Philadelphia's own Tunji Ige has been making a name for himself since dropping his debut The Love Project in late 2014; he's refined his sound across subsequent releases, Missed Calls and Prince of July. Both of those projects showcase his keen ability to balance post-Drake introspection and club cuts that fans have flocked to, making him an in-demand artist across the country. So it made sense that we tapped the rising star to perform at our inaugural ComplexCon on the Pigeons & Planes stage.
Complex recently chopped it up with the 21-year-old talent to get a better idea of the albums that influenced him growing up. As you may expect, hip-hop is prominently featured on his list, with Kanye West, Outkast, and DMX represented. There are also a handful of non-rap albums that help explain why Tunji’s music doesn’t stick to one style. Read below to learn more about Tunji Ige’s 10 favorite albums and be sure to catch him live at ComplexCon next month in Long Beach, California.
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10. Kanye West, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' (2010)
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Tunji Ige: "It was god level rap, luxury rap that was literally against the establishment. It’s like welcome to the cookout, but it's not a cookout anymore; it's an avant-garde dinner table party and we're here to lay something more than just the music. The whole aesthetic is ‘I’m the god who got blacklisted from white America because of the Taylor Swift situation.’
"When you listen to that album, you hear everything he’s going through. It sounds like somebody who got blackballed out of the music industry trying to seek revenge because he knows he's the dopest in it. And the art direction is everything. Like when they did the role Rosewood movement and they had the UniverseCity blog. And he was working on Watch the Throne at the same time.
"I was really a big fan back then. I was just checking everything, checking leaks. There were a bunch of different versions of the songs ‘cause they would release a bunch of them for G.O.O.D. Fridays. And then hearing the full extended versions of them on the album when you actually bought the physical album. That was one of the last times in music where buying an album meant something."
9. N.E.R.D., 'Seeing Sounds' (2008)
Label: Star Trak, Interscope
Tunji Ige: "P, Shea, and Chad are poster boys for kids like me who wanted to be different. Kids of color, kids with immigrant parents who came up in places like Virginia or Philly. They made crazy synths with different grooves; they’re classically trained but were making weird hip-hop beats. I got that album when I was like in eighth grade, when I had my first iPhone, with an iTunes gift card. I listened to that album every day on the bus. Songs like ‘Spaz,’ ‘You Know What,’ ‘Sooner or Later,’ just crazy chord progressions and song arrangements. It got me into different shit."
8. DMX, 'It's Dark and Hell Is Hot' (1998)
Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam
Tunji Ige: "I heard that album when I was around 7. I was born in ‘95, so around 2002. It’s the first hip-hop album I really got into. Like, just from the intro: 'One-two, one-two, come through.' The songs on that album, like 'Damien,' the Swizz Beatz classics from that era. The Ruff Ryders' aesthetic made hip-hop cool to me. It was just so abrasive, so against everything that it was supposed to be.
"As a kid growing up that was what really resonated with me and I felt it. Like what is this hip-hop stuff? Before hip-hop I was listening to kid shit. When I looked at it I was like, this shit is crazy. With the lyrical content, even as a kid I could tell he was talking about some serious shit."
7. The Game, 'The Documentary' (2005)
Label: Aftermath, G-Unit, Interscope
Tunji Ige: "The Game’s Documentary was his life before rap and everything that got him to that point, like the co-sign from Dre. The lyrical content is insane, storytelling is insane, wordplay is insane. On production, you got Timbaland on ‘Put You on the Game,’ Kanye West on ‘Dreams,’ Dr. Dre on ‘How We Do.’ You got the hit singles, you got the album cuts. Everything that makes a great album. This brought the West Coast back, and made me listen to West Coast music. People don’t really understand how crazy G-Unit was as far as rap groups back then, and The Game was my favorite."
6. Outkast, 'Aquemini' (1998)
Tunji Ige: "I was introduced to Outkast from Nickelodeon shit like 'Hey Ya!' As I got older, I started revisiting their catalog to see how great Big Boi and André 3000 were. When I stumbled across Aquemini, it was crazy. They were ahead of their time as far as the production, with 3 Stacks and the Dungeon Family. They got CeeLo Green on a couple of the tracks. It's very vivid and different, he first psychedelic rap music that I've ever heard. Revisiting that around the time I was 14, that’s an album you can play from start to finish and drive to."
5. Kanye West, 'The College Dropout' (2004)
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Tunji Ige: "The soulfulness, chopping up samples, the drums, and the content was something that I gravitated toward even when I was a kid. I remember in 2004 going to my auntie's house and seeing 'Through the Wire' on MTV and being like, what is this? This is the craziest sounding beat. Or seeing the 'Slow Jamz' video. And then growing up and going back to it when I was in college and going through exactly what he was talking about on that album, so it resonated with me twice. It kind of came into fruition because I feel like it inadvertently inspired me to take the path that I did."
4. Kanye West, 'Late Registration' (2005)
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Tunji Ige: "Him teaming up with Mike Dean and Jon Brion, and chopping up crazy orchestral stuff. The crazy detail with the samples and replaying stuff and string quartets to show a diverse side to his production. He started out with College Dropout and it shows a real progression. He really cares about his music and wanted to take it to the next level. People may have nostalgia from College Dropout, but anyone can admit that from College Dropout to Late Registration was a progression for lyrical content and production.
"You have the hit single ‘Gold Digger,’ you have ‘Drive Slow,’ which is the craziest album cut. You have ‘My Way Home,’ ‘Gone’ with Cam’ron. Just classic songs that I could not hear for the next five years and you play it one day at a party and I’ll know every single lyric to it."
3. Justin Timberlake, 'FutureSex/LoveSounds' (2006)
Label: Jive, Zomba
Tunji Ige: "Best pop album of the 2000s. Timbaland on the production along with Danja; the craziest production I’ve heard in an R&B project ever. ‘My Love’ is a million-dollar beat. And from the songwriting to the hooks, everything on that album sound amazing. It sounds hi-fi; it’s mixed very well by Jimmy Douglass. This album is when everything in big business goes well, which rarely happens. And it expanded on Timbaland’s sound from Missy Elliott and Aaliyah, but for somebody that was a white pop star. And the fact that it could resonate with everybody ‘cause it was just good music and undeniable."
2. Daft Punk, 'Discovery' (2001)
Tunji Ige: "Discovery and Interstella 5555 [the movie that accompanies the album]—the animation and the music to resonate with it. 'One More Time' is one of my favorite songs. The thing about Daft Punk is it’s French house so they do a lot of crazy ‘70s disco chopped samples. They do the same thing in hip-hop, but what they were doing was putting synthesizers and moogs on there and crazy trance stuff on it. And that’s essentially what Kanye did with Graduation. I remember hearing ‘Stronger’ for the first time. I heard Daft Punk before, but that’s what made me revisit the catalog. Discovery is timeless music; you can play it anywhere and it will still go off. The synthesizers on 'Digital Love,' the chord progressions, the fact that he sang that whole song through a talk box, it was just perfect."
1. Kanye West, 'Graduation' (2007)
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Tunji Ige: "It’s synths and hip-hop beats and samples, and that’s everything I love. The aesthetic is very futuristic; Takashi Murakami, shutter shades, multicolors. Before, he was the underdog, before people started having him as the bad guy. That was the peak. That killed gangsta rap; him versus 50 [Cent]. It’s for kids who grew up on backpack rap, for kids who couldn’t completely resonate with the hood stuff or came from it that wanted to do something different; Graduation broke the doors down.
"It was a very pivotal album even though it was his most commercial and maybe not his most [ambitious] substance-wise. But as far as impact on me at that point and time, that’s what made me want to do everything I’m doing right now."