Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There’s no signature sound to experimental hip-hop — the genre is just comprised of anything that pushes the limits of what hip-hop can be. So, when people ask me how to get into experimental hip-hop, I give them two albums that show off the breadth of the genre: “Madvillainy” by MF DOOM and “The Money Store” by Death Grips.
“Madvillainy” pairs the raw, chopped-up jazz-sampling beats from Madlib with the blunted, nonchalant rhyming schemes and wordplay from MF DOOM to create a truly abstract masterpiece that Pitchfork perfectly describes as “avant-meets-antique.” Instrumentally, Madlib keeps you guessing on each track, and you’ll find yourself asking two questions: did Madlib just make a beat with an out-of-tune accordion, and how does it actually work? “Meat Grinder” is definitely a highlight from this album.
Death Grips, on the other hand, makes music that would cause a pilgrim to spontaneously combust if you gave them your AirPods. Similar to Madvillainy, a producer-vocalist duo is behind this album, yet the duos’ styles are radically different. Producer Zach Hill’s instrumentation is harsh and percussion-heavy with blaring synths that remain unique throughout the tracklist, and MC Ride’s in-your-face, heavily filtered vocals mesh perfectly with Hill’s production. The result is innovative but undoubtedly a difficult listen. If I showed my parents this music, they would probably recommend that I get back on mood stabilizers. My favorite track from this project is probably “Hacker”.
If you enjoyed “Madvillainy”, I’d recommend some more abstract hip-hop albums like Earl Sweatshirt’s “Some Rap Songs” or MIKE’s “Weight of the World”. If you enjoyed “The Money Store”, there’s a lot more industrial and harsh hip-hop that has been inspired by them. My two personal favorites are JPEGMAFIA’s “Veteran” and Injury Reserve’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”.