Music listeners are essentially dopamine addicts. The chemicals are secreted every time we hear a song we love.  We all remember the CD that changed us from casual listeners into audio fiends. Maybe we enjoyed the smooth grooves of a boyband or decided Sisqo had some street cred, but there’s nothing quite like discovering that life-changing album. Even if it was Creed’s greatest hits. Allow us to wax nostalgic for a second. – Jimmy Ness, Feature Editor

Dr. Dre — The Chronic  (By Alex Piveysky)


Here I am at 13 — a few months after emigrating from the Ukraine to the US. A skinny kid and small for my age, trudging through the back alleys of Bloomfield, NJ, on my way to the Laundromat, dragging a sack of dirty clothes half as big as myself. I’m looking every inch an immigrant – ludicrous green warm-up pants, a T-shirt featuring Looney Tunes characters in basketball garb, a second-hand jean jacket, fake Reeboks, a Knicks snapback that’s too big for my head even when snapped on the tightest hole. And of course, in my pocket, is my trusty off-brand Walkman –the kind that didn’t rewind.

I get to the laundromat, dump the pile in the machine, find a spot on one of the threadbare padded benches in the waiting area. Finally at rest, I slip on the headphones, hit play, and try to figure out why the man with the master plan is “A Nigga Witta Motherfucking Gun.”

Dr. Dre’s The Chronic was the first cassette I ever owned in America, purchased from some Columbia House scam which my family fell for immediately after discovering that every album would only cost a penny.  Nineteen years later, I can’t tell you exactly why I picked The Chronic from that seductive glossy fold-out. The strong run of singles likely had something to do with it, as well as those images of Dre cruising around on three wheels that dominated MTV in the summer of 1993.

Back then, my grasp of colloquial and idiomatic English was tenuous at best. Most of the time I barely knew what these people were rapping about. I had no idea who Nina was or what she was tripping over. I didn’t know that “chronic” was a reference to weed. I probably didn’t even know what weed was to begin with. But I liked how it all sounded, and I liked how their cars bounced, and at the time that was enough.

This album wasn’t the first piece of music to resonate with me, but it was one of the first and most formative pieces of US pop culture that I latched onto. It impressed me so much that later I would go on to name my Oregon Trail oxen after members of the Death Row roster, all the while mystified about why that raised some eyebrows among teachers and other students.

Obviously, I had no context for anything I heard in these songs, no idea of either the history of rap or of the culture that birthed it. My taste was a blank slate, my appreciation for the music pure and unbiased, derived entirely from the attraction to the sound. Sitting there waiting in that funky smelling laundromat I had no concept of how ridiculous it was for me to be listening to that. Nineteen years later I’m glad that I didn’t.

Michael Jackson – Thriller (By Jeff Weiss)

Imagine growing up Amish. No television, no records, no idea that a man named Weird Al was your nemesis. Then picture the next weirdest thing: growing up in a house with no music. This was the arrhythmic plight of my pre-literate days. (Photo evidence shows a dazed, unsociable youth, with a cowlick not to be trusted).

There is no clear explanation why there was no wax in my house growing up. There was a record player in the living room, a Radio Shack Panasonic with a forever-faulty needle. There was my dad’s transistor radio, permanently glued to baseball games and Dodger talk. Sometimes, if the night was clear, you could catch the faint signal of KNBR radiating from the Bay. But there was no music: in the car, while cooking, while being used to conceal more amorous overtures.

Maybe this was best. My mother grew up in the late 60s in the San Fernando Valley. Her favorite musicians of all-time are Donovan and Dwight Yoakum. Not bad, but early onset exposure could have sentenced me to a life of acid trips, over-baked poesy, and cowboy hats. (So, basically the same) My father has the aesthetic sensibilities and dance moves of a certified public accountant. Yet he rhapsodizes about disco the way the Dalai Lama memorializes a free Tibet. For a man who had a mustache like Moroder, you would think that he would have at least held onto a couple Donna Summer 78s. Not the case. He has put me up on exactly two records in my life: Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme and Spirit’s Greatest Hits. But it was only later when I learned to stop, collaborate, and listen.

Thriller came first. To borrow from W. Campbell: it arrived standard issue in suburban homes with trial packages of Tide. I have no recollection when it turned up in the baker’s rack that doubled as our feeble entertainment center. All I know is that one day I wanted to be starting for the Cincinnati Reds and the next I wanted to be starting something. I never remember my parents playing it for me. I only remember listening to it alone on our elephantine olive-green couch, mystified by the fold out panel of Michael Jackson mystically stroking a Siberian tiger.

Michael Jackson was for the children. I don’t mean that in the perverse sexualized way that stains our later remembrances of the king of pop. I mean it how I sensed things as a kid. Had I access to all the albums in the world, I imagine that Thriller is what would’ve stuck. Michael’s flaw and strength was that he inhabited a suspended pre-adolescence. He never lost his sense of wonder, the experimental ingenuity often snuffed out by the sneering and un-sentimentality of adulthood.

The young Michael Jackson was the real-life Josh Baskin. He was big, free to construct personal amusement parks and frolic with vicious jungle cats. If you were five years old how would you have wanted to roll to the Grammys? With Webster and a chimp named Bubbles. Obviously. There are no women on Thriller. There are babies and girls. No, I’m not counting “The Lady in My Life,” because let’s be real, we all turned it off after “P.Y.T.”

In my balloon animal mind, Thriller’s lyrics could be bent into any number of prizes. To me, the coda of “Wanna Be Starting Something” was “Save on a salt of Matzvah.” There could be no terror like “Thriller,” with its fright night video and the campy Vincent Price introduction.  Thriller is prelapsarian and immaculate—the a-politicized instantiation of morning in America. Even Reagan met with MJ. No savvy politician could pass up that good of a photo-op.

Of course, the songs are indelible, the most universal pop since the Beatles. No need to reiterate orthodoxy about the best selling and best-loved album of the last 30 years. Until I wrote these words, I hadn’t listened to it in its entirety since the record player finally failed right around the time I bought The Chronic. But I remembered every word, reinforced by its singles’ ubiquity at every Bar Mitzvah, BBQ, and Illuminati induction (“Beat It” is obviously a pre-emptive shot licked at anyone attempting to dig too deep).

Forget the fall, forget the foibles. Remember the best. That’s what we’ll clutch when we’re old and obsolete. Soon enough. Even now, Thriller is youth, rumspringa. I could never go back.

 

Prince – Sign O’ The Times (By Chris Daly)

My arguably unhealthy addiction to music was set off by my then babysitter playing the Purple Rain soundtrack non-stop when my parents weren’t home. All tracks were replayed ad nauseum, save one, the already then scandalous “Darlin’ Nikki.” Though my brother and I would naturally play that track most often whenever the opportunity afforded itself, we had no idea what “masturbating to a magazine” even meant back then (Candy wasn’t that great a babysitter, often leaving her tape deck unsupervised while she went to the bathroom to “feel better,” but that’s an entirely different column).

Had my parents not made the mistake of actually getting us tickets to see the “Purple Rain” tour, I probably wouldn’t be here today typing this. From the opening chords of “Let’s Go Crazy,” I was hooked for life.  From there on out, I’ve been a musicophile and loyal follower of “His Royal Badness” (hey, somebody had to buy LotusFlow3r, right?)

Following up with Around the World in a Day was a confusing move for fans and critics, though hindsight clearly shows its brilliance (sorry, I still consider “Parade” among his finest works.) Let’s face it, The Kid owned the 80s. But we’re not here today to discuss any of these admittedly brilliant albums. I’m here 2 tell U something else.

On March, 31, 1987, I was hit with my first brush with brilliance. Back then, a record release was an event. People would stand in honest-to-god lines at brick and mortar record stores at midnight the night before a release to pick up a physical piece of plastic and/or vinyl. I know, I know, and this isn’t going to turn into a “back in my day” lecture, I just want to convey how exciting the prospect of a new Prince album was in the 80s. And we were not to be disappointed with this one. Just moments into the titular track, it was obvious Prince had hit upon a new high with Sign O’ the Times. Tackling politics, sexuality, religion and damn near every other meaningful aspect of the human experience, Mr. Nelson touched upon universal truths in a musical language yet shared.

Previously, Prince had proven he could produce the greatest procreation music ever. I ain’t lyin’; if you were unaware that the Artist Formerly Known As the Artist Formerly Known As wrote the greatest fuck music of all time, well, I feel sorry for your lover. “Sign,” though it did include such bang-worthy tracks as, “It” and “Hot Thing,” also held his all-time best love ballads (“Adore” and “Forever In My Life”), some of his best guitar licks (catch the end of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” particularly some of the live versions floating around), his finest (and then only official) live performance (“It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night”), as well as some kid friendly stuff (damned if “Starfish and Coffee” didn’t make it into an episode of Muppets Tonight.)

While the diminutive pop-rock demi-god had never been what I’d call restrained, “Sign” blew the doors off of anything resembling a “tried and true” approach. This was an Artist hitting his stride. This was ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Jordan winning back-to-back-to-back, man on the moon-level shit, pop-rock transcended to a new level. And while Prince was notorious for playing everything himself on his albums, his touring band was as tight as it would ever get, with the core of the Revolution augmented with one of the greatest horn and percussion sections ever assembled on any stage at any time. I should know. I’ve seen damn near every one since.

Though Prince still had plenty left in the tank, this was the one that popped my cherry moon. This was the first album I ever truly loved. You know how you thinking making out is great until you actually get off? That’s what Sign O’ the Times did to me.

The Fugees – The Score (By Evan Nabavian)

Maybe seven years old was the age at which I could identify “cool” or maybe nothing was “cool” until I heard the Fugees’ classic, The Score. My older brother acquired a CD player in 1996, and I remember two CDs that lived in his bedside drawer: Jock Jams, Volume 2, emblazoned with lurid Saved By the Bell imagery (“Jock Jams was a good CD!” he told me as I was writing this), and an edited copy of The Score with the immeasurably cooler cover of Pras, aloof; Wyclef, solemn; and Lauryn, furtive; stark against a black background and gangster orange typeface.

I think Lauryn surreptitiously stole my heart with her unrestrained soul on “FU-GEE-LA,” teaching me just how powerful a voice could be. I’d like to think I appreciated “How Many Mics” too, but it was “Ready Or Not” that had me singing in the shower. Was The Score cool because it was emanating from my brother’s room? No, because my brother was also playing Jock Jams. These new sounds were perfect: cold and paranoid, but accessibly funky — and neither diluted the other.

The ever-present abrasiveness was cushioned by the likes of “Killing Me Softly,” which even my mom begrudgingly admitted was a good song. I have to give seven year old Evan credit for falling in love with such a great album. He didn’t know how to swim, he couldn’t ride a bike, and he always cried on the first day of school, but he knew dope when he heard it.

V/A – The Space Jam Soundtrack (By Jimmy Ness)


My introduction to music had an uncertain beginning. As an eight year old, I went through the painful process of being forced to return several albums by god-fearing parents. Targets included: Coolio for explicit language/bad hair, The Bloodhound Gang for poo jokes and boy band All-4-One, of “I Swear” fame, for sweetly harmonizing sex metaphors.

Months after letting Bryan Adams and a Christian rap tape gather dust, I sat watching Space Jam in a small theater. During the scene when a young Michael Jordan dunks, my eyes watered as I pictured myself also soaring through the air. I was blissfully unaware of a future in which I would a) still be white and b) only grow to the height of Big Sean. However, as soon as I could convince my family I wasn’t about to turn into Satan, the Space Jam soundtrack was in my uncoordinated little hands.

It was a crash course in rap and R&B, featuring everyone from Jay-Z to D’Angelo, to disappearing acts like Changing Faces and my former musical brethren All-4-One. Before his underage rendezvous gained interest, R Kelly sung his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” Coolio gave inspirational life advice which he clearly didn’t follow on “The Winner,” and Biz Markie met the Spin Doctors on “That’s The Way I Like It.” There was also a mysterious artist called “feat”or “ft,” who seemed incredibly prolific and appeared on almost every song. I distinctly remember telling people they were my favorite artist, until I discovered months later that “ft” was actually short for featuring.

“Hit Em High” was the album’s posse cut and undoubtedly my personal favorite. Somehow it managed to sound hardcore despite featuring no swear words, a feat even that the mighty Lil Romeo was unable to achieve. I listened to the soundtrack almost every day and could rap the lyrics word for word. My perception of music was forever altered and although my basketball career tanked, my obsession with everything audio had begun. It wasn’t until years later that my musical taste regressed to Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Oh the follies of youth.

V/A — Millennium Hip Hop Party (By Jonah Bromwich)

One of my favorite professors in college was the great Nabokov scholar, Alexander Dolinin. He was memorable for a number of reasons: he was absolutely brilliant and challenging as a professor, he was an expert on a writer whose ideas have become hugely important to my own thinking, and he had a wonderful, guttural, Russian accent heightened by an artful stutter that he would unleash in a terrifying and awesome manner.

Dolinin stayed on topic most of the time. But the one time I can remember him deviating from his subject, it was to deliver a blistering soliloquy on the state of his students’ piddling memory banks. In the old world, according to the Professor, students had committed great swathes of literature to memory. Pull quote: “Faulkner was a b-b-backwoods drunk, and even he had memorized the entire works of Shakespeare!”

Legendary, and true. I don’t even have the entirety of “To be or not to be” memorized (and what I do have is shamefully due, at least in part, to Billy Madison.) However, I can say, simultaneously sheepish and proud, that I do know every word to every song on Rhino’s Millenium Hip Hop Party.

That album, one of my first, started with a song from the year 1983, Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It),” and ran all the way to ’92, with a censored version of “Nuthin But a G Thang.” In between were such classics as “The Humpty Dance,” “Bust a Move,” “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” and a host of other greats.

It’s funny to think about now—we tend to consider these collections tasteless and inauthentic, evidence of the true amateur. Once I got into high school I would sermonize about the importance of 2001 and The Marshall Mathers LP to my musical upbringing and pretend as if I had never seen the purple album cover with its ludicrous polka dots. And that was naive. Because from this compilation, I learned an incredible amount about what Hip-Hop can be. Every song seeped into my brain and fused itself within. That’s why, if anyone says the words “rock right now” or “just don’t understand” or “Tennessee,” whole songs pop unbidden into my head (and if I’m caffeinated, out of my mouth). Speak, memory, the famous phrasing says, and the words pour forth, accompanied by nostalgia, a big smile and an unshakeable, steady rhythm.

Michael Jackson - Dangerous (By Abe Beame)

How does a 7 year-old approach an album with as much context and baggage as Dangerous? It’s as inscrutable as the Dali coat of arms on its cover, a skeleton key opening a door he’s never seen, an album full of messages he doesn’t have the hardware to receive, so how does he get in? As it turns out, euphorically, with open arms, bouncing off every hard surface in his house and elementary school. Who better to usher a young nerd into the world of popular music than its architect?

I can give you the staggering hard numbers: 32 million albums sold worldwide and four top #1 singles. He was still shooting videos for Dangerous tracks two years after the album was released. But for Mike those are rather pedestrian stats. To a 7 year-old all that mattered was that his videos were a big enough deal to PUSH BACK THE SIMPSONS! He brought in Macaulay Culkin at the peak of his Home Alone fame for a throw away intro to “Black and White” (with Tom Arnold!).

There was a whole faux controversy over Mike getting his aggression out with a crowbar on a soundstage dolled up to look like an urban alley tacked onto the end of that video for no particular reason that was important enough to dominate the news! That song you never wanted to wait through the long dramatic opera intro, ended up being the anthem on the Free Willy soundtrack! He got Magic Johnson for the “Remember the Time” video! It didn’t even matter that he was dancing around a gym with a certain bald, studded ear lobe, father-killing asshole that ruined that other doomed, obsessive part of your childhood because that song fucking knocked so hard! It’s always going to be like this right? Superstar musicians at the peak of their fame with the whole world watching deliver perfectly formed 14 track monsters several times a year right?

Of course, in the pantheon it’s seen as late Mike, lesser Mike. Post-Quincy with Teddy Riley at the helm and a sound tending towards New Jack Swing on steroids. You can look back and say not as raw, not as funky, one last batch of great ear worms that may tend towards a little slick and a little over-produced in comparison with Quincy’s masterpieces as Mike withdrew into his theme park and the strange proclivities we’d all rather not think about — but you’d be an asshole. Because every time “Black or White”, “Jam”, “Why You Wanna Trip On Me” , “In the Closet”, “She Drives Me Wild”, “Remember the Time”, “Who Is It”, “Give In To Me”, “Will You Be There” or “Dangerous” comes on in a bar or restaurant, the joy in the room is palpable. For one brief, shining moment we’re all 7 years-old again.

Nelly – Country Grammar (By Slava P)

I have to make a confession. At the risk of alienating hip-hop purists and hanging an asterisk beside all of my future musical opinions, I’m not afraid to admit that I was born in 1990. This means that I came into the word roughly five years after people started to eulogize Rap music for losing its pureness, and roughly six years before there were actual eulogies involved in the infamous Tupac/Biggie feud, which I don’t remember because I wasn’t speaking English at the time.

My point is: I missed a lot of the important stuff. Music wasn’t important to me until being cool started to be important to me, and that was around age 10 in the Fourth Grade. Before that, I was very much about that Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys life. I was aware of rap music, but Outkast went too far over my adolescent head and Eminem was too scary for me to be allowed to listen to, so my formal introduction came from a Sixth Grader named Jimmy. Jimmy needed some money for an out of town trip and was looking to sell his new Nelly CD for $10 (looking back, that money was probably for drugs. I don’t regret it, Jimmy was an asshole). I quickly switched out whatever was in my Walkman, probably No Strings Attached (banger) and put in this new CD that prominently featured Nelly mean mugging on the cover with a puffy vest, no shirt, and a belly tattoo. What I received was an experience.

From the opening bars and steel drums of St. Louie, I knew that I would be saying goodbye to N’Sync forever. Nelly’s mumble-raps may have barely registered as lyricism to my 10 year-old self, but his flow was catchy as fuck and the production was on point. In addition, each song had a fully formed concept, no matter how ridiculous. Ride with Nelly, play baseball with Nelly, celebrate Employment Insurance with Nelly. It didn’t matter how bad the idea was, Nelly and his Lunatics made it work. Speaking of which, the St. Lunatics, while not technically adept, have done a great job of staying friends and loyal weed carriers over the years. And back when people could only watch music videos at certain times of the day, I diligently watched the Much Music Countdown every Friday to see if those Lunatics would show up in the videos for “Country Grammar,” “EI” and “Ride Wit Me.” It wasn’t like G-Unit or YMCMB — nobody wanted to be a Lunatic, but it felt like everyone was rooting for them (except Chingy).

Thanks to Nelly’s mispronunciation of the words I had spent years learning, I only understood half of what he was saying. However, his swagger in saying them was undeniable. This is the man I wanted to be, a man who could smoke an L in the back of a BenZ without explaining to anyone what that meant. Another confession: I still don’t know what a rubber hammer is, but I continue to assume that it’s a condom.

After listening to Country Grammar a few times over, no longer was rap music some sort of scary, complicated monster. It became a playful, head-bobbing experience that I wanted to show everyone. Except my mother.

Looking back, Nelly was the first successful Hip-Pop star in the post LL Cool J era. He was one symbolic half of the flash-in-the-pan known as Ja Rule (the other half was Tupac’s ghost) and was celebrated just as much for his bulging biceps as his Midwest slang. Nelly may not be the most important musical figure of the aughts, but he and his Lunatics served as an important stepping stone (and lesson) for artists that flourishes today.

Metallica – Master of Puppets (By Matt Shea)

I grew up with two older brothers and a sister. They fed me music. Thriller, Rio, Some Great Reward, The Queen is Dead, Boys Don’t Cry, Document – all got a solid run in our house, as did many, many others. But Master of Puppets was the first album where my love eventually outstrippped that of my siblings

I remember when I discovered the album in mid-1991. My brothers were no doubt preparing for the release of Metallica by creaming through the band’s back catalogue. Of course, this was before grunge and a long time before the internet and the all-powerful zeitgeist that travels with it – the hype surrounding Metallica was for the first year purely a metal thing, and so enjoying metal was still – in Brisbane, at least – an activity for weedy, trainspotter kids. In other words, kids like me.

By October there were four albums regularly getting spun between the two bedrooms my brothers and I shared: Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, Metallica, and Megadeth’s Rust in Peace. I tended to gravitate towards Megadeth: their Cali-thrash comic book shtick and taste for blunt satire appealed to my kid sensibilities. But if we’re talking single albums, none hit me harder than Master of Puppets.

Even in 1991 – five years after its release – it sounded like the future, outstripping by a fraction Lightning’s overt prog, and totally outclassing the flabby, sluggish Metallica (fuck you, Bob Rock). As spring shifted into summer, I’d take Puppets to the absolute limits of our Technics sound system’s capabilities, standing at the front door in case our mother came home early.

The kids at school laughed at my taste for metal. It was mostly good-natured, and something I could take having been my brothers’ punching bag for the first ten years of my life. But still I smirked when, 12 months later, every fucking body was into Metallica. By that stage my brothers, ever efficient, had already moved us onto grunge. And the diehard metal kids we’d hung out with aggressively refused to listen to anything that didn’t feature Gibson Explorers and double bass drums, further driving our departure from the genre.

Still, something of the quality of Master of Puppets would always stay on rotation. And you can hear its echoes in albums I listen to now – the sonic constructivism and savage percussion of Menomena, the air raid guitars of DZ Deathrays. It’s rare that I listen to a metal record these days, but Master of Puppets will always be in my Top 10.

V/A — The Men in Black Soundtrack (By Max Bell)

I was six, going on seven. Backstreet and ‘ N Sync were rising and on Radio Disney. Dark times for a sheltered child. And though that boy band shit is something I will never forgive my parents for, the folks did do one thing (among a few others) right— they took me to see Men In Black in the summer of ‘97.

While I’ve shed more and more boyband lyrics with each passing song, Men In Black has always stuck. It’s the first movie I remember going to see and the first album I owned and enjoyed. My Sony Discman never left my side once I got it, even though my headphones were on par with those purchased on airplanes. Again, my memory is hazy, but Southwest definitely wasn’t about that audio quality.

I begged the parentals for the soundtrack for one reason, and one reason only: Will Smith. He made that movie. Who didn’t want to run down a cephalopoid on foot? And Smith’s “Men In Black” (Trackmasters killed it) was my shit. I hit repeat on that track until I broke the CD. And now that I’ve listened again, Smith’s flow is actually kind of, dare I say—dope. The “Men In Black” video also holds up very well. The ‘90s were great, right?

Now, just so you know, the soundtrack also has Snoop, Ginuwine, The Roots, D’angelo, Nas in full Escobar mode, De La Soul, Tribe on their Ummah tip, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys doing her best Badu, and Danny Elfman (Dupri was on there too, but I’ve always shied away from any So So Def affiliation.)

I wish I could give my little self a pound and lead him in the right direction, for I was about that hip-hop shit then. And as far as first albums go, I don’t think it was a bad choice. But of course, many musical missteps (Limp Bizkit, Offspring, Blink 182, and the like) followed. Though I eventually made my way back. I’m ready to play Agent J with this rap writing shit. So look into this device for me and forget everything I just told you. Nostalgia is a motherfucker.

Jay – Z – The Blueprint (By MobbDeen)

Given my age (nope, not telling but you can figure it out if you care enough), Jay-Z’s The Blueprint is a strange choice as the first album I loved. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not even sure I like the album anymore, even if I still think it’s the ultimate distillation of Jay-Z on wax.

Aight, that wasn’t any kind of honest. I still dig The Blueprint, just not as much as I did back in 2002. Blame that on Nas becoming my favorite rapper in the interim – but that’s neither here nor there.  The Blueprint was the first album I really got to experience the way I prefer listening to music – alone and as an entire package.

Prior to 2002, I generally experienced music via singles on TV and radio, but I happened to have started college around the time The Blueprint dropped and was the proud owner of a Discman (remember those?) This meant that I got to spend a chilly Wisconsin winter/spring gallivanting around campus with my headphones on just listening to Jay-Z fellate himself over and over again. Pause.

I bought The Blueprint along with Bubba Sparxx’s Dark Day, Bright Nights, and while I still dig both albums, the latter never stood a chance. I’d heard “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” like everyone else and that was genuinely the first time I considered the possibility that Timbaland wasn’t the greatest producer ever. That said, neither Kanye nor Just Blaze is responsible for my favorite track on the album – that honor belongs to Bink!’s work on “All I Need.” I get goosebumps every time the beat drops on that shit. Can’t really say the same for anything off Bubba’s album, but it’s still a fun listen.

In the intervening years, The Blueprint has been overtaken by scores of albums. After all, it was only my FIRST favorite and I only got to indulge my music obsession FULLY once I started making a little money in college. However, it remains a strong favorite and I imagine that’ll always be the case – no matter how much the Camel annoys me in the future. Here’s to first loves…