14 Beats: Alternative Rap

Yo! What’s good, Chicago? Welcome to 14 Beats, a weekly playlist curated by yours truly. In celebration of Black History Month, I’ll be covering my favorite eras in Black music history over the course of February to highlight the history of Black creativity as expressed through music. Read the last few playlists here.

This week, the genre at hand is alternative rap. Similar to neo-soul, alternative rap blends different aspects of rap to fuel the creative yet cool consciousness of those who created it. Alternative rap focused more upon the musicality of the beats that they rhymed over, as well as interpolating a more poetic and idiosyncratic feel to their sound. 

I love the eclectic and funky feel that alternative rap possesses. It’s youthful, but still contains deep messages within the wordplay that you fully unravel on the second or third listen. Without further ado, 14 Beats: Alternative Rap:

  • We start with the Digable Planets classic “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”
  • The Pharcyde’s horn-sprinkled “Passin’ Me By”
  • “Luchini AKA This Is It” from Camp Lo is the number three song this week
  • Black Sheep’s Hit “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)”
  • Geto Boys’ hypnotic “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”
  • ODB’s banger “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” a track strengthened by his  melodic, trance-like vocals 
  • Wu-Tang Clan’s lyrical party “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’”
  • A Tribe Called Quest’s cypher influenced “Scenario” follows
  • Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” marks the halfway spot on this week’s playlist.
  • Lords Of The Underground’s lowkey, rhyme-focused “Chief Rocka”
  • Black Star’s “Definition” glides us into the closing portion of the mix
  • Two slow jams this week: Outkast’s absolute heater “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” and Mos Def’s “The Panties”
  • Queen Latifah and Monie Love’s feminist, bar-for-bar empowerment track “Ladies First”
  • Fugees’ iconic “Fu-Gee-La” is the penultimate song on the playlist
  • MF Doom’s (RIP) breezy song “Doomsday” takes the last spot on this week’s mix

While you’re listening to the Black artists featured in 14 Beats this week, make sure that you are intentional about the ways that you approach Black culture and history this month. Get outside of traditional narratives surrounding enslaved communities in the United States! Learn about Black, gay and trans innovation in New York. Listen to a Black musician. Buy some Black-ass IPA. And most importantly, pay Black creatives!

Header image by Jake Runnion