Best Experimental Hip Hop Albums
1. The Money Store by Death Grips
Punk attitudes, harsh noise inspired beats and genius samples lay the ground work for this masterpiece. MC Ride’s vocals and lyrics that cover dark themes and topics such as suicide, death, and more make this record the pure definition of experimental rap. Cuts like “Get Got” and “I’ve Seen Footage” lure listeners in with catchy hooks and an off kilter pop appeal, but as people listen to the album more, they realize there are way more brilliant layers to each track than what meets the eye. It’s pop punk in rap form, but more serious.
2. Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
The absolute pain and torture heard through Danny’s lyrics already bring the listener into an abstract landscape that feels like a world obsessed with drugs. If that sounds dark, the instrumental are even darker. From the psych-rock passage of “Downward Sprial” to the off the fucking wall “Ain’t It Funny” to the post-punk of “Golddust” this album puts the current rap world on it’s head. It’s clear that Danny Brown is ahead of the game, and I think it’s going to stay that way.
3. Madvillain – Madvilliany
A true-blue rap classic that holds up better than any lavishly produced record today, the duo of genius producer Madlib and insane rapper MF Doom that form Madvillian have proven to us the impossible: you can make a 40 plus minute vocal album with no hooks. It’s surprising to hear even after hearing the record, considering that both Doom’s flow and Madlib’s dusty soul samples are so irresistibly catchy. This record has inspired rappers from Tyler, The Creator to Mos Def, and I’m sure that it will inspire more.
4. Black Up by Shabazz Palaces
Who knew such a 180 could happen? When I heard Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets, a highly underrated jazz-rap group, rapping on a wonky and overall abstract work of electronic music, I was confused yet entranced. The duo of multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire and Ishmael make for one of the most enthralling music projects of recent years, and with the announcement of two simultaneous records coming out this year, I’m sure there will be a dull moment.
5. Splendor and Misery by Clipping.
When Daveed Diggs, lead of the group clipping. was casted in Hamilton, my hopes and dreams for the project were lost. An a amazing lyricist and rapper going into a Broadway smash musical from an experimental hip hop outfit with a small audience? There was almost zero percent chance there would be another album after this. However, my thoughts were immediately discarded when this album, a “space opera” of rap, with harsh noise interludes and gospel, spiritual inspired rhythms was announced, I realized the group was weirder than ever. If you like your albums cinematic, please give this one a shot.
6. Donuts by J Dilla
One of the few albums where the context makes it better, J Dilla’s Donuts is the beautifully constructed masterpiece from the king of instrumental hip-hop. The record acts as a beat tape, filled to the brim with soul samples, movie dialogue and instrumental repetition. However, what separates it from almost ever tape I’ve ever heard is that the tracks don’t sound like beats. They sound like songs. Usually beat tapes are instrumentals waiting for someone to hop on them, but every song on this album is like a work of art, is best left untouched, unless MF DOOM wants to get on “Lightworks”, that’s fine for me.
7. From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots by Dalek
More refined than a group like Death Grips, Dalek achieves the same amount of aggression and energy through distorted guitars and straightforward hooks rather than cluttered mixes and demonic flows. This record is criminally underrated and is a great segway into experimental hip hop and into hip hop in general if you’ve only listened to rock.
8. Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus
A perfectly weird blend of Hip Hop instrumentals, IDM, jazz and ambient music make for one of the trippiest albums of the decade and a great starting point for an electronic music fan looking to get into Hip Hop. The album weaves in and out of crazy sonic textures that can be sometimes harsh, sometimes make your head bob, and sometimes bring your heart rate down. Please check out this stroke of genius.
9. The Impossible Kid by Aesop Rock
The most recent entry on this list, Aesop Rock’s instrumentals can be easy to listen to and get behind, but his lyrics are what make this experimental. Definitely not for people who listen to Rap music to get drunk to, this man’s vocabulary and off the wall flows could be studied for hours and still make you scratch your head.