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A Personal Intro To Rough Hip-Hop

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about hip-hop? Watered-down versions of R. Kelly’s R&B? Puff Daddy’s pop-rap-ified beats that as you grinding your teeth? Or perhaps simply the Fugees' Ready Or Not or Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise and then nothing. You’re in luck: if you like the hard hitting beats of hardcore rap and the criminal stories infused within many gangsta rap albums, I’ve got just the list of recommendations for you. If you’re more into alternative rap or don’t know where to start, see my gentle hip-hop intro.

As I wrote in the gentle hip-hop introduction, I tried to come up with a blog post that has tracks neatly categorized into different sub-genres, but that didn’t really work. Instead, I decided to divide my recommendations into two distinct sets: a gentle set, devoid of noisy beats and explicit lyrics, and a “rough” hip-hop set, with more hardcore stuff in it. When trying to get someone into hip-hop, I usually resort to the former, but I equally love tracks from the latter.

This is my rough hip-hop top 11—in no particular order—I recommend people listen to when they say they like rap but don’t know anyone besides Dr. Dre, Eminem, 2Pac, or 50 Cent. Give these a try and then re-evaluate what you think of hip-hop music. It includes well-known classics as well as underground tracks.

I kind of cheated (again), it’s still 11, but hey, who’s counting! The Wu-Tang influence is clearly visible. The collective produced a lot of great albums in the nineties. And then there’s the affiliates: Black Market Militia, Sunz of Man, Killarmy, … After the nineties, the popularity of hardcore and gangsta rap steadily declined.

Only Ghostface and Inspectah Deck with the Czarface supergroup are still killing it, but I can’t give any recommendations on contemporary (rough or otherwise) hip-hop. Most of the tracks in this list are from the nineties, while most of the tracks from the gentle hip-hop list are from the 2000s and later. Feel free to create and share your own list, even if it’s another genre!

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a level 36 Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via Mastodon or e-mail. Thanks!