I was recently asked by my producer/Alpha brother PhDirac (which if you haven't already, you should follow him on Instagram @phdirac) to list the top 10 albums that influenced my musical journey. When I was initially asked, it was a "no brainer" decision to complete the list; however, I didn't think about the difficulty of the "ask" lol.
It wasn't until the first post that I began to process the vast amount of music that I have consumed over my 29 years on Earth! I started to think about the Grupo Niche albums that my father would listen to each morning, the Anita Baker albums that would ring through the house during Saturday Clean-Ups, or the music that I found through *cough cough* Limewire! I was consumed with all of my musical memories and I started to realize the joy that such a simple question could bring to someone's life.
That being said, I wanted to list My Top 10 Albums that influenced my musical journey with a small story of its influence. Additionally, I wanted to challenge you to create your own Top 10 so that you can enjoy your own time-lapse of musical joy.
1. Big L - The Big Picture (1974-1999)
To give you some background story, I was born & raised in a small country town in Suffolk, Va. I didn't have much "community" influence because many of my neighbors were farmers so Garth Brooks rang more bells then the new Snoop Dogg Album. I was always a fan of music, but it wasn't until I heard my cousin playing this album with chopped records, DJ cuts, and harsh drums that I began to appreciate my style of production. I remember playing the PlayStation and hearing the groovy cadence in "Holdin' It Down" and "Flamboyant" in the background. The music made me bop my head and engage in the message from the listener. This isn't an album that I play more than "Lifestylez of the Poor and Dangerous", but it was a start to my production style and musical journey.
2. Roc-La Familia Jay-Z The Dynasty
This was an album that got most of its spin while I made an attempt to use my mother's new treadmill. I was never the gym buff, but I did have a point in my life where running became a norm for me while I was at home. The intro was so grand that it created this internal motivation to beat my previous times while running on the treadmill. This is where my passion to create sounds became more intact. I never knew how producers created those chops or flipped samples, but when I heard "Give It To Me", I realized that I could "create" these sounds and make music too. It gave me a bounce that made me want to dance instead of kicking back like the previous album. I was able to hear ambition, desire, and the drive to want more from life. It showed the glitz and glamour of the industry. Sn: The fact that Pharrell produced that song and I am from the 757 in Virginia made the song more meaningful.
3. Kanye West - Late Registration
This was another album that inspired me during long periods of video games as a child. This was a regular stored album on my Xbox while I played Need for Speed or Grand Theft Auto. I remember hearing "Drive Slow" and thinking about the gritty drums displayed on the track. This album showed me the "process". It was a full production from Bernie Mac drops to making me feel as if I was enrolled in a college at the age of 15.
4. Dwele - Subject
As I entered High School, I remember getting my car and my best friend gave me a mix CD (yes CDs were a thing back in 06). The CD had these smooth, Rhode like sounds. It was elegant and the harmonies were always crisp. The drums were very subtle and provided a different emotion compared to other albums that I was listening to at the time (Jeezy Thug Motivation being one of them lol). This is where I was able to provide color to music. It caused me to feel orange and tan because of how pure the selections were. Come to find out, the majority of the album was Dwele's Subject album
5. Musiq Soulchild - Aijuswanaseing
This was another album that filled that mixtape. Musiq gave me an understanding of love and relationships. His ability to express his feelings on tracks such as "Mary Go Round" and "143" was easy to pick up lines for a young high schooler in a rural city. The instrumentation was organic and meshed so well with Musiq's voice. I wanted to learn more about chord progressions and mixing vocals after listening to this album. I think it served as a primary motivation to create smooth, neo-soul like productions.
6. Jamie Foxx - Unpredictable
You ever have that one album that remains on repeat. I mean regardless of where you are, who you are with, or what the occasion you know that when a song from this album drops, people will turn heads. I don't know what your album is, but for me, Jamie Foxx Unpredictable album is an all-time classic. It touched on love, sex, and vulnerability in relationships. It was classy, yet it showed an edge to the inner "playa" in Jamie. Jamie's first album "Peep This" is another favorite of mine and if it weren't for only 10 positions, it would earn a spot. Overall, VIP is one of my favorite songs on the album.
7. Erykah Badu - Mama's Gun
This album was the best of both worlds. Some songs such as "Green Eyes" took me to an underground poetry club as seen on Love Jones. The live background instrumental and vinyl skip intro provided a vintage sound that I heard in previous hip hop albums; however, it wasn't followed up with gritty drums; instead, it was simple trumpets, piano, and pure vocals until the end of the album. Additionally, "..And On" was a classic that gave that boom-bap bounce and raw lyrics. This is an album that can remain on repeat for me on any trip.
8. Diana In Autumn Wind - Gap Mangione
I started playing trumpet in the 6th grade. It was one of the greatest decisions that I made because it allowed me to fully engulf myself into melodies and rhythms from trumpet players such as Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Arturo Sandoval. Although all of those trumpet players are my personal favorites, the Gap Mangione album showed me what big band sounds like. It was a combination of almost every instrument and it created a motion picture. The heavy strings showed me the importance of each instrument and gave me perspective on where they fit within compositions. Of course, hearing J Dilla and Madlib flip a track on this album was another inspired piece of the narrative.
9. A Tribe Called Quest - (Can I just say all lol)
Q-tip is a big inspiration for my production style. His ability to work with the rest of the team to put together strong compositions was impactful. From content to sample selection, it was obvious that Tribe was in tune as a group and that their influence bounced off one another during the creative process. This group inspired me to work closely with friends to create dope music.
10. Bilal - 1st Born Second
Funk, musicianship, and creativity are why this album tops my list. Bilal has always been one to push boundaries with vocal melodies and sound design. I was first hooked to Bilal while he was a member of Sa-Ra. Most of the production was centered around unique synth progressions and drops, but the song never lost track of its focus. Bilal can create lyrics that draw you in and lock you into the mood. Thinking of love poems and how the intro takes me a Caribbean island while battling with emotions in my mind.
Overall, these are just a few of my inspiration list of top albums. Not included in this list but easily could've been Top 10 for me include:
1. D'Angelo - Untitled
2. Jay Z - Reasonable Doubt
3. J Dilla - Donuts
4. Madvillain - Madvillainy
5. N.E.R.D. - Seeing Sounds
Leave a comment below with your list of favorite albums.