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list Oct 1 2019 Written by

Top 100 Hip Hop Albums Of The 1980s

Hip Hop Golden Age 8os Album Covers

On August 11, 1973, a DJ named Kool Herc threw a party in the basement of an apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in The Bronx, New York – a date now commonly seen as the day when Hip Hop was ‘born’. Of course, the foundations of Hip Hop were laid even earlier and in different places by different people, but August 11, 1973 has become a symbolic date signifying ‘the birth of Hip Hop’. It took some time before artists actually started recording and releasing music, but once they did Hip Hop quickly grew into the most dominant cultural movement in the world.

Here you’ll find our Top 100 Hip Hop Albums Of The 1980s – let’s get into it!

Also read: Greatest Hip Hop Albums 1980 – 2019

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

public enemy 1988

“Yes – the rhythm, the rebel / Without a pause – I’m lowering my level / The hard rhymer – where you never been I’m in…” (Rebel Without A Pause)

Public Enemy‘s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is one of the best albums ever made, in any genre. The best and one of the most important Hip Hop albums ever. Enough said.

Top tracks: Rebel Without A Pause | Bring The Noise | Don’t Believe The Hype | Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos

2. Eric B & Rakim - Paid In Full (1987)


“This is how It should be done. This style is identical to none…” (I Know You Got Soul)

In a music genre still in its infancy, this Eric B & Rakim masterpiece was a game-changer. Seductive, smooth yet hard beats laced with Rakim’s innovative and intricate rhyme style, make for this groundbreaking and seminal work.

This is one of the albums that can be seen as a precursor to 1988, Hip Hop’s break-out year. An album that established Hip Hop as a musical genre that was there to stay. Paid In Full will forever be recognized as one of Hip Hop’s ultimate classics. Filled with unforgettable tracks and Hip Hop anthems this album is a must-have. If you don’t own this album, your Hip Hop collection is incomplete.

Top tracks: I Ain’t No Joke | My Melody | Eric B Is President | Move The Crowd

3. Ultramagnetic MCs - Critical Beatdown (1988)


“Well I’m the ultimate, the rhyme imperial / I’m better, but some don’t believe me though / But I’m a pro in hot material / On your Walkman, box or any stereo” (Watch Me Now)

A classic album that has stood the test of time – Kool Keith‘s unique style & lyrics along with the excellent overall production ensure this is one for the ages. Highly original & innovative and very consistent – no weak tracks here.

Critically acclaimed, but at the same time slept on and somehow underappreciated – this is one of HHGA’s all-time favorite albums and deserves its top spot in this list of Hip Hop’s break-out decade.

Top tracks: Ego Trippin’ | Ease Back | Watch Me Now | Funky

4. Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded (1987)


“We’re not promoting violence, we’re just having some fun – he’s Scott La Rock, I’m KRS One” (Criminal Minded)

After making a name for themselves in the NYC Hip Hop underground, former social worker Scott La Rock and one of his clients, KRS One, formed Boogie Down Productions and came out in 1987 with Criminal Minded.

The sparse production by the artists – and the at the time uncredited Ced Gee of the Ultramagnetic MCs – combined with KRS One’s lyrical content and distinctive delivery make this album a definitive Hip Hop classic, that without a doubt is up there with the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time.

Together with other groundbreaking 1987 debuts of Eric B & Rakim (Paid In Full) and Public Enemy (Yo! Bum Rush The Show), this album set the standard for Golden Age of Hip Hop.

Top Tracks: The Bridge Is Over | South Bronx | Criminal Minded | Poetry

5. De La Soul - 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)


“Mirror, mirror on the wall / Tell me, mirror, what is wrong? / Can it be my De La clothes / Or is it just my De La song?” (Me, Myself & I)

Innovative and hugely influential – this cooperation between De La Soul and producer Prince Paul is truly a landmark album in Hip Hop (and music in general).

This album introduced the skit to Hip Hop albums; and although skits more often irritate than add value, on this album they work. The whole album is consistent and all the songs are awesome – no filler tracks here. Clever wordplay, deft rhymes, playful production, positivity, and fun: 3 Feet High And Rising represented a new direction for Hip Hop, clearly a reaction to cliches already emerging in Hip Hop, even in its early years.

De La Soul’s debut is a must-have for anyone who loves Hip Hop and an all-time classic.

Top tracks: The Magic Number | Say No Go | Eye Know | Ghetto Thang

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


“Gather ’round party go-ers as if your still livin / And get on down to the old Slick rhythm” (The Ruler’s Back)

It doesn’t get much better than this. A flawless album from start to finish, filled with dope tracks. Slick Rick‘s superior storytelling abilities, combined with his humor and typical rap style, make this album an unforgettable classic.

Top tracks: Mona Lisa | The Ruler’s Back | Hey Young World | Children’s Story

7. N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (1988)


“Straight outta Compton, crazy motherf***** named Ice Cube / From the gang called N***** With Attitudes…” (Straight Outta Compton) 

This album was a game-changer; for better or for worse. One of the first real ‘gangsta rap’ albums, and one of the most successful, going multi-platinum without any radio play. It influenced and changed the direction of Hip Hop, producing countless clones for decades to come. The difference between all the clones and this album is the originality and authenticity of Straight Outta Compton; combined with the revolutionary & flawless production of Dr Dre and the raw energy & at the time shocking lyrical imagery of Ice Cube, MC Ren & Eazy E.

Top tracks: Straight Outta Compton | F*** Tha Police | Gangsta Gangsta | Express Yourself

8. Run DMC - Raising Hell (1986)

RUN DMC Raising Hell 1986

“Kings from Queens, from Queens come Kings / We’re raising hell like a class when the school bell rings…”

One of the first mega-sellers in Hip Hop and the album that would cement the status of Run DMC as the most important Hip Hop act of the time. A brilliant album, with perfect interplay between Jam Master Jay – one of the first great all-round DJ’s in the game – and the back-and-forth rhyming of DMC and Run.

This album, together with Beastie Boys‘ debut Licensed To Ill from the same year, was responsible for opening Hip Hop to all kinds of audiences all over the world. Run DMC “took the beat from the street and put it on TV”.

Top tracks: Peter Piper | Raising Hell | My Adidas | It’s Tricky

9. LL Cool J - Radio (1985)


“LL Cool J is hard as hell / Battle anybody / I don’t care who you tell…” (Rock The Bells)

LL Cool J‘s debut album is one of the most influential Hip Hop albums of all time. Together with Run DMC’s debut album from the year before, Radio was the second album that would set the tone for how Hip Hop was going to sound.

Rick Rubin’s stripped-down, minimalistic production complements LL Cool J B-Boy attitude and revolutionary lyricism perfectly. This is one of the greatest and most important debuts in the history of Hip Hop and LL Cool J is one of the all-time greats.

Top tracks: Rock The Bells | I Can’t Live Without My Radio | Dangerous | You’ll Rock

10. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (1989)


“Now I rock a house party at the drop of a hat / I beat a biter down with an aluminum bat / a lot of people they be Jonesin’ just to hear me rock the mic / they’ll be staring at the radio / staying up all night” (Shake Your Rump)

Was there ever an album, in any genre, that used sampling more brilliantly and creatively than Paul’s Boutique? This album truly is sampling heaven. Paul’s Boutique was completely different from Beastie Boys‘ much easier accessible and commercially super successful debut album Licensed To Ill, and not what a lot of fans of that album were expecting.

Initially a commercial failure, Paul’s Boutique aged like fine wine and with it the appreciation for it. Now considered a landmark album in Hip Hop, it’s the ultimate example for what the Beastie Boys always stood for: creativity and innovation. They were never afraid to reinvent themselves and stretch (and cross) genre boundaries, while at the same time keeping it real.

A timeless masterpiece, Paul’s Boutique will forever be remembered as a classic album, in music, not just in Hip Hop.

Top tracks: Shake Your Rump | Hey Ladies | Shadrach | B-Boy Bouillabaisse

11. Run DMC - Run DMC (1984)


“You five-dollar boy and I’m a million-dollar man / You’se a sucker emcee, and you’re my fan” (Sucker MCs)

This album would be the one to change the direction of Hip Hop. Going for rock-infused, stripped-down, hard beats and a new kind of emceeing, it was game-changing in more ways than one. A great prelude to even greater things to come. The new standard.

Top tracks: Sucker MCs | Jam Master Jay | Hollis Crew | Rock Box

12. Eric B & Rakim - Follow The Leader (1988)

follow the leader album cover

“I was a fiend before I became a teen / I melted microphone instead of cones of ice cream / Music orientated so when Hip Hop was originated / Fitted like pieces of puzzles, complicated” (Microphone Fiend)

Faced with the impossible task to follow up the game-changing classic Paid In Full, Eric B & Rakim delivered anyway. Rakim raised the bar of emceeing to a level few ever approached.

Top tracks: Microphone Fiend | Follow The Leader | Lyrics Of Fury | Musical Massacre

13. The DOC - No One Can Do It Better (1989)


“Keepin’ it dope as long as I can like imagine / Makin’ each record that I do better than the last one” (The Formula)

On the heels of the explosive success of N.W.A‘s Straight Outta Compton, Dr Dre turns out another flawlessly produced album. The D.O.C. proved to be a talented emcee who complements Dre’s beats perfectly. The D.O.C. doesn’t need gangster posturing to show and prove he is the man – he has the skills and confidence to carry this album and to make it an all-time Hip Hop classic.

Top tracks: It’s Funky Enough | The Formula | Mind Blowin’ | The Grand Finale

14. Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane (1988)

“Let it roll, get bold, I just can’t hold / Back, or fold cos I’m a man with soul / In control and effect, so what the heck / Rock the discotheque and this groove is what’s next” (Set It Off)

With Big Daddy Kane‘s debut album, he immediately established himself as one of Hip Hop’s top lyricists. This album was produced by Marley Marl at the peak of his powers and is a definitive Hip Hop classic.

Top tracks: Raw | Set It Off | Ain’t No Halfsteppin’ | Long Live The Kane

15. Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary (1988)


“See I’m telling, and teaching pure facts / The way some act in rap is kind of wack / And it lacks creativity and intelligence / But they don’t care cause their company’s selling it” (My Philosophy)

Not even one year after Boogie Down Productions‘ classic debut album Criminal Minded, and shortly after the murder of Scott La Rock, KRS One drops another classic. KRS One quickly establishes himself as the conscious voice of Hip Hop, together with Public Enemy – a role both acts would maintain in the decades to follow.

Top tracks: My Philosophy | Ya Slippin’ | I’m Still No. 1 | Stop The Violence

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


“Well I’m all in / put it up on the board / another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared / 1-2-3 down for the count / the result of my lyrics, oh yes, no doubt” (Public Enemy No. 1) 

The classic debut of one of Hip Hop’s greatest and most important groups of all time. This album truly was a game-changer, production- and content-wise. Rough, hard-hitting beats and turntablism, complemented by Chuck D’s booming voice and Flavor Flav’s antics – Yo! Bum Rush The Show was revolutionary in many ways. Hugely influential and the stepping stone to Public Enemy‘s follow up and Hip Hop’s ultimate classic album: It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.

Top Tracks: You’re Gonna get Yours | Miuzi Weighs A Ton |  Timebomb | Public Enemy No. 1

17. EPMD - Strictly Business (1988)


“Relax your mind, let your conscience be free / And get down to the sounds of EPMD” (You Gots To Chill)

Consistent quality. Two words that describe the work of EPMD. EPMD’s first album immediately delivered the goods: funky beats and dope rhymes – it established EPMD as one of the true powerhouses in Hip Hop.

Top tracks: Strictly Business | You Gots To Chill | Get Off The Bandwagon | Let The Funk Flow

18. Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill (1986)


“Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell / About three bad brothers you know so well / It started way back in history / With Adrock, M.C.A. and me, Mike D” (Paul Revere)

A timeless classic. Licensed To Ill offers pure energy and great fun. The Beastie Boys were the first white act in Hip Hop to make it big, and maintain credibility and respect in the Hip Hop world throughout their career. This album is another one of the big, early successes of Def Jam – the dominating and most innovating record label at the time, extremely important for the exposure of Hip Hop to larger audiences worldwide.

Top tracks: Paul Revere | The New Style | Rhymin And Stealin | Hold It Now, Hit It

19. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Road To The Riches


“Bass, snare drum in your eardrum / Musical outcome, lyrical tantrum / Energy enters me, power absorbed / Phonograph arts and crafts mic warlord” (Rhymes I Express)

Kool G Rap is generally considered one of the greatest emcees ever, a pioneer of multi-syllabic & internal rhymes and complex rhyme schemes. And he could spit too. Later he would go on to make the ‘maffioso’ rap not everyone can appreciate, but here he was a straight-up emcee with mostly braggadocio, battle-ready rhymes over Marley Marl’s sparse beats. Kool G Rap is often named your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, and this album shows why.

Top tracks: Road To The Riches | Butcher Shop | Rhymes I Express | Poison

20. LL Cool J - Bigger And Deffer (1987)


“No rapper can rap quite like I can – I’ll take a musclebound man and put his face in the sand” (I’m Bad) 

Still early days in Hip Hop, but in 1987 LL Cool J already drops his sophomore album. One of the first mega-sellers in Hip Hop (together with 1986 albums Raising Hell from Run DMC & Licensed To Ill from the Beastie Boys). LL Cool J at the top of his game.

Top tracks: I’m Bad | The Doo-Wop | Go Cut Creator Go | The Breakthrough

21. Ice T - Power (1988)


“I’m livin’ large as possible, posse unstoppable / Style topical, vividly optical” (Power)

Power, Ice T‘s second studio album, is an excellent follow up to his 1987 debut Rhyme Pays. Dope beats & lyrics, and carried by Ice T’s personality – this is a classic album that definitely has stood the test of time.

Top tracks: Power | High Rollers | Personal | Drama

22. EPMD - Unfinished Business (1989)


“My father always told me to wisen up son / Cause if you hung with nine broke friends, you’re bound to be the 10th one” (It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Fame)

No sophomore slump for EPMD. One year after their brilliant debut album Strictly Business they turned out another classic. A tight album from start to finish, Unfinished Business proved EPMD’s consistency.

Top tracks: So Whatcha Sayin’ | The Big Payback | Strictly Snappin’ Necks | It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Fame

23. Jungle Brothers - Done By the Forces Of Nature (1989)

“Round and round, upside down / Living my life underneath the ground / Never heard of and hardly seen / A whole lot of talk about the Red, Black and Green” (Beyond This World) 

The Jungle Brothers never really received the same recognition their fellow Native Tongues crews De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest did, but their first two albums are straight up Native Tongue classics as well. Their 1988 debut Straight Out Of The Jungle is a classic, this one is more than a worthy follow-up. Conscious, positive and funky – what’s not to like?

Top tracks: Doin’ Our Own Dang | Beyond This World | Sunshine | What U Waitin’ 4

24. MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock (1988)


“This thing called Hip Hop, Lyte is ruling it / I hate to laugh in your face, but you’re funny / Your beat, your rhyming, your timing, all crummy” (10% Diss) 

A female emcee who can spit with the best of them, male or female. MC Lyte‘s debut album still is a classic piece of work, that belongs in any Hip Hop fan’s collection.

Top tracks: Paper Thin | 10% Diss | I Cram To Understand U | Kickin’ 4 Brooklyn

25. Ice T - Rhyme Pays (1987)


“6 in the morning, police at my door, fresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floor” (6 N The Morning)

Even with a sometimes uneven production and an Ice T who hasn’t quite reached the peaks of his lyrical skills yet – this album is an undeniable classic. Very influential (for good or for bad), it was one of the very first albums with ‘gangsta rap’ themes (although with limited profanity). In 1987 the gangsta theme still had originality and authenticity, which makes Ice T a true O.G. & a bonafide Hip Hop icon.

Top tracks: 6 N The Morning | Pain | Squeeze The Trigger | Rhyme Pays

26. Jungle Brothers - Straight Out The Jungle (1988)

“Educated man, from the motherland / You see, they call me a star but that’s not what I am / I’m a jungle brother, a true, blue brother / And I’ve been to many places you’ll never discover” (Straight Out The Jungle)

The debut album of the Jungle Brothers, and the first album of a group affiliated with The Native Tongues collective. An influential album – it marked the beginning of a series of albums by groups like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Black Sheep. Dope production, mellow rhymes – another 1988 classic, arguably the greatest year in the history of Hip Hop.

Top tracks: Straight Out The Jungle | On The Run | Because I Got it Like That | What’s Going On

27. Schoolly D - Saturday Night The Album (1987)


“It was Saturday night and I was feeling kinda funny, gold around my neck, pockets full of money” (Saturday Night)

Attitude. Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D was all about attitude. Though not the best rapper ever to spit rhymes, he dropped some important albums in the mid-’80s and carried them with his personality. This second album shows Schoolly D in top form – hardcore lyrics over minimalist, hard-hitting beats. The first two Schoolly D albums belong in any Hip Hop fans music collection.

Top Tracks: Saturday Night | B-Boy & Rhyme Riddle | Dis Groove Is Bad | Parkside 5-2

28. Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip Hop (1989)


“I believe that if you’re teaching history / Filled with straight up facts no mystery / Teach the student what needs to be taught / ‘Cause Black and White kids both take shorts / When one doesn’t know about the other ones’ culture / Ignorance swoops down like a vulture…” (You Must Learn)

By 1989 BDP had already two very different, but equally classic albums out. This third effort only cemented BDP’s and KRS One‘s prominence in Hip Hop. KRS One firmly establishes himself as Hip Hop’s no.1 conscious voice.

Top tracks: Why Is That? | Bo! Bo! Bo! | You Must Learn | Jack Of Spades

29. Geto Boys - Grip It! On That Other Level (1989)


“I’m back like a rebel ‘making trouble’ / I’m an Assassin, kickin a** on the double / No motherf*****alive’s gonna stop me / So f*** you and your goddamn posse” (Do It Like A G.O.)

The Geto Boys‘ second album, but the first one with the ‘realest’ line-up: Scarface, Willie D & Bushwick Bill (plus DJ Ready Red). This album is as groundbreaking as NWA’s Straight Outta Compton in many ways – with it’s violent and misogynistic topics. The beats are excellent and the emcees are dope as well. The album that put Houston Hip Hop on the map.

Top tracks: Mind Of A Lunatic | Do It Like A G.O. | Scarface | Size Ain’t Shit

30. Eazy E - Eazy Duz It (1988)


“Woke up quick, at about noon / Jus’ thought that I had to be in Compton soon” (Boyz N The Hood)

Eazy E‘s debut album really is a veiled N.W.A. album. The lyrics are written by Ice Cube, The D.O.C., and MC Ren, who also makes a few appearances. The production is handled by Dr Dre & DJ Yella– this clearly is a group effort. A little less consistent than N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton – released in the same year – this album still is a bonafide (West Coast) Hip Hop classic.

Top tracks: Boys N The Hood | Eazy Duz It | Eazy-er Said Than Dunn | We Want Eazy

31. Stetsasonic - On Fire (1986)


“When we’re coolin’ on the block we carry our big box / Playin L.L.’s ‘Rock the Bells’ or Run’s ‘Rock Box’ / Wearin some high-top Cons or some Fila socks / And the newest Benetton sweatshirt in stock…” (On Fire)

The first Hip Hop band: Stetsasonic came out with a bang with this album in 1986. Fine work from a young Prince Paul on the boards and great synergy between Stet’s emcees – this is an essential 80’s Hip Hop album.

Top tracks: On Fire | My Rhyme | 4 Ever My Beat | Just Say Stet

32. Ice T - The Iceberg (1989)


“Cos I’m the coldest motherf***** that you ever heard / Call me The Ice…or just The Iceberg” (The Iceberg)

Ice-T‘s grittiest album, but one with great variation lyrically as well as sonically. From the epic, ominous intro “Shut Up, Be Happy” (featuring Jello Biafra and brilliantly interpolating Black Sabbath’s classic “Black Sabbath”) to the all-out fun “My Word Is Bond” – this album has something for everybody.

The chilled-out album opener “The Iceberg”, the dope 9-minute posse cut “What Ya Wanna Do”, the personal “This One’s For Me”, the gangster tale “Peel Their Caps Back”, the thought-provoking “You Played Yourself”, the multi-layered noise on “The Hunted Child” and “Lethal Weapon” – this album is packed with dope tracks.

The album’s most important theme – as evidenced in the album’s subtitle and the song “Freedom Of Speech” – is the PMRC censorship that was being imposed on Hip Hop artists at the time. The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech… Just Watch What You Say! is a tight album, one of Ice T’s best and the one that established Ice-T as one of Hip Hop’s most prominent and authentic personalities.

Top tracks: You Played Yourself | This One’s On Me | The Hunted Child | Lethal Weapon

33. Big Daddy Kane - It's A Big Daddy Thing (1989)


“Come, get some, you little bum / I take the cake but you can’t get a crumb / From the poetic, authentic, superior / Ultimate – and all that good sh**” (Warm It Up)

Maybe not as groundbreaking as his debut Long Live The Kane, still this album shows Big Daddy Kane in top form. Nobody (with the exception of Rakim) touched the mic skills of BDK. This album is a just a little bit too long (with a few filler tracks) to be considered a true classic, but BDK’s persona and lyrical ability throughout make this an essential Golden Age album.

Top tracks: Another Victory | Mortal Combat | Warm It Up | Smooth Operator

34. Schoolly D - Schoolly D (1985)


“PSK we’re making that green / People always say, “What the hell does that mean?”…” (P.S.K. What Does It Mean)

Often recognized as the first ‘gangster rapper’, Schoolly D dropped an underground classic with this debut. Hard-ass beats & lyrics: vintage Schoolly D.

Top tracks: P.S.K. What Does It Mean | Gucci Time | I Don’t Like Rock & Roll | Freestyle Rappin’

35. Marley Marl - In Control Vol 1 (1988)


“Yo, Marley gives the slice, I get nice / And my voice is twice as horrifying as Vincent Price” (The Symphony)

With the Juice Crew and it’s individual members in full effect, 1988 was also the year for this Marley Marl compilation album. An album filled with dope tracks, with the stand-out “The Symphony” as its biggest attraction.

Top tracks: The Symphony | Droppin’ Science | Simon Says | Live Motivator

36. Biz Markie - Goin Off (1988)


“Can you feel it / Nothin’ can save ya / For this is the season of catchin’ the vapors” (Vapors)

Another Marley Marl production from the Juice Crew golden era. Biz Markie always was the joker character from that group of artists – originally a beatboxer, but a pretty decent emcee as well. Nothing deep here, just funny rhymes and Biz’ antics over Marley’s dope beats.

Top tracks: Goin’ Off | Nobody Beats The Biz | Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz | Vapors

37. Too Short - Life Is… (1988)


“I remember how it all began / I used to sing dirty raps to my East Side fans” (Life Is… Too Short) 

Our favorite Too Short album from his extensive discography. Already a Hip Hop veteran by 1988, Too Short came into his own on this album. Trademark explicit lyrics, with his typical laid-back flow and music to ride to. This album is one of his most consistent ones and contains a few classic tracks.

Top tracks: Life Is… | Cusswords | I Ain’t Trippin’ | Nobody Does It Better

38. LL Cool J - Walking With A Panther (1989)


I release the juice smack dab in your face / Do damage, I’m pickin’ up the pace / My mics’ like a torch when I’m walkin’ at nighttime / straight to the dome, it’s like a pipeline” (It Gets No Rougher)

LL Cool J‘s much-maligned (and underappreciated) third album. It got slammed because it focused on bragging and materialism in an era when the afro-centric consciousness of acts like Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Queen Latifah, Jungle Brothers, and others was the thing. The album should be judged for what is though, and not for it is not. And even if the album contains a couple of weak love songs, Walking With A Panther is long enough to be able to redeem itself. 15 dope tracks are more than enough to make this an album to be respected and loved.

Top tracks: It Gets No Rougher | Droppin ‘Em | Going Back To Cali | Fast Peg

39. MC Shan - Down By The Law (1987)


“Hip Hop was set out in the dark, they used to do it out in the park” (The Bridge)

A very solid debut by MC Shan. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Marley Marl on the boards. Tracks like ‘The Bridge’ & ‘Kill That Noise’ sparked the Bridge Wars between the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions, and although BDP emerged victoriously, MC Shan more than held his own & The Juice Crew’s honor.

Top tracks: The Bridge | Kill That Noise | Down By Law | Living In The World Of Hip Hop

40. Run DMC - Tougher Than Leather (1988)


“Some underestimate / And miscalculate / My intent to create what I call the great” (Run’s House)

By 1988 Run DMC were no longer solo king-of-the-hill in Hip Hop. Also, they faced the impossible task following up their mega-successful third album, the hugely influential 1986 classic Raising Hell. They pretty much succeeded with Tougher Than Leather. Typical Run DMC: high energy, braggadocious, hard-hitting but clean – a dope Hip Hop album from Run DMC at their peak; and sadly their last great one.

Top tracks: Run’s House | Beats To The Rhyme | Mary Mary | I’m Not Going Out Like That

41. 3rd Bass - The Cactus Album (1989)


“Ready in the intro, cue up the Serch-lite / Point us to the center stage, I’ll grab the first mic / Projectin’ the voice with this mic that I’m cuffin’ / You ain’t my nucka, sucker I’m snuffin’” (Steppin’ to the A.M.)

A long, but an excellent album. It could have done without the skits, but it is pretty much dope from start to finish. MC Serch & Pete Nice are competent emcees and the production & beats are excellent. Essential Golden Age material. Also notable for the first appearance of MF DOOM (as KMD’s Zev Love X)

Top tracks: Brooklyn-Queens | The Gas Face | Triple Stage Darkness | Steppin’ to the A.M.

42. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - He's The DJ I'm The Rapper (1988)


“It’s new, it’s out of the ordinary / It’s rather extraordinary, so yo bust this commentary / A literary genius and a superior beat creator / Have come together, and we made a / Musical composition which we think is a remedy / To cure all the dance floors that’s empty…” (Brand New Funk)

He’s The DJ I’m The Rapper was the duo’s second album and the first double album in Hip Hop. It was a huge success, reaching triple platinum status. It established pioneering DJ Jazzy Jeff as one of the all-time great DJs in Hip Hop and was the stepping stone to Will Smith‘s international superstar status. Back then The Fresh Prince was a talented emcee with a dope flow and great storytelling skills. Together they were one of the acts responsible for making Hip Hop accessible to a wider audience when it was still cool to create clean and fun Hip Hop music.

Top tracks: As We Go | Here We Go Again | Brand New Funk | Time To Chill

43. Run DMC - King Of Rock (1985)


“I’m the king of rock, there is none higher / Sucker MC’s should call me sire / To burn my kingdom, you must use fire / I won’t stop rockin’ till I retire” (King Of Rock)

Run DMC’s second album established them as Hip Hop’s top act of the time and was the stepping stone to one of Hip Hop’s biggest albums ever: Raising Hell.

Top tracks: King Of Rock | Darryl And Joe | Jam Master Jammin | Can You Rock It Like This

44. Gang Starr - No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989)


“I suggest you take a breath for the words I manifest, they will scold you and mold you, while I impress upon you the fact that, I use my tact at rhymin for climbin, and chill while I attract that girl you’re with…” (Manifest)

Gang Starr‘s debut album. They are still coming into their sound here, which they would find on Step In The Arena and perfect on Daily Operation. But this is a dope album in its own right and a must-have for any Gang Starr fan.

Top tracks: Manifest | Conscience Be Free | DJ Premier In Deep Concentration | Positivity

45. Mantronix - Mantronix (1985)


We’re back, we’re fresh and were here to stay…” (Bassline)

Producer Kurtis Mantronik did some classic work in the 1980s, producing for the likes of Just-Ice and T la Rock. He also dropped a few dope ‘electronic’ Hip Hop albums as a duo with MC Tee, with this 1985 debut album being their best.

Top tracks: Needle To The Groove | Bassline | Ladies | Hardcore Hip Hop

46. MC Lyte - Eyes On This (1989)


“You can cha-cha-cha to this Mardis Gras / I’m the dopest female that you’ve heard thus far” (Cha Cha Cha)

MC Lyte second album solidified her status as one of the best emcees out there, male or female. With Lyte on the mic and production from EPMD‘s Parrish Smith, Brand Nubian‘s Grand Puba, Audio Two & Marley Marl, you can’t go wrong with this album.

Top tracks: Cha Cha Cha | Cappucino | Shut the Eff Up! (Hoe) | Not Wit’ A Dealer

47. Whodini - Escape (1984)

TEG-78507 EVA Box Pack

“Friends / Is a word we use every day / Most the time we use it in the wrong way / Now you can look the word up, again and again / But the dictionary doesn’t know the meaning of friends…” (Friends)

Whodini is a pioneering Hip Hop group who never really got the recognition they deserved. This is their best album.

Top tracks: Five Minutes Of Funk | Friends | Freaks Come Out A Night | Escape

48. Low Profile - We're In This Together (1989)


“Mic check, now in effect / Suckers still comin short / That’s why I’m callin order in the court / It looks like a lotta suckers gotta learn the hard way / It doesn’t pay when you tamper with my deejay” (Aladdin’s On A Rampage)

Low Profile is a collaboration between World Champion DJ Aladdin and rapper WC before he formed WC & The MAAD Circle. This album is a real Hip Hop album; with a WC on the mic before he started gangster posing and a DJ with dope turntable techniques. Consistent throughout, this is a slept on West Coast gem.

Top tracks: Aladdin’s On A Rampage | How Ya Livin’ | Pay Ya Dues | Keep Em Flowin

49. Nice & Smooth - Nice & Smooth (1989)

nice and smooth

“Rap czar, superstar / No limitation in my life and I’m known to go far” (Early To Rise) 

Another forgotten classic from a time when it was still OK to make humorous, clean and catchy Hip Hop. One of Hip Hop’s most respected duos, this was their signature album and their best work.

Top tracks: Funky For You | No Delayin’ | Ooh Child | Early To Rise

50. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Rock The House (1987)

DJ Jazzy Jeff Fresh Prince Rock The House 1987

“Well, it’s true that I’m the reigning king of the throne / But with all my strength, I couldn’t do it alone / I need a deejay like (Jazzy) to back me up / So when I’m rockin on the mic he’s on the crossfade cut” (The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff) 

Two kids from Philly – a dope emcee with humor, a great flow and storytelling abilities, and an awesome DJ. Their talents were already obvious on this debut record. The Fresh Prince would grow up to be an international (movie) star, and Jazzy Jeff into one of the most hailed DJs in Hip Hop ever. This is a great debut, with some classic tracks, in an era when it was OK for Hip Hop to be fun.

Top Tracks: The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff | Rock The House | Just One Of Those Days | Girls Are Nothing But Trouble

51.Wild Style Soundtrack (1983)

52. Chill Rob G – Ride The Rhythm (1989)

53. Just Ice – Back To The Old School (1986)

54. Dana Dane – Dana Dane With Fame (1987)

55. Doug E Fresh – Oh My God (1986)

56. Superlover Cee & Casanova Rud – Girls I Got Em Locked (1988)

57. Young MC – Stone Cold Rhymin (1989)

58. Treacherous Three – Treacherous Three (1984)

59. Stetsasonic – In Full Gear (1988)

60. Kool Moe Dee – How Ya Like Me Know (1987)

61. Grandmaster Melle Mel – Piano (1989)

62. King Tee – Act A Fool (1988)

63. Fat Boys – Fat Boys (1984)

64. UTFO – UTFO (1985)

65. Afrika Bambaataa – Planet Rock (1986)

66. MC Shan – Born To Be Wild (1988)

67. Salt N Pepa – Hot Cool & Vicious (1986)

68. Schoolly D – Am I Black Enough For You? (1989)

69. Too Short – Born To Mack (1987)

70. Awesome Dre – You Can’t Hold Me Back (1989)

71. Lakim Shabazz – Pure Righteousness (1988)

72. Tuff Crew – Back To Wreck Shop (1989)

73. Skinny Boys – Weightless (1986)

74. Special Ed – Youngest In Charge (1989)

75. DJ Cash Money & Marvelous – Where’s The Party At? (1988)

76. Kool Moe Dee – Kool Moe Dee (1986)

77. Queen Latifah – All Hail The Queen (1989)

78. Kurtis Blow – Kurtis Blow (1980)

79. The 7A3 – Coolin In Cali (1988)

80. Just Ice – Kool And Deadly (1987)

81. Rhyme Syndicate – Comin’ Through (1988)

82. Kwame The Boy Genius – Featuring A New Beginning (1989)

83. 2 Live Crew – 2 Live Is What We Are (1986)

84.  Whodini – Back In Black (1986)

85. T La Rock – Lyrical King (1987)

86. Three Times Dope – Original Stylin’ (1989)

87. Tuff Crew – Danger Zone (1988)

88. Mantronix – Music Madness (1986)

89. Skinny Boys – Skinny & Proud (1987)

90. JVC Force – Doin Damage (1988)

91. Fat Boys – The Fat Boys Are Back (1985)

92. Steady B – Bring The Beat Back (1986)

93. Donald D – Notorious (1989)

94. Heavy D & The Boyz – Livin’ Large (1987)

95. Schoolly D – Smoke Some Kill (1988)

96. Willie Dee – Controversy (1989)

97. Doug E Fresh – The World’s Greatest Entertainer (1988)

98. Stezo – Crazy Noise (1989)

99. Kid N Play – 2 Hype (1988)

100. Masters Of Ceremony – Dynamite (1988)

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4 responses to “Top 100 Hip Hop Albums Of The 1980s”

  1. K Douglas says:

    Strictly Business and Licensed To Ill rated too low at 17 and 18. Both 5 mics and easily top 10. Other albums I believe you have rated too low
    95. Smoke Some Kill
    94. Living Large
    77. All Hail The Queen
    67. Hot Cool & Vicious
    59. In Full Gear
    47. Escape
    42. He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper
    33. It’s A Big Daddy Thing

    Straight Out The Jungle should be rated higher than Done By The Forces of Nature
    Walking With A Panther> Bigger and Deffer

    Where I do agree with you is on #1, having Critical Beatdown top 5 and I love that you gave props to Low Profile’s We’re In This Together, slept on album for sure.

  2. Jason Cordova says:

    Another horrible list. NWA 9!!! Are you serious and Eazy duz it in the twenties. No E40 Federal? 90’s albums no Craig Mack? Songs in the 90s Quiet Storm, The truth, no Twista s***, Mase? It’s official all these dudes like is underground hardcore hip hop. No party s***, no trap s***, no west coast s***, Bone the first CD Thuggish Ruggish Bone? who are you guys to even have a platform. I’ll run circles around you guys in this rap knowledge stuff, it’s not even a question, I’ll beat you in every department especially taste!!! Your taste is so one sided, I bet yall think Sheek Looch is trash, or Havoc from Mobb Deep is trash, No Cormega talk about underground hip hop you ain’t got Cormega on no lists. He might be the nicest of all the underground rapper really. Ano the westcoast besides the usual, cypress hill, nwa, cube dre snoop, too short the only bay rapper, no 40, mac dre, mac mall, x-raided, lybch, cbo, marveless, no south cats, TI. ross., jeezy, only the dungoen family amd goodie mob, no new orleans rappers, thats crazy, no mid west twista krucial,konflickt, I mean i never heard no one say Pete Rock amd CL Smooth had a top 40 album let alone a top five album. songs of the 90 no hip hop horray? and summertime can’t crack the top 5 i’m thinking more along the lines of top 3 with hip hop horray and OPP is top ten for sure. Mama Said Kock you out is 1. No 2nd round KO in the 2000s Canibus?> and The Choice Is Yours is also top ten 90s songs. Sky’s the Limit and Juicy are biggies best songs? wtf are you clowns talking about for real. Big Poppa, One More Chance, the songs you chose maybe Juicy is in top 20 kick in the door? Londkiss goodnight going back to cali warning, unbelievable, nobody till somebody kills you, n**** bleed, whats beef, things done changed, everyday struggle, nasty boy, all the junior mafia s***, dead wrong, and probably in my personal top 5 songs from a mc one hit wonder till recently, one song that will stand the test of ti,e one of the greatest single records ever recorded by anyone at anytime jJay Electronica Exhibit C!!! you know nothing if that ain;t on your list than you have no credibility in this hip hop thing.

  3. Jackson Gilmore says:

    N.W.A. is at #9 and Eazy-E is at #30 respectively because all of the other albums ranked higher have better rapping.

    If they didn’t like West Coast Hip-Hop, then they wouldn’t have put Straight Outta Compton on this list. You also completely ignore the praise this website gave to The Chronic, Doggystyle, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate, Me Against The World, Labcabincalifornia, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, Etc.

    E. 1999 Eternal was literally on the best albums list for the 90s. Also they don’t count EPs.

    Funny you say that, because The Infamous and Hell On Earth were on the best albums list for the 90s.

    Cormega was on the best list for the 2000s.

    Cormega is not the best underground Hip-Hop act period. (Ex: R.A. The Rugged Man, Aesop Rock, MF DOOM, El-P, Eyedea & Abilities, Atmosphere, Murs, J-Live, Black Star, Brother Ali, Blu & Exile, Elzhi, Oddisee, Sean Price, Immortal Technique, Dead Prez, Del The Funky Homosapien, CunninLynguists, Cage, Little Brother, Mr. Lif, Cannibal Ox, Kool Keith, Jurassic 5, People Under The Stairs, Blackalicious, Jean Grae, Jedi Mind Tricks, Masta Ace, Sage Francis, Canibus, Illogic, Louis Logic, Roc Marciano, Open Mike Eagle, Billy Woods, Zion I, Apathy, Percee P, Dilated Peoples, Ill Bill, Celph Titled, Awon & Phoniks, Pharoahe Monch, Danny Brown, Etc.)

    That’s because you haven’t talked to actual Hip-Hop heads.

    For the best Hip-Hop songs list, they were going for songs that are iconic.

    Also This made lists for the South, Midwest, and the West Coast. Why are you bitching?

    You’re not going to beat them on who’s more lyrical and especially the best underground rappers.

  4. Rob says:

    I thought BDK album would have been higher. I’m an LL fan but not a fan of his full albums. You got it right with Ultramagnetic.

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