As the record industry continues to modify its sales and marketing practices, the purchase of tangible music has declined steadily over the past two decades. However, the sales in vinyl records have increased steadily during the same time. Some say vinyl gives a warmth to the music since it is in analog format. With many types of music, this sound is made beneficial by the format. Others, such as hip hop with its strong digital recording techniques, don't make the transition that well. Here are five albums that sound good if not better when reading those grooves in the vinyl.
The Roots – Things Fall Apart
Widely known as the breakthrough album for this legendary hip hop group, the album took almost three years to complete. Featuring a number of guest vocalists such as D'Angelo, Mos Def, Common and Erykah Badu, the album brought to the mainstream what AllMusic called “Alternative Rap.”
Originally, Things Fall Apart came out in 1999 and won Best Grammy for Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The vinyl was re-released in 2013. This LP features two discs and the original artwork, which looks stunning in a larger format. The Roots seem to be made for vinyl. The album makes use of the elaborate instrumentation, bringing out the nuances you may miss with the CD or MP3 versions. This record is definitely one that works on vinyl.
Digable Planets – Blowout Combs
The final album from Digable Planets, this record failed to have much commercial success when it was first released. Recorded in 1993 to early 1994, Blowout Combs features a more stripped-down musical sense which works perfectly for a vinyl record. Recorded with this medium in mind, the mix is comprised heavily of vinyl samples and live instrumentation. The vocals are intentionally buried in the music, making each listen a new experience. The album was re-released in 2013 on vinyl.
Insane Clown Posse – Beverly Kills 50187
Insane Clown Posse has released a number of LPs and EPs over the years and many of them sound great on vinyl. However, Beverly Kills 50187 is widely considered by many as the seminal vinyl recording from ICP. As part of the group's Dark Carnival saga, it was released in 1993 in between two full length LPs. Featuring the core members, it also showcases Greez-E as a temporary member. The cover art, like most, was designed by Shaggy 2 Dope.
As part of the Waxworks vinyl series, Beverly Kills 50187 has been remastered and uses a 180-gram pressing. The sound is crisp and full, giving new dimension to the album. ICP also makes great use of the medium by making this a picture disc, meaning the album has an image on the whole disc rather than simply the grooved black vinyl.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
Clocking in at 109 minutes and 12 seconds, this masterpiece was released in 1997 after the death of its namesake. Recognized as one of the greatest mafioso rap records of all time, this diamond album sold over five million copies. Rolling Stone called it one of the 500 greatest recordings of all time. It features a variety of guest artists such as Jay-Z, R. Kelly, Mase and Puff Daddy.
Released on Record Store Day in 2014, this three disc set offers beautiful artwork on top of the analog transfer. On the vinyl, you can feel the difference in tone and dynamic bass-driven rhythms. This new version is full and free. His vocals are strong and work wonderfully with the harmonies. With the new vinyl addition, it's like you're hearing the album for the first time.
Genius/GZA – Liquid Swords
As the second solo record from this Wu-Tang Clan member, Liquid Swords had immediate sales success. After its 1995 release, it eventually went platinum in the early 2000s. Featuring guest spots from all the other Wu-Tang members, its sound is relatively dark and hypnotic with a sprinkling of samples from the film Showgun Assassin throughout.
The vinyl version of this album makes great use of the lush melodies and thumping rhythm. Its otherworldly sounds resonate with the listener and provide a new and interesting take on this Wu-Tang classic.
Jessica Kane is a music connoisseur and an avid record collector. She currently writes for SoundStage Direct, her go-to place for all turntables and vinyl equipment.