The older I get, the more that music becomes atmosphere to me. It's crazy for me to think about, but almost every modern artist I listen to today religiously is electronic and without vocals, a huge departure from the rock and roll-biased days of my youth. Music is less a statement of interest or a badge of honor in my life at this point, rather it's a catalyst—something that gets my brain working and moving towards some sort of realization or catharsis. In the world of hip-hop, there is no album more atmospheric or earth-shattering in my mind than Mobb Deep's legendary debut The Infamous, what is to me—at this point in my life—perhaps the greatest rap album ever made.
Dark, dreary, hauntingly melodic, and utterly macabre, there is no The Wire on HBO without Mobb Deep's gritty, mid-nineties depiction of the inner city streets. The album's core—its backbone—are the lush and layered instrumentals, but it's more than that. It's everything. Prodigy's rhymes are ultimately the detailed brushstrokes on that masterpiece canvas.
Even if you've never downloaded a hip-hop album in your life, you should own a copy of The Infamous. It's that important of a record. Even if you have no idea of its historic context or its avant garde status at the time, I have no doubt you'll be taken by its dream-like atmospherics. It's a lasting memory of a fading era, cut ever more short by this untimely passing.