The first time I heard something called “Hip Hop” was in the early ’90s, as a teenager. It was an album by The Notorious B.I.G., and it had one of those familiar, signature beats; the kind that would stick with me for years to come. It also featured one of hip hop’s most recognizable voices: Rakim. He and Biggie were at the top of their game, and they’d both been around for quite some time. They were legends in their own right — but when I listened to this particular song, I realized that I couldn’t place it.
It wasn’t until many years later during my sophomore year of college that I found out what this song was: Illmatic. This is a classic album filled with timeless tracks from Nas, Jay Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. But it took me a few more years after that before I could hear all of these songs together in chronological order. And then, I listened to it again. And again. And again. These are the albums that shaped me, and changed how I thought about music.
I remember sitting there in my dorm room, playing back songs one by one using mp3juice download. My roommate asked if I was listening to anything good, and I said yes, and he asked me which album I liked best. I told him, and he responded, “You need to listen to them.” That was all I needed to know: I was going to get into the music business.
Now, I don’t have any grandiose aspirations or fantasies about being a rapper. But at least now, I know exactly where this came from. I’m not sure what the future holds for me in terms of getting paid for making music — I’ve worked at a few places — but I do know that I want to be able to make it happen. Whether it’s through writing, producing, performing live shows, or doing something else entirely, I am going to pursue my passion for making music.
As far as my favorite albums go, I think that I may have mentioned this already, but it’s hard to pick favorites: I love everything that The Beatles ever made, from Sgt. Pepper to Yellow Submarine. I like Pink Floyd because I grew up watching The Wall. And I just discovered that Nirvana has more than one album. I’ll never forget hearing Nevermind for the first time.
And while I’d never say that any particular album is better than another, I will say that my tastes change over time, and that I always keep an eye out for new artists, genres, and styles. As someone who listens to music constantly, it’s important for me to find what I enjoy and to stay within that realm so that I don’t lose touch with what makes me happy.
But I think it’s safe to assume that the majority of people don’t have the same passion for music that I do. So if you’re looking to start your journey into discovering new music, here are six great ways to get started.
1) Listen to the radio. If you’re at work, chances are you’re probably in front of the TV anyway. Why not spend 15 minutes every day listening to music? You might be surprised by what you discover. I used to only listen to jazz and classical music, and then I stumbled upon a couple of alternative rock stations, and I instantly became obsessed with bands like Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine! There’s no telling what you’ll find.
2) Go online. There are tons of websites dedicated to helping you discover new music, including streaming services like Spotify (which I use quite regularly), Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amazon, and TIDAL. Each one has its pros and cons, so take your time and explore each one to see which service suits you the best.
3) Do a little research. Once you’ve decided on the type of music that you enjoy, head over to Wikipedia and look up the artists that you like. You can learn a lot about them, such as where they’re from, what kinds of instruments they play, and even where they recorded their albums.
4) Check out YouTube channels. YouTube is full of amazing videos featuring new talent and old-school stars, and there are plenty of them. Check out the ones that feature popular musicians, singers, rappers, or DJ’s. Or, check out music-related channels and see if you can find a channel that features music that you like.
5) Follow other fans. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest — there are tons of different social media platforms out there, and they all offer different opportunities for people to share their favorite things. Check out the posts of other people who follow the same types of artists that you do, and see if you can connect with them somehow.
6) Ask your friends. Everyone knows someone who loves music, and everyone seems to have an opinion about what they like best. Ask around, and see what you can find out. You might even consider asking your parents, too.
So now that you know how to get started, here’s some information on some of the biggest names in hip hop.
Nas: Nas is one of the most accomplished and respected emcees of all time. He’s known for his unique voice, clever wordplay, and incredible flow. His most famous songs include “One Mic,” “If I Ruled the World,” and “Made You Look.”
Jay Z: One of the greatest rappers of all time, Jay Z is known for his distinctive style, his lyrical prowess, and his ability to tell compelling stories. His most iconic hits include “Hard Knock Life,” “99 Problems,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “Empire State Of Mind.”
Big Punisher: A Puerto Rican rapper, producer, and actor, Big Pun is most well known for his hit single, “Uptown Anthem,” and his song, “Let Me Ride.” He’s also known for having a distinctive raspy voice.
Rakim: An undisputed master of lyricism, Rakim made his name with his legendary 1993 LP, Paid In Full. He’s still active today, releasing music under the name Eminem.
Kendrick Lamar: Kendrick Lamar is an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and actor. Known for his distinct style, his lyrics, and his ability to weave together multiple genres into a cohesive whole, his most famous songs include “Swimming Pools (Drank),” “Alright,” “Poetic Justice,” and “m.A.A.d city.”
Eminem: Eminem is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor. Although he’s known for his controversial lyrics and controversial persona, he’s also known for his incredible range as a performer. Some of his most notable songs include “Stan,” “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” and “Rap God.”
I hope that these tips have helped you to start finding fresh sounds to listen to. Now, it’s time for you to get out there and start exploring the world of music. Who knows where your journey will lead you?