The Art of Storytelling Gone Wrong: The 5 Worst Hip-Hop Concept Albums
Hip-hop is a genre based around storytelling skills. Some people can't form a coherent story and it sometimes still works for them, but the absolute best are the ones who can keep you hanging off their heavy wordplay and take you through the twists and turns of a good story. Ghostface Killah and MF DOOM are absolute masters of this.
Photo by Marco Torres
Strangely enough, this rarely works when a rapper tries to sustain it through an entire album. Concept albums are typically considered the realm of pretentious progressive rockers, but a few rappers have tried, and mostly failed, to break into that type of album-length story.
5. T.I., TI vs. T.I.P.
The concept here was that T.I., the rich, successful rapper, was battling internally with his street-minded alter ego, T.I.P. Sound familiar? Well, it's the internal conflict of just about every rapper ever. The failure of this concept is that there's no depth to the conflict. T.I.'s definitely legit; you can check his rap sheet. But he doesn't really seem confused about what he is or where he's at in his career.
Everything on this album is calculated for a purpose and he knows it, so it centers around an artificial concept. And it plays out in a ridiculous way, with T.I. arguing with himself in two different voices. It not only sounds silly on the record, but it distracts from the flow of the album. For every good song, you have to deal with an interruption where T.I. and T.I.P. argue with each other.
4. Kanye West, The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation & My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye has been trying to pursue some vague concept/theme in his lyrics since he began his rap career, and it has never panned out. The albums themselves are all fantastic and I consider Kanye one of the most gifted artists in music today. But the concepts? Well, let's say that Kanye has rarely thought through exactly how the stories are going to actually play out.
He frequently abandons the plot for song after song, only to randomly start pushing the college theme again in one. And could anybody make sense of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy even with the film? 'Cause I couldn't, aside from the idea of a failed relationship.