1. Ready To Die – The Notorious B.I.G
During the commercial dominance of WestCoast hip hop, this album revitalized the East Coast and was praised everywhere. At 22 the still mourned rapper made this album as a reflection of the rough life he endured as a young teenage boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York. The exciting stories of selling drugs, doing drugs, participating in armed robberies, witnessing prostitution, and many other dangerous encounters and activities are what make this album so loved by everyone.
2. All Eyez On Me – Tupac Shakur
This album is all about what “Thug Life” really meant to the now-deceased rapper. It made history as the first-ever double-full-length hip-hop solo studio album released for mass consumption globally. There are features from some of the greatest musicians like E-40, Dr. Dre. Snoop Dog, Method Man, Red Man, George Clinton, and so many more, which makes this album one of the best to bump at any given time. Years after the rapper’s death there are still millions of copies that have and are still being sold.
3. The Marshall Mathers LP. – Eminem
Marshall Mathers A.K.A Eminem is recorded as the best solo rapper that has been gifted to us. In this album, you will hear stories of the rapper’s rough and abusive upbringing with his mother, and plenty of humorous raunchy lyrics about whoever is unlucky enough to be brought up. While Eminem spares nobody in his songs he is extremely unapologetic and witty with his words. His ability to freestyle like no other is what put him on the map as one of the best of the best.
4. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick – Slick Rick
Storytelling didn’t become a big thing in hip hop until Slick Rick arrived on the scene. As Def Jam’s third artist to be signed he brought in the style of storytelling that nobody had ever seen, while everyone else was rapping about themselves and glorifying the life of fame and violence, Slick Rick was giving us something that hooked you in and intrigues you every step of the way. Every song on this album keeps you hooked in, excited for the next song, wondering what wild story he will give us next.
5. Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
This album was considered one of the most dangerous for its time, but why was everyone so interested? With their two most popular singles “Fuck the Police” and “Straight Outta Compton”, which was banned from being played on MTV, N.W.A quickly got the attention they were looking for, not from just the streets but from local police to the F.B.I. This album was released on August 8, 1988, by the following April this album was going Gold, and soon hit Platinum in July. After going platinum Ice Cube, Eazy E, MC Ren, Yella, and Doctor Dre were soaring across the map. This was no doubt one of the biggest gangster rap albums of all time, but the group preferred the term, “Reality rap” as the topics that are brought up were issues happening in their neighborhood and around the U.S.A. to minorities.
6. Straight Out the Jungle – Jungle Brothers
Mike Gee, Sammy B, and Afrika Baby Bam were the three that paved the way for many other artists with this album. They were the first group to rap about the love for their African roots while including consciousness into every song. They brought light to the struggle that so many of their people alike were facing, using jokes in their lyrics and words of positivity made a lot of people’s heads turn, for once people were hearing that they were not alone. After these three lyricists came out with “Straight Out the Jungle”, some of our favorite legends walked right through the door that was opened for them like, Tribe Called Quest, Moni Love, De La Soul and so many more.
7. Very Necessary – Salt ‘N Pepa
Quickly reaching the tops of the charts, Salt (Cheryl James), Pepa (Sandra Denton), and DJ Spinderella (Deidra Roper) became the first female rap group in America to be certified as Gold and Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. With help from their hit song “Push It” on their debut album, “Hot, Cool & Vicious”, they were quickly being played in every dance scene. October 12, 1993, “Very Necessary” was released as their fourth album leaving us with a couple of classics we all know like “Shoop” and “Whatta Man”, which remains their top peaked single, coming in at number three on the Hot 100 Billboard. This album later led the ladies to win their first Grammy.
8. Run D.M.C – Run D.M.C
When this album came out a whole new world opened up in Hip Hop, Run D.M.C came in with a whole new sound, attitude, and influence that nobody had heard or felt before. The hit single that was included in this album “Its Like That” came out in the summer of 1983, and became one of the biggest turning points in Hip Hop, it was a social protest and they made sure to make themselves heard, bringing up topics of inflation and unemployment going on in the East Coast.
9. Radio – LL Cool J
“Radio” was the album that put Def Jam Records on the path to becoming one of the best, and made LL Cool J to be known as the first mainstream, celebrated MC Hip Hop artists. Coming into his music loud and confident he added a whole new style of rap, influenced by rock music this was the first time rap was so up close and in your face, but it was loud and crazy, so naturally, it was hard to resist. It can be easily said LL Cool J was the first to start the entrance into the Golden Age of Hip Hop.
10. Goin’ Off – Biz Markie
Comedic and Witty, Biz showcased himself in this album to the world. “Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz” and “Vapors” were so ear-catching because Biz made himself into a human beatbox. Biz was more of a performer, he gave great energy from the moment he walked on stage to the end, giving us childlike raps and jokes in his music he wanted it to be audible for children as well. Big Daddy Kane wrote the first five songs of this album for Biz, something that is usually frowned upon was completely accepted with these two because the strength of Biz was seen in his performances and beatboxing.
11. “The Chronic”- Dr Dre
After a dispute with Eazy-E, former group member and friend of Dr Dre, he decided to split up with the group and leave, creating a new path of success for himself. Unknowingly to Dre, Eazy with and his money hungry tendencies, signed over their contracts leaving the group with little control and rights behind their own art.
An vengeful and determined Dre went on to create the best record label in the West Coast rap scene and arguably in this country in its time of success. Death Row was created with help from Suge Knight, D.O.C. and Dick Giffrey and “The Chronic” was the introduction to it all. The album is full of piercing and direct insults to Eazy-E after the friendship and bond had been destroyed over his recklessness.
Dre created a mosaic of G-funk from Parliament and James Brown, whilst keeping the same energy behind his style of gangsta rap. The variations in this album made it relatable to the streets while also giving house parties a sound they hadn’t head before.
Although this is considered a solo album, an upcoming gangsta rap artist, Snoop Doggy Dogg, has features all throughout this album. With the most recognized feature from Snopp Doggy Dogg on “Nothin’ but a G’ thang” , this album stayed at the top of the Billboards giving Snoop Dogg a launchpad for his historical career. Becoming one of the first rappers to be signed with Death Row. “The Chronic” for many reasons proves to be not only essential music, but essential hip hop.
12. “The Low End Theory”- A Tribe Called Quest
Group member, Q-Tip shows to be the mastermind behind this album for elevating their typical laid back jazzy feel. In the groups second album to be recorded in a studio, this bore a new sound combining bass, jazz samples, and drum breaks.
The lyrics were full of social commentary that was relatable to most listeners, it was also full of humor and word play between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. The group also attacked misogyny, celebrating and confrontation the importance of consent in the track “Infamous Date Rape”. Showing new levels and uses of refinement in their already incredible talents.
There was doubt behind this album reaching commercial popularity by Jive records executives after their leading single “Check the rhyme” had topped the charts in unseen ways. This fear and doubt was quickly removed after the group furthered their recognition and popularity with the two hit singles “Scenario” and “Jazz (We Got It)”.
13. “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” – Wu-Tang Clan
Determined and creating off borrowed equipment this debut album is the best to come out of Wu-Tang, reaching platinum only 2 years after the release. It is also agreeably one of the best albums in hip hop’s history and community. Ghostface Killa and RZA teamed together to construct their vision of perfection that they had formulated together, bringing Raekwon and Ol’ Dirty Bastard to the forefront, with a democratic approach to the album.
Some of the best tracks we get out of this album like “C.R.E.A.M”, “Bring Da Ruckus”, “Break Ya Neck”, and “Method Man” have still yet to be topped and will not be forgotten about. This album has and will always be legendary for helping in the restoration of New York’s rap dignity during the dominance of the G-funk that was created and ruled by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
Ghostface Killa and Raekwon’s unique style of flow inspired and even birthed the beginning works ofJay Z, Biggie Smalls and Nas. RZA’s methodology in speeding up soul samples resonated instantly to the young Kanye West which he then embraced and used for the beginnings of his break-through productions.
Some Final Words
The list could go on and on, but these here are the most sought after and influential Hip-Hop albums of all time, making them immortal in the music realm. Not only has every artist influenced one another, whether they were beefing or loving each other, but together and independently, they have created some of the best sounds we have been gifted.
For a lot of us, some of these Hip-Hop albums are ingrained into our minds and our lives. Turn one on and it’s like going back in time to some of the best times you’ve had, or even a reminder of how it got you over a breakup. These Hip-Hop albums are raw and full of so many different emotions.
We have been granted slight access into the lives of some of our favorite artists through these Hip-Hop albums, learning and feeling their struggles and embracing their accomplishments as if it were our own.
From Tupac giving us the motivation to open our eyes to the political injustices that many people still face today, to Straight out The Jungle encouraging us all to laugh, dance and embrace the moment of now with the people around us, there is a consistent love for the people and the desire to keep us all jamming. So go ahead, give these a listen if you haven’t already, or throw yourself back in time to see and remind yourself just why the are the best Hip-Hop albums of all time.
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