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5×5 Day Four: The Best Sophomore "Slumps"

by Travis on April 16, 2009

The dreaded Sophomore slump. Is it real, or something that is made up? I’m sure enough artists will tell you it’s real, but when you start looking at the bigger picture, I’d almost be willing to go out on the limb and an artist’s/group’s second album is a finer piece of music. Once I started going through some of the classics out there, it’s quickly noted that a lot of them are the second album of their career. They seem to have the right combination of hunger and knowledge to drop the classic. Not saying that first year wonders such as Nas, Snoop, and even arguably N.W.A. exist, but the list of solid second albums are rather impressive.

1. Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

Of course, my personal favorite album of all-time is Slaughtahouse by Masta Ace, which could or could not be considered his second album (is INC a group?), so to keep it simple, I stuck with the universal greatest album of all-time, PE’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. What is arguably one of, if not the, greatest hip hop album of time, It Takes A Nation…. was an album that everyone came with their best. Chuck and Flava perfected their shtick and the Bomb Squad set off to make an album that broke all the laws of music, and succeeded.

2. A Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory

You either love or hate Tribe’s debut album, but their second album is a certified classic. The music was more dense and in some cases, darker. They also incorporated more of a jazz sound to it, in places (don’t call it a jazz rap album, I hate that), but it’s sound was defined by more bottom on the beats. The bass on this album is really only something you notice on a nice system. Lyrically, I think Q-Tip being better and the night and day difference from the first album to Low End Theory in Phife is what really put’s it over the top.

3. De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead

How do you comeback from an image that you are not all that happy with on your first album? You “kill” that image and reinvent yourself. That’s exactly what De La Soul did. You thought they were fun loving hippies that were rapping over Turtles breaks about flowers? Think again. On De La Soul is Dead, they brought a more mature and even somewhat darker effort. The production once again was top notch in the form of Prince Paul, and it might even be considered his greatest achievement.

4. Ice Cube – Death Certificate

Do you count this as his sophomore release? He did after all have a release with NWA. For the sake of argument, I’m going to call Death Certificate his sophomore release, since it is just that as a solo artist. We’ve already had the debate between his first two albums as far as which was better, but Death Certificate is an album which packs so much emotion into the sixty plus minutes that it has you. There is anger, humor, fear, and they are all rolled into one in the form of Death Certificate.

5. Mobb Deep – The Infamous

No, really, it’s their sophomore release. I know it’s easy to forget about Juvenile Hell, and Havoc and Prodigy are almost like different artists by the time they got around to dropping The Infamous, but their second album was head and shoulders above their debut album. I think Havoc coming into his own really gave a defining sound of darkness for The Infamous that really sets this album apart from the rest.

Honorable Mentions

Redman – Dare Iz The Darkside
Common – Reminisce
Run DMC – Kings of Rock

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