Also read: Top 100 Hip Hop Albums Of The 1990s
1. Nas - Illmatic
“Rappers, I monkey flip ’em with the funky rhythm I be kickin’ / Musician, inflictin’ composition of pain…” (NY State Of Mind)
Perfection. One of the very best Hip Hop albums in history, period. A young and hungry, insanely talented emcee comes together with some of the finest producers in the game, who all bring their best work. No skits, no fillers – just nine 5-star tracks that combine into a seminal work that will forever be revered as one of the most important releases in Hip Hop ever. A monumental masterpiece.
Top tracks: NY State Of Mind | Life’s A Bitch | The World Is Yours | It Ain’t Hard To Tell
2. Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die
“It was all a dream / I used to read Word Up! magazine / Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine / Hangin’ pictures on my wall / Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl…” (Juicy)
Another landmark album and all-time classic. The Notorious B.I.G. made a big splash on the scene with his classic debut single Party & Bullshit. Expectations were high for his full-length debut album and boy did he deliver with Ready To Die.
One of the most naturally gifted emcees and storytellers in the Hip Hop game ever, everything came together for him on this album. Excellent production throughout with Biggie’s simultaneously brash and vulnerable lyrics to top off the banging instrumentals. Few others were ever able to express their thoughts and feelings the way Biggie was. Super classic.
Top tracks: Juicy | Gimme The Loot | Things Done Changed | Warning
3. OutKast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
“Halle-lu-jah, halle-lu-jah / Y’know I do some things more different than I used to…” (Player’s Ball)
After quality releases from groups like Geto Boys, UGK, Eightball & MJG and others in years previous, OutKast‘s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was THE album that put Southern Hip Hop on the map as a major part of Hip Hop, which after this album could no longer be divided simply in East- and West Coast.
Not immediately recognized as such upon its release, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik gained more and more recognition over the years and is now universally recognized as a staple of (Southern) Hip Hop.
4. O.C. - Word... Life
“Non-conceptual, non-exceptional / Everybody’s either crime-related or sexual / I’m here to make a difference, besides all the riffing / To traps I’m not sticking, rappers stop flipping / For those who pose lyrical but really ain’t true I feel…” (Time’s Up)
O.C.‘s Word… Life is very similar to Nas’ Illmatic in many ways (excellent beats, clever lyricism, overall cohesiveness), but incorrectly much less revered. Maybe due to bad promotion by O.C.’s Wild Pitch label, maybe because the competition in 1994 was so awesome – whatever the reason: Word… Life flew so far under the radar it’s ridiculous. This easily is one of the best Hip Hop albums of 1994. Don’t sleep on Word… Life.
Top tracks: Time’s Up | Word… Life | Born 2 Live | Constables
5. Jeru The Damaja - The Sun Rises In The East
“Real, rough and rugged, shine like a gold nugget / Every time I pick up the microphone I drug it / Unplug it on chumps with the gangster babble / Leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle” (Come Clean)
In a year when Premier dropped another excellent Gang Starr album, he reserved his very best beats for Brooklyn emcee Jeru The Damaja. Jeru’s intellectual street flows combined with Premier’s best instrumentals result in a tight 10- song album with no filler tracks.
Top tracks: Come Clean | D Original | Ain’t The Devil Happy | My Mind Spray
6. Gang Starr - Hard To Earn
“And you’d be happy as hell to get a record deal / Maybe your soul you’d sell to have mass appeal” (Mass Appeal)
Markedly darker, both sonically and lyrically, than their previous albums, Hard To Earn is yet another 5-star album from Gang Starr. Guru and DJ Premier are both in top form as usual, cementing their status of one the most consistent acts in Hip Hop ever.
Top tracks: Mass Appeal | Code Of The Streets | DWYCK | Brainstorm
7. Pete Rock & CL Smooth - The Main Ingredient
“It’s going down from out of town / Off the wicked streets of New York trouble / Me and my man map the plan and make a hefty bundle…” (I Get Physical)
Lacking a monster hit-single like T.R.O.Y. from their classic full-length debut album Mecca And The Soul Brother, The Main Ingredient is often overlooked when it comes to considering Hip Hop’s best albums. That is wrong, because this one is just as flawless as its predecessor. True enough: CL Smooth isn’t the greatest emcee or lyricist ever, but these albums are all about Pete Rock’s production, which is as good as ever on this top notch feel-good album.
Top tracks: The Main Ingredient | I Get Physical | Carmel City | All The Places
8. Common - Resurrection
“…but I’ma take her back hoping that the shit stop / Cause who I’m talking ’bout, y’all, is Hip Hop” (I Used To Love H.E.R.)
Clever and conscious wordplay over excellent production – on his second album Common is maturing into what he would eventually become: one of Hip Hop’s most revered emcees and personalities. In one of Hip Hop’s biggest years, this album measures up to any of the other releases with ease.
Top tracks: I Used To Love H.E.R. | Sum Shit I Wrote | Resurrection | Book of Life
9. Scarface - The Diary
“It’s nineteen-ninety-four and we up against the same shit / I never understood why / I could never see a man cry, til I seen a man die” (I Seen A Man Die)
Raw and haunting, The Diary arguably is Scarface‘s magnum opus in an overall outstanding discography. The Diary, his third solo album, is short and tight (10 full songs) with only one guest (Ice Cube), which makes it all the stronger. No filler material on this album. A (Southern) Hip Hop classic.
Top tracks: I Seen A Man Die | Hand Of The Dead Body | Mind Playin’ Tricks ’94 | No Tears
10. Organized Konfusion - Stress: The Extinction Agenda
“Let the trigger finger put the pressure to the mechanism / Which gives a response, for the automatic *bang* / Clip to release projectiles in single / File forcing me to ignite then travel / Through the barrel, headed for the light / At the end of a tunnel, with no specific target in sight…” (Stray Bullet)
Organized Konfusion were responsible for three excellent albums in the 90s, and this is one is the best of the three. Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch show some unparalleled lyricism on this dark, dense, complicated and intellectual album. A Golden Age underground classic.
Top tracks: Stray Bullet | Thirteen | Bring it On | Stress
11. Dred Scott - Breakin' Combs
“Wakin up the mind, wakin up the soul / Sunshine from the brother, let’s take a stroll / A jeep goes boom, a mother holds an infant / I hear some buckshots goin off in the distance…” (Check The Vibe)
Wrong time, wrong coast? If this outstanding album had dropped in NYC a few years earlier, it probably would have been bigger back then and universally recognized as a classic right now.
As it is, Breakin’ Combs is a sorely slept-on and unjustly forgotten album. Entirely self-produced, Dred Scott delivers smooth, jazzy beats reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest. Nothing wrong with his lyrics and emcee skills either. Why this album is so underappreciated is a mystery, but it deserves its props – that’s the reason for the high position on this list for one of Hip Hop’s best years.
Top tracks: Back In The Day | Check The Vibe | Funky Rhythms | Duck Ya Head
12. Digable Planets – Blowout Comb
“Stressing the fact that I’m solar guaranteed to go far / Cause the mind is interstellar / Still peace like that, so have no fear / But I’m slicker this year / I’m slicker this year” (9th Wonder)
Digable Planets’ second album in two years and unfortunately their last. Musically reminiscent of The Roots, this smart and seductive album is one of 1994 most creative and interesting releases. A timeless album, that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1994.
Top tracks: 9th Wonder (Blackitolism) | Four Corners | Jettin’ | Dial 7
13. The Beatnuts - Street Level
“I just ripped, out the dirt from my coffin / Flippin through loops like a lunatic dolphin…” (Psycho Dwarf)
An underappreciated NYC classic. This is one of those albums that have stood the test of time. The production is excellent throughout, and the braggadocious and humorous rhymes are catchy and creative. Street Level is consistent from beginning to end, no filler tracks.
The Beatnuts always made quality Hip Hop, and this one is among their best work. A must have for fans of the early 90s East Coast sound.
Top tracks: Props Over Here | Psycho Dwarf | Superbad | Are You Ready
14. UGK - Super Tight
“I got a ’64 Chevy in my yard / A white drop top, pearl paint job is hard / White plush inside southern robe is fresh / Triple gold double-A Dayton’s is the best, ugh” (Front, Back & Side To Side)
UGK‘s second record flew a little bit under the radar upon its release, in a big year for Southern Hip Hop with classic releases from OutKast and Scarface. While UGK’s first album was well received, this short and tight album was even more acclaimed, even if it never achieved really big sales.
The lyrics are nothing special – mostly the typical pimp and gangsta cliches – but it is the late Pimp C’s funky and bass-heavy production that makes this album shine. No doubt about it: Super Tight is an important Southern Hip Hop album and a solid stepping stone to UGK’s real break-out album: 1996’s classic Ridin’ Dirty.
Top tracks: The Return | Front, Back, & Side To Side | Pocket Full Of Stones 2 | Three Sixteens
15. KMD - Black Bastards
“Yo black, yo black, I’m back ransacking through the stacks
Of maniacial thoughts I brought to distort the black” (Black Bastards!)
Originally slated for a 1994 release, Black Bastards was shelved until 2001 because of controversy surrounding the intended provocative album cover and because of the tragic accident that killed Subroc, Zev Love X’s (MF DOOM) brother.
This sophomore album showed a much more mature KMD, production- and contentwise. A real shame it was shelved for six years, we can only wonder now what its impact would have been, had it actually been released in 1994. As it is – this album is a lost classic and a must-have if only for MF DOOM fans.
Top tracks: Sounded Like A Roc | Smokin That Shit | Black Bastards | Fuck With Ya Head
16. The Coup - Genocide & Juice
“I spit game on a regular basis; now everybody / Looking at my hand like I’m holding all the aces / Cool that they know our faces, from different places / But you can’t catch up if you don’t know what the pace is” (The Name Game)
The Coup has released a string of excellent albums with socially conscious and clever rhymes, and this sophomore effort arguably is their best. Funky, fresh production, intelligent rhymes by Boots, E-Roc & DJ Pam the Funkstress: another slept-on The Coup masterpiece.
Top tracks: Fat Cats, Bigga Fish | Taking These | The Name Game | Pimps
17. Warren G. - Regulate...G Funk Era
“It’s kind of easy when you’re listening to the G-Dub sound / Pioneer speakers bumpin’ as I smoke on a pound / I got the sound fo’ yo’ ass and it’s easy to see / That this DJ be Warren G” (This DJ)
One of the best G-funk albums ever. This album captures the sunny summertime vibe of Los Angeles like few others ever have. Warren G never was the best rapper out there, but he has a nice and mellow flow (reminiscent of Snoop Dogg’s) that suits his own excellent G-funk beats perfectly. Short and sweet at a little under 40 minutes, Regulate…G Funk Era is a definite West Coast classic.
Top tracks: Regulate | This DJ | In So Many Ways | Running With No Breaks
18. Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside
“The Funk Doctor Spock, blast up on your block / I’m walkin through the sewer with manure on my socks / Your style, I freaked it when I was a child / So you talkin that baby talk like, Who’s Talkin Now?” (We Run N.Y.)
Arguably less accessible than Redman‘s debut Whut!? Thee Album or Dare Iz A Darkside‘s follow-up Muddy Waters, this album is Redman at his darkest. Highly atmospheric, this is one of Erick Sermon’s production masterpieces, with bass soaked beats that perfectly complement Redman’s frantic and innovative rhymes. Redman has always been one of the most interesting and naturally skilled rappers in the game and this album is one of his best.
Fun fact: the album cover is a homage to the cover of Funkadelic’s 1971 album Maggot Brain.
Top tracks: Bobyahed2dis | Green Island | Sooperman Luva (Part II) | Cosmic Slop
19. Thug Life - Vol. 1
“All my homies drinkin’ liquor, tears in everybody’s eyes / Niggas cried, to mourn a homie’s homicide / But I can’t cry, instead I’m just a shoulder / Damn, why they take another soldier?” (How Long Will They Mourn Me?)
Although Thug Life – Vol. 1 is a group album – Thug Life consisting of 2Pac, Big Syke, Macadoshis, Mopreme and The Rated R – essentially it is a 2Pac album, as Pac is the eye-catcher of the group and by far it’s most prominent and dominant force. A strong album, which could have been even stronger if it had been just 2Pac.
Top tracks: How Long Will They Mourn Me | Pour Out A Little Liquor| Str8 Ballin | Cradle To The Grave
20. Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep
“As the blood drips inside of my eye refusing to die / Visions of Hell tormented my faith / So I chewed my fucking arm off and made an escape…” (Diary Of A Madman)
Gravediggaz was a supergroup consisting of Prince Paul (The Undertaker), Frukwan (The Gatekeeper), Poetic (The Grym Reaper) and RZA (The RZArector). Two superproducers working together, that has to result in something special, right?
This pioneering album is perhaps the best and best-known album of the ‘horrorcore’ sub-genre. Taken as the fantasy it is, it is a fun album with a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Excellent production and top notch emceeing – this is a classic, strangely enough with underground as well as mainstream appeal. Here Comes the Gravediggaz!
Top tracks: 1-800 Suicide | Diary Of A Madman | Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide | Defective Trip (Trippin’)
21. Method Man – Tical
“I came to bring the pain hardcore from the brain / Let’s go inside my astral plane…” (Bring The Pain)
Tical was the first solo release of a Wu-Tang Clan member after the monumental group album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and was an immediate commercial success. Raw, gritty and atmospheric, RZA’s basement-sounding production suits Method Man’s hoarse voice excellently.
Method Man has always been one of Wu-Tang Clan’s most charismatic and high-profile members. He also has one of the most recognizable voices of the Clan- and that is part of his ‘problem’: it tends to work better in tracks with other emcees than in solo tracks. All in all, Tical is an excellent album, only slightly less classic than Wu-Tang solo albums like Liquid Swords and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… that would follow in 1995.
Top tracks: Bring The Pain | Release Yo’Delf | All I Need | PLO Style
22. Boogie Monsters - Riders of the Storm: The Underwater Album
“I can see your only eyes, locked into your skull / My backbone the zone and when I roam my mind is full / Guess who? I’m swoopin through the air like pestilence / I know your nerves are shot and skin is tight from my presence” (Recognized Thresholds Of Negative Stress)
Not nearly as successful as it should have been, this dope album is yet another example of an album that slipped through the cracks and got overlooked in a period when so many excellent Hip Hop albums were released.
Coming out of left-field, Boogiemonsters quickly got dubbed Christian rappers and went largely ignored. Too bad, because this creative, dynamic yet laidback album definitely deserves more recognition than it got.
Top tracks: Altered States of Consciousness | Recognized Thresholds Of Negative Stress | Bronx Bombas | Juggaknots
23. Public Enemy - Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age
“Talkin dat drive by shit / Everybody talkin dat gangsta shit / Talkin dat drive by thang / Everybody talking dat gangsta swang / Slaves to the rhythm of the master / Buck boom buck another / Neighborhood disaster”(So Whatcha Gone Do Now?)
At times even more dense production-wise than their previous albums, and maybe a bit too long for its own good – this album was less accessible than previous P.E. albums and sadly marked the decline of Public Enemy’s popularity and importance. It is another excellent Public Enemy album, however. Chuck D’s intelligent lyrics are on point as usual and he pulls no punches here. Underrated and underappreciated.
Top tracks: Give It Up | Bedlam 13:13 | So Whatcha Gone Do Now? | What Side you On?
24. Coolio - It Takes A Thief
“Come on y’all let’s take a ride / Don’t you say shit just get inside / It’s time to take your ass on another kind of trip / Cause you can’t have the hop if you don’t have the hip…” (Fantastic Voyage)
Coolio. What a strange career this man had. He had one of the biggest singles in Hip Hop EVER with 1995’s Gangsta Paradise – a song that both made him and broke him in a way.
Before his mainstream fame because of the Gangsta Paradise single, Coolio was an important member of WC’s MAAD Circle. With It Takes A Thief, he dropped a dope solo debut album after his MAAD circle period.
Maybe because Coolio made some strange career decisions (appearing in several reality TV shows) and because he dropped some subpar albums later in his career, this album is often dismissed or forgotten. It shouldn’t be. This is a fun and lighthearted album, with a funky West Coast sound complemented by Coolio’s skilled and often humorous lyricism. Underappreciated.
Top tracks: Fantastic Voyage | N Da Closet | County Line | It Takes A Thief
25. Artifacts - Between A Rock And A Hard Place
“I’m out to bomb like Vietnam under the same name Tame One / The bad one, ink flow master bastard with the Magnum / I tags up quick, and then I steps to the exit…” (Wrong Sides Of Da Tracks)
The debut album of this New Jersey duo gained some fame mainly because of the classic graffiti anthem Wrong Sides Of Da Tracks song. It has more to offer than just that track, though. Excellent beats, clever rhymes delivered with skill – this is top quality early-90s East Coast Hip Hop.
Top tracks: Wrong Sides Of Da Tracks | C’Mon Wit Da Git Down | Whayback | What Goes On?
26. Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end” (Sure Shot)
Like its predecessor Check Your Head, Ill Communication is not strictly a Hip Hop album, but a mash-up of styles with liberal doses punk-rock thrown in the mix. Never afraid to experiment and do exactly what they wanted, Beastie Boys stayed true to their punk-rock roots on this album. Ill Communication will not be for everybody, but it’s a classic in its own right, with massive appeal to other, non-Hip Hop audiences.
Top tracks: Sabotage | Sure Shot | Get It Together | B-Boys Makin’ With The Freak Freak
27. Keith Murray - The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World
“I comes down breaking ground / So back up off of me and sit your ass down / Now when I’m on the microphone I roam through zones / But don’t be trying this shit at home…” (The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World)
Keith Murray made a big splash on the scene with his debut single The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World, which is the biggest the attraction of this album. The beats on this album are mostly provided by EPMD’s Erick Sermon, so it’s evident that the raw, bass-heavy, funk-laced instrumentals are top notch. Keith Murray definitely is a way above average emcee, who has a very distinct lyrical style that suits the beats nicely.
Top tracks: The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World | Sychosymatic | Danger Zone | How’s That
28. Down South - Lost In Brooklyn
“Clap your hands and hear the voice who’s so damn illuminate / I rock a jam and let the public consume and let’s / Chill before I let the horns hit ya / For now goin, goin, gone, but yo, I get with ya” (Sittin Here)
Another forgotten album, one that is perfectly enjoyable nonetheless. The funky instrumentals are typical mid-90s NYC, and Down South sound a bit like a tuned down Onyx – which just might make this an album that is suited for those who do not dig the over-the-top screaming style of Onyx, but who love their beats. The beats were crafted by underrated producer Shawn J (who also produced for Mad Skillz, Black Star, Artifacts and Da Bush Babees), along with The Beatnuts and Stretch Armstrong. You could do worse than to check this album out.
Top tracks: Tractors, Rakes & Hoes | Lost In Brooklyn | Sittin Here| The Carbonated One
29. Kokane - Funk Upon A Rhyme
“My name is Kokane, never askin’ the reason I ball / So Bon Voyage I gots the stack / And I’m out Schwarzenegger, but I’ll be back” (The Aftermath)
Like his equally solid debut Who Am I, Kokane’s second album was sorely slept on. Now out of production, Funk Upon A Rhyme is a forgotten G-funk / West Coast gem. Produced entirely by Above The Law’s Cold 187um the album sonically sounds even more experimental than Above The Law’s own 1994 release – but mostly it works, also because of the weirdness Kokane adds with his lyrical style.
Top tracks: From The Funk To The Back | Slow Burnin’ 22.5 Degrees Fahrenheit | Aftermath | All Bark No Bite
30. Above The Law - Uncle Sam's Curse
“Because my mama to me comes number one / Now you sucker motherfuckers don’t understand / But to my mama, I’m her real black superman” (Black Superman)
Above The Law‘s classic debut Livin’ Like Hustlers will forever be their magnum opus. But this third effort is yet another excellent Above The Law album and definitely a level above most of the other gangsta rap being released at the time.
The lyrics are not just the generic gangsta stories, but also sometimes politically fueled and socially conscious. Additionally, Cold 187um’s production is always top level. A true West Coast G-funk innovator, he was never scared to experiment on the boards. Deep bass, whiny synthesizer sounds, smooth and funky – this is G-funk at its best.
Top tracks: Black Superman | Concreat Jungle | Kalifornia | Gangsta Madness
31. Fugees - Blunted On Reality
“So who’s side am I on? I’m on the righteous / Always check the lyrics, no time to contradict” (Some Seek Stardom)
It is definitely worth having though, if only for the superior emcee skills on display of a young Lauryn Hill.
Top tracks: Vocab | Nappy Heads | Some Seek Stardom | Boof Baf
32. M.O.P. - To The Death
“The M.O.P.’s about to run this you couldn’t shun this / I’m leavin rappers with the dumbness…” (Rugged Neva Smoove)
Although labeled hardcore / underground Hip Hop, M.O.P. always had some commercial appeal as well. Similar in rap style to Onyx but arguably more skilled, and most often with better beats, M.O.P. always brought that pure, intense rawness. This is an excellent debut album that flew a little bit under the radar at the time but which has definitely stood the test of time.
Top tracks: How About Some Hardcore | Rugged Neva Smoove | To The Death | Guns N Roses
33. Big Mike - Somethin' Serious
“Fool, I’m something serious” (Something Serious)
Big Mike has always been one of the solid members of the Rap-A-Lot family. As part of the Convicts and in his role as a stand-in for Willie D on Geto Boys’ Till Death Do Us Part, he showed the world that he was more than a competent emcee.
Something Serious is a strong solo album. It has typical smooth and funky Southern sound (with the likes of N.O. Joe, Pimp C and others on the production). While it may have no real stand-out tracks, it doesn’t have any filler tracks either. The album is extremely consistent, focused and cohesive and yet another quality early / mid-90s Rap-A-Lot release.
Top tracks: World Of Mind | Something Serious | Playa Playa | Daddy’s Gone
34. Slick Rick - Behind Bars
“In the slammer kid but I’m innocent / Lord played witty wasn’t having any pity / Now in Razor Blade City…” (Behind Bars)
Not as good as The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick? No, not by a long shot (of course…). But still. Behind Bars is not a bad album at all, even though it was deemed as such at the time of its release. Smooth instrumentals and lyrics, this album is perfectly enjoyable.
Slick Rick was in a bad phase of his life when this album was recorded (during a work release furlough that was part of his jail sentence), but even if Slick Rick is not always in top form here, he still rhymes circles around most other rappers. Don’t sleep on this album.
Top tracks: Behind Bars | All Alone (No One To be With) | Sittin’ In My Car | A Love That’s True (Part One)
35. Black Sheep - Non-Fiction
“With no tricks the fix comes with dope fiend precision / I exercise and extinguish an emcee exhibition / I explode and expose, extreme my extent / I exist to expand, not excess but excellent” (We Boys)
Not as accessible and fun as their classic debut A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, Non-Fiction was pretty much ignored when it was released. That was wrong, though. Compared to their classic debut, Non-Fiction definitely sounds darker and more ‘serious’, but even though it’s different it still is a fine album. Smooth and jazzy production by Mr Lawnge and Dres comes correct on the mic as always. A few interesting guest spots as well (check out Sweet Tee on Who’s Next).
It may lack the spark and commercial appeal of its predecessor and it may contain a few misses, but overall it is more than a solid effort that deserves more recognition than it received.
Top tracks: Who’s Next | Autobiographical | Do Your Thing | B.B.S.
36. Da Brat - Funkdafied
Them calls me the funkdafied, funkalistic, vocalistic / With the real shit, we got the shit you can’t funk with…” (Funkdafied)
This funky album is historic if only because it was the first album by a female emcee to sell over a million units. At 9 tracks (and not all of them bangers) Funkdafied is a little too short and inconsistent to be considered a classic, but it is a dope 1994 release nonetheless.
Top tracks: Funkafied | Fire It Up | Fa All Ya’ll | Give It 2 You
37. Eightball & MJG - On The Outside Looking In
“Tell me what’s goin on, damn, I need help to see / I have chains on my brain from the strain of the / Mental corruption eruptin through this industry / All I see is New York rappers back and forth on BET…” (No Sell Out)
Eightball & MJG were nothing if not consistent in their output. This album may not be the Southern classic their debut album was and not as strong as the next one would be, it is a solid entry in their body of work nonetheless. It does what you’d expect: pimp- and gangsta stories over fat and syrupy Memphis beats. The difference between Eightball & MJG and most of the countless other acts that came / come out with the played-out gangsta fantasies is that Eightball & MJG make it sound GOOD.
Top tracks: Playerz Nite Out | Crumbs 2 Brixx | No Sell Out | So What U Sayin
38. Casual - Fear Itself
“Peep what I wrote / You bit so hard, I though the shit was a quote / But still I’m taxing, axing the competition / And any wack men, I stomp & dis ’em / Easily…” (That’s How It Is)
The third album is a Hieroglyphics trilogy, the first two being Del’s No Need For Alarm and Souls Of Mischief’s 93 Til Infinity, both released the year previous.
Casual doesn’t have the unique personality of Del and because this is a solo joint Fear Itself misses the energy and synergy of SOM’s 93 Til Infinity – so it is understable why this is the least popular album of the three. But is a perfectly enjoyable album nevertheless. The Hiero-production is on point as always and Casual is a dope emcee (and renowned battle rapper), with a good voice and clever punchlines. You can’t go wrong with a Hieroglyphics album.
Top tracks: That’s How It Is | Me-O-Mi-O | Get Off It | I Didn’t Mean To
39. Esham - Closed Casket
“Lock me up and throw away the key / God took my mind and said fuck me / I kick the wicked shit until I can’t no more / I black out so much I can’t think no more…” (Mental Stress)
Esham is a Detroit underground legend who has dropped a lot of albums since he was just a kid. His trademark has always been totally over the top psychopathic lyrics, some that make the Geto Boys look like boy scouts.
This is his fourth album and arguably his best. Sonically it’s great and Esham is a skilled emcee, who’s flow and delivery are tight. Unapologetically sordid, Esham’s at times depraved subject matter obviously isn’t for everyone, but if you take it the way you would take in a horror movie (it’s just fantasy folks), listening to this album can be enjoyable ride nevertheless.
Top tracks: Make Me Wanna Holla | Mental Stress | My Homie Got Shot | Brainwashed
40. Odd Squad - Fadanuf Fa Erybody
“Oh yeah, we’re new on the set but not considered as new jacks / A long time coming, now we’re putting it in your back…” (Here To Say A Little Something)
A forgotten record from the Rap-A-Lot catalog, Devin The Dude’s Odd Squad dropped a fun album with Fadanuf Fa Erybody. In stead of rapping about guns and violence, their subject matter is weed and sex. It’s done with humor though, which makes the goofy rhymes more fun to listen to than you would expect. Production by N.O. Joe (and others ) is tight and the album flows really well. A must have for Devin The Dude fans at least.
Top tracks: Da Squad | Here To Say A Little Something | Jazz Rendition | Came Na Gedown
- Big Daddy Kane – Daddy’s Home
- Brand Nubian – Everything Is Everything
- Bumpy Knuckles – Crazy As A Foxxx
- Scientifik – Criminal
- Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs – Roxbury 02119
- Lords Of The Underground – Keepers Of The Funk
- Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – Break Of Dawn
- Schoolly D – Welcome To America
- Kool Moe Dee – Interlude
- Fu-Schnickens – Nervous Break Down
- Craig Mack – Project: Funk Da World
- Arrested Development – Zingalamaduni
- Paris – Guerrilla Funk
- MC Eiht – We Come Strapped
- Kurious – A Constipated Monkey
- Twista – Resurrection
- UMC’s – Unleashed
- Da Youngsta’s – No Mercy
- Shyheim – Shyheim A/K/A The Rugged Child
- Nefertiti – Living In Fear Of Extinction
- Top Quality – Magnum Opus
- Da Bush Babees – Ambushed
- Ill Al Skratch – Creep Wit’ Me
- Flatlinerz – U.S.A.
- Yaggfu Front – Action Packed Adventure
- Mad Flava – From Tha Ground Unda
- Extra Prolific – Like It Should Be
- Spice 1 – AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare
- Saafir – Boxcar Sessions
- House of Pain – Same as It Ever Was
- Above The Rim – Soundtrack
- Murder Was The Case – Soundtrack
- RBL Posse – Ruthless By Law
- Master P – The Ghettos Tryin to Kill Me
- South Central Cartel – N Gatz We Truss
- Willie D – Play Witcha Mama
- Rappin’ 4-tay – Don’t Fight the Feelin’
- Chunk – Break Em Off A Chunk
- Seagram – Reality Check
- Lil 1/2 Dead – The Dead Has Arisen
- Ant Banks – The Big Badass
- Al Kapone – Sinista Funk
- E.S.G. – Ocean Of Funk
- Ghetto Mafia – Draw The Line
- Tim Smooth – Straight Up Drivin ‘Em
- Triple Six Mafia – Smoked Out, Loced Out
- Little Bruce – XXXtra Manish
- Big Mello – Wegonefunkwichamind
- Point Blank – Mad At The World
- Volume 10 – Hip-Hopera
- Hard 2 Obtain – Ism & Blues
- K-Dee – Ass, Gas Or Cash (No One Rides for Free)
- N2Deep – 24-7-365
- Maestro Fresh Wes – Naaah, Dis Kid Can’t Be From Canada?!!
- DJ Q-Bert – Demolition Pumpkin Squeeze Musik
- DJ Krush – Krush