My Five Favorite Albums Pre-dating My Birth (2006)


Lucas Parent, Lion's Roar Staff

The College Dropout (Kanye West, 2004)

The College Dropout features some of Kanye’s earliest music, before the VMA incident, before the divorce from Kim Kardashian, and before the anti-Semitic remarks. This album, his first studio album, features some of is earliest hits which helped him rise to superstardom. “All Falls Down,” “Jesus Walks,” and “Two Words” make up some of the collection of his greatest hits today. However, perhaps the most famous on this album is “Through the Wire.” West recorded “Through the Wire” with a destroyed jaw, following a car accident that would almost cost him his life. West reflects on this near-fatal incident in his song, writing, “half my jaw was in the back of my mouth, man/ I couldn’t believe it.”

Stankonia (Outkast, 2000)

Stankonia saw Outkast reach a new level of success. The hip-hop duo, consisting of Big Boi and Andre 3000, brought a southern twist to rap music at the turn of the millennium with their smash hit Stankonia. The album was reviewed by Pitchfork a few years ago, and received a 9.5 out of ten. Fans do not have to listen long to get to the best two-song stretch in the album; tracks four and five are “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson.” The album peaked at number two on the Billboard charts, and still has replay value over 20 years later. 

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Lauryn Hill, 1998)

While Lauryn Hill’s solo discography consists of only one album, she made sure to make it count. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill features her most famous solo works, from “Doo Wop (That Thing),” to “Ex-Factor,” to “Lost Ones.” The album, published in 1998, is one of only 24 in history to eclipse 20 million sales or more. Hill’s album explores “thinking outside the box,” according to, as evident in the various messages prevalent in her best-seller. Only six months and a change away from its 25th birthday, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is still a must-listen album for fans of soul music. 

What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye, 1971)

For many young people living in the 2020s, Jazz music has become an afterthought. It was only through a Kendrick Lamar sample that led me to listen to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album, What’s Going On. Gaye’s album hopes to point a finger toward several issues facing society in the early 1970s. Rolling Stone released a top 500 albums of all-time list and ranked Gaye’s piece as the number one album in the history of music. Gaye’s album features underlying themes of preserving the present and future all in one nine-track piece of music. These themes are seen most prevalent in a song that addresses the issue in the title, “Save the Children.” On the track, Gaye writes, “It fills me with sorrow (it fills me with sorrow)/ Little children today (little children today)/ Are really gonna suffer tomorrow (Really suffer tomorrow).” Gaye’s album may have lost replay value as history ticked on, but it remains an incredible album that nods to several pressing matters in a past society.

Thriller (Michael Jackson, 1982)

When writing this article, I had no second thoughts about which album would take the top spot. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is far and away my favorite album pre-dating my 2006 arrival on Earth. Thriller leads off with “Wanna be Startin’ Something,” an incredible introduction for the next thirty-something minutes of music. Following Jackson’s solo on “Baby be Mine,” and an argument with Paul McCartney on “The Girl is Mine (ft. Paul McCartney)” are next to take the stage. What follows is perhaps the greatest three-song stretch in music history. The self-titled “Thriller” track leads off this stretch, and is followed by “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean.” The concluding tracks, “Human Nature,” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” end the album on a high note. Overall, Jackson creating smash-hits on seven songs in a nine-song album is enough to earn Thriller the top spot.