No matter your parents’ political persuasion, hip-hop can be a hard sell when it comes to co-opting the stereo at home — liberally inclined parents will complain about the genre’s perceived misogyny, glorification of crime, and naughty language, while conservatives will rant and rave about… well, basically the exact same things, albeit for different reasons. Still, with the release of The Roots’ undun this week, we got to thinking about hip-hop that can help change — or at least — challenge these broad conceptions. Here’s a few of our picks. If your parents aren’t quite ready to embraced the Based God quite yet, you can get them started with the records you’ll find after the jump.
De La Soul — 3 Feet High and Rising
You generally can’t go wrong with Native Tongues-affiliated bands. Their general lyrical positivity — along with the distinct lack of “bitches,” “hoes,” “gats,” and other gangsta conceits in their rhymes — will go down well at home. And if mom asks suspiciously whether the “three feet high” bit is some sort of allusion to getting stoned, you can reply with a clear conscience that it’s actually a lyrical allusion to the Johnny Cash song “Five Feet High and Rising.” Result!
The Cool Kids — The Bake Sale
They really are cool — plus, they like BMXes, Star Wars and Segas. It’s just like the last 20 years never happened! Also, the NWA sample in “Gold and a Pager” is a fine way to sneak Compton’s finest onto the stereo without having to actually put on “Fuck Tha Police” and endure the inevitable outrage and arguments.
J Dilla — Donuts
If your parents are of the view that hip hop beats are all “bits of other songs” that anyone could whack together in five minutes, then maybe a listen to the late and lamented Detroit genius J Dilla might help to educate them. Donuts is largely instrumental, and even when it isn’t, the lyrics come a distant second to Dilla’s relentless sonic experimentalism — the album’s like a long, rambling excursion through his record collection, and a 31-track tutorial on the art of beat-making. (Plus, it’ll be fun to watch your folks jump when that ultra-compressed kick drum on “Light My Fire” drops.)
Common — Can I Borrow a Dollar?
Hey, even Barack Obama likes Common! You can also use this to segue into a discussion about the use of metaphor in poetry, and also about why Rush “Barack the Magic Negro” Limbaugh is a loathsome hypocritical piece of shit. (Sorry, mom! Sorry! Here’s a quarter for the swear box.)
Shabazz Palaces — Black Up
Anyone whose experience of contemporary hip-hop is confined to the Auto-Tune-and-bling flavors of commercial chart dross — a demographic that sadly includes pretty much everyone’s parents — will hopefully be pleasantly surprised by an introduction to the more cerebral sounds of some of the artists working outside the genre’s mainstream. Flying Lotus might be a bit headache-inducing for such tastes, And Gorilla vs. Bear just named Black Up their album of the year, so your parents can be way cooler than their friends by casually namedropping it at a dinner party.
The Roots — undun
The Roots basically scream middle-class acceptability — they’re the house band on Jimmy Fallon, of course, and even if they happen to do something mildly controversial every so often (like playing “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” when Michelle Bachmann was on the show a couple of weeks back), their cerebral, socially conscious, live instrumentation-centric version of hip-hop is pretty much the antithesis of your 50 Cents, etc. They even named an album after a line in W.B. Yeats’s “Jerusalem,” for Chrissakes. Undun is a modern fable about a socially disadvantaged character who chooses a life of crime after and meets a suitably sticky end, which can serve as the catalyst for much dinner-table hand-wringing. Also, if your parent liked the Sufjan Stevens album you insisted on playing a couple of years back, you can woo them with the knowledge that he guests on one of the tracks.
Drake — Take Care
He’s so sensitive! And so sad! Bless! (Plus, your mom may well recognize him from Degrassi: The Next Generation. Come on, we know you watched it.)
Why? — Oaklandazulasylum
If you just happen to be a skinny indie type who’s more prankster than gangsta (hey, we’re just writing from our own personal viewpoint here), then your parents may well respond well to hip-hop that was made by someone who looks rather like their pride and joy. Or, at least, someone who doesn’t have a tattoo of an ice cream on his face, y’know? Oaklandazulasylum is a long, long way from the streets, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hip-hop.
Sage Francis — Personal Journals
Granted, Francis’s left-wing polemics aren’t going to go down particularly well with parents whose political views lie to the right of center — but if your parents are old lefties, then his work might demonstrate to them that hip-hop isn’t all crass materialism, guns, and musclebound men making dubious claims about their sexual potency. Francis has moved away from hip-hop in recent years, but his debut album is straight-up rap and still the best thing he’s ever made.
The Sugarhill Gang — Sugarhill Gang
The classic. If this doesn’t get your folks tapping their toes, you might have to abandon this whole idea. Either way, you’ll just need to make sure that you make clear all the stuff about going to a friend’s place for “ugly food that stinks” isn’t any sort of sly commentary on your parents’ cooking.