150. Mobb Deep’s ‘The Infamous’

Despite being way into Clipse—the group that basically took their coke rap and desperation duo act to more vicious ends—despite knowing that Jay-Z calls them out on “Takeover,” despite hearing that The Infamous was a classic, despite having access to high speed Internet and music sharing platforms, despite catching up on classic hip-hop albums in college, and despite considering their Queensbridge brethren Nas’ Illmatic as one of my favorite albums ever, it took until about 2011 before I heard The Infamous in its entirety. I had heard “Shook Ones Pt. II,” of course, but I hadn’t heard the whole album. I can’t really explain this beyond just not making the commitment.

Somehow this admittance feels like admitting a public failure. But that’s part of being a music listener, and being honest. Because of the Internet, people are less likely to outright admit they have deficiencies in their music listening; if they see some band they’re unfamiliar with, they download the albums and act like they’ve always listened to that band. It makes everyone a fake expert in everything.

So in an effort to not do that, I don’t have much of a frame of reference for this album. I bought it because of “Shook Ones Pt. II” and because I had never seen it on vinyl before. It’s obviously really great; it’s claustrophobic and desperate, and lyrically it’s as journalistic as the great hip-hop albums. So I have no excuse. It’s as good as everyone says it is. I’d like to say that this is so much better than their other material, like everyone else always says, but I’ve never heard any Mobb Deep album other than this. All I know is that it would take a lot to be better than The Infamous.   

151. Mos Def’s ‘Black On Both Sides’

City where I bought this album: Montreal

Amount of time it took the record store clerk to find the record—this was a store where they kept the records apart from the sleeves for some reason—after I came to the counter, because he didn’t know where the hip-hop section was because hardly anyone bought hip-hop records at this store: 11 minutes

Time I spent explaining how good this album is to a dude from Belgium later that day: 11 minutes

Times my friend Graham said, “Hey, you know what’s a hip-hop album that is actually good? Black on Both Sides” when we were drunk: Once.

Times this guy at a wedding, who said he “Hated rap music,” told me Black on Both Sides is the first rap album he ever cared about: Once.

Amount of times I said I liked Mos’s second album better than this in a blog post, and realized I was fucking dumb for that about a year later: Once.

Number of the “hottest negros in los Estados Unidos” on this album: Two

The degree to which this is a better solo album than anything Talib Kweli has done as a solo artist: (Incalculable)

How insane it is that this went gold in 2000: Really insane

How seriously this should be considered for best album art ever: Seriously. It’s a 360 shot of his head, including the back cover.

Ass so fat: That you can see it from the front