Dion Figueroa | Correspondent


It’s Black History Month again. Don’t have any time to attend any of the programs, but still wanna brush up on a bit of cultural knowledge? The following albums have all had tremendous effects on hip-hop music and black culture in general, and their overall messages are to inspire and educate the black community. Without further adieu, the list:


It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy

The militant black power-esque rap group’s second studio album released in 1988 and set the standard at the time for what a culturally aware rap album should be. It was politically charged in not just lyrical and thematic content, but the production sets the mood perfectly for rapper Chuck D to deliver his message to the people. From a lyrical standpoint this album is a perfect glimpse into the mind of a black nationalist growing up in a “post-racial” society.


Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.

Around the time of N.W.A.’s rise to prominence the hip-hop world had already been exposed to the everyday experiences of blacks growing up in many of the Northeast’s roughest areas through the eyes of the east coast’s many great rappers of the time. Straight Outta Compton served as the west coast’s premier debut into the gangster rap genre. New listeners should be aware that this album covers the urban life from the eyes of a drug dealer, pimp, etc., but serves as a raw and real portrait of the streets that Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella grew up on.


The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill

The history of rap music has been ruled by a large majority of male rappers and female rappers seem to mostly be an afterthought or come few and far between. However in 1998 Lauryn Hill dropped her debut and only solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Arguably the greatest female rapper of all time, Lauryn Hill blessed the hip-hop culture with an exemplary album empowering not just black people, but even more specifically black women to educate themselves not just on culture, but how to better navigate through life in America as a black woman.


Good Kid, M.a.a.d. City – Kendrick Lamar

There are many old school classic rap albums that could easily make this list, however every now and then a newer artist deserves recognition. In the fight to reawaken modern black youth, Kendrick Lamar leads the charge with his no filter approach to making culturally relevant music that caters to the needs of modern listeners. Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album has some of the more aggressive tunes on this list, however, manages to balance that out with an equal number of softer and more thought-provoking tracks. The production style of songs like the title track “m.A.A.d. City” featuring west coast great MC Eiht present the perfect background soundtrack for the modern revolutionary.


Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star – Black Star

The closing album on this list is the first collaborative album from rappers Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) & Talib Kweli released under the group name of Black Star. Bey and Talib Kweli have always been very socially conscious in their lyrics, but most times their albums fell flat when it came to replayability or even how well they withstood the tests of time. Black Star’s self-titled album does not fall under the same umbrella. The album delivers socially conscious and positive music that touches everything from the appreciation of black women on “Brown Skin Lady” to normal tales about New York City street life on “Thieves in the Night.” Every aspect of this album spells classic.