What’s good everyone! I hope y’all had a fabulous Easter, ate good food and spent time with your families. Let’s get right into this topic: the top 10 things that makes a quality album.
Let’s be honest, everybody has their own specific qualities that makes an album a “classic” or very good. I’m the same way. I have certain expectations when it comes to an album that I’m anticipating:
When I first listen to an album I pay close attention to its consistency. Does it have the right amount of songs pertaining to the concept the artist developed for the album? Is it all about social change or is it about having fun? Can it be an easy listening experience or does it require multiple listens to comprehend the subject matter? For example, a lot of rap albums fall under the trend of being strictly dedicated to listeners who love the roots of hip-hop culture. On the flip side, some rap albums are about partying and having a good time. Regardless, the consistency is key.
This is where it gets interesting. What I find so great about an album’s production is the diversification of its beat selection. The album can have a multitude of sounds that make it so unique and fresh. Recently, I listened to rapper Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly and I was amazed at the different musical genres that were set in place. I heard elements of funk, neo-soul, spoken word and jazz infused together to create a beautiful arrangement of beats. At its core, TPAB is a rap album but the amalgamation of those genres made the album very enjoyable.
Most of the time when it comes to lyricism in an album I’m pretty flexible. The inner hip-hop head in me would love if every rapper was dope lyrically. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Some friends of mine would rather listen to a rapper that makes them feel good at parties rather than think deeply. I look at how a rapper can impact my life with their usage of words. When I was younger I looked up to underground rapper Immortal Technique. Whenever he would talk about politics and social issues I felt so strongly about it. As time moved on I gravitated towards to more relatable lyricism. Drake became my favourite rapper because of how his music mirrored a lot situations I dealt with. Whether it was about heartbreak, the loss of a friend or family member, or finding love again, I felt so connected to it. Every rap fan has a rapper they can relate to. It’s all about finding the one that fits your personality.
When you think of a quality album, you tend to think of how it will fare in the long run. Albums that can stand the test of time and can still be played today are so important. The debut album Illmatic, by Queens rap legend Nas, has passed the 20 year milestone since its release in 1994, and it still resonates within the new generation of rap fans. It’s vital for an album to stay in the ears of the young people because if not, that album won’t be mentioned as a landmark. It’s up to them to keep the legacy of those albums alive.
This ties into the conceptual aspect part of an album. What direction is the artist going for when creating an album? Does it follow a certain trend or will it express an idea that will spark a positive shift among people? It’s important for the artist to stay grounded on the concept they choose or the entire album will feel messy and out of place. Great albums stick to a plan and will see it through to end of its creation. This is where the magic happens in terms of creating a defining piece of music.
For the visual admirers, this part of an album is where the creativity lies. The first thing you notice when you’re browsing through albums is the cover. An iconic image, like Public Enemy’s 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, features Chuck D and Flavor Flav behind black steel bars signifying their incarceration. It was their way of saying “you can hold us here but we won’t be stopped for long”. An album cover usually determines what the album will be about. It can set the mood and the dynamic of how the album will play a role in your listening experience.
What sets great albums apart from subpar albums is the kind of impact they have. When an album releases and the response is overwhelmingly positive, you’ll know that album made a significant dent in someone’s life. I look back on JAY Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint and how important it was. This album blew so many people away, including myself, and it solidified JAY Z’s career up to that point. Fast forward to 2008, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III sold over a million copies in its first week. These artists put out amazing music that have so much credibility and resolve among its fans. However, the definition of impact can vary from person to person. You’ll be the judge of whether or not an album you’re listening to is indeed impactful.
Albums that are amazing usually are very innovative in their approach to create something different from the norm. Take a look at Kanye West for example. Each album he’s made is completely different. He’s been able to develop a new sound or a new way of making good music. I think a lot of the innovation process comes from how creative the artist is. If they are willing to take chances and try new things, chances are something great and refining can happen.
A great album usually has the content to back it up. When searching for a pleasurable listen, it’s imperative to listen to what’s being said first. You could miss out on a potential classic piece of music if you weren’t listening properly. A lot of these great albums get under looked due to its introspective, deep nature. The quality in the music comes from how tight-knit the content is. If you want something to party to make sure it has the right ingredients to make one hell of a night. If you’re looking for something to gain knowledge, please listen with an open mind.
In today’s world most music is relevant to whatever is popular. The untimely “trend” seems to dominate the masses of music consumers. However, this doesn’t last. History shows that these kinds of albums become a distant memory and good albums will prevail. In light of the N.W.A. biopic releasing in August 2015, the group’s 1988 Straight Outta Compton album is still relevant to this day. A song like “Fuck tha Police” resonates among the those who still deal with the onslaught of police brutality. The year may be different but the idea is the same. Albums that, no matter what the time difference, still make sense whenever you decide to play them. That’s special.