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Columbia artists, collaborators pick most influential Chicago hip-hop albums

Lana Martinez


Columbia’s Hip-Hop Club artists chose what albums they think are the most influential Chicago album to hip-hop music. From Common’s “Resurrection” to Lupe Fiasco’s- “Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool,” these artists delve deeper into why these Chicago albums are the most influential.

Avery Forrestall’s pick: “Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool” – Lupe Fiasco (2007)

Produced by: Lupe Fiasco, Darrale Jones, Patrick Stump, Al Shux, The Buchanans, Drop, Chris Goss, Le Messie, Simonsayz, Soundtrakk, and Unkle

Accolades: Debuted at number 15 on the U.S. Billboard 200 selling 143,407 copies first week.

“The Cool” was certified gold in April 2008 and hit platinum in October 2022.

Lupe Fiasco, born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, is a Chicago native who grew up in the West Madison Housing Projects. Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool” is his second studio album, which is a half-concept album that follows two criminals. It delves into themes of love, jazz, politics and society.

Avery Forrestall, a senior interdisciplinary major and a member of Hip-Hop Club’s E-Board, believes “The Cool” is a combination of a pop music sound and strong lyricism has impacted the city’s upcoming artists the most.

“I think that at that time, combining pop rap with the lyrics that Lupe was able to incorporate was pretty unheard of outside of people like Kanye,” Forrestall said. “That’s something that people like Chance [The Rapper] and other Chicago artists now always said, that this album heavily influenced them in that aspect.”

C.J. Young’s Pick: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” – Kanye West (2010)

Produced by: Kanye West, Blink, DJ Frank E, Mike Dean, No I.D., RZA. and S1.

Accolades: The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 selling 496,000 copies first week. It also debuted as the fourth-best sales week of 2010.

On Nov. 23, 2020, it was certified double platinum for surpassing 3 million units sold in the United States.

Kanye West, born Kanye Omari West, is a Chicago native who was raised in the South Shore area. The album has many famous collaborators including Elton John, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Pusha T and Justin Vernon. The record explores themes of excess, celebrity, grandiosity, self-doubt, romance, escapism, sex and decadence.

C.J. Young is a junior music business major with a minor in creative writing and is also a member of the Hip-Hop Clubs’ E-Board.

Young picked “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” as his most influential Chicago album because West combined both boom bap sound with autotune bringing old sound and new sound together.

“I wish that I could go back towards when I had the first listen of that album in its entirety,” Young said.

MBDTF has inspired many popular artists to this day. J. Cole, Travis Scott and Alicia Keys have sampled this album many times, and Kendrick Lamar hailed the record as an artistic inspiration. Lamar even made a freestyle rap video over the song, “Monster Freestyle.”

Young credits the record for inspiring artists to use hard times as creative flame.

“Kanye was in a very dark place when he dropped that album,” Young said. “Being able to create that, while being in that dark place, it definitely inspired so many people to weather that storm and create something beautiful out of that.”

I’ja Wright & Chris Hawkins’ pick: “Resurrection”- Common (1994)

Produced by: No I.D. and The Twilite Tone

Accolades: Debuted at number 179 on the Billboard Top 200 and sold 2,000 tracks in the first week.

The record has not received a Recording Industry Association of America rating.

Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, yet another Chicago native artist, was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. While “Resurrection” does not have the numbers backing its name, the influence of the album is still apparent today.

Chris Hawkins is a Chicago music producer and frequently hosts production workshops in the “Hip-Hop: A Sonic History” class. Hawkins said “Resurrection” put multiple now well-known producers on the map.

“It was also a breakout opportunity for No I.D., Twilight Tone and some other producers where that was their first time producing a record where they were known,” Hawkins said.

According to Complex, the hit single off the record “I Used To Love H.E.R” is one of hip-hop’s most praised and talked about records. In the track, Common’s lyrics point to him rapping about a woman, but the further the song goes on, it’s revealed he is actually rapping about hip-hop. The same innuendo’s he could use for love for a woman is used for his love of hip-hop.

I’ja Marie, a junior marketing major, with a concentration in radio, picked “Resurrection” as most influential album as well. Marie emphasized the song “I Used To Love H.E.R. from the album, saying she loves the lyrics.

The first time I met this girl when I was 10 years old, what I love most is she has so much soul.” – Common on “I Used To Love H.E.R.”

“The whole time you think he’s talking about a girl but no, he’s talking about his first interaction when picking up the pen or hearing a hip-hop song for the first time,” Marie said. “That was his love language between music, and that was the love of his life.”

Spot illustrations by Lana Martinez. 

Resumen en español

Los artistas del Club de Hip-Hop de Columbia eligieron qué álbumes creen que son los más influyentes de Chicago para la música hip-hop.

La presidenta del club, I’Ja Wright, eligió “Resurrection” del rapero Common como el álbum más influyente. Ella dijo que le encanta la letra de I Used To Love H.E.R.” porque habla sobre el amor que Common le tiene al hip-hop.  

El vicepresidente Avery Forrestall dijo que su elección es “The Cool” de Lupe Fiasco, pues el álbum profundiza en temas como el amor, el jazz, la política y la sociedad.

El coordinador de eventos C.J. Young eligió “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” del rapero Kanye West. 

“Kanye estaba en un lugar muy oscuro cuando lanzó este álbum”, dijo Young. “Ser capaz de crear eso… definitivamente inspiró a muchas personas a capear esa tormenta y crear algo hermoso a partir de eso”.

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About the Contributors
Connor Dore
Connor Dore, Former Reporter
cdore@columbiachronicle.com   Connor Dore is a senior journalism major, concentrating in broadcast journalism. Dore primarily reports on Columbia's School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but has also written about the college's financial deficit, Chicago protests and course changes. He joined the Chronicle in May 2023.   Hometown: Hickory Hills, Illinois
Lana Martinez
Lana Martinez, Former Illustrator
lmartinez@columbiachronicle.com   Lana Martinez is a senior illustration major, who has created graphics for student profiles, COVID-19 protocols and Chicago election voter guides. She joined the Chronicle in August 2020 and worked on the illustration desk until December 2023.   Hometown: Algonquin, Ill.