Posted on: April 24, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Emily Stephens

By Juan Carbajal, Opinion Editor

We’ve all seen social media posts that either play songs, have lyrics as the caption, share a Spotify wrapped, or share music videos. It’s so easy nowadays to see how anyone’s favorite music artists make them feel. 

But a group that doesn’t do this often is our favorite artists themselves, leaving us wondering: What music means the most to them? Who gave them the impacts and influences they gave us? Where did the sounds that helped shape their sound come from? 

It’s hard to answer these for every big artist, but many current major artists share common roots. Roots that started with albums on this list–some old, some new, some well known, some smaller. Our favorites wouldn’t be here without them. 

Lauryn Hill, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”

Helped give us Drake, Rihanna, Adele, Kanye West, Beyoncé, SZA

Yeah that’s quite a list of people to influence. That’s what Lauryn Hill does.

After her former hip-hop group the Fugees disbanded, rapper and singer Lauryn Hill went solo. 

Many of her fans liked her as a rapper and a singer, but her 1998 album solidified her music as not needing any musical lanes. 

Hill unified concepts in unique ways that weren’t done that much in mainstream 90s music. Her vocals and rap bars were full of strength and soul, conveying themes of self love, and melodies and hip hop drums that empower the female spirit.

Above all, she assessed her reliance on others to strengthen herself through sturdy hip-hop and flexible R&B. 

Her no. 1 hit, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was a prime example: verses about men and women not addressing insecurities and hiding behind materialism, with her chorus showing sincerity.

The first song, “Lost Ones”  is straight hip-hop with her rapping statements about breaking off relationships. The next track, “Ex Factor” is pure neo-soul, her gentle voice weaving through a frustrated love soon to fade. 

Hill’s insights came from complications: Losing former bandmates as friends due to love affairs, business issues, and a pregnancy that made her put her career on hold. On top of that, issues with the father of her child and her female perspective being marginalized caused a need to untangle these experiences. One genre, emotion, or way of doing vocals was not enough to capture all this.

Traces of these features can be found in current music via Beyonce’s 2016 release “Lemonade” and in much of SZA’s latest record “SOS.” Not all artists have most aspects of Hill’s music, but many of their sounds or emotions have been fundamentally shaped by them.

A singer known for female empowerment, Adele, has praised Miseducation as her favorite album ever, mentioning its honest representations of love and life. 

There’s also a reason Kanye West rapped once that he’s “been uninspired since Lauryn Hill retired.” Hill’s honest topical approach touched West’s debut “The College Dropout”—where he combined a soulful sound he added to hip-hop similar to the way she did with “Miseducation.” 

The album’s balance of emotional sincerity and rapping with dominance is a huge part of both J. Cole’s and Drake’s artistry. Hill’s mix of R&B, hip-hop and melody is what Drake is all about. He’s even released songs that sample both Lost Ones and Doo Wop (That Thing). 

As much of a shame it is that Lauryn Hill only released this record, it’s as impressive what she did within it, and what’s come along because of it.

N.E.R.D., “In Search Of…”

Helped give us Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, Brockhampton

It’s insane that some people only recognize the name Pharrell Williams from the song “Happy.” 

They have no clue who this man is. 

Before 2010s-Pharrell was making songs for kids’ movies, 2000s-Pharrell was producing music to hit songs, setting streetwear fashion trends, and wearing colorful jewelry before your favorite rapper did. 

He also had a band called N.E.R.D. with childhood friend and producer Chad Hugo and vocalist Shay Haley. And their debut “In Search Of…” may be the gem of Pharrell Williams’ career. 

It shines like a gem full of color: bright distorted electronic synths, drums with heavy groove and punch, rapping while shifting vocal tones and patterns so that Williams comes off animated—and that’s just the first track.

Sound familiar? That’s because N.E.R.D loved throwing music elements together that pop right in your ears with vibrant sound and emotion. This is Tyler, the Creator’s blueprint. Tyler even made 90s rap fans angry because of lyrics where he mentions that “In Search Of…” did more for him than “Illmatic” by Nas did. 

N.E.R.D’s light and more lush production, like in the final track “Stay Together” from this album, touched singer Frank Ocean, who worked with Williams to produce a song off his debut studio album full of a similar sound. 

A band full of members that love N.E.R.D.’s “In Search Of…” is Brockhampton, with the groups even performing in concert together before. Brockhampton is known for equally zany and colorful instrumentals that use beautiful chord progressions–as well as distortion and compression. “In Search Of…” is a clear foundation for what the self-described “boy band” explored further. 

The Pixies, “Doolittle”

Helped give us Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Arcade Fire, The Strokes

Kurt Cobain famously described Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as him trying “to rip off The Pixies.” He doubled down on the powerful connection the band gave him on his first listen: “I feel like I should have been in that band.” 

Music nerds and Cobain both adore the 80s U.S. alt rock scene, but it doesn’t get much attention from more mainstream audiences. Although the Pixies were more underground, they packed a punch in their song structure and words, in a way many alt rock bands such as Nirvana continued to.

By the mid 90s, The Pixies’ soft verse to explosive chorus style of catchy pop with an abrasive loud punk edge was everything. Alt rock giants like Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins picked the model up quickly.

Songs like Doolittle’s closer “Gouge Away” have influenced these bands: a bass line that huddles close while guitar riffs start a fuse that sets off in the chorus. Like describing snippets of a narrative, “Stay all day, if you want to,” lead singer Black Francis’s words sound like his own negativity reassuring him to stay in frustration: It’s the type of songwriting almost every alt-rock band since has followed suit on. 

Kanye West, “808s and Heartbreak”

Helped give us Kid Cudi, Travis Scott,  Lil Uzi Vert, Juice Wrld, Future, 6lack, Metro Boomin, PARTYNEXTDOOR 

A decade ago a rapper singing autotuned pop melodies over electronic 808 drums and bass about heartbreak, emptiness, and a sickness from fame was viewed as career suicide. That’s how the hip hop community looked at Kanye West when he released “808s and Heartbreak.”

All these years later, almost every popular rapper does this. 

Working with Kid Cudi while producing the album, the two had a reciprocal influence on each other. This helped result in bringing the spacey and electronic landscape that made Kid Cudi’s debut. 

Kanye treated his voice like an instrument, adding it to the songs moody sound palettes, such as the autotune croons on “Welcome To Heartbreak,” and “Street Lights.” Cudi took this technique, adding it to the hums in his music.

“808s and Heartbreak” shows feelings of being genuinely resentful. It’s real human pain that somehow works so well with the cold computer based rhythms that make up the album’s production. This juxtaposition is one artists like Future, Drake, and The Weeknd would take with them to make dreary sounding love songs where they detail their bitterness. 

On the other hand, spaced out beats with autotune is a common staple of how Travis Scott’s goes about music making. The raw hurt emotion Kanye made with melody and rap is something the late Juice Wrld built himself on. 

So this wasn’t career suicide, more like a genre rebirth. 

My Bloody Valentine, “Loveless”

Helped give us Tame Impala, The Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones, Radiohead

In a feature for Revolver magazine, lead singer of Deftones Chino Moreno stated this album as essential for any nonmetal head to listen to. Saying he played the album for their producer during the recording sessions of their acclaimed 2000 release White Pony stating, “I want to get the record to sound like this!’ It’s just a wall of guitar, and it’s beautiful for that reason.” 

The metal band aren’t alone with their love for the wall of guitars. 

My Bloody Valentine were a band that helped a genre called shoegaze, which gained attention from music nerds in the early 90s. It’s a type of music known for layers upon layers of guitars, with distortion, and reverb which brings a dreary sounding beautiful cloud of noise. 

It’s not for everyone, but without it, we wouldn’t have the heavy distorted layers Deftones gave on their 2000 album “White Pony,” or the layers that the Smashing Pumpkins used in some of their songs. The dreamy use of psychedelia and heavy guitar tones became so iconic, Pumpkins’ front man Billy Corgan has even mentioned a story where he met My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, and told him he ripped off some guitar riffs from him. 

This strange way of producing to make a psychedelic slur even touched Kevin Parker of Tame Impala fame, with him starting he’s “always loved the wall of sound MBV is known for.”

Three 6ix Mafia, Mystic Stylez

Helped give us Denzel Curry, Asap Rocky, $uicideboy$, Ghostmane, 21 Savage

Sometime in the 2010s, a wave of underground rappers from the South with triplet flows, dark hazy beats, and either aggressive or dark monotone-like rap vocals started flowing through the Internet.

More and more followed on. 

It was a strange style, and the rappers had strange names: SpaceGhostPurrp, Xavier Wulf, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Denzel Curry; then later on, XXXTENTACION, and Ski Mask the Slump God. 

But the rapping style and the rage-filled dark sound wasn’t a new thing in rap. Years ago a Memphis hip hop group with a sinister name you’d expect from a metal band came along and freaked people out with some music along these lines. Three 6 Mafia’s debut “Mystic Stylez” is now a cult classic that showed later generations new fundamentals to base rap music off.

With sparse piano keys, heavy bass and threatening horror influenced lyrics, the group was giving people a glimpse of the sound that’s made up the sonic landscape of rappers all over SoundCloud.

The influence of the menacing music is a lot like its tempo, slowly creeping up on you over time.