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"2003 Til Infinity"

This is the 10 year anniversary of the Black Album, and its really special for me, as I'm sure it is for a lot of people. I think everyone has an album or two that defines their musical taste, and sets the path for what you'll listen to in the future. You always have an emotional connection to the music you listened to in your high school years. Its when we are the most passionate about our music choices. You didn't put your favorite passage from a book in your AIM away message, you copied and pasted your favorite line from your favorite song

Growing up in a suburb in the 90's, I wasn't exposed to early hip hop like NWA and Wu Tang right away (don't worry, I caught up). All my friends listened to rock, whether it was Green Day, Incubus, 311, stuff like that. And don't get me wrong, I LOVE what the 90's represented for rock, its probably one of the strongest decades any genre ever had. But that also meant the only Hip Hop albums I had when I was 10, 11, 12 were Big Willie Style and maybe the Dangerous Minds soundtrack. I just didn't know any better yet, call it youthful ignorance

My mom used to literally sit me down and we'd listen to albums I bought front to back with the lyrics booklet out because she didn't want me having music with swears and drug references and all that. I hated it at the time, but you have to respect it now. So because of that, Hip Hop just wasn't an option for me until I got past that age, unless I snuck a CD into the house. My little brother and I used to borrow CDs from our friends, and rip them to a cassette or my Sony MiniDisc player. Luda's Word of Mouf got confiscated from us MULTIPLE times

Because I was only listening to albums I was "allowed" to buy up to that point, I loved music, but never CONNECTED with it. It hadn't spoken to me yet, as far as me being able to relate what was going on in my life to the lyrics. Now, I'm not trying to say I grew up the same way some of these hip hop artists did, because I didn't. I have an amazing family and my dad always provided for us, but I was frustrated by how little he was around at the time, and Jay was talking about that specifically. Songs like "December 4th" showed me that hip hop was about storytelling, whereas a lot of the pop music at the time was very bubble gum and generic. It felt so real, like putting on those headphones took you to a different place, and sometimes you need that kind of escape as a teenager

The Black Album to me, aside from being probably one of the 2 or 3 greatest, if not THE greatest hip hop albums, represents a time in my life where my personality was being shaped. Everyone in high school is trying to figure out who they are, and music helps to define you, whether you like it or not. 10 years later, and "PSA" is still the most played song in my iTunes library. Did I know what "...I use to move snowflakes by the O-Z" meant at the time? Probably not. But I knew every Hov song front to back, and throughout the years, I'd hear a line and go "OHHHH that's what he meant!". Hip Hop was like watching a doc*mentary to me, because it showed me how other kids lived in parts of the world I hadn't seen or experienced and opened my eyes and ears to other people's struggles, as well as successes

The Black Album was a Greatest Hits collection in itself. I feel like people always downgrade newer albums in an artist's catalog, simply because "their old stuff was better". Take a step back and isolate it, and you'll find it's an all time great. In his CRWN interview with Elliot Wilson, Hov's protege J. Cole speaks on this infatuation with an artist's early work, and how you can never top your early work in the minds of your core, longtime fans because they feel a type of ownership of it. Because they were the first out of their crew to listen to you as an artist, they will always hold the early stuff up on a pedestal. But Jay wasn't the same person in 2003 that he was in 1996 when Reasonable Doubt came out. He had new problems, and new stories to tell. It was marketed as his last album, because he had said he was retiring after its release. This made you savor every minute of it. I felt like I was losing a friend, and wanted to make sure I soaked in every word, every line, so I would be satisfied at the end and could remember later in life how special it was

It may not seem like it, but Hip Hop is still so young. We've seen so many changes happen in the culture in only a few decades, so its hard to compare different eras of Hip Hop. But we're the first generation that embraced hip hop fully. Our parents don't completely understand it as a genre because they only hear the drug references, or the sometimes vulgar lines about women. They don't get past that because they grew up in a time where that kind of content wasn't commonplace. But because our generation is a little more desensitized to the language, we can listen to it and receive the message that the artist intended. Do rappers objectify women and talk about drugs? Yeah, sure. But so did the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Hendrix. Once you pull back that top layer, Hip Hop is what music has always been and always will be... a peek into someone's soul, in the hopes that you relate, connect, and use it as a guide to find your own way through life's ups and downs. And for me, if you had to ask me what singular album helped me through some of the best and worst times in my life, it was the Black Album

Happy Anniversary Hov

"No matter where you go, you are what you are player
And you can try to change, but that's just the top layer
Man, you was who you was 'fore you got here
Only God can judge me, so I'm gone
Either love me, or leave me alone."

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

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