The ten weirdest hip-hop releases of all time
Weird is not a bad thing. It sets you apart. So, in rap, where so often so much music sounds so much like the same thing, weird can be a part of something really, really good. It's not surprising, then, that some of the weirdest rap albums of all time have also been some of the most influential. Everyone wants to be different, so when an artist achieves something that both makes you want to scratch your head and tap your foot, you know it's something special. Here are the ten weirdest hip-hop releases.
10. Bushwick Bill - Phantom of the Rapra An album scored with both blood-curdling screams and smooth, sexy synths, Bushwick Bill really tried to throw critics for a loop on this one. For the release, he changed his name to Dr. Wolfgang Von Bushwickin The Barbarian Mother-Funky Stay High Dollar Billstir. He then begins the album pointing out the double standard between rap and opera -- because opera "deals with sex, rape, violence, incest, and suicide," but rap gets censored when it covers such topics. The resultant album is how such childishness and seriousness are reconciled. Bushwick's self-awareness allows him to construct such a strange and disturbing world that feels at times like a viewing of Evil Dead: funny, unsettling and, most of all, weird.
9. Die Antwoord - $O$ Perhaps Die Antwoord only seems strange because the zef culture is foreign to us, but it's hard to imagine any world where Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er would be ordinary people. From their exaggerated voices to the very loose manner of speaking and the looser clothes they wear, it's actually pretty surprising that the mainstream has accepted Die Antwoord to the level it has, which is only a little bit, but still enough to capture quite a few fans in their dazzling strangeness.
8. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising The original concept for this album was that De La's MCs were microphone plugs picking up signals from mars. This idea was eventually scrapped for some unforgivable reason, but what remained was still the most radically adventurous album hip-hop had offered to date. By today's standards, De La's music sounds much more normal purely due to the fact that emulation by so many other acts has normalized their style. Still, the outstanding weirdness of bits like "Transmitting Live From Mars," part of which can be translated as "What time is it? It is midday. It is lunchtime. What is there to eat? There is sausage, no doubt." make this entry irreplaceable the canon of oddities.
7. Homeboy Sandman - Actual Factual Pterodactyl This album is exactly as quirky as it's name, and better, it's compulsively fun to listen to. Using an array of highly irregular voices, in contrast to his normal flowing voice, which is mesmerizing, if not a bit robotic and monotonous. Sandman's flow revolves around the similitude of assonant words; he delivers them so quickly, you can almost see the consonants spinning in place around the vowels. On "Gggrrraa!!", Sandman unleashes his id in one of the more primally powerful songs you'll hear. Every song is so uncompromisingly idiosyncratic, it might drive you crazy at first, but you'll learn to love it.
6. Danny Brown - XXX Listening to XXX is like watching Tom chase Jerry through all sorts of brutal yet entertaining hoops for an extended period. Danny uses drugs to the extreme, indulges in violence and engages in sexual exploits that he describes in such a vividly explicit manner that it is borderline disgusting. At first, it's all really fun to experience, but as the mixtape wears on, all the bruises that Danny has accumulated really start to show, and the cartoon becomes more sad than anything. It's a surreal roller coaster of a tape with a death-drop finish.
5. Turquoise Jeep Records - Keep the Jeep Ridin' For a long time, I thought two artists from Turquoise Jeep (Flynt Flossy and Yung Humma) were the same guy in two outrageous costumes. That's how impossibly bizarre these ostensibly serious artists are. The cool thing about Turquoise Jeep is that you know these guys have a great sense of humor, singing about sex syrup overflowing on their pancake love in these voices that cannot possibly be real, but they do it with such a straight face, when you first listen to some of their music, you can't tell if they're being serious or not. This is music a little bit in the vein of RiFF RaFF, but waaaaay more out there, and that's saying something.
4. Latyrx - The Album From the first mind-blowing track, in which both MCs deliver lengthy, rambling but completely different verses at the same time -- Lyrics Born sounding like a scientist speaking way too fast, and Lateef the Truthspeaker sounding a little like a psychotic voice from inside your head -- it is clear that Latyrx's plainly named The Album is certainly not going to be like most others. Each song is an abstract adventure in itself, making for one of the most diverse and advanced fourteen tracks you'll find.
3. Quasimoto - The Unseen Madlib supposedly conceived this album during a week-long psilocybin binge, and it shows. The first thing you'll notice is that, in stark contrast to the pitched-down Houston hop you hear nowadays, his voice is pitched up to the point where he sounds like a character from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. But no, Madlib, known in The Unseen universe as Quasimoto, is not a very small person. He is an alien. With songs like "Come On Feet," where Lord Quas implores his feet to "come on, run!," wonky beats every which way and no discernible theme other that unadulterated strangeness, you have not heard another album much like this one.
2. Captain Murphy - Duality Named after the dearly departed Sealab 2021 Captain, who was a loveable weirdo himself, Captain Murphy, Flying Lotus's rap alter-ego, is weird and kind of scary. The audio/visual project begins, "Since the death of God, there's been a vacancy open. You could fill that void. Here's how." Murphy then proceeds to instruct the viewers, lesson by lesson, over video of brutal violence, pornography and everything in between how to take control of an impressionable mind. Murphy runs his presumably once normal voice through a gauntlet of effects that give him on air of omnipresence and omnicience. It's all quite disturbing, really, in the best way possible.
1. Kool Keith - Doctor Octagonecologyst What can you say about this album that won't seem like you're just making stuff up? It seems to strange to be a real thing -- certainly too weird to be considered a classic, yet it is. Kool Keith is Dr. Octagon, a time-traveling gynecologist originally from Jupiter. It gets weirder from there. Most of Keith's lyrics seem to be non-sequiturs, and if there can be supposed any kind of continuity, for the most part, it can truly only be supposed, at best. The words to "General Hospital" are as follows: "Dr. Octagon, please come to the office. Come now." "Oh, fuck! Patient just died in room 105. Cirrohsis of the eye. Nurse, come in. Please, where are you? Fuck it; he's dead. Oh, shit. There's a horse in the hospital!"
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.