Music has been a constant in my life since I was born really, I’ve been raised in a family full of music lovers. From Johnny Cash to John E Cash, KoRn to Kendrick Lamar I’ve heard it all and loved it all. There’s been times when I’ve related to music more than anyone in my life, it’s hard to admit but music really got me through a lot of tough times. Now I’m on the verge of leaving my teenage years, I want to celebrate my two decades here with a collection of the 20 albums that have helped me get through these 20 years. This isn’t my favourite 20 albums, but just ones that meant the most to me at different points in my life – so expect quite an eclectic taste.
ODD FUTURE – ODD FUTURE TAPE VOL. 2
This tape takes me way back, the week it dropped it snowed heavily, and me being the best damn paperboy in Leeds of course still went about my route and it was this that got me through it. I memorised it back to front in the space of that week and it shaped me so much. I’d been following Odd Future since GOBLIN dropped so I was ridiculously overjoyed when this dropped. If I had to pick one project that would be the soundtrack to my teenage years it would be this, so full of teenage angst as well as humour and everything in between , it had everything I needed at the time. This was the Enter the 36 Chambers for my generation, and just like Wu had me copying them you better believe I was doing everything I could to act like I was in OF.
FRANK SINATRA – FRANK SINATRA SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY
In my opinion this is the pinnacle of Sinatra’s career, it’s an emotional journey that is aptly named. I was in my mid-teens when I first heard it, I thought I needed a Sinatra vinyl and when I went to Jumbo Records in the St. Johns Centre, I was just overwhelmed with what to choose. There must have been 15 different choices and I was too scared I was going to pick the wrong one, but it was the cover that caught my attention and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I’ll never forget listening to it on a morning getting ready for school and resonating with lyrics, and find it still happens today – ‘friends ask me out, I tell them I’m busy, I must get a new alibi’. Honestly these lyrics struck a chord with me and it’s one of my favourite albums ever, it was only recently I found out just how much praise this album gets, even from Frank Sinatra himself who said it was his best work.
DANNY BROWN – XXX
I’m so glad I got into hip hop when hype for Danny Brown was picking up, songs like Monopoly and Blunt After Blunt were all over the internet and I had to know more about this guy, very soon he became one of my favourites and still is to this day. XXX plays like both a hip hop and a grime album so the sound of it was really interesting for me to listen to and helped me understand this new school (at the time) a lot easier. I found it very easy to get into because this guy was rapping like nobody else so it stuck out to me more, and as cliché as it is was one of those things that helped me understand it’s better to not be like everyone else! Shouts to Saif for copping me the vinyl of this too, one of the best presents I’ve ever got.
FALLING IN REVERSE – THE DRUG IN ME IS YOU
Summer of 2011 it was this album and the 3 that will immediately follow this entry that were on repeat. Falling In Reverse were so cool to me, Ronnie Radke was mixing rap and screamo into his music and 13 year old me thought it was the coolest thing ever. I still get nostalgia about it now even though upon listening to it recently it doesn’t quite live up to what I thought it was, but it’s still a good album.
FRAMING HANLEY – A PROMISE TO BURN
This album got me into a lot more heavier music than it should have, I have to credit this for getting me through a lot of tough times when I felt alone. Songs like You Stupid Girl and Photographs and Gasoline hit me right where it hurt but helped me so much, I also wanted to get my hair like the lead singer’s and looking back I’m so glad I didn’t…. wow.
ALL TIME LOW – DIRTY WORK
Writing the rough draft for this list this was one of the first albums I put down on it, it was so uplifting and was everything I needed at the time. I remember reading reviews slating this release and feeling personally attacked, it was so good! Guts is my personal favourite from it, it was my shower anthem for sure. It’s so weird to look back on this and think if I didn’t properly get invested into hip hop where would I be.
HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD – SWAN SONGS
Nobody can tell me this album isn’t good, I don’t care I’m just not hearing it. They took this nu-metal style but put their own spin on it, it was like a proper rap crew just spitting over rock and it still holds its own when put up against a lot of other albums on my iPod in my opinion. It was the aggressiveness of Undead and the imperturbability of No.5 that was so contradictory but so reassuring to me. I was obsessed with these guys, and desperately wanted one of their masks so bad. I ran Hollywood Undead Facebook group too that I literally just remembered now, on the odd occasion you’ll hear me rapping the odd line from this album too- always gonna be a favourite of mine.
WU-TANG CLAN – ENTER THE 36 CHAMBERS
I’ll never forget playing Skate 3, hearing ODB’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya and thinking I need to know more about this guy, upon finding out he was part of Wu-Tang Clan I had to delve into it even more. I’d never been so impressed. Protect Ya Neck was the first track I heard from them and I remember thinking how crazy it was that 9 guys just going as hard as they could. This album helped me build a lot of love for hip hop and I obviously haven’t looked back since. It’s an album that should be spoken about in the highest regard, from C.R.E.A.M to Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it was gritty, raw and so intriguing to a young me. This album (as well as most of the solo stuff that followed from them) had me talking with New York slang, trying to spit bars like Ghost & Rae and of course had me rocking Wallabees. Shouts to the Wu every single time.
DIZZEE RASCAL – BOY IN DA CORNER
An essential listen growing up for any English person my age I believe, Boy in da Corner is a classic album and helped Dizzee pioneer the scene. The albums replay value hasn’t decreased in the slightest, it’s still as witty, smart, raw, and true to the life he lived. At the time I first heard it I just remember loving I Luv U though. As I’ve grown up I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more, songs like Do It and Sittin Here were at times parallels of my life, and for that I’m so thankful this album exists even if just for how relatable it was/is.
MOBB DEEP – THE INFAMOUS
As I write this I think damn I got some music taste. One of the hardest hip hop albums of all time and when you look at it outside of the genre it has to be up there with best albums period. The sheer lyricism from Havoc and Prodigy is virtually unmatchable here, it helped broaden my rap knowledge so much just from looking into all the features’ discographies at a time I didn’t really listen to much NaS or Tribe. It would be very remiss of me to not mention how much influence Shook Ones Pt. 2 has had me on too, one of the first hip hop songs I learnt off by heart, I was the toughest SOB on the planet when I was listening to it (admittedly I still feel that way when I listen to it sometimes), and when I turned 19 I was so excited to spit “I’m only 19 but my mind is old”.
GORILLAZ – DEMON DAYS
I feel very privileged to have listened to this when it came out, and also very fortunate I had a father with good music taste. I remember being a kid listening to their debut album sat in my kitchen whilst he was cooking, but it was this one that got me hooked. It’s only now I can look back and see how good it is too, it captures it’s time so well from the general sound to the features I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a top 3 album for me. It dropped in 2005, so I was only in primary school but I remember pretty much every day I’d come back home and put it on my CD player, what a life ey?
TRAVI$ SCOTT – DAYS BEFORE RODEO
In my opinion Travi$ Scott’s best project, the whole aesthetic and sound of this mixtape is beyond words to me. It gives off such an aura that is the epitome of slick, how could I not want to listen to it over and over? The mature and eclectic beat selection compliments every single verse on this and makes it such a rare piece of work, I honestly liken it to a TV show or a movie, and I have to say it got me more into both of them. This project made me more aware of growing artistic pioneers around the world and it’s worth the listen every time… Also I modelled my GTA character off of Young Thug in the Mamacita video.
KENDRICK LAMAR – GOOD KID M.A.A.D CITY
How could Kendrick not be on this? I remember this being one of the first hip hop albums I listened to after making the switch from rap, Kendrick was on fire here. The emotion, the lyricism, the artistic integrity – how could I not love it? Tyler might have got me into hip hop but Kendrick got me to stay with stuff like this, fast forward a few months after my first listen and I was seeing him live at Leeds o2 and the rest is history. Money Trees, Swimming Pools and The Art of Peer Pressure were all integral parts of my teenage years, and spoke so many of my thoughts as I was growing up… “Dreams of living life like rappers do.”
MADVILLAIN – MADVILLAINY
MF DOOM’s rapping skills are second to none in my opinion, a rapper who never falls out of my top 3, he never fails to disappoint and every album has a replay value that is ridiculous but it’s this album that is his best to me. The collab with Madlib is highly regarded as one of underground rap’s greatest, and it’s easy to see why. If you listen to this you’ll immediately want to hear more of the same, that’s what happened to me – now I can’t stop singing DOOM’s praises.
N.E.R.D – IN SEARCH OF…
I was put on to this at an early age because of my older siblings, weirdly Lapdance is one of the earliest songs I can remember listening to and whilst I listened to the album as a kid it was when I was a teenager that it was influential for me. Songs like Provider and Bobby James were speaking volumes to me, especially the former and I’d watch their videos to be able to find stuff that would make me more like them, these guys were and still are ridiculously cool.
SUB LUNA CITY – CITY RIVIMS MK1
A truly one of a kind project here, Sub Luna City is a collective out of London with names like King Krule and Jadasea involved, and I’ve never heard something that captures inner city lifestyle so effortlessly. It’s a perfect listen for driving or walking around cities and it’s always on when I take to trip to Town. At only 35 minutes long, I found myself playing this over and over and I’m still amazed by the production. It took me down a rabbit hole in British music, and let me appreciate all this sorta stuff so much more. If you live in a city, this is an essential listen – they speak their minds on so many topics and describe so many situations you’ll find yourself in in citylife.
LORDE – PURE HEROINE
This album got me through the last part of my first year at uni, without a doubt. In preparation for her second album dropping I went back and listened to this and it caught me off guard how good it was, Buzzcut Season for example flows so effortlessly and it was this whole vibe throughout the project that stuck with me and well, made me fall in love with Lorde.
CHILDISH GAMBINO – ROYALTY
I’d known Donald Glover from watching him on Community, and I’d heard the odd track here and there but Royalty got me into a lot more of the trap side of the game. Gambino really put out a strong project here and similar to Mobb Deep’s Infamous, I found myself searching through all his features’ discographies – and there was a lot of features. This mixtape guided me through high school and I’m grateful for it. It came at a time where my music taste was being chastised by a lot of my friends regardless of what I was listening to, this is really when I got more into my music and just downloaded a stupid amount of songs and properly became a hip hop head.
SMACKDOWN VS. RAW 2007 SOUNDTRACK
If you play this as a kid you didn’t have a childhood. I would play wrestling games every single day but I specifically remember this soundtrack – there was a plethora of different artists on there and my brother actually downloaded it for me so I could put it on my MP3 player. I was a 9 year old listening to Bullet with a Name and Lil Scrappy’s Money in the Bank which in retrospect really isn’t appropriate for a 9 year old, but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t loving it.
TYLER, THE CREATOR – GOBLIN
I can look back and say this album really got me into hip hop. I was very rock orientated before hearing this, and I was in a bad way mentally but when I heard this it was like I’d had a reawakening seriously. The lyrical content was similar to what I was listening to already, but his flow and production drew me into it. From there, I remember searching the internet for new hip hop that I felt I was missing out on, around this time 1999 was dropping, TDE were beginning their dominance in the game and there was so much for me to hear – so thank you Tyler. Without this I wouldn’t be where I am now, I wouldn’t be wearing what I wear or saying what I say, Tyler and Odd Future influenced me a lot but I have to say hip hop overall has influenced me more than anything.
words by Rohan Parmar, follow me on twitter @rohanjparmar