50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 6): MC Lyte, J Cole, Lil Wayne, Redman, Jay-Z & Kanye West

50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 6): MC Lyte, J Cole, Lil Wayne, Redman, Jay-Z & Kanye West

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with a legendary DJ Kool Herc party in the Bronx on August 11, 1973 commonly cited as its glorious moment of inception. To celebrate for a special edition of Music Week, we asked over 100 names – featuring everyone from Chuck D and Kanya King to top executives, broadcasters, managers, producers and more – to pick and salute one album that impacted their lives and pushed hip-hop culture forward…


“This album is so important to me in so many ways. Firstly, it introduced me to a phenomenal female rapper with extraordinary storytelling ability. MC Lyte broke new ground by delivering unapologetic feminism within the hip-hop landscape. I was also able to immediately identify with her through her style and a lot of her lyrical content, specifically on Poor Georgie. I was 15 years old when this amazing song came out and when she came in with the lyrics, I was in tears. A year prior, my first ‘young love’ boyfriend, Rolan Adams, was murdered in a racist attack. He was only 15. We marched to the NF headquarters with Reverend Al Sharpton in a massive protest – this was a few years before the death of Stephen Lawrence. That song helped me through a time when I didn’t really know anyone else who had suffered a loss in that way. Even though the story itself is not the same, it is about a young man who loses his life. The beauty of that song is the very end where she reminds us that, ‘No one on Earth is promised tomorrow,’ and to appreciate life and those you love. I became a massive MC Lyte fan and was mesmerised by her fearlessly addressing gender inequality, sexism and challenges faced by women, being unafraid to be a voice for female empowerment. Going back to this album has evoked all of the amazing emotions I had 31 years ago! MC Lyte, along with Tupac, is one of the best storytellers of all time. Her flow, her tone and her message will continue to resonate and inspire future generations of female artists. She truly is one of hip-hop’s most significant figures and this album definitely has its place among hip-hop’s greatest albums of all-time.” Eve Horne (We Are The Unheard/MPG/PeakMusic UK)


THE WARM UP (2009)

“This was the first project I’d heard from J Cole, and it means so much to me. I remember being in school and listening to this back-to-back, after downloading it on DatPiff. It became the soundtrack to my life at the time. Even though there are obvious major differences between me in London and J Cole in North Carolina, the shared human experience around struggles we all face – being broke, trying to ‘make it and helping family’ – all made so much sense to me. His way of storytelling with so much authenticity and feeling became ingrained in my mind and has become a cornerstone in my life!” Esi (KISS Fresh)


“I was at J Cole’s first ever show in London at Koko in 2011. I was already a fan, but that show is a core memory for me, I’ll never forget hearing everyone singing along to every lyric. It was just after he dropped the Friday Night Lights mixtape and there was so much love already, I was in awe! Friday Night Lights was a massive moment for me, but Sideline Story has to be my favourite J Cole album.” Safiya Lambie-Knight (Spotify UK & Ireland)


“This was the first album I purchased with my own money. We knew then we were witnessing the coming-out party for a superstar, but nobody could have predicted the impact he would have on the genre almost 20 years later. On this record, Wayne transitioned from child rapper, as part of the Hot Boys, to a contender for the best rapper alive at a time when few rappers from the South were considered legitimate competition. Wayne made me fall in love with the art and science of rapping. The bravado he brought to the booth still inspires me today. A lot of artists owe their careers to Lil Wayne’s influence and Tha Carter is one of the best records in Wayne’s Carter series.” Akin Aliu (CAA)


“Muddy Waters is a stone cold classic and one of my all time favourite hip-hop records. Released in 1996, which is possibly the greatest year for hip-hop releases, the album hones the chaotic energy of Red’s brilliant previous releases, Whut? Thee Album and Dare Iz A Darkside, but never gives up on his bizarre, humorous and funky flow. In fact, it’s really at this point that the more laid-back and comedic persona that Redman really became known for began to take root. This total gem of a record is still one that fills me with joy whenever I listen to it.” Matt Hughes (Good As Gold)



“Reasonable Doubt is my favourite Jay-Z album for many reasons. Culturally, it holds immense significance within the pantheon of hip-hop. It’s an honest album filled with intricate wordplay, storytelling prowess, and an unwavering sense of authenticity. With DJ Premier, Ski, Clark Kent and Jaz-O on soundscape duties, Jay-Z’s lyrical narratives transcended mere glorification, delving into the complexities and moral dilemmas inherent in the world of hustling. His introspection offered a raw portrayal of the hustler mentality and the struggles faced in inner-city environments. Through Jay-Z’s words, you found solace, relatability and motivation, enabling you to navigate your own life’s challenges with renewed vigour and determination. Reasonable Doubt has left an indelible mark on the genre and my life. It also ushered in the greatest rapper of all time.” Sumit Sharma (Breaking Atoms Podcast)


“Album-wise, I’m gonna have to pick The Blueprint. This album took me away from the UK in my mind and made me feel like I was a part of the Brooklyn/Bed-Stuy community because of how Jay-Z depicted his life in the album, like on Song Cry for example. The album also opened our eyes to rap beef extending past the Biggie and Tupac era!” Esther Oram (AIM/NL Management)


“So many great albums to choose from, but I’m going for Jay-Z’s Magna Carta... Holy Grail. Back in 2013 when I was living in NYC, it was one of the notable projects I worked on during my time as president of Roc Nation. It was an amazing experience to work alongside one of the greatest rappers of our time on one of his many classic albums.” Jason Iley (Sony Music UK & Ireland)



“For me, Kanye West’s The College Dropout is not only my favourite hip-hop album, but my favourite album – period. His unique, melodic production style and ability to select immaculate samples, demonstrated on tracks such as Slow Jamz, Through The Wire and Family Business, are still unmatched today.” Lisa Wilkinson (BMG)

“If I were to pick only one album that I could say changed my life, it has to be The College Dropout by Kanye West. It was a huge influence on the hip-hop scene – watching his documentary Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy really explained that further to me. This album shaped me as a producer due to its intricate sonic detail and unique ways of sampling.” CeeBeaats (Producer/DJ)


“I remember being bought the album on its release, two days before my 17th birthday, and screaming when I unwrapped it. It is – to me – the most complete and comprehensive hip-hop album of all time. From the lyrics, to the features and production, the album is untouched. Storytelling in hip-hop is, by nature, a huge part of the foundation of the greatest albums from the greatest artists of all time, but something about MBDTF is a level of genius that I don’t think many people have ever reached, let alone captured for 13 tracks, consistently hitting on every song! Kanye West is a controversial figure, but one thing that can never be questioned is his genius level of detail and MBDTF is the perfect example of how you can capture elemental genius in an album. To this day, it should be a reminder to any hip-hop artist out there that albums, the way they are put together, the mix, the bars, the features, the musicality, the engineering and the roll out are still the most important thing you can ever do to establish your longevity and credibility as an artist.” Parris OH (TikTok)



“From the epic beats and insane back-to-back rap verses, to the creative visuals and club bangers, this album truly changed my life. I went to the Watch The Throne concert at The O2 Arena and jumped into a mosh pit – I decided right then and there that I wanted to put on music concerts.” Gurj Summan (Live Nation)

Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

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