Hip-hop is the people’s music and quickly becoming the new mainstream.
What started out as a form of expression, protest, and storytelling from the generation without an equal voice has quickly become a corporate-backed machine that is fiercely blending black culture, youth culture, and media literacy into a commercial mess of talent, luxury, pain, trauma, and art.
From backpack-wearing youth to cuffed-Dickies OG’s, hip-hop has served as a means of education, providing people with the ins and outs of facing poverty, loss, discouragement, oppression, and that other dude from the block.
Shifting into the more recent years, themes of gang-banging, trapping, living high luxury, and seducing women have all been added to the collection of frequent themes spit from the MC’s lips.
The question that can be asked is with so many words and ideas coming at your ears, how powerful can hip-hop be to someone’s mental cognition? Can the brain run better on a pure hip-hop diet?
Needless to say, it certainly CAN, given that hip-hop was the soundtrack to my two degrees and countless all-nighter study sessions.
But with hip-hop growing to such heights that the genre is quickly becoming divided by style, flow, and subject matter, it’s clear that some music can potentially be more conducive to studying than others.
So anyways, here are 10 Hip-Hop Albums to Listen to While Studying or Working:
1) Aquemini – Outkast
The 3rd album by southern hip-hop pioneers Outkast provides psychedelic cuts of synthesized soundscapes that allow the brain to enter a foggy dreamy world, rushed back to reality with the very poetic but deep lyrics from Big-Boi and Andre 3000.
Perfect for: essay outlines, creative writing, and intro-psych class
2) Liquid Swords – GZA
Often looked at as Wu-Tang Clan’s lyrically most aggressive onslaught of pure bars, GZA’s Liquid Swords is a feat of words interlaced with ad-libs and samples from martial arts movies and Wu-Tang royalty. With classic RZA beats and a tempo that will keep the most tired of desk jocks awake, this is a must listen.
Perfect for: literary analysis, upper-year physics, and first-year stats class
3) Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus is all things trippy, and that is not an attempt to cheapen his musical genius. Abandoning and challenging music convention and the status-quo, Flying Lotus takes passive listeners, ravers, and study buddies alike on interstellar journeys of alien proportions and doesn’t guarantee to return you back to Earth. For steroid-induced creativity, here you go.
Perfect for: all rushed and overdue art projects
4) The Waters – Mick Jenkins
Deeply conscious and severely underground, Mick Jenkins’ fourth project “The Waters” references the symbol or motif of water throughout tracks of pure spitting to shed light on themes of social inequality, social constructions, and the general flaws of society. With a strained and aggressive voice that captures the pain of his subject matter, this project is great for setting the tone serious in any office or study den.
Perfect for: novel studies, book reports, and reading prep for that discussion tomorrow
5) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
When it’s all said and done, people will never be able to take away Kanye’s legacy as a producer. Approaching the duty of making albums as similar to making films, West delivers a solid project in this album as he presents a variety of whimsical, romantic, aggressive, and dreamy beats that are punctuated by heartfelt singing, surprise collaborations, and a progression that is incredibly random. If you like watching movies while working, you might as well throw this on.
Perfect for: journal reflections, Shakespeare monologues, and test anxiety
6) Madvillainy – Madvillain (MF Doom + Madlib)
MF Doom and producer extraordinaire Madlib team up in one of the genre’s greatest albums of all time. Filled with confusing and mind-bending instrumentals, MF Doom is forced to do acrobatic feats of rapping in order to ride the flow and stay on beat. Losing yourself in the twists and tunnels of Doom’s verbose and complicated lyrics is part of the fun in multi-tasking work with this epic of an album.
Perfect for: science fair projects, chemistry lab reports, and calculus take-home exams
7) Section.80 – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s 1st studio project that some even term a mix-tape is a rap buffet of beats and bars. Widely diverse themes ranging from dealing with trauma, insecurity, heartbreak, and drug use colour this soundtrack of daily life such that it serves as a great tool of perspective and purpose while trying to focus on irrelevant work rather than rolling one up.
Perfect for: debate prep, history test cramming, and computer programming
8) Nostalgia-Ultra – Frank Ocean
Doing work is not always the most happy and amusing pastime and sometimes it’s important to enjoy the misery of it all. No soundtrack serves that indulgence in pain better than the work of Frank Ocean. The chill vibes and melancholy tone of Frank’s RnB inspired fusion of sounds is great for finding a mental escape from the gritty reality of chronic procrastination.
Perfect for: last-minute poetry anthologies, and flash-card studying for second-year anatomy
9) Reasonable Doubt – Jay-Z
You can’t get straight A’s or that much needed promotion, without your soundtrack having at least one multi-millionaire mogul on the playlist. The Roc-A-Fela genius’ debut album is a huge lesson in game, providing jewels on fighting up-hill battles of life, poverty, and fierce competition. Jay-Z’s bars cut through and provide consistent listening pleasure with head-bopping beats of the 90’s.
Perfect for: doing your taxes, balance sheets, and studying economics
10) Modal Soul – Nujabes
As it is one of the more prominent albums to kick off the Youtube frenzy of Lo-Fi hip-hop fans, Nujabes have really taken the crown as key figures in the dreamy jazz-influenced bebop style of easy-listening hip-hop. With soft instrumentals and head-bopping lyrics, the style of music they have really popularized into a widespread wave takes the best of all of the albums in this list to provide an all-around relaxing and still stimulating listen, perfect for pen-tapping and tongue-biting productivity.
Perfect for: literally anything behind a desk
So what are you bumping while you work? Let us know! Let us know any other MC’s that help boost your productivity, in the comments below. Peace and love.