The ten best family-friendly rap albums
Although lot of rap these days is riddled with violence, misogyny and profanity, there are still plenty of clean rhymes out there to be rocked by the entire family, should you be so inclined. And it all comes worry-free with regard to any ill effects it might have on impressionable minds. Some of it, improbably, even ranks among the very best rap ever crafted. Keep reading for the ten best family-friendly rap albums.
See also: The fifty best rap lyrics of all time
10. Lecrae - Rehab
Yes, the potential in Christian rap for corn is almost overwhelming, but Lecrae is righteous in just the right ways. He avoids preachiness for the most part because of his subtlety. His rap is more about his life than religion; he just happens to be a devout Christian. Besides that, Lecrae is a talented rapper whose technical skill goes far beyond passable -- and because his subject matter is obviously very near to his heart, his passion is palpable.
9. Will Smith - Big Willie Style
Rakim may be the God MC, but Will Smith is the daytime TV Jesus. Rap music doesn't get much more neighborly than this. The closest Will gets to racy is weak innuendo -- a li'l rub-a-dub in the middle of the club. From calls for world unity on "Miami" to ballads of familial love on "Just the Two of Us," you'd have to have the fun police on speed dial to keep the Fresh Prince from your kids.
8. Chamillionaire - Ultimate Victory
Just because Chamillionaire is the rapper known for "Ridin' Dirty" doesn't mean he's writing dirty. "Ridin'" isn't on Ultimate Victory, but the album features tracks that are similarly about being misunderstood by people outside of hip-hop, like the police and the media. Ultimate Victory is probably not an album parents are going to want to listen to, but it is an album parents should want their kids to listen to, because it is positive, thought-provoking and notable for its complete lack of profanity.
7. Ma$e - Welcome Back
After a five-year retirement from music to pursue a life as a pastor, on the first and title track of Welcome Back, which was also the lead single, Ma$e declared himself "a bad boy gone clean... livin' la vida without the loca." Welcome Back wasn't Ma$e's most successful album, but he didn't lose his skill or his edge, even while keeping it clean. Welcome Back is incredibly radio-friendly, and it has something for everybody.
6. Jurassic 5 - Quality Control
Jurassic 5 does use some explicit language on Quality Control, but it's not overwhelming, and it's never used maliciously. The overarching tone of the album is simply fun, and the messages the group communicates are overwhelmingly positive. More than misogyny or materialism, intelligence and verbal skill are championed by J5; the vocabulary is impressive and the verbal acrobatics the guys perform are outstanding. J5 carries the energy and excitement of a relatively new group but the flavor of an old hip-hop act (the crew strongly echoes the legendary Cold Crush Brothers), and it follows musical cues that are classic in the truest sense.
5. J Dilla - Donuts
This one's a little bit of a cop-out because there aren't many lyrics, but who cares? Donuts is a classic hip-hop album that pulls influences and samples from genres that preceded it. The best part about Donuts is that it's easy to listen to, but it's not sanded down for easy consumption. It's full of personality -- simultaneous happiness and sadness, simplicity and complexity.
4. Rakim - The 18th Letter
The 18th Letter features a Rakim that is cleaner and more advanced than he ever was with Eric B. Here Rakim waxes on the past and nostalgia, metaphysics and, of course, his preeminence in the rap game. Rakim has always been a relatively clean rapper, but he seems to have made a concerted effort to keep it clean in his solo work. The 18th Letter is evidence that you don't need to search the borders of hip-hop for something to bring home to the family; Rakim is fundamental.
3. Pete Rock & CL Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother
Mecca and the Soul Brother is the type of album hip-hop heads are raised on. Pete Rock ties together classic, jazzy loops in ways that seem fresh even after twenty years. The highlight of the album is obviously "They Reminisce Over You," but that track overshadows the rest of the record to an unfair degree, as cuts like "For Pete's Sake" and "The Basement" more than hold their own. Mecca is sophisticated enough for any adult but melodic enough to appease even the simplest mind, and the subject matter is unobjectionable.
2. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising
3 Feet High and Rising may be a little high minded for children, but it's groovy and melodic enough to appeal to anybody. Plus, the album's skits, which were the first skits to appear on any rap album, are goofy and quite a bit more memorable than many that followed them.
1. Shad - The Old Prince
Shad is such a dope, poetic rapper that his music can reach any sort of person, regardless of race, age or gender. He's too kindhearted to make songs that exploit violence or objectify women, and he only very occasionally curses. Shad is the kind of rapper that makes it cool to be smart. He's an incredible role model without even trying to be. Whether he's being funny, inspirational, enlightening or just rapping insanely well, Shad is the MC that is most accessible to every member of the family.
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