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list Sep 5 2016 Written by

A Legacy Unparalleled: The Best Albums From Def Jam

def jam records album covers

What’s going on folks?! I’ve really enjoyed doing these label salutes, highlighting some of the best and influential Hip Hop labels ever.

We’ve covered labels such as Roc-A-Fella, Ruff Ryders, Aftermath, and Deathrow. All these labels plus others have definitely impacted the game in major, and in some cases historic ways.

However, there would be no major Hip Hop label (post-Sugar Hill Records) without the vision of Russell Simmons and a young Jewish NY college student named Rick Rubin. Together, they created what would be the most impactful and celebrated label in the history of Hip Hop. With that being said, let’s highlight the best projects to emerge from this label from over the years.

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30. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

MBDTF-cover

Kanye West is an anomaly. A cleverly orchestrated genius to some. To others, he’s halfway indecipherable and walking the lines of needing some help. Whatever your stance is on Mr. West, one thing you must say about him is he’s the epitome of the word ‘star’.

After delivering one of the classic debuts of our times with The College Dropout (see later), he continued with exceptional releases like Late Registration, Graduation, and his most recent The Life Of Pablo. After dropping the depressing 808s & Heartbreaks,he dropped out of sight for a minute, he returned with an album that’s widely considered nothing short of a masterpiece.

With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, this celebrates his star status and enjoys the fame, while also tackling his desire to help change humanity and pointing out stress points through music. Incredibly lush and dramatic production throughout the album and impactful arrangements, this album has been considered his magnum opus, which considering Dropout and Registration is not an easy task.

29. Jay-Z - The Black Album (2003)

black-album

For the majority of the Def Jam era in it’s prime there were two rulers: LL and Jay-Z. We’ll get more into LL later, but this is the first one a few incredible albums from Shawn Carter. This album was billed as his retirement album with a concept taken from his late friend Biggie to have ten tracks with different producers for each track.

Among the best albums within his catalogue, Jay blisters cuts such as “Lucifer”, “Threat”, and more radio-happy cuts like “Change Clothes”. Many out this album up with most noted albums, The Blueprint (see later) and his magnum opus Reasonable Doubt. After peeping this, it’s not hard to see why.

28. The Roots - How I Got Over (2010)

the-roots-how-i-got-over

When it was announced that the legendary Roots crew was coming to Def Jam thanks to then-label president Jay-Z, heads were slightly worried that The Roots would adapt a more commercial sound for radio accessibility. Fortunately this was far from the case, in fact they remained incredibly consistent.

While their albums Game Theory, Rising Down, and Undun were certainly outstanding albums within their discography under Def Jam, none was heavier and more brooding than the exquisite How I Got Over. Widely considered as their best overall work since Things Fall Apart, this album beautifully covered the despair and depressive state of the working class in today’s times. Not a single flaw on this release. If you didn’t believe they were legendary before, best believe after peeping this, you’re definitely a believer.

27. Redman - Muddy Waters (1996)

redman-muddy

After overcoming his dark days with Dare Iz A Darkside, Redman reemerged with perhaps his most complete work to date, his third effort, Muddy Waters.

Heralded now as a classic, this album showed a more confident and shoulder-chipped emcee with no more time to play around, and boy did he deliver. So many inescapable hits on this album, like “Rock Da Spot” or the insane duet with one-time brother-in-arms K-Solo “It’s Like Dat” make this album a constant rotator, plus with excellent production from Erick Sermon and Rockwilder, this album became the most defining album of his career from a critical standpoint.

26. MC Serch - Return Of The Product (1992)

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All hail MC Serch. The emcee responsible for discovering a certain young nasty emcee from Queensbridge was also a decent emcee on the mic himself. As one half of 3rd Bass, along with Prime Minister Pete Nice, Serch was that white boy that BLED Hip Hop and everything within it.

This solo debut from Serch was a knocker and was one of the most slept-on solo debuts of its time period, although heads that really were checking for him knew he had quite a dope one on his hands. Don’t believe me, peep cuts like “Social Narcotics” and the Nas-assisted “Back To The Grill”. Enough said.

25. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (2006)

ghostface-killah-fishscale

The most prolific member of the mighty legendary Wu-Tang Clan without a doubt is the enigmatic Ghostface Killah.

When he left Epic Records to head to Def Jam, the fear was (much like with other artists such as The Roots and Nas) that the switch would compromise the “Ghost” sound we were accustomed to, on amazing albums such as his thrilling debut Ironman and his stunning classic Supreme Clientele. Not the case whatsoever. In fact, his material went right in line with he rest and in some cases even improved.

His most acclaimed Def Jam album was Fishscale, a twenty-four track (including skits) head cracker that was noticeably RZA-less in terms of production. Did it need it? Nah. Beatsmiths like Pete Rock, MF Doom, and the late Dilla more than made up for it. The album immediately got the term ‘classic’ based on how lyrically sharp GFK was and how the production sounded like vintage Wu. Cuts like the INSANE Wu-collab track “9 Milli Brothers”, “Jelly fish”, and “Dogs Of War” blended perfectly with other soulful cuts like “Big Girl” and the excellent “Whip ME With A Strap”.

While people will automatically say Ironman or Supreme Clientele in terms of his best album, Fishscale needs to be next in line for that title.

24. Method Man & Redman - Blackout (1999)

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If there ever was a great tag team in the early millennium and near the end of the nineties, it was Redman and Method Man. Affectionately known as America’s Most Blunted, these two had been collaborating since their anthemic “How High” single, as well as the cult classic movie of the same name.

Their long-awaited album finally hit and was definitely worth the wait. There was hit after hit on this album, and it was hard to actually state what the best cut on this album was, which is always a good thing. Over some of the knocking Erick Sermon and Rockwilder production heard in the game, Blackout was an instant favorite and it still stands as a benchmark for both men and their respective careers.

23. Nas - Life Is Good (2012)

life-is-good

One of the true greats within all of Hip Hop is Nasir Jones, many actually consider him as the G.O.A.T. When he buried the hatchet with Jay-Z after their game-changing beef on wax, Nas joined Def Jam and the results haven’t been too bad.

His Def Jam debut, the much controversially titled Hip Hop Is Dead, was a decent debut that was met with lots of acclaim. Later releases like Untitled (see later) and his breathtaking collab album with Damien Marley, Distant Relatives, solidified that he belonged in the iconic Def Jam family.

As incredible as these albums were, it was Life Is Good that was a complete package for Nas, that stands as one of his best efforts. With cuts like “A Queens Story”, the BANGIN’ “The Don”, and the beyond wonderful collaboration with the late, great Amy Whinehouse, Life Is Good isn’t just good, it’s absolutely great.

22. 3rd Bass - Derelicts Of Dialect (1991)

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Prime Minister Pete Nice, Richie Rich, and MC Serch had tasted acclaim and success with their ambitious debut, The Cactus Album (see later). These cats has sparked a buzz in the game with fairly hard-hitting, speaker-shortening beats from the likes of The Bomb Squad, and definitely earned a formidable place in the game.

As is the case with basically every follow-up album that was preceded by a very nuts album, 3rd Bass had high expectations to meet with their sophomore album, Derelicts Of Dialect. It was a test to reach the level of their first album, but they absolutely did it. The album was notable for the fairly huge hit “Pop Goes The Weasel”, which had a hilarious video dissing Vanilla Ice and showed him getting his ass kicked. This was far from the only bit of niceness on this album, as other cuts like “No Master Plan, No Master Race”, the Nice & Smooth-assisted “Microphone Techniques”, and the attention-grabbing “Green Eggs and Swine” made this album a must have. It stands as one of Def Jam’s most under appreciated albums to date.

21. Nas - Untitled (2008)

nas-untitled

If there was a more socially conscious album that Nasir Jones has delivered to our ears, I would like for you folks to point it out to me.

Originally titled Nigger, the pressures of retail made him succumb to their demand, and instead just left it without a title. However, one still can’t front on the awesome album cover. Highly emphasizing the pride and struggles of the Black community in a “bigger than Hip Hop” way, this is a damn impressive look at our history and our future. He rips up the controversial Fox News Network on “Sly Fox”, highlights stereotypes within the Black community involving nutrition or lack thereof with “Fried Chicken”, and celebrates the empowerment of the notorious N-word on “Y’all My Niggas”. This is part tough love, part celebration, part education. In other words, another Nas victory.

20. EPMD - Business As Usual (1990)

epmd-usual

Long Island’s illest duo came ready for war with their Def Jam debut (and third overall album), Business As Usual. Following up two classics like Strictly Business and Unfinished Business wasn’t easy, but they did a very valiant job with this one.

You’ll notice (for those late cats) there are quite a few cuts that have been sampled from this album for later Hip Hop anthems such as “How Many Emcees” and “Daytona 500”, which shows the craziness of the production from this album. Who can front on the neck snapping effects of cuts like “Rap Is Outta Control”, “Give The People”, the superb LL Cool J-assisted “Rampage“, and the ode to the thirsty women of the land “Gold Diggers”?

This was another smack to the head of all so-called nice duos in Hip Hop and showed that EPMD still reigned supreme. Yes, this was another Gold album for them as well.

19. Jay-Z - Vol.2...Hard Knock Life

Jay-Z-Vol.-2-Hard-Knock-Life

Jay’s official Def Jam debut was the half decent In My Lifetime Vol. 1, which was a blatant attempt at radio accessibility and crossover appeal. It did just that, but heads in the street that were crowning him as NY’s next legend with Reasonable Doubt wanted that kind of Jay Z as well.

The result was Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, which mixed the best of Vol. 1 and Reasonable Doubt for outstanding results. Basically every song was a hit, and about ninety percent was played heavily across radio airwaves. From “Jigga What, Jigga Who” to “Can I Get A…” and “Money, Cash, Hoes”, there was no escaping Jay, and other cuts like “A Week Ago” and “Ride Or Die” were just as hard-hitting. Knowing that the album sold upwards of five million units, this album officially made Hovi Baby a star.

18. Method Man - Tical (1994)

Cover_Tical

In ’94, besides Illmatic and Ready To Die, you tell me a better debut album. Go ahead, I’ll wait. The Wu’s original solo star delivered his dark, blunted out album Tical to high acclaim.

Capitalizing on the game-changing momentum of Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album, Method Man incorporated much of the same elements that made Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) such an iconic record. While we’re all familiar with his Grammy-winning collaboration with Mary J. Blige on “All I Need” (unfortunately that version is not on the album, but the original isn’t anything to sneeze at whatsoever) and his other singles of “Release Yo’ Delf” and the searing “Bring The Pain“, there were several other notable cuts like “Biscuits” and the lyrical sparring between he and Wu brother Raekwon “Meth vs. Chef”.

This album stands as one of the Wu’s most beloved treasures and will continue to do so for years to come.

17. DMX - It's Dark & Hell Is Hot (1998)

dmx-hell

Speaking of impactful debuts, a certain Yonkers, NY emcee struck Hip Hop with the appetite of ten thousand pit bulls. Earl Simmons, otherwise known as DMX, knocked the game on its ass with his much-heralded debut, It’s Dark & Hell Is Hot.

In that particular era of shiny suits and materialism, X brought forth a grittier, ugly sound to show that shit still ain’t sweet out here. Often times riot-inducing, It’s Dark… stands as X’s most acclaimed album and with anthems like “Ruff Ryders Anthem”, “Stop Being Greedy”, and “Get At Me Dog”, this album established a star in X, and the game wouldn’t be the same afterwards.

16. Redman - Whut? Thee Album (1992)

redman-whut

Let’s continue with momentous debuts and highlight the debut album from Brick City’s finest. A young emcee named Reggie Noble, otherwise known as Redman, brought a distinctive sound and rhyme formula with him that was animated, gritty, blunted, and witty.

First heard on EPMD’s aforementioned Business As Usual, he dropped his debut, Whut? Thee Album to high acclaim and definite praise. Combining elements of funk, reggae, and hardcore, Redman came for cats’ throats with cuts like “Time 4 Sum Aksion“, “Mind Blowin”, and “Redman Meets Reggie Noble”. More light-hearted than his follow-up effort Dare Iz A Darkside, this is still gutter enough to wile out to, while cool enough to know that this cat’s hilarious and bugged out. Regardless, this was the entertaining start of a great career and a very respectable legacy.

15. Scarface - The Fix (2002)

scarface-fix

When you mention southern Hip Hop, there’s one name that will immediately come to mind in terms of true king status, and that’s the legendary Scarface.

Considered one of the most influential and compelling storytellers of any generation, Face commands respect from all walks of Hip Hop. In ’02, he started Def Jam South, which would feature more southern artists for the Def Jam empire. His debut artist was Ludacris and we all know how much his career took off.

Face dropped his Def Jam South debut, The Fix, which was like a spiritual coming of age for the great emcee. Although still containing street parables and cautionary tales, he also balanced them out with highly introspective cuts like “Heaven” and “Someday” that showed the growth of the emcee known for classics like “Hand Of The Dead Body”, “Mind Of A Lunatic”, and “I Seen A Man Die”.

Rightfully given a five-mic rating by a then-still-credible Source Magazine, this album is a treasure for all Face fans, both casual and hardcore.

14. EPMD - Business Never Personal (1992)

EPMD_personal

In ’92, EPMD were on a roll. They had two of the strongest back-to-back albums in all of Hip Hop with Strictly Business and Unfinished Business, and also had a formidable follow-up with the aforementioned Business As Usual.

They continued their strong momentum with their fourth effort, Business Never Personal. More aggressive and rugged than their albums in the past, this was also the last album from them for five years due to the much-publicized beef between the two emcees.

Before the beef and break-up, this album was a hard-hitter, with incredible cuts like the anti-commercial rap ode “Crossover”, the rather dope “Chill”, and especially the classic posse cut with K-Solo and Redman “Headbanger”. Some have even stated that this is the best album they’ve ever put out. Regardless of where this ranks on your best-of-EPMD list, this album is sincere and solidified them as one of the most influential duos in Hip Hop history.

13. Warren G - Regulate...G Funk Era (1994)

warren-g-regulate

Straight outta LBC comes a young emcee/DJ/producer named Warren Griffin, affectionately and professionally known as Warren G. Coming up with close friends Snoop and the late Nate Dogg, he was also the stepbrother of the iconic Dr. Dre.

Originally getting rejected by Deathrow Records, he snagged a Def Jam contract to release his debut album, Regulate…G Funk Era. Co-creator of the “G-funk sound”, his sound was way more mellow and laid-back than the hard-hitting funk of his stepbrother. In fact, his sound is very reminiscent of fellow West Coast legend, DJ Quik.

Already widely known for “Regulate”, his classic single with Nate Dogg, he continued his momentum with the HOT coming of age single, the Grammy-nominated “This DJ”, as well as other cuts like “And Ya Don’t Stop”, “Recognize” and “Do You See”. This was widely considered a West Coast classic, and for good reason. Unfortunately, he was never able to duplicate the triple platinum success of this album – but in spite of this fact, this remains one of the West’s best debut albums.

12. Beanie Sigel - The Truth (2000)

beanie-truth

During the late nineties/early millennium, the Roc was arguably the strongest label family in the game. There was truthfully no stopping Jay and company. There was one cat outta Philly that had the entire rap world heavily buzzing. This cat’s name was Beanie Sigel.  After appearing on cuts by Jay and

After appearing on cuts by Jay and Memphis Bleek, the anticipation was strong for Beans. The result was one of the grittiest debuts ever recorded in The Truth. Regarded as the best Roc-A-Fella album not done by Jay-Z, this was as raw and unfiltered as any album you’ll hear to this day.

While his thunderous debut single, named after his album, is still considered one of his premier singles, others like the video-game sampled “Mac Man”, the cautionary “Stop, Chill”, and the album’s climax, the brilliant “Whatcha Life Like”packed a wallop as well. During this time period, there wasn’t a more brutal and honest debut anywhere, and it belongs up there with such classic albums as The Infamous, Illmatic, Mr. Scarface Is Back, and his mentor’s Reasonable Doubt.

11. Kanye West - The College Dropout (2004)

kanye-west-college-dropout

Every so often, an album comes out that rearranges the structure of the game as we know it. A landmark release if you will. Albums like Illmatic, Madvillainy, The Low End Theory, and Aquemini come to mind.

In ’05, Roc-A-Fella producer turned emcee Kanye West delivered what is still considered one of the game’s most golden releases, The College Dropout. Based around the concept of finding yourself in life and establishing your coming of age story, Kanye excellently handled subjects such as religion, school, struggle, near-death experiences, and the quest for stardom.

Tracks like “Jesus Walks”, “Two Words”, “Through The Wire”, and “All Falls Down” were crafted in genius-like fashion, yet were relatable to club hoppers, church goers, and backpackers alike. The production introduced a new level of soul sampling not quite heard before and as a result, he sold upwards of three million units and won him some Grammy Awards.

Needless to say, this was the start of an iconic career.

10. LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)

Mama_Said_Knock_You_Out

After a less-than-stellar album called Walking With A Panther, LL Cool J started getting somewhat clowned for soft, bubble gum cuts that were missing the firepower cuts like “Radio”, “I’m Bad”, and “My Rhyme Ain’t Done” had. Not to mention, cats like Hammer and Ice-T were gunning for him lyrically.

All that ended abruptly with the release of his fourth album: Mama Said Knock You Out. With cuts like the answer dis to his haters, specifically the aforementioned and Kool Moe Dee, “To The Break Of Dawn”, the KNOCKING “Boomin’ System”, and the overall dope “Around The Way Girl”, it was the title track that showed LL still had it. James Todd Smith had to remind people just who he was.

The album, produced by legend Marley Marl, was a formidable return to greatness for Ladies Love Cool James and became his biggest album to date.

9. Jay-Z - The Blueprint (2001)

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If there was a pivotal moment in the discography of Hov, it would be this album. Everyone was waiting on that album that would match the instant classic feel of Reasonable Doubt, and while albums like Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, Vol. 3: Life & Times Of S. Carter, and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia were all notable albums, it as this album that filled in that gap.

The Blueprint had taken the formula of Vol. 2’s radio smashes meets superb lyricism and occasional street delight to another level. Of course the album was highlighted by one of the most venomous dis records ever recorded in “The Takeover”, directed at Prodigy and Nas, but he had other smashed like “Girls, Girls’, Girls” and “Heart Of The City” as well.

With only twelve tracks, there was no room for error, and there wasn’t. This was his most complete album since Reasonable Doubt and should be rightfully regarded as one of Hip Hop’s greatest albums.

8. 3rd Bass - The Cactus Album (1989)

3rdbass-cactus

Straight from NYC came two emcees and one DJ and they called themselves 3rd Bass. The emcees MC Serch and Prime Minister Pete Nice were two white boys with chips on their shoulders.

Their debut, The Cactus Album, is an often forgotten but epic release, that showed the skills of these young emcees. Going after everyone from the Beastie Boys to MC Hammer and even X-Clan, these cats pulled no punches with cuts like “Sons Of 3rd Bass” (a pretty brutal dis cut to the Beasties) and “The Gas Face”, which featured KMD (a crew that included a young MF Doom).

For the period this album was released in, this was a hell of an album and one that tends to be overlooked in terms of classic releases of the golden era.  Do yourself a favor: recognize one of the illest debuts one could ask for.

7. Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush The Show (1987)

PE-bumrush

In ’87, we were introduced to a group of highly charged activists that put their message of anti-establishment to wax in a way the music world would never recover from.

The group was Public Enemy, and its members Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and DJ Terminator X presented their volatile debut album, Yo! Bum Rush The Show to high acclaim.

While not considered in the same class as Fear Of A Black Planet and definitely incomparable to the perhaps the most important Hip Hop record of all time in It Takes A Nation Of Millions… (see both later), this was by no means a sleeper album. In fact cuts like “My Uzi Weighs A Ton”, “Public Enemy No. 1” and “You’re Gonna Get Yours” set the standard for what would be a fantastic album in its own right. We had no idea what the Hip Hop world was getting itself into from this album on.

6. Slick Rick - The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick (1988)

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All hail the ruler! That’s what we still say to this day whenever MC Ricky D, otherwise Slick Rick, enters the stage. Considered one of Hip Hop’s greatest storytellers, Slick Rick had lit the world on fire with his mega classic with Doug E. Fresh “The Show” and its B-side “Ladi Dadi”. You already know the stage was set for a masterful debut, and that it was.

His debut, The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, is as close to a perfect album as you’ll get. His ability to narrate some of the most creative and innovative stories during the early stages of the golden age of Hip Hop was something to behold. Nothing but classics appeared on this seminal release, as cuts like “Children’s Story” and “Hey Young World” laid the path for a Hall Of Fame legacy.

While his follow-up The Ruler’s Back and his third effort The Art Of Storytelling were both very impressive albums (don’t sleep on his Behind Bars album either), Slick Rick will always be known for his game-changing debut.

5. LL Cool J - Bigger & Deffer (BAD) (1987)

LL-COOL-J-BIGGER-AND-DEFFER-1987

The king of Def Jam became a household name by the time ’87 was there. Establishing his spot in the game with his mighty debut Radio (see later), he had to step it up one more level, and dude did he ever.

His sophomore effort, Bigger and Deffer, was even more focused, and even more fluid than his debut. Not to mention there were anthems the entire album’s worth. This album had HARD cuts like the timeless “I’m Bad“and the lyrically hungry “The Breakthrough”, but also contained the first commercially successful Hip Hop ballad, the lovely “I Need Love”.

LL Cool J officially became the new jack in charge with this release.

4. Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill (1986)

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Three young Jewish kids from NYC came upon the scene with a partying-rock star-meets-Hip Hop culture edge that got them a ton of notoriety.

In ’86, Mike D, Ad-Rock, and the late MCA released Licensed To Ill, which contained anthems such as “Hold It Now, Hit IT”, “Fight For Your Right To Party”, and “Brass Monkey” It was clear these guys had talent, and while attempting to break down a wall that seemingly didn’t want to own white people in Hip Hop, with this album the Beasties became very loved and were up there with Run-DMC as biggest group in Hip Hop.

While many claim their follow-up, Paul’s Boutique, as their far and away magnum opus, Licensed To Ill was the album that started them on their way to immortal status, and we’re very satisfied with it.

3. Public Enemy - Fear Of A Black Planet (1990)

PE-planet

How in God’s name do you follow-up what many consider the greatest Hip Hop album to ever exist that’s not named Illmatic? Public Enemy answered that in spades, capitalizing off the monstrous success and acclaim from It Takes A Nation Of Millions… with Fear of A Black Planet.

Easily as well received as their prior album, this was every bit as Afrocentric, anti-establishment, and aggressive – only with a slightly more accessible and commercial sound. Also much like its predecessor, it became a platinum plus smash, and was in heavy and constant rotation with songs like the comical Flavor Flav cut “Can’t Do Nothin’ For Ya” and the POWERFUL collab with Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube, “Burn Hollywood Burn“, which was one of the most controversial cuts from the album. This album is heavy and is easily one of the single greatest Hip Hop albums ever released.

2. LL Cool J - Radio (1985)

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This became the album that put Def Jam on the map. A young Queens kid named James Todd Smith started rhyming in his grandmother’s basement – and the rest was history. It was clear, with cuts like the title track, “I Need A Beat”, and “Rock The Bells”, that Def Jam’s first official star was here. With his boyish good looks and ferocious rhyme style, LL Cool J was the future of Hip Hop.

A landmark album to say the least, this album became the stamp the label needed to be officially recognized in the game. Radio became, together with Mama Said Knock You Out, LL Cool J’s most noted album.

1. Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)

NationofMillions

The argument has been made over the years as to which album is legitimately the greatest Hip Hop album to ever be released would be: Illmatic or this monumental album?

Public Enemy’s masterful second album, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, is to Hip Hop what Metallica’s self-titled “black album” is to rock/metal music: iconic. They took the aggression and angst from Yo! Bum Rush The Show and turned it up by a thousand. This is anti-establishment at its best and threw a distinctive middle finger to all right wing conservatives, oppressive racists, and upper-class snobbish Black people who were ignorant or in denial of the plight within the Black community.

The most pro-Black album ever recorded, this was THE game changer during the golden era. With massive cuts like “Night Of The Living Bassheads“, “Don’t Believe The Hype“, and “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos“, this album hit like a sonic missile and it destroyed every Hip Hop album in its path. The most politically charged album ever made, it laid the groundwork for other important albums like Straight Outta Compton and Let’s Get Free.

Never had one album inspired an entire movement for its day. This was that album that was bigger than Hip Hop culture. This was an album for Black culture, period. Chuck, Flav, and X had officially arrived. Whatever your stance, the fact is that this is the most important and essential Hip Hop album you’ll ever need in your discography.

While Illmatic changed the way we saw Hip Hop, It Takes A Nation Of Millions… changed the way we saw our community, or should I say woke us up even more. Monumental album.

Honorable Mentions

  • Kanye West – Late Registration
  • Kanye West – Graduation
  • Nice & Smooth – Ain’t A Damn Thang Changed
  • Redman – Dare Iz A Darkside
  • Ludacris – Chicken & Beer
  • Ludacris – Word Of Mouf
  • Ghostface Killah – The Pretty Tony Story
  • The Roots – Game Theory
  • The Roots – Undun
  • The Roots – Rising Down
  • Various Artists – The Show OST
  • Onyx – Bacdafucup
  • Public Enemy – Apocalypse ’91…The Enemy Strikes Back
  • Foxy Brown – Ill Na Na
  • Redman – Doc’s Da Name 2000
  • Method Man – Tical 2000: Judgement Day
  • DMX – And Then There Was X
  • Jay-Z – Vol. 3: Life & Times Of S. Carter
  • Jay-Z – American Gangster
  • Slick Rick – The Art Of Storytelling
  • Young Jeezy – Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101
  • Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son OF Chico Dusty
  • Beanie Sigel – The Reason
  • Ludacris – Theater Of The Mind
  • Freeway – Philadelphia Freeway
  • Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
  • Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
  • Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground
  • Logic – Under Pressure
  • Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
  • Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives

As you can see there are tons of stellar and classic albums that Def Jam has produced. No other label has done more for Hip Hop than Def Jam and no other label has made more stars. If it wasn’t for Def Jam, none of these other labels that I’ve been giving props to would even exist.

This is why Def Jam is the perfect label to close my label salutes on, and this was fun to do. Stay tuned as I resume more lists and topics within the world of Hip Hop. Until next time, one love!

Written by

I'm a thirty-something underground/old school Hip Hop head with unspeakable passion. I've followed Hip Hop culture since I first got introduced to it when I was a mere seven years of age. Among the albums that hav…

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