“When you enjoy a type of music but you are too ashamed to admit you listen to it to your friends or family.”
“A piece of music that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.”
Hip Hop fans are snobs, at least we are. We (like many, many other Hip Hop listeners) are too often ready to quickly judge and dismiss albums and artists that are not ‘real’ enough, that deviate from the ‘traditionalist’ norm, are too ‘pop-oriented’ or too explicit in some way (so you won’t play them around your mom, your kids, or around your Hip Hop purist friends) – or for whatever other reason. For this list, we have selected 15 guilty pleasure Hip Hop albums (for us that is), records that are best enjoyed in private or exclusively in select companies. If you have any Hip Hop albums you listen to regularly that you consider guilty pleasures, share them in the comments!
Kid 'n Play - 2 Hype (1988)
Too positive and ‘clean’ for street-level Hip Hop purists, Kid ‘n Play was shunned by many when they dropped this album – even if it sold enough units to reach gold status. Admittedly, the subject matter is lightweight and safe, but thanks to Kid ‘n Play’s winning personalities the album is also great fun. “Rollin’ With Kid ‘n Play”, “Gittin’ Funky”, “2 Hype”, “Brother Man Get Hip”, “Do the Kid ‘n Play Kick Step”, “Last Night”, and “Undercover” – all great tracks that still hold up today.
2 Live Crew - As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989)
2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be is one of the first widely appreciated Southern Hip Hop albums, and a trailblazing album in many ways. Luke Skyywalker and his crew were frontrunners in the freedom of speech struggle, which in rap music was under threat from conservatives in the late 1980s. Admittedly, the subject matter of 2 Live Crew’s music was controversial, to say the least – the album is almost exclusively made up of juvenile sexual explicitness. Good fun for some, but apparently unbearable for people like free-speech abolitionists. As Nasty As They Wanna Be was the first album in history to be deemed legally obscene – all the controversy didn’t hurt the album’s popularity none of course: it eventually reached double-platinum status. Whether you like the album or not, there’s no denying the significance nor the classic status of As Nasty As They Wanna Be.
Young MC - Stone Cold Rhymin' (1989)
Young MC never quite got the props he deserved for this album in Hip Hop circles. Young MC was readily dismissed for being a ‘pop-rapper’, but he definitely had skills. This debut album is just an all-around fun album, filled with radio-friendly but dope tracks composed of entertaining bars and great flows. You can pop it in today and enjoy the full album without having to skip a track – Stone Cold Rhymin’ is good work.
N.W.A - Efil4ziggan (1991)
After the incredible success and impact of N.W.A‘s game-changing debut album Straight Outta Compton – and after the departure of the creative intelligence of Ice Cube – N.W.A. came back with Efil4ziggan. Efil4ziggan is hard to review. Musically, Dr. Dre reaches near perfection on the production side of things. Lyrically however the album is a step back when compared to N.W.A’s epic debut. Gone is the authenticity and raw intelligence power of Straight Outta Compton, what’s left are dumbed down and sometimes downright silly lyrics – serving more to shock and cause controversy than anything else. The album is also let down by two rather annoying solo Eazy E tracks and some dumb skits (“To Kill A Hooker” – really?). But even taking into account these negatives, the album still is a thoroughly entertaining listen – a guilty pleasure if there ever was one.
Brotha Lynch Hung – Season Of Da Siccness (1995)
Sacramento’s Brotha Lynch Hung is an incredibly underrated emcee, who deserves props as one of the pioneers of the horrorcore subgenre. Season Of Da Siccness is his (full-length) debut album, and like all albums on this list definitely not for the faint of heart. “Locc To Da Brain,”, “Siccmade”, “Rest In Piss”, and “Welcome 2 Your Own Death” are just a few of the standout tracks on this album. Lynch’s great flow perfectly goes with the dark and sinister beats, entirely produced by Lynch himself.
The album is filled with shockingly graphic violent stories and images, but it is intelligent and even sometimes emotional at the same time. Season Of Da Siccness may be hard to digest, but ultimately it has to be considered an all-around classic. Season Of Da Siccness arguably is Brotha Lynch Hung’s best and definitely his most essential album – but most of the rest of his catalog is dope as hell (pun intended) as well, especially his concept album trilogy (Dinner and a Movie (2010), Coathanga Strangla (2011) and Mannibalector (2013)) is more than worth checking out.
Master P - Ghetto D (1997)
Ghetto D is the sixth studio album by New Orleans’ mogul Master P – his best album and one of the flagship albums of his No Limit Records empire. This is an 80-minute masterpiece and a landmark album for Southern Hip Hop. Guests appear on every song, and mostly they are the New Orleans No Limit Soldiers, such as his brothers C-Murder and Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, Mystikal, Fiend, Mr. Serv-On, Kane & Abel, Mo B. Dick, and O’Dell among others. The subject matter is kind of generic, but Master P and his guests make it sound good, also thanks to the energetic production provided by the Beats By the Pound crew, who did most No Limit production.
No Limit Records (together with Cash Money Records) opted for a quantity-over-quality business model that had them spamming the world with an endless stream of the same generic albums over and over again, but that doesn’t mean there were some defining albums among them – this album is one of those. Ghetto D is the jewel in Master P’s No Limit crown.
Kool Keith - Sex Style (1997)
After the brilliant Dr. Octagonecologyst that was released a year earlier, Kool Keith (with the help of Kutmasta Kurt on the boards) returns with Sex Style, presenting some awesomely ridiculous “pornocore”. Any other rapper (with the possible exception of MF DOOM) would sound really really stupid – it’s only Kool Keith who can get away with doing an album like this and come out on top.
Three 6 Mafia - Chapter. 2: World Domination (1997)
The breakout album from Three 6 Mafia. The Memphis crew made a mainstream buzz with this album, which builds on their earlier releases, reprising four hits previously released on Mystic Stylez (1995) and Chapter 1: The End (1996): “Late Nite Tip”, “N 2 Deep”, “Body Parts” and “Tear Da Club Up”. Chapter. 2: World Domination is filled with top-tier dark and hypnotic beats crafted by DJ Paul and Juicy J, and with cutthroat lyrical content – at 80+ minutes this is a monster of an album, but it never overstays its welcome. Chapter. 2: World Domination is a BANGER from start to finish – Three 6 Mafia’s best.
Kool Keith - Matthew (2000)
We like this album, even if lots of people don’t. Kool Keith is ANGRY on Matthew and he does little more than spitting venom about wack commercial rappers, over a batch of kind of admittedly not-so-strong beats he cooked up himself. But… there IS a certain charm to his anger here, and if you go in expecting no more than a bunch of rough around the edges instrumentals and a Kool Keith at his unfiltered angriest, there are enough moments here to make you smile. Matthew is one of the most divisive albums in Kool Keith’s catalog – lots of fans love it, but this is definitely not the album to present to Kool Keith noobs, at least not if you want to get them interested in the rest of the man’s music.
Sm*t Peddlers – P*rn Again (2001)
P*rn Again is an album by the Smut Peddlers, a group composed of Mr. Eon and DJ Mighty Mi from The High & Mighty, and Cage. The porn-themed content is pretty funny, and guest appearances of HHGA favorites like Kool Keith, Kool G Rap, and R.A. The Rugged Man provides the icing on the cake.
J-Zone & Celph Titled Are The Boss Hog Barbarians - Every Hog Has Its Day (2006)
Every Hog Has Its Day is not an album for the easily offended or for those without a sense of humor. Quite different from J-Zone and Celph Titled’s work outside this collaboration, Every Hog Has Its Day is kind of a concept album on which the duo explores… something (how to be as misogynistic as possible, maybe). The blurb on their Bandcamp page may tell you something about what they’re going for here:
If you feel froggish, then leap. But if you feel hoggish, then creep! It was inevitable. Say no more, the Hogs are here. As a group, J-Zone and Celph Titled (aka Kenny Hoggins and Wade Hoggs) are the Bo$$ Hog Barbarian$. The two multi-talented beatsmiths/rappers/entertainers/masters of all that is rude are in the house for a full-length ride. Enter Hog Heaven, where the order of the day is foul-mouthed trash talk, funkafied beats, and a sense of humor, to the 50th power. With nearly all production by J-Zone and Celph Titled, the lone outside beat comes from none other than the legendary Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz’, longtime Hog affiliates. On the rapping side? No guests!! Hogs don’t need em. Celph and Zone are the Jordan and Pippen of Hog Heaven, so no help is necessary. 100% pure unadulterated hoggin’. With the single, “$teady $mobbin’” b/w “Celph Destruction”, already makin noise, this album will Hog your arteries. You’ve been warned… they won’t stop hoggin’ nooooo!
Obviously intended as a comedic presentation, or maybe even as a parody of artists who do this kind of thing as if they mean it, Every Hog Has Its Day is nothing but harmless – if at times deeply offensive – fun, with funky beats and humorous punchlines. A hate-it or love-it kind of album probably, depending on the listener’s sense of humor and ability to not take things all too seriously.
Eminem – Relapse (2009)
Eminem is one the biggest names in Hip Hop ever, with one absolute classic – The Marschall Matters LP (2000) – on his name, and two albums that come close enough: The Slim Shady LP (1999) and The Eminem Show (2002). The rest of his catalog is more miss than hit, though. Even if Eminem’s lyrical abilities are never in question, most of his other albums are usually plagued by weak beats, bad features, and corny hooks. That said, Eminem tends to be over-hated by a lot of people, because his output besides his three classics is not all bad.
Relapse is an example of an Eminem album that received much more hate than it deserved. There are no misplaced popstar features here, the hooks are mostly OK, as are the beats. The dark, horrorcore concept works and Em’s pen game and lyrical skill are unbeatable. Relapse is a great album, and easily Eminem’s best behind the three classics.
Waka Flocka Flame - Flockavelli (2010)
Flockavelli is a pivotal album: the ultimate crunk album that also helped determine the direction of the trap subgenre – everything released before Flockavelli can be seen as pre-trap, and everything released since as post-trap. Perhaps this is overstating the significance of Flockavelli, but the fact is that this turned out to be a hugely influential album – a game-changer that set the groundwork for the next generation of (t)rap artists. Waka Flocka Flame is not the best songwriter nor the best lyricist to ever pick up a pen and a mic, but it’s his infectious energy and charisma that elevates Flockavelli to that next level. Bombastic bass-heavy beats, sharp synths, and aggressive rapping – this is a fun album full of bangers that are aging really well.
Lil Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation (2012)
Lil Ugly Mane is one of the many aliases of Richmond, Virginia’s producer/rapper Travis Miller. The surface has to be scratched to see what’s going on and what Travis Miller set out to do here. The cover art obviously is a play on the terrible aesthetics used to market the bland rap drivel that used to come out of the No Limit and Cash Money rap factories, as is the album’s title. The Lil Ugly Mane stage name can be seen as a stab at all the other ‘Lil’ rappers and other gangsta rap/trap artists – who all drop the same kind of generic dumbass projects, talking about the exact same things time and time again: bitches, hoes, money, cars, drugs, guns, murder, etc. Lil Ugly Mane does the same here, but he makes a caricature of it – so to think Lil Ugly Mane is just one of the many trap clones definitely would be wrong, even if first glances would suggest him to be exactly that.
What Lil Ugly Mane does is take the gangsta rap and trap trappings and turn them on their head. There is a thin line between silliness and dark comedy, but Lil Ugly Mane succeeds in staying on the right side of that line throughout this album. Through Lil Ugly Mane’s over-the-top lyrical imagery it’s clear he doesn’t take himself all too seriously, cleverly mocking all those empty boastful rappers who do and who start to believe they are the persona they invented.
Mista Thug Isolation is produced by Shawn Kemp, another Travis Miller alias, and the instrumentals he crafted are great – a flawlessly executed blend of fat 90s-centric Memphis beats, horror-core eeriness, and psychedelic and jazzy vibes. The beats serve as the perfect backdrop for Miller’s lyrical tongue-in-cheek humor and biting irony. Mista Thug Isolation is a defining underground cult classic, an album that will undoubtedly stand the test the time.
Travis Scott - Rodeo (2015)
Rodeo is Houston rapper Travis Scott’s long-awaited debut album following his first two mixtapes, Owl Pharaoh and Days Before Rodeo. The album features guest appearances from Quavo, Future, 2 Chainz, Juicy J, Kacy Hill, The Weeknd, Swae Lee, Chief Keef, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Young Thug, Toro y Moi, and Schoolboy Q, while the production was provided by Travis Scott himself, alongside several high-profile producers such as WondaGurl, Allen Ritter, Mike Dean, Metro Boomin, Frank Dukes, and Sonny Digital, among others.
Rodeo is something special, bold in experimentation and unlike anything else heard before (or since) in the trap genre, which is often plagued by genericness. Rodeo‘s futuristic and psychedelic vibes are captivating, the dark and artsy production is phenomenal, and most of the vocal contributions go well with the musical backdrops. Also, Travis Scott is one of the rare artists who manages to utilize autotune as an instrument, not as a tool to hide the lack of skill. This is the go-to album for anti-trap biased old heads and other Hip Hop traditionalists who are ready to step over their shadows and give trap a chance.