After the seventh announcement, you finally restore your seat to its upright position. The tray table is locked; seatbelt is buckled. Your phone should be on airplane mode, but you deem this precaution unnecessary. Your Samsonite carryon is perfectly packed underneath the seat in front of you, a la George Clooney in Up in the Air. You’re no stranger to air travel—this is your third trip from New York to London in seven-weeks.
The pre-flight jitters that previously crippled you melted away long ago like the ice cubes in your Jack and Coke. Before the stewardess can even finish the flight safety demonstration, your eyes are sealed shut; your jacket doubles as a reservoir absorbing puddles of drool. Those pre-flight jitters are long gone…
Thunderous turbulence abruptly disrupts your slumber. The aisle resembles Moses’ parted Red Sea path, with severely distraught people on either side. Oxygen masks dangle and shake in front of your face; you kick yourself for falling asleep during the safety demonstration. Barring poor attentiveness, you manage to figure out the breathing apparatus. With fresh O2 pumping through your lungs, momentary serenity ensures—until you hear the captain’s cry: “Mayday! Mayday! We’re going down!” 35,000-feet quickly turns to 25, to 15, five. Crash.
Extremely disoriented, you miraculously pop your head out of the Atlantic Ocean’s vicious current—somewhere off the coast of France. After a herculean swim, you thankfully manage to find land. Just like Mark Whalberg, you’re the lone survivor. While traversing the foreign island, you trip over a conch shell, and slam your head against a rock. After regaining consciousness, you notice the conch shell vehemently vibrate, eventually releasing a genie rocking an afro and a goatee. This is not your Aladdin genie.
In a strong tone rivaling James Earl Jones’, the genie states that you’ve been granted one wish: you can choose five albums to listen to for the remainder of your life. No, you can’t wish yourself off the island. Unsure if you’re still knocked out from hitting your head, or if those mushrooms you wolfed down off the island’s coast were the same kind that frequented your college diet, you oblige the wish.
Which do you choose?
Damn, that is one tough question! For me, they would each have to serve a distinct purpose, and musical utility separate from one another. But you guys know me—they’d all be Hip Hop/R&B projects. I’d need my classic ‘90s joint oozing slick bars and bumping production. I for sure need one from my idol. Definitely need a tape that possesses soulfulness with a jazzy flair. Can’t forget about an emotional, sentimental album for my long nights crying myself to sleep, because, you know, I’m stuck on an island by myself with a potential genie hallucination. And to top it all off, I’d need a diverse album that embodies the range of this collection. *To ensure eclecticism, I’m only choosing one album per artist—otherwise this whole list might be Kanye albums.*
It would have to be as follows:
The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready To Die
Top three songs: “Everyday Struggle,” “Machine Gun Funk,” “Juicy”
Considering that Biggie is one of my favorite all-time rappers, and I that I love me some Golden Age Hip Hop, it’s a no brainier that Ready to Die makes my top-five list. Regarded as one of Hip Hop’s most impactful, iconic albums, Ready to Die is also sentimental to me because of its nostalgic value. I started listening to this project when I was 14-years-old (excluding “Big Poppa” because I saw Hardball when I was nine), and whenever I hear Biggie’s nasally, asthma-ridden flow, it reverts me to that novel juncture: finally getting pubes, smoking weed for the first time, my first time almost getting alcohol poisoning—the little things. Ah, when life was simple.
Kanye West's The College Dropout
Top three songs: "Spaceship," “All Falls Down,” “Through The Wire”
There’s no doubt about it: Kanye West is my favorite artist. Despite ongoing media backlash and slander, Kanye is a musical genius, validated by his 2004 debut album, The College Dropout. This was a tough choice for me because I think My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is technically his best album, but College Dropout possesses that raw Ye energy—that madman work ethic, and fiery passion. His hunger to establish himself as more than just a producer shines through on this 21-track album, capped off by the album’s closing track, “Last Call” (“Fuck you Kanye first are foremost!). In addition to having some of his library’s overall greatest hits (i.e. “Spaceship," “All Falls Down,” “Through The Wire,” “Jesus Walks,” “Slow Jamz”), this ’04 classic is inter-spliced with hilarious skits supporting Kanye’s lacking educational appreciation. Since I’m going to die on an island by myself, might as well have some comedic relief!
Chance The Rapper's Acid Rap
Top three songs: “Juice,” “Favorite Song,” “Smoke Again”
Who’s smokin’ in my car? It’s that n***a chano! Chance’s Acid Rap catapulted the Chicago revolutionary from a bubbling talent to international superstar. This isn’t a hyperbole whatsoever—Acid Rap has over 267-million SoundCloud streams, compared to his previous project’s (10 Day) 46.5-million. When we look back, Chance’s sophomore mixtape will stand with a select amount of projects—spanning all genres—that stood the test of time due to its overall creativity, incredible production, and efficiency—I don’t think there’s one bad track on this project. Simply put, Acid Rap is sublime. It chronicles a fun, drug-riddled time in Chano’s life that he beautifully sings about for 13-tracks. Also, he complements his own soulful artistry with eclectic features, including: BJ The Chicago Kid, Vic Mensa, Twista, Noname Gypsy, Gambino, Action Bronson, and Ab-Soul. These sundry features highlight Chance’s diverse aesthetic, making Acid Rap easily one of my favorite projects.
Frank Ocean's Channel Orange
Top three songs: “Super Rich Kids,” “Sweet Life,” “Forrest Gump”
I can picture it now: me sitting under a palm tree, the ocean’s water washing up and down my legs, seeking companionship from an inanimate object similar to Tom Hanks talking to Wilson in Cast Away, as Frank Ocean’s “Crack Rock” dries my tears. Channel Orange was a momentous project for Frank Ocean. Channel Orange is Frank’s debut album that came out shortly after he came out as a bisexual, with a few of the album’s tracks discussing his male relationships (i.e. “Forrest Gump). It’s an emotional journey citing Frank’s growth as he discusses internal and external events that shaped his development. Seeing how maximum isolation will undoubtedly force me into a deep depression, I’ll need an emotional project to cry to. Pause.
Drake's Take Care
Top three songs: “Look What You’ve Done,” “Lord Knows,” “Underground Kings”
Did this guy really just include a Drake project on his top-five all-time album list? Yes, yes he did. I’m the first one to shit on Drake when he’s acting like a whiny bitch, but I’m also also the first one to defend him against ignorant naysayers. I think it’s because I care about him so deeply, which magnifies my emotions—good or bad. Drake’s dynamic rapping, coupled with his decent singing (he really can only stay in one range, but it’s a fitting range for him), make his dual artistic threat a necessary presence for my solitary confinement. Take Care is my favorite Drizz project due to its diverse texture that houses some of my favorite Aubrey cuts—most notably, “Look What You’ve Done.” Being his sophomore album, Take Care effectively straddles the line of over confidence and insecurity, making Drake a relatable figure. At the time of the album’s release, he was an emerging superstar who hadn’t quite elevated to his current dominant status, leaving room for vulnerability that manifests in emotional tracks like “Marvins Room,” “Over My Dead Body,” “The Real Her,” amongst others. Also, the latter track has a 3 stacks feature, so yeah, have to have that. Drake also flips the script with energetic bangers like “HYFR,” “Underground Kings,” and “Make Me Proud.” Take Care’s versatility heightens its palatability, making it a necessary addition to my top-five listing. (Top-five, top-five).