul’s Boutique and try again when you're ready.

#3: “How I Got Over” (2010)
The Roots

Chances are you’ve seen “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and if you’re impressed with the house band The Roots then their 2010 release “How I Got Over” will likely make you a legit fan. The title itself hints at the subject matter, and like so many timeless hip-hop artists, The Roots’ understanding of history and the world around them transfers over into their artistry as musicians. It’s a soul record at heart, however, it’s also a meditation on life, and the genre influence extends far beyond fundamental rap.

#2: “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” (2003)

Before the release of this double album, Andre 3000 and Big Boi were known as visionary figures of hip-hop. But after four landmark albums, OutKast produced something entirely original with Speakerboxxx and The Love Below. All it takes is a few seconds of “Hey Ya!” to dismay any preconceptions about the limits of rap music. With each member ruling over their own album, a beautiful fusion of genres and musical concepts emerges. Like their predecessors A Tribe Called Quest, Outkast builds on the past to zero in on a specific sound.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Quality Control” (2000)
Jurassic 5
“Deltron 3030” (2000)
Deltron 3030
“Man on The Moon: The End of Day” (2009)
Kid Cudi

#1: “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (1998)
Lauryn Hill

Nostalgia can often lead people directly to hip-hop. In the case of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the chorus of the album’s lead single channels classic R&B, which can be enough to grab the attention of any listener. But the song also beholds a rap aesthetic, and when combined with Hill’s phenomenal vocals, the overall feel is simply infectious. It’s the overall depth, and the perspective of Lauryn Hill’s music that solidifies the album as a pure classic. Furthermore, the album progressed the hip-hop genre forward into the 21st century, as the album became a legitimate mainstream sensation. While the music can be enjoyed without a sense of context, or an understanding of Hill’s past with the Fugees, her subsequent departure from the music scene makes it even more unique.

So, do you agree with our selections? What hip-hop albums do you recommend to the uninformed? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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