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Hip Hop, You Can't Stop but I Don't Know Where to Start

There's just no excuse for it anymore. I've never gotten into hip hop, but there's no reason other than a dearth of exposure. I liken my experience (or lack thereof) with hip hop to my feelings about sushi. It's not that I don't like the stuff or that I don't believe I will like it, it's that I don't trust my own judgment in approaching it. Were I to ever get into sushi, I would need someone who really understands and appreciates it to give me a worthwhile introduction. The fear is that if I go in blind, I'll choose the wrong thing and inadvertently ruin the whole category for myself. Similarly, I need some trustworthy guidance into the world of hip hop. It's just not right to ignore an entire genre of music. Doing so in the past has only been a disservice. For example, I used to dismiss country music as a whole because the only stuff I'd ever heard was wretched pop country. To continue with the sushi metaphor, it's like only knowing the crappy California rolls they pre-package in corporate grocery stores. But then I heard the likes of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and early Dolly Parton. Sure, it was still country and it's never going to be my favorite music, but I could respect the style because it was genuinely good, not just over-produced junk that pandered with the same fake accents and homilies of late-period Hillary Clinton campaigning. My problem now is that I don't have any good hip hop advisers. I don't really trust the opinions of people who listen to hip hop exclusively, and there is a startling number of people who fall in that category. No, I need someone, or preferably several people, who appreciate a broad range of music in addition to hip hop. So, I'm calling out to you readers to give me a good introductory platter of hip hop artists for my own education. It's high time I embraced this increasingly pervasive category of music. I'll most certainly blog the results. I feel like I'm right on the edge of understanding, too. I've started to dabble in the likes of M.I.A. and MF Doom, as well as some other British stuff from a few years ago. Still, I'm like a kid trying to install his own training wheels. I can certainly appreciate the careful word-smithing of a guy like MF Doom, especially considering that he's not just putting together predictable rhymes about being the coolest guy in the club and being a ho-magnet. I'm culturally conscious enough to know that hip hop grew out of social commentary and that its turn to materialism is a relatively recent development. Not that I have anything against party music but there just has to be more depth, especially where entire albums are concerned in a lyric-driven genre. So, have at it Pop Music Clubbers. Educate me on hip hop's merits one artist at a time. Send them my way at sarko.michael@gmail.com. A brief description of why the listed artist is good for this project would also be appreciated.