Also read: Top 100 Hip Hop Albums Of The 1990s
1. Wu Tang Clan - Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
“And if you want beef, then bring the ruckus / Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin’ ta f*** with” (Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuttin’ Ta F*** Wit)
What can be said about this seminal album that hasn’t been said a thousand times over already? One of the most innovative, groundbreaking, influential and important Hip Hop albums EVER. New York’s answer to Dr Dre’s world-shaking The Chronic of the year previous.
RZA’s incredible innovative production resulting in that trademark dirty and gritty Wu-Tang sound, complemented by 9 emcees who all bring their A-game and show crazy versatility and never-seen-before lyrical creativity: unbeatable.
Top tracks: Bring Da Ruckus | C.R.E.A.M. | Protect Ya Neck | Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’
2. A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
“Honey, check it out, you got me mesmerized / With your black hair and your fat-ass thighs / Street poetry is my everyday / But yo, I gotta stop when you trot my way” (Electric Relaxation)
Almost a toss-up for the number one spot on this list, that is how good this album is. Arguably less groundbreaking and epic than Wu-Tang’s Enter The Wu-Tang, Midnight Marauders is a Hip Hop super classic in its own right.
Faced with the impossible task of following up on the flawless masterpiece that is The Low End Theory, Tribe delivered an album that is every bit as awesome as its predecessor. There can be no greater praise.
As fresh today as it was on the day it was released: the mark of a true classic.
Top tracks: Electric Relaxation | Award Tour | Oh My God | We Can Get Down
3. Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle
“With so much drama in the L-B-C / It’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-double-G / But I – somehow, some way / Keep comin’ up with funky-ass sh** like every single day” (Gin & Juice)
In the pre-internet and Social Media days, when music promotion was a whole different ballgame, there have been few albums that were as hyped and anticipated as Snoop Doggy Dogg‘s solo debut. Having made an incredible impression with his unique style on Dr Dre‘s “Deep Cover” single and later as the top emcee on Dre’s monumental The Chronic, Snoop was hailed as Hip Hop’s next superstar.
With mentor Dr Dre on the boards, Doggystyle managed to meet the crazy high expectations – no mean feat. An all around Hip Hop classic, on the West Coast arguably only surpassed in ‘classic-ness’ by N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton and Dre’s The Chronic, Doggystyle is and always will be Snoop Dogg’s magnum opus.
Top tracks: Gin & Juice | Murder Was The Case | Gz & Hustlas | Da Shiznit
4. De La Soul - Buhloone Mind State
“Now I’m somethin’ like a phenomenon / I’m somethin’ like a phenomenon…” (Ego Trippin Pt 2)
De La Soul‘s third album, De La Soul’s third classic. Few groups in Hip Hop, if any, can boast both the longevity and consistency De La Soul has shown over the years.
Buhloone Mind State may just be the most underappreciated album of De La Soul’s first four. Reason for that probably is that it has less commercial appeal than the others. Artistically it is every bit as strong, though – cohesive and consistent throughout – an artistic peak for both De La Soul and producer Prince Paul.
De La Soul’s first four albums are all classics, this one is definitely up there with the best of them. Another De La masterpiece.
Top tracks: Ego Trippin Pt 2 | I Am I Be | Breakadawn | Area
5. KRS One - Return Of The Boom Bap
“Return Of The Boom Bap means jus that / It means return of the real hard beats and real rap” (Return Of The Boom Bap)
After 5 albums as Boogie Down Productions, KRS One decided to start releasing albums under his own name. In his 30-year career, KRS dropped many classic albums – this one ranks with the best of them.
Lyrics, flow, delivery, message, beats, diversity – this album has everything. You know you can’t go wrong with KRS One, and with the likes of DJ Premier, Showbiz, Kid Capri and KRS himself on the boards the result has to be a classic. This is Hip Hop.
Top tracks: Sounds Of Police | Outta Here | Mad Crew | Return of The Boom Bap
6. Black Moon - Enta Da Stage
“Suckers want to flow but they got no show / So I’mma grab the mic, flip a script, and leave ya stunned / Buckshot’s the one that gets the job done” (Who Got Da Props)
What’s the definition of a classic album? It has to be ‘timeless’, contain no filler tracks, have endless replay value and it has to be groundbreaking and influential. Enta Da Stage is such an album.
As KRS One would say: this album is real boom bap – real hard beats and real rap. Rough, rugged & raw, the epitome of the early 90s NYC street sound – a must have for NYC Hip Hop heads, if not for every real Hip Hop fan.
Top tracks: Who Got Da Props | How Many MCs | I Gotcha Opin | Buck Em Down
7. Freestyle Fellowship - Innercity Griots
“I see, I saw, I’m the future, the past, I’m me, I’m y’all / I’m the enemy, friend, and the law / The beginner then end-all / The final call, the raw / The win, the loss, the draw / The summit, the peak, the wall, the downfall” (Inner City Boundaries)
The follow-up to their dope but somewhat rough around the edges debut To Whom It May Concern. With this sophomore effort, Freestyle Fellowship deliver the goods.
The jazzy production provides the atypical backdrop for a West Coast album, but perfectly complements the lyricism – and that’s what this album is all about. Conscious, humorous, clever, versatile: emcees Mikah 9, P.E.A.C.E., Self Jupiter and Aceyalone bring it all. This highly original album is a slept-on lyrical masterpiece.
Top tracks: Respect Due | Everything’s Everything | Heavyweights | Innercity Boundaries
8. Souls Of Mischief - 93 'Til Infinty
“This is how we chill.. from 93 ’til” (93 Til Infinity)
Together with Hieroglyphics‘ 1998 group album 3rd Eye Vision, this album just may be the crown jewel in Hieroglyphics all around excellent catalogue.
Souls Of Mischief – part of the Hieroglyphics collective – succeeded in dropping a West Coast album without the gangsta cliches, and that is what a makes it a classic Hip Hop album that sounds as fresh today as it did when it came out. Amazing, rapid-fire wordplay by Opio, Phesto, A-Plus and Tajai, who flow together real well with intelligent, funny, and clever lyrics. Dope beats, dope rhymes – dope album.
Top tracks: 93 ‘Til Infinity | Live And Let Die | That’s When Ya Lost | Make Your Mind Up
9. Ultramagnetic MCs - The Four Horsemen
“They never understood, many people were so slow / My funky type of rhyme, and my style is psycho / Complex wrecks wrecks, my style go X X / I move around off beat, creatin’ more styles / Showin’ white boys, other kids my black styles” (Raise It Up)
After their classic debut album Critical Beatdown (1988), Ultramagnetic MCs dropped their somewhat disappointing sophomore album Funk Your Head Up in 1992. They came back strong with this third album, however. Ced Gee and especially Kool Keith are in top-form, and the production is tight. Fantastic album.
Top tracks: Two Brothers With Checks | One Two One Two | Raise It Up | The Saga Of Dandy, The Devil, & Day
10. Digable Planets - Reachin'
“We like the breeze flow straight out of our lids / Them they got moved by these hard-rock Brooklyn kids / Us floor rush when the DJ’s booming classics / You, dig the crew on the fattest Hip Hop records…” (Rebirth Of Slick)
Smooth and jazzy, Digable Planets’ debut album deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and The Roots albums of that era. All about positivity and empowerment, Digable Planets sadly flew a bit under the radar in a time when gun-toting gangsta posers started to get more and more of the spotlight.
Reachin’ was and is a flawless listen from start to finish though, and it has definitely stood the test of time.
Top tracks: Where I’m From | Rebirth Of Slick | Nickel Bags | Escapism
11. 2Pac - Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
“Aiyyo, I remember Marvin Gaye used to sing to me / He had me feelin’ like black was the thing to be / And suddenly the ghetto didn’t seem so tough / And though we had it rough, we always had enough…” (Keep Ya Head Up)
On his sophomore album, 2Pac hadn’t fully embraced his thug persona yet (and some might say it’s better for it). Still looking for his ‘style’, Pac’s raw talent and powerful charisma are already fully on display here – which makes this album the perfect stepping stone to his real break-out album Me Against The World.
Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. has that raw, sometimes a bit unpolished, underground feel to it and it’s somewhat less consistent (production-wise) as the following albums would be – but it is a classic album anyway, if only because it showed the world a legend in the making.
Top tracks: Keep Ya Head Up | Hollar If Ya Hear Me | I Get Around | Last Wordz
12. Lords Of The Underground - Here Come The Lords
“Boom shaka laka yo here comes the Chief Rocka / Rock it down, so jump up off the tip you’re not my nucca / For sharper type to battle make the people say ooh ahh / Think I won’t curse, I’ll break down and say putap” (Chief Rocka)
Lords of the Underground are a group from Jersey consisting of Mr. Funke, DoItAll, and DJ Lord Jazz. Production on this album was handled by Marley Marl and K-Def.
The production is inspired and the emcees’ delivery is full of energy and passion, in style somewhat similar to Das EFX and Fu-Schnickens but less gimmicky. More than a worthy part of any Golden Age Hip Hop collection.
Top tracks: Chief Rocka | Funky Child | Here Come The Lords | Flow On
13. Queen Latifah - Black Reign
“Instinct leads me to another flow / Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho / Trying to make a sister feel low / You know all of that gots to go” (U.N.I.T.Y.)
Although her debut album may have been more important as a trailblazer for female emcees, this third effort arguably is Queen Latifah‘s best record. Latifah’s charismatic and powerful personality really comes through on this album, as well as real and heartfelt emotion in some of the songs (partly due to personal tragedy prior to the recording of Black Reign).
Most famous for the Grammy-winning anti-misogynist song U.N.I.T.Y., Black Reign has much more to offer. Black Reign is consistent quality.
Top tracks: U.N.I.T.Y. | Just Another Day | Superstar | Black Hand Side
14. Fat Joe - Represent
“I’m underground like a gutter / You never catch me – stutter, everybody knows that I’m butter” (Flow Joe)
Before Fat Joe became a ‘pop’ star, he was a rugged and straightforward emcee. This debut album is a typical beats-and-rhymes record. Fat Joe rhymes are on point, but the real strength of this album are the rich New York-flavored D.I.T.C. beats, supplied by the likes of Lord Finesse, Showbiz and Diamond D.
A must-have for NYC boom bap fans rap in general and D.I.T.C. fans in particular.
Top tracks: Flow Joe | Bad Bad Man | Livin’ Fat | Watch The Sound
15. Del - No Need For Alarm
“Weak MC’s make me earl / Hurl as your world is crushed because I gotta make you hush / You gotta be eliminated, the way I demonstrate it / You hate it, but still I am the greatest…” (Catch A Bad One)
Like Souls Of Mischief’s 93 Til Infinity, Del‘s second album is very much a Hieroglyphics group effort on the production side. Del is one of the few artists (like Masta Ace and Kool Keith) who manages to stay relevant and interesting by constantly reinventing himself. Del’s flow is distinctive and intelligent and his lyrics never drift into the gangsta posturing cliche that was prevalent in 1993, especially on the West Coast.
No Need For Alarm is a more mature album than his debut I Wish My Brother George Was Here, with a smoother sound and a solid display of Del’s lyricism and personality. A dope and important part of the Hieroglyphics catalogue.
Top tracks: Catch A Bad One | Wack MCs | No Need For Alarm | Worldwide
16. Ice Cube - Lethal Injection
“Why, oh why must you swoop through the hood / Like everybody from the hood is up to no good / You think all the girls around here are trickin / Up there lookin like Superchicken” (Ghetto Bird)
This album always polarized opinions. Many people will disagree with the position of Lethal Injection on this list just because it’s an Ice Cube album. Should this album be higher on this list? If it’s judged a bit harshly by this ranking, it’s because it falls short when compared to Ice Cube’s previous albums, especially his first two, AmeriKKKas Most Wanted and Death Certificate. On his first two Cube was still angry and hungry and didn’t hold anything back when it came to social commentary.
The real anger and hunger that were so typical of Ice Cube are mostly gone here. The album lacks a bit of punch and it also lacks real big singles like its predecessor The Predator had. What’s left is a solid and perfectly enjoyable album, with plenty of strong tracks, but also with some filler material.
Top tracks: Ghetto Bird | You Know How We Do It | Really Doe | When I Get To Heaven
17. The Roots - Organix
“From The Never Never Tunnels via satellite / Ceremonies be commencing in the candlelight / Yo is I is up in the res-in-iduals tonight / Absolutely because I’m the kid that’s on the mic…” (Leonard I-V)
Raw, stripped down and unpolished, Organix sometimes almost feels like a demo tape or a jam session. The pure energy of it is part of the appeal, though. Clearly The Roots were still looking for their style, but the talent and ambition is evident. Often overlooked, Organix is a crucial part of The Roots’ discography and it shouldn’t be slept on.
Top tracks: The Session | Pass The Popcorn | Leonard I-V | Grits
18. Masta Ace Inc. - Slaughtahouse
“Here comes the boom, with the Hip Hop bash as I smash and crash / How many gangsta rappers are gonna last? / Not one, they got done, I had fun / Doin em and screwin em and booin em and chewin em…” (Boom Bashin)
One of the most respected yet underrated artists in the game, Masta Ace always comes with something new, something different. Few are able to stay relevant by constantly reinventing themselves like Masta Ace is able to do.
As always with Masta Ace, both the beats and the lyrics are superbly crafted. On this album, Ace criticizes the attitude of gangsta rap and the glamorization of violence. A refreshing point a view in a post-Chronic Hip Hop world, Masta Ace successfully ridicules gangsta poseurs and their brand of Hip Hop.
A dope and intelligent album start to finish, Slaughtahouse is an important document that was way ahead of it’s time.
Top tracks: Slaughtahouse | Boom Bashin | The Mad Wunz | Saturday Nite Live
19. Too Short - Get In Where You Fit In
“Get in where you fit in, fool / You was a mark up at the high school / Now you’re hardcore like CB4 / Biting, what you wanna be me for / / It’s your life, you wish it was a Too $hort rap / But you gots no game, and your bass ain’t fat”
Too Short‘s fifth studio (and eight overall) album is one of the best in his quite extensive discography. Nothing new on the lyrical front, with Too Short you always know exactly what you’re going to get. The funky and bass-heavy production on this album is tight, which makes it a stand-out in a body of work with enough other really good albums. Like fellow Bay Area giant E-40, Too Short’s consistency and longevity is just impressive.
Top tracks: Get In Where You Fit In | Playboy Short | Gotta Get Some Lovin’ | I’m A Player
20. Geto Boys - Till Death Do Us Part
“A lotta homies die, a lotta mothers cry / I watch tears fall down from their eyes / Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to take the chance / They chose the music, so they had to dance…” (Six Feet Deep)
For Geto Boys‘ fourth album, Rap-A-Lot rapper Big Mike was brought in to replace Willie D, who had left the group after We Can’t Be Stopped. Although missing the chemistry Willie D had with Scarface and Bushwick, Big Mike is more than a competent emcee, who carries a lot of this album with his input.
The lyrical content might not please everyone – as per usual with the Geto Boys – but musically this album is very accessible and enjoyable. Another solid entry in the Geto Boys discography and a Southern classic.
Top tracks: Six Feet Deep | G.E.T.O. | Straight Gangstaism | Raise It Up
21. Ice T - Home Invasion
“It’s on motherf***** you goddamn right / It’s on, my royalty cheque, yeah, fool, I write my own / I own my own label put my own sh** out / So no one tells me what the f*** to talk about” (It’s On)
Opinions are divided on this one. Lots of people feel that Ice T‘s heart wasn’t really in it (or he was too pissed off at the time of the recording of this album) and it’s almost universally recognized that Home Invasion can’t compare to it’s classic predecessor Original Gangster.
Home Invasion may lack the fun, the energy, the consistency and the overall quality of Original Gangster, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Not his best album, but a must have for Ice T fans nonetheless.
Top tracks: It’s On| Gotta Lot Of Love | 99 Problems | That’s How I’m Livin’
22. Mac Mall - Illegal Business?
“Versatile the style that I’m usin’ / I comin’ sick with these my cutty I’m confusin’ / Spittin’ all this sh** that my potnas say is loco / But when I do a ruthless switch them fools just don’t know”
A typical product of the Bay Area of that time, E-40’s cousin’s debut album is a West Coast classic. Mac Mall (incredibly just 15 years old at the time of recording of this album) is on point lyrically with his tales of life on the streets, but what makes this album really stand out is the production.
Producer Khayree gave Mac Mall an album full of amazing beats and deep bass, sounding as fresh today as it did 20 years ago. Don’t sleep on this album.
Top tracks: It’s All Good | Cold Sweat | Don’t Wanna See Me | Versatile
23. Scarface - The World Is Yours
“A new day, brings a new problem to a brother / And all I gots ta say is thank god for my mother / Cause without my mommy dear my life would’ve been joke / Either locked up playin’ dead and still slangin’ dope but nope…”
Scarface is one of those artists that always brings consistent quality. Geto Boys’ most prolific member drops another solid album with The World Is Yours, his second solo album. It’s the perfect stepping stone to what arguably is his magnum opus, 1994’s classic The Diary.
Top tracks: Now I Feel Ya | Coming Agg | The Wall | Mr. Scarface, Part III: The Final Chapter
24. The Coup - Kill My Landlord
“Cash is made in lump sums as street bums eat crumbs / So I defeat scum as I beat drums…”
Oakland’s The Coup always occupied their own little niche in Hip Hop. Thoughtful, intelligent and socially conscious lyrics over Boots Riley’s fantastic funky beats – this debut album is an underrated and slept on gem, the first in a series of excellent albums. Don’t sleep on The Coup.
Top tracks: Dig It | Not Yet Free | The Coup | Kill My Landlord
25. Leaders Of The New School - T.I.M.E.
“I dare at your stare so yo come do me / It’s done, or rather should I say it’s on / The mental instrumental I continue with my song / Yeah, we’ve got jumping jerks / With no understanding of the East Coast Stomp” (Syntax Era)
An album that was sorely underappreciated at the time of its release, but one that gained more recognition as time went by. Dense, complex and abstract, it may be hard to get into at first, but the experience is ultimately rewarding.
Unfortunately, this would be LONS’ last album, due to internal tensions largely because of the high profile and popularity of Busta Rhymes, who’s larger than life personality seemed to undermine the ‘group-feel’. Nevertheless, L.O.N.S. left us two excellent albums – and although not as good as their debut, this is one of them.
Top tracks: Classic Material | Syntax Era | Connections | The Difference
26. Tha Alkoholiks - 21 & Over
“Tha Alkaholik crew and what we’re here to do / Is rock a show, knock a hoe and crack another brew” (Make Room)
A West Coast party classic, this short album (10 tracks clocking in under 40 minutes) is all about fun. Not taking themselves too seriously, Tha Alkoholiks – with the help of mentor King Tee – debuted with this funky banger without any filler tracks.
Top tracks: Likwit | Only When I’m Drunk | Turn Tha Party Out | Make Room
27. King Tee - Tha Triflin Album
“Back at home I got a throne where I sit / Piecing up metaphoric bits / My style is the quiet, cool gangster type / But when the 40 hits, it gets hype”
Much like his protegees Tha Alkoholiks 21 & Over album, King Tee’s own 1993 release is a quality and all around fun album. The L.A. legend dropped a number of dope albums in the late 80s and early 90s, this one is most successful and arguably his best.
Top tracks: I Got It Bad Y’all | Black Togetha Again | Blow My Sox Off | Just Flauntin’
28. Intelligent Hoodlum - Tragedy: Saga Of A Hoodlum
“I gets funky like a monkey that ain’t washed in years / My poetical punch puts me above my peers / I’m a hood who’s good, many say I’m intelligent / Ultimate imperial, lyrical of benevolence”
Like his debut album, this album is shamefully slept on. Compared to his debut, Tragedy’s second album shows a more mature emcee with a little grittier tone of voice. Production is dope NYC boom bap and lyrically the album is intelligent, thought-provoking and socially conscious, typical Tragedy Khadafi.
Top tracks: Grand Groove | The Posse | Street Life | Mad Brothas Know His Name
29. Cypress Hill - Black Sunday
“Like Louie Armstrong played the trumpet / I’ll hit that bong and break you off something / Soon I got to get my props / Cops, come and try to snatch my crops…” (Insane In The Brain)
Cypress Hill is an act with massive crossover- and commercial appeal and this is the album that introduced them to new (non-Hip Hop) audiences all over the world.
For Hip Hop purists perhaps not as enjoyable as their classic self-titled debut album, Black Sunday nevertheless is an entertaining listen, with a few classic tracks on it. There are some filler tracks too however and a few interludes that irritatingly break the flow of the album. B-Real high pitched wine combined with Sen Dog’s grunts are not suited for everybody’s enjoyment, but what makes this album a winner anyway is DJ Muggs’ terrific and utterly recognizable production work.
Top tracks: Insane In The Brain | I Ain’t Going Out Like That | When The Sh** Goes Down | Lick A Shot
30. Naughty By Nature - 19 Naughty III
“I live and die for Hip Hop / This is Hip Hop of today / I give props to Hip Hop so… / Hip Hop Hooray!”
Another solid album from Naughty By Nature. Like the previous one, this album does everything right: tight production by KayGee complemented by Treach’s unbeatable flow. NBN’s problem always was that they had one leg in the streets and one leg in the clubs/charts – and this combination didn’t quite work for everybody. Nevertheless, this is a totally enjoyable album and one of NBN’s best.
Top tracks: Hip Hop Hooray | It’s On | The Hood Comes First | Hot Potato
31. Onyx - Bacdafucup
“Well it’s another one, in the gutter one, ghetto running em / Troublesome, extra double dumb, I come to beat em / Defeat em and mistreat em, so what if that I’m cheating / Now everybody wanna sound grimey…” (Slam)
Onyx: a hate ’em or love ’em kind of group. If you’re not into the ‘grimy’ / screaming style of rapping you will not like this album. If you do, this album is pure gold.
Excellent production by Jam Master Jay (among others) – the typical sound out of NYC that year, but done better than most. Onyx oozes pure energy, menace and hardcore attitude. A totally entertaining and very consistent album, one that has stood the test of time without a doubt.
Top tracks: Slam | Throw Ya Gunz | Bichasniguz | Atak Of Da Bal-Hedz
32. Eightball & MJG -Comin' Out Hard
“Now, I was broke as a mutha****a, my life at the end see / My so called friends, they had no ends to lend me / My job at Mickie Ds was f*****’ me with no grease / I worked so f*****’ hard, but the money, it never increased…” (Mr Big)
This is an early Southern classic. Memphis legends Eightball & MJG played an important part in the rise of Southern Hip Hop, together with groups like UGK and Geto Boys in Houston and Outkast and Goodie Mobb in Atlanta. Deep, bass-heavy beats and tales of pimping and gangsta antics, these cats cover that played out subject matter better than most.
Top tracks: Pimps | Comin’ Out Hard | Armed Robbery | Mr Big
33. MC Ren - Shock Of The Hour
“In ’93 I’m wrecking sh** so you can f*** what ya heard / I’m dropping plenty shit like a motherf****** bird” (F*** What Ya Heard)
Underrated and slept-on, like most of MC Ren‘s solo work. Lyrically diverse (with lyrics that maybe hard to digest for some) and sonically consistent (dark, eery and atmospheric) from start to finish – this is a more than a solid album from N.W.A.’s ruthless villain.
Top tracks: F*** What Ya Heard | Same Old Sh** | Mayday On The Frontline | Do You Believe
34. K-Rino - Stories From The Black Book
“Systematically translating South Park sounds / You ain’t down with the sound then you drown underground / Radical dramatic attic acrobatic contortionist / Stomping, enforcing this fist cause I’m a larcenist arsonist…” (Ultimate Flow)
K-Rino is a still active Houston legend and long-time regional favorite. He dropped a lot of albums over the years, Stories From The Black Book – his official debut – may just be his best in an all around impressive discography.
Praised for his lyrical abilities and variety in his subject matter (he was never just another gangsta rapper), K Rino delivered a slept-on masterpiece with this album.
Top tracks: Step Into The Mind | Stories From The Black Book | Ultimate Flow | You Created A Monsta
35. Big Daddy Kane - Looks Like A Job For...
“A lot of rappers today, wonder / Should I ask Kane to write rhymes for me to say? / Well you’re goddamn right you should / Cause my rhymes are like spandex, they make any a*s seem good”
Big Daddy Kane is one of Hip Hop’s most respected emcees, universally recognized as one of the best to EVER do it. Strangely enough, he doesn’t have the discography to back up his legendary status as an emcee.
His first two albums are bonafide Hip Hop classics, but the rest of his discography is quite inconsistent. Every one of his later albums contains one or two gems, but more tracks let down by weak production or misplaced attempts at a commercial / R&B like sound – something that just doesn’t suit a killer lyricist like BDK.
This album, BDK’s fifth, is somewhat of a return to form after his not so strong third and fourth album.
Top tracks: The Beef Is On | Stop Shammin’ | How U Get A Record Deal | Looks Like A Job For…
36. E-40 - Federal
“I’m goin’ federal, justice ain’t no damn miracle / F*****‘ em’ up like that, puttin’ in work something terrible…” (Federal)
Bay Area phenomenon E-40‘s official debut album, the first of the many, many albums E-40 would go on to release. Like Too Short, another Bay Area titan and pioneer, E-40 started recording in the mid-80s and sold his tapes out of his trunk.
With Federal he drops an impressive debut album, consistent throughout and thoroughly enjoyable. E-40 always had his own “Bay Area” style and sound – maybe not for everyone, but you just have to respect the man’s consistent output. Classic mob music.
Top tracks: Drought Season | Carlos Rossi | Hide N Seek | Let Him Have It
37. MC Lyte - Ain't No Other
“I got the rhythm that’ll rip up shows / Blow down foes, they kill at will to get a taste of my flow / Vocally I rock locally and worldwide / Those that got bad wish they woulda never tried” (Brooklyn)
MC Lyte followed the 1993 NYC trend and went for a harder – both lyrically and sonically – sound on her fourth album. The result is a little hit-and-miss (much like in LL Cool J’s case with his 1993 album).
Lyte dropped two albums in the late 80s that are universally recognized as Hip Hop classics, especially her debut Lyte As A Rock. Her third album had more commercial sound and was somewhat less acclaimed. It looks like she tried to come back hard on this album, and overdid it a bit.
Lyte will always be one of the finest (f)emcees to ever do it, the beats on this album just do not always do her service. When it’s good, it’s great, but the album is a bit too long with a few tracks that don’t really work. Overall it’s a solid work though, and worth having if only because it’s an MC Lyte album.
Top tracks: Ruffneck | I Go On | Ain’t No Other | Brooklyn
38. LL Cool J - 14 Shots To The Dome
“I need love, that means I need a girl to love me down / I dropped the pretty style cause rap was gettin’ ugly / I waited a year for the results, I’m triple platinum / We know the presidents are flowin’ by who’s sackin’ ’em…” (Funkadelic Relic)
By 1993, LL Cool J already had 4 classic albums under his belt (well, 3 anyway). In the rapidly changing Hip Hop landscape, LL may have tried a bit too hard to emulate the ‘hardcore / grimy’ NYC sound of the time. Production on this album is a little all over the place, too loud sometimes and too bland elsewhere. Half of the tracks on this joint are classic LL, the other half not quite so strong. So: not a classic album by any means, but with enough dope tracks on it to deserve a place on this list anyway.
Top tracks: Back Seat | Funkadelic Relic | Crossroads | Straight From Queens
39. Poor Righteous Teachers - Black Business
“From ghetto to ghetto, from project to project / Bookbag of lessons but I ain’t have dough yet / From knowledge to wisdom, from wisdom to see / And understand me if you don’t dance, G” (Ghetto We Love)
Always coming correct on the socially-conscious Hip Hop front, PRT drop yet another dope album with this one. By 1993, conscious rap groups were getting drowned out by all the gangsta rap, but PRT always kept doing their thing and kept doing it well.
Not for everyone, mainly because of the ragga infused sound, Black Business is an entertaining and consistent listen nevertheless.
Top tracks: Nobody Move | Here We Go Again | Ghetto We Love | Mi Fresh
40. Above The Law - Black Mafia Life
“Everything is fine / When you’re rollin’ with your homies and a little bit of V.S.O.P….” (V.S.O.P.)
Not quite as perfect as Above The Law‘s 1990 debut album Livin’ Like Hustlers, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. The production by G-Funk innovator Cold 187um is dope, but it is missing the magic touch by former affiliate Dr Dre, who had already moved on by this time. The overall sound is a bit darker than on LLH but still funky as hell. Great cameos by 2Pac & Money B, Kokane, MC Ren and Eazy-E too.
This is an album well worth having in your collection, and a must-have for West Coast Hip Hop completists.
Top tracks: V.S.O.P. | Never Missin’A Beat | Commin’ Up | Game Wreck-Oniz-Iz Game
- Guru – Jazzmattaz
- Just Ice – Gun Talk
- Brand Nubian – In God We Trust
- Run DMC – Down With The King
- Jungle Brothers – J.Beez Wit The Remedy
- Digital Underground – The Body Hat Syndrome
- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Code Red
- Kam – Neva Again
- B.O.N.E. Enterprise – Faces Of Death
- Mobb Deep – Juvenile Hell
- Das EFX – Straight Up Sewaside
- Erick Sermon – No Pressure
- Menace II Society Soundtrack
- Spice 1 – 187 He Wrote
- Funkdoobiest – Which Doobie U B?
- Kaos – International Dope Dealers
- Threat – Sickinnahead
- Domino – Domino
- MC Breed – The New Breed
- Original Flavor – Beyond Flavor
- Yall So Stupid – Van Full Of Pakistans
- Capital Tax – The Swoll Package
- Trends Of Culture – Trendz
- Illegal – The Untold Truth
- Da Youngstas – The Aftermath
- Rumpletilskinz – What Is A Rumpletilskin?
- Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich – Dust to Dust
- Brokin English Klik – Brokin English Klik
- Ant Banks – Sittin’On Somethin’ Phat
- Bloods & Crips – Bangin’ On Wax
- Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Diesel
- Yo Yo – You Better Ask Somebody
- Bo$$ – Born Gangstaz
- Esham – KKKil The Fetus
- Akinyele – Vagina Dinner
- The Click – Down & Dirty
- Mac Dre – Young Black Brother: The Album
- JT The Bigga Figga – Playaz In The Game
- DMG – Rigormortiz
- Da King & I – Temporary Jeep Music
- Mad Kap – Look Ma Duke, No Hands
- Blood Of Abraham – Future Profits
- The Conscious Daughters – Ear To The Street