While 1992 saw the definite rise of West Coast Hip Hop to prominence, there was still plenty of excellent boom bap coming from the East. Also, more acts from the South started making their mark. Mainstream, gangsta, boom bap, alternative – there was something for everyone in 1992. For this list, we have selected OUR favorite 1992 Hip Hop albums. What do YOU think? Let us know in the comments!
Also read: Top 250 Hip Hop Albums Of All Time
1. Pete Rock & CL Smooth - Mecca And The Soul Brother
A timeless musical masterpiece, tasteful and irresistible. After the excellent All Souled Out EP they dropped the year previous, Pete Rock & CL Smooth followed up with this brilliant album. Pete Rock’s multi-layered, horns-filled, bass-heavy boom-bap production is simply masterful. CL Smooth delivery serves as another instrument to complete the musical feast this album is from start to finish. Incredibly consistent throughout, Mecca And The Soul Brother is one of Hip Hop’s all-time greatest albums.
Top tracks: They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) | Straighten It Out | Ghettos Of The Mind | Can’t Front On Me
2. Dr Dre - The Chronic
The Chronic is one of the most influential Hip Hop albums of all-time. A 1990’s masterpiece that is about the production first and the lyrical content second. Dr. Dre‘s production on this album is just INCREDIBLE. Often imitated, never duplicated. It also showed us the full potential of Hip Hop’s next superstar – a young Snoop Dogg. Along with lyrics from a host of other talented rappers and Dr. Dre himself, The Chronic is filled with the ‘standard’ gangsta themes (violence, sex, drugs, parties) – the difference from most of the copycat others is that on this album it sounds GOOD.
Top tracks: Let Me Ride | Nuthin But A G Thang | F*** Wit Dre Day | The Day The N****z Took Over
3. The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
With gangsta rap becoming the dominant thing on the West Coast in the early 90s, these guys were a breath of fresh air. Highly original, humorous, and fun – The Pharcyde was never concerned with gangster posing and tough-guy-posturing but was more like a West Coast version of ATCQ or De La Soul.
Top tracks: Passin’ Me By | Otha Fish | Return Of The B-Boy | Officer
4. Showbiz & AG - Runaway Slave
This is a flawless album: top-notch production from Showbiz (and Diamond D) and guest appearances from Lord Finesse and Big L (among others) – along with O.C.’s Word… Life this may just be the best DITC album in a series of excellent albums. Amazingly consistent and entertaining throughout. The album flew well under the mainstream radar but was quickly recognized as a classic by true heads.
Top tracks: Runaway Slave | Represent | Soul Clap | 40 Acres And My Props
5. Diamond & The Psychotic Neurotics - Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop
Yet another NYC classic, true Hip Hop for connaisseurs. Diamond D always was a producer first and an emcee second and it shows. The beats on this joint are flawless from start to finish, no need to skip tracks on this album. This is an underrated Golden Age gem.
Top tracks: Best Kept Secret | Sally Got A One Track Mind | I’m Outta Here | A Day In The Life
6. Compton's Most Wanted - Music To Driveby (1992)
Compton’s Most Wanted’s third and best album. Also one of the best-produced albums of 1992. MC Eiht’s signature style and lyricism complement the beats perfectly. It never achieved the same legendary status that the seminal release of the year – Dr. Dre’s The Chronic – reached, but Music To Driveby is one of the best West Coast ‘gangsta rap’ albums of the era, and perhaps all-time, nevertheless.
Top tracks: Hood Took Me Under | Dead Men Tell No Lies | Compton 4 Life | Def Wish II
7. Gang Starr - Daily Operation
Another Gang Starr album, another classic. Deep lyrics and deep beats – a testament to Guru‘s hypnotizing and intelligent emceeing and DJ Premier‘s superiority on the boards. If Step In The Arena was their breakthrough album, Daily Operation is the one that firmly secured Gang Starr’s place among Hip Hop’s elite.
After discovering their signature sound on Step In The Arena, Premier and Guru perfected it here, dropping another gem that can be played from beginning to end without having to skip any tracks. “Take It Personal”, “Soliloquy Of Chaos” and “Ex Girl To Next Girl” alone are enough to ensure the classic status of this album, but knowing the rest of the tracklist is completely up to par, makes Daily Operation a flawless part of Gang Starr’s impressive catalog.
Top tracks: Take It Personal | Ex Girl To Next Girl | Soliloquy Of Chaos | Hardcore Composer
8. Redman - Whut? Thee Album
Redman is one of the most underappreciated emcees ever. Rarely mentioned in ‘best ever’ lists, but one the best to ever do it nonetheless, especially live. With this debut album, he immediately sets a high standard for himself. No weak tracks and filled with bangers, Redman never takes himself too seriously and drops a fun party album with tight production all around.
Top tracks: Time 4 Sum Aksion | Tonight’s Da Night | A Day Of Sooperman Lover | How To Roll A Blunt
9. Eric B & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique
Of the 4 Eric B & Rakim albums, their last one probably is the most underappreciated. Sonically slightly different yet again from the previous albums, we see a Rakim who lyrically still has no peer and even drops some socially conscious rhymes this time around, along with his usual skill-flexing. 4 albums, 4 classics – who else can boast of a track record like that?
Top tracks: Know The Ledge | Don’t Sweat The Technique | Casualties Of War | The Punisher
10. Arrested Development 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of... (1992)
Arrested Development was rather a unique act. Hailing from the South, but having nothing to do with stories of crime and violence. Instead, they brought a mix of spirituality, political content, black awareness, intelligence, respect, and positivity. 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of… is great and highly original album with a few classic tracks (“People Everyday”, “Tennessee” and “Mr. Wendal”) on it.
Top tracks: Mr Wendal | Tennessee | People Everyday | Mama’s Always On Stage
11. Hard Knocks - School Of Hard Knocks
This is a supremely underrated and slept-on album. 12 tracks, all good, powerful and conscious rhymes, tight production – excellent.
Top tracks: Runaway Child, Running Wild | A Dirty Cop Named Harry | Road To The Precinct | Strictly From The Bronx
12. Boogie Down Productions - Sex And Violence
This album has always been way underrated in KRS-One’s catalog. It failed commercially (selling a ‘mere’ 250.000 copies) and received mixed reviews. Both undeservedly – Sex & Violence deserved wider recognition both in sales numbers and general acclaim.
After Edutainment (1990), KRS unloaded some members of his BDP Posse and came back with this album where he sounded fresh and reenergized. KRS takes aim at the state of Hip Hop (as always), politics, religion, sexual morality, violence, drug dealers, hypocrisy, and more – and manages to sound less preachy than he did on Edutainment. In fact, in rawness and ‘street feel, this album comes closest to the spirit of Criminal Minded of all the BDP albums.
“Duck Down”, “Ruff Ruff”, “Drug Dealer”, “We In There”, “Who Are The Pimps”, “Build & Destroy”, “13 & Good” and “Sex & Violence” are all standouts, but the whole album is dope – it feels tight and cohesive (with production from Prince Paul and KRS’ brother Kenny Parker among others) and has no skippable tracks or useless interludes and skits.
Top tracks: Duck Down | Ruff Ruff | Drug Dealer | We In There
13. Ice Cube - The Predator
Ice Cube’s third solo album is another banger. It may lack a bit of the hunger, the anger, the urgency of his first two and it may contain a few filler tracks – but it also contains Cube’s biggest hit single(s). This is Ice Cube’s last classic album.
Top tracks: It Was A Good Day | Wicked | Check Yo Self | Who Got The Camera?
14. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
Maybe more an alt-punk /rock/rap album than a straight-up Hip Hop album, Beastie Boys‘ third album is yet another self-reinvention. As always crazy creative and innovative, this album is a mash-up of styles that remains an enjoyable listen to this day.
Top tracks: Pass The Mic | So Whatcha Want | The Maestro | Professor Booty
15. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Live And Let Die (1992)
A gangster movie on wax. Kool G Rap proves once again he is one of the best and most versatile emcees in the game. On this album, he completely goes for the ‘mafioso’ type of rap he helped pioneer. Sonically interesting because of Sir Jinx’s input on the production tip, which lends a West Coast flavor to an East Coast album.
Top tracks: On The Run | Ill Street Blues | Two To The Head | Edge Of Sanity
16. Paris - Sleeping With The Enemy
Another excellent album, after Paris’ equally impressive debut The Devil Made Me Do It. It’s a mystery why Paris never blew up like Ice Cube and Public Enemy did – he does the same and he does it just as well. Intelligent, militant, powerful – Paris dropped some classic material here.
Top tracks: The Days Of Old | Make Way For A Panther | Assata’s Song | Sleeping With The Enemy
17. Lord Finesse - Return Of The Funky Man (1992)
Lord Finesse was an excellent punchline emcee before his main activity would become producing for other artists. This is an all-around fun album with Finesse creatively and humorously bragging and boasting over the length of the album. Classic DITC.
Top tracks: Return Of The Funky Man | Yes You May | Praise The Lord | Stop Sweatin The Next Man
18. EPMD - Business, Never Personal
Another quality EPMD release. More stripped down, with a harder, grimier sound than the previous three, this once again proved EPMD’s status as one of the top acts in Hip Hop.
Top tracks: Headbanger | Crossover | Chill | It’s Going Down
19. Das EFX - Dead Serious
If you’re not into to ‘riggedy-diggedy’ tongue-twisting lyrical style these guys developed, this act – and all Das EFX style clones that would follow – can be somewhat tiring and annoying. If you DO enjoy that style however, this album is a banger.
Top tracks: They Want EFX | Mic Checka | Jussummen | East Coast
20. Positive K - The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills
If only judged by the popular single I Got A Man (and the bubblegum album cover), you might think Positive K is just another pop rapper. That would be wrong, though. Positive K is an NYC Hip Hop veteran, loosely associated with MC Lyte and the Audio Two. Not counting the aforementioned hit single, this album is strictly NY boom-bap Hip Hop and Positive K shows he really has the skills to pay the bills. This is a dope album that deserves to be remembered.
Top tracks: I Got A Man | How The F*** Would You Know | Shakin’ | One 2 The Head
21. Ultramagnetic MCs - Funk Your Head Up
A step down from the super classic Critical Beatdown, there is still enough to enjoy here. Negatives first: where Critical Beatdown was way ahead of its time when it was released, this one sounded a bit dated and uninspired when it came out. The album is a bit too long and the production is uneven in places (allegedly they didn’t have full creative control over the end product) and the emceeing is not all that – except for Kool Keith’s input.
Luckily Kool Keith is the album’s main attraction. His humor, bizarreness, and lyrical hyperbole set him apart from most other emcees. Their first album was an ultimate classic and they would come back strong with their third album in 1993. Funk Your Head Up had its flaws, but also its enjoyable moments and if it’s a bit too high on this list, it is out of respect for the greatness of the Ultramagnetic MCs.
Top tracks: Bust The Facts | Make It Happen | Poppa Large | Pluckin Cards
22. Too Short - Shorty The Pimp
“If it ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it”. Never was this saying more applicable than to Too Short and his formula. By 1992, he’d be in the game making music for ten years already – Shorty The Pimp being his fourth studio album. We knew what to expect by then and that’s what we got: Too Short’s (x-rated) stories over bumping beats. One of his best albums.
Top tracks: In The Trunk | No Love From Oakland | Something To Ride To | So You Want To Be A Gangster
23. Common - Can I Borrow A Dollar?
Common before he ‘became’ Common. His debut album is often overlooked because it is so different from what he would do after this one. On this album, we get a young talented emcee just kicking the flavor. Nothing of much substance on this album and it sounds much like an East Coast album – but what it does, it does well. A solid beginning of an incredible career, which would really kick into gear in 1994 with Ressurection, Common’s second – and first classic – album.
Top tracks: Soul By The Pound | Take It EZ | A Penny For My Thoughts | Blows To The Temple
24. The Goats - Tricks Of The Shade
A very original concept album, ahead of its time. Not easy to get into though, mainly because they overdid it a little bit with all the skits. If you can get past the skits, you’re in for a highly original and intelligent, political album. This is an early underground classic.
Top tracks: Typical American | Whatcha Got Is Whatcha Gettin’, | Ru Down Wit Da Goats | Tricks Of The Shade
25. UGK - Too Hard To Swallow
Bun B and Pimp C (RIP) are pioneers of Southern Hip Hop. Lots of people think Ridin’ Dirty is UGK’s debut album when in actuality this one is. This album can be seen as one of the cornerstones of the unfortunate trap trend we are experiencing now, but in 1992 it still was somewhat original – and UGK really had a dope sound. The lyrics are mostly about criminal enterprises (before that subject matter got really tired), the difference between UGK and most acts that would follow/clone them is that UGK makes it sound GOOD.
Top tracks: Pocket Full Of Stones | Cocaine In The Back Of The Ride | Something Good | Use Me Up
26. Spice 1 - Spice 1
Straight-up West Coast gangsta rap, Spice 1 does it better than most. What makes this album better than most of the generic gangsta rap albums of the era is the quality bass-heavy production and Spice 1’s skills as a rapper, his style is versatile and his rhyming is tight. Essential for fans of Above The Law, Compton’s Most Wanted, and Too Short.
Top tracks: Welcome To The Ghetto | In My Neighborhood | Peace to My Nine | 187 Proof
27. X Clan - Xodus
X-Clan: you either love them or hate them. They have such a unique sound, especially because of Professor X’s contributions, it really is not for everybody. Anyway: the production on this album is tight, and Brother J is a dope emcee. With the rise of gangsta rap and the g-funk sound in the early 90s, X-Clan’s pro-black, spiritual subject matter was on its way out – this album deserves not to be slept on, though. An excellent follow-up to their classic debut To The East, Blackwards.
Top tracks: Fire And Earth | Xodus | A.D.A.M. | Cosmic Ark
28. Da Lench Mob - Guerillas In Tha Mist
This album is HARD. Hard beats and hard-ass lyrics that may be difficult to digest for some. But that’s just the intention, isn’t it? Da Lench Mob is an Ice Cube project and it shows. It bears a lot of similarities (sonically and content-wise) with Cube’s 1991 classic Death Certificate – the same anger and hunger can be felt here.
Top tracks: Guerillas In Tha Mist | Ain’t Got No Class | Lord Have Mercy | Lost In Tha System
29. Grand Puba - Reel To Reel
Brand Nubian‘s frontman Grand Puba‘s first solo album. This album is more about clever metaphors and punchlines than socially relevant lyrics – it’s mostly a light and fun album where Puba is content to show off his skills as an emcee. Not quite a classic like Brand Nubian’s debut One For All, but a great album nonetheless, a typical early 90s East Coast album which deserves a place in any Hip Hop collection.
Top tracks: 360 ( What Goes Around) | Check Tha Resume | Soul Controller | Big Kids Don’t Play
30. DJ Quik - Way 2 Fonky
DJ Quik has always been his own man, with his own signature funky and smooth sound and his own ‘stable’ of protegees and affiliated artists. This is his second album and another solid effort, maybe just a little less consistent than his classic debut.
Top tracks: Way 2 Fonky | Jus Lyke Compton | America’z Most Complete Artist | Only Fo’ Tha Money
31. House Of Pain - House Of Pain
House Of Pain was responsible for one of the biggest Hip Hop party anthems ever with Jump Around. Cypress Hill‘s DJ Muggs’ signature sound along with Everlast’s hoarse sound resulted in that all-time top banger. The rest of the album sounds much the same. Catchy hooks, hard-edged production – what’s not to like?
Top tracks: Jump Around | Shamrocks And Shenanigans | Top O’ The Morning To Ya | House And The Rising Son
32. Grandmaster Caz - The Grandest Of Them All
Cold Crush Brothers’ frontman Grandmaster Caz, together with Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel, is one of the true pioneers of emceeing and one of the best emcees in the game, ever. Sadly he never was able to release an album to match his legendary status. The production on this album is not all that, but you’ll want to own it for Caz’s lyricism.
Top tracks: I’m A Legend | The Old School | Star Reach | The Hitman
33. Willie D - I'm Goin' Out Lika Soldier
Willie D has a very distinct sound and delivery, and he has the power of voice and personality to get his messages across. This is an album that can be expected from one of the Geto Boys, with subject matter much in the vein of the previous year’s group effort We Can’t Be Stopped. Although it is a fine album by all means, Willie D is better as part of the Geto Boys, as Scarface and Bushwick Bill complement his style. Willie D probably knew this too, as he would rejoin the group a few years later. Some strong songs on this album, but some weaker ones too – all in all, a must-have for Geto Boys fans at least.
Top tracks: I’m Goin’ Out Lika Soldier | Clean Up Man | Trenchcoats-N-Gangsta Hats | My Alibi
34. Fu-Schnickens - F.U. Don't Take It Personal
A typical early 90s West Coast album in the Tung Twista/Das EFX tradition. One excellent emcee (Chip Fu) and a number of stand-out tracks are not quite enough to compensate for the two mediocre emcees and a few filler tracks – but all in all a fun and perfectly enjoyable album.
Top tracks: La Schmoove | True Fu-Schnick | Ring The Alarm | Movie Scene
35. K Solo - Time's Up
Another solid K Solo album, his second and sadly his last. Supported by the always-on-point production from fellow Hit Squad member Erick Sermon, K Solo drops some dope tracks on this album. K Solo’s thing always was spelling out the words in his tracks, but there’s more to his style. He’s was always a competent and versatile emcee, who was able to tell stories or just kick straight-up braggadocious rhymes.
Top tracks: I Can’t Hold It Back | Letterman | Preminition Of A Black Prisoner | Rock Bottom
36. Rough House Survivers - Straight From The Soul
Bass-heavy boom-bap with horns and jazz breaks – this Mount Vernon crew clearly took lessons from neighborhood legend Pete Rock. Along with highly energetic lyricism and good chemistry from the emcees, the dope production makes this album a forgotten gem and a must-have for fans of that Pete Rock type of production.
Top tracks: We Come To get Wreck | Can You Dig It | So! Survivers, We Can Rhyme | On The Flex
37. The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang, Vol. 1
Slept on. With so many quality Native Tongues and Native Tongues-esque albums being released in the early 90s, this one clearly got lost in the shuffle. Not affiliated with the Native Tongues clique, but having much of the same vibe – excellent funky & jazzy production, conscious content – this is an excellent, sadly forgotten album.
Top tracks: When The Ends Meet (Life Of The Futuristic B-Boy) | Primates In Stitches | This Is A Game | The Function
38. MC Serch - Return Of The Product
This is a very solid album from MC Serch, his first solo effort after the two 3rd Bass albums. Serch always was a more than competent emcee, with clever rhymes and humorous punchlines. The production on this album is OK as well. Not a classic maybe, but a dope album nevertheless.
Top tracks: Back To The Grill | Hard But True | Social Narcotics | Return Of The Product
39. Roxanne Shante - The Bitch Is Back
Roxanne Shante is another one of those Old School Hip Hop legends, who sadly never was able to transfer her considerable live emcee abilities to wax and therefore never was able to release a really dope, classic album deservedly of her status. This is her second and last album, and probably the best of the two. Featuring production of the likes of Kool G Rap, Large Professor, Mister Cee, Grandmaster Flash, and Granddaddy I.U. and considering Shante’s mic skills this album should have been better. As it is, it’s an OK album that’s worth checking out for Hip Hop history purists.
Top tracks: Big Mama | Straight Razor | Trick Or Treat | Brothers Ain’t Sh**
40. The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy - Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury
Not really a pure Hip Hop album, but more a crossover effort that mixes up genres, this album is included in this list nonetheless because it has that ‘Hip Hop feel’. Political, conscious, smart (maybe somewhat preachy) lyrics over experimental, innovative, and genre-crossing production – this is an important early 90s album.
Top tracks: Language Of Violence | Television: The Drug Of A Nation | Satanic Reverses | Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury
- Heavy D & The Boyz – Blue Funk
- Chubb Rock – I Gotta Get Mine Yo!
- Tung Twista – Runnin Of At Da Mouth
- Kris Kross – Totally Krossed Out
- Chi Ali – The Fabulous
- Scientifik – The Most Blunted
- Sir Mix A Lot – Mack Daddy
- JT The Bigga Figga – Don’t Stop Till We Major
- Bushwick Bill – Little Big Man
- Yo Yo – Black Pearl
- C-Funk – I’m Out 2 Stoages
- Success-N-Effect – Drive By Of A Revolutionist
- Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 1.: Day
- Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 2.: Night
- Master P – Mama’s Bad Boy
- Penthouse Players Clique – Paid The Cost
- Totally Insane – Direct From The Backstreet
- Pooh Man – Funky As I Wanna Be
- RBL Posse – A Lesson To Be Learned
- N2Deep – Back To The Hotel
- X-Raided – Psycho Active
- Chunk – Chunk 2: Still The Menace
- Ganksta N-I-P – Southpark Psycho
- Point Blank – Prone To Bad Dreams
- Big Mello – Bone Hard Zaggin
- Double XX Posse – Put Ya Boots On
- Brothers Uv Da Blakmarket – Ruff Life
- Zhigge – Zhigge
- Red Hot Lover Tone – Red Hot Lover Tone
- The Troubleneck Brothers – F*** All Y’all
- Crusaders For Real Hip Hop – Deja Vu, It’s 82
I believe 1992 was a relatively weak year for hip hop releases. Still there were some classics. Here’s my top 10.
1. Mecca And The Soul Brother – Pete Rock & CL Smooth (I agree with you here no question)
2. Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde – The Pharcyde
3. Don’t Sweat The Technique – Eric B & Rakim
4. The Chronic – Dr Dre
5. Daily Operation – Gang Starr
6. Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop – Diamond D & the Psychotic Neurotics
7. Runaway Slave – Showbiz & A.G.
8. The Predator – Ice Cube
9. Whut? Thee Album
10. Spice 1 – Spice 1
Hon mentions: Check Your Head, Business Never Personal.
One album you failed to mention was Original Flavor’s This Is How It Is. Lyrically its just aiight but the beats are something funky. That makes my top 25 of ’92. So does Blue Funk-Heavy D and Close To You-Father MC. That may not be popular with the strict heads but they were quality releases in a weak depth year.
The Goats album’s strongest aspect was its skits. Guess yall think only De La Soul are allowed to use skits.
And what’s the hell with Live and Let Die underappreciation? My list will be
1- Mecca and the Soul Brother (based)
2- The Chronic
3- Live and Let Die
4- Runaway Slave
5- Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
6- Whut? Thee Album
7- Daily Operation
8- Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop
9- Music to Driveby
10- Business Never Personal