Über Lightnin' Rod
One of the most influential albums ever, Lightnin' Rod's Hustler's Convention (1974) is a precursor of what would become Gangsta Rap. Set to the funky sounds of Kool & the Gang, Bernard (Pretty) Purdie, and many others, Jalal from the Last Poets hits us off with hardcore urban poetry, telling the story of one man's trials and tribulations in the ghetto. A highly conceptual album (think Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves), it plays like a movie with dramatic interludes, letting each track flow into the next. Sampled by the likes of the Beasties and the Native Tongues, the intricate score sounds as fresh as it did 25 years ago. Any self-respecting head with an interest in hip-hop history should check this out immediately.