The first hip hop album I really got into - like listened to so much I learnt most of the lyrics - was De La Soul's Buhloone Mindstate. Actually, that's a lie. The first hip hop album I really got into, and listened to so much that I knew all of the lyrics, was Dre 2001. But that is highly embarrassing, and I wish it wasn't the case. So instead I'll say the first hip hop album I'm not ashamed to have really gotten into was Buhloone Mindstate. It was actually kind of by accident; the disc was sitting there with Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and I thought the name was more interesting, so I put it on my nano which was full of Radiohead and other music not really suited to running... so I'd listen to the album while I ran, and rap, and laugh at it, and try not to think about the fact that I was being overtaken by walkers and kind of wanted to die.
De La Soul are respected for a reason. My favourite Tupac song is All Bout U, in which he raps about a "bad bitch/weak scrub" he is "stuck with", how he only hangs out with "the criminals and the drug dealers", and how he keeps seeing the same "bitch" all over the place. I'm not kidding about it being my favourite Tupac song, either; put it on at a party and I'm guaranteed to be all "Oh yeah... one time!", which is akin to say, Rupert Everett, voting for the GOP. Like many famous rappers, including supposedly intelligent ones like Kanye West, Tupac is misogynistic to the core, homophobic, and just an all-round pretty hateful guy. The majority of what comes out of these men's mouths is negative and divisive bullshit; even Kanye's lighter sounding songs are full of hate, like Gold Digger, which samples a song about a woman who is a "friend indeed", but is all about a woman who uses men to pay for her excessive lifestyle. On the other hand, right from the start, De La Soul was about a positive sound. They were founding members of the Native Tongues, whom wikipedia describes as a collective of "hip hop artists known for their positive-minded, good-natured Afrocentric lyrics, and for pioneering the use of eclectic sampling and later jazz-influenced beats" (which is why, lyrics aside, they sound so much better than the shitty stylings and basic production of Tupac & co). Being positive doesn't mean they don't tackle issues; a Buhloone Mindstate example is Patti Dooke, in which they talk about the appropriation of the work of black artists to make it more palatable to a white audience. They're incredibly funny, innovative, and proof that hip-hop can be positive and accessible to everyone.
We've gone out for pizza and come back so my train of thought is completely derailed, so I'll end by posting my favourite track from the album, which is also one of my overall favourite songs by the group. When I saw them at the Powerstation a few years ago, they played part of it, and I was beside myself. And lastly, I just read that the video was particularly insulting to old Tupac, who had just released a video in which he is in a spa pool with a bikini clad woman. Brilliant. Long live De La Soul.