Greatest Rap Albums Ever
Thursday June 29th 2006,
Filed under: Features,Not Your Average,Steady Bootleggin'
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I just got an email from a reader named Lily who commented:

i have only recently realized that hip hop (and soul and funk and jazz and so on) is the only thing worth listening to in this day and age. rock music is so fucking tired and i’ve been listening to it for too long. i’m really ignorant though. i don’t know anything about this music, but i’m 15 so i guess there’s still time for me to learn.

While I’m always glad to help, the question is: do I recommend what I consider to be the greatest rap albums ever, or try to consider what would provide the most well-rounded introduction to the hip-hop? Obviously, the first option is the only way to go. Save that well-rounded nonsense for the drive-through customers at Krisy Kreme. Note that I’ve only listed one album from each artist, even though a few of them have several classics under their belt.’s Top Ten Rap LP’s:

1. Criminal Minded – Boogie Down Productions

Changed the sound of hip-hop forever. Every song is great.

2. Critical Beatdown – Ultramagnetic MC’s

So far ahead of it’s time that it still hasn’t been surpassed. State-of-the-art beats meet bugged-out lyrics for a the perfect mixture of originality and hardcore b-boy shit.

3. Long Live The Kane – Big Daddy Kane

Marley Marl‘s “project sound” at it’s best, combined with the one of the most gifted rappers to ever put it down.

4. Saturday Night – Schoolly D

If you don’t already, this LP will inspire to start smoking weed.

5. Wanted: Dead or Alive – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo

The best album from this tough-talking pioneer of street-level rap.

6. The Beatnuts (aka Street Level) – The Beatnuts

Lyrically hilarious and musically incredible.

7. Stunts. Blunts & Hip Hop – Diamond D

Forget De La Soul, this album broke the boundaries of what you could sample.

8. Return of the Funky Man – Lord Finesse

Talking shit has never sounded this good.

9. Mecca & The Soul Brother – Pete Rock & CL Smooth

To this day, the most sophisticated example of the fine of art of sampling ever released.

10. The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

A perfectly stripped down return to the basics.

Plus here’s another thirty essential albums:

Act A Fool – King Tee
Vagina Diner – Akinyele
It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
Breaking Atoms – Main Source
Illmatic – Nas
Ready To Die – Notorious B.I.G.
Follow The Leader – Eric B. & Rakim
Together Forever:Greatest Hits – Run-DMC
Step Into the Arena – Gangstarr
Operation: Doomsday – MF Doom
Paper Chase – Krown Rulers
Original Stylin’ – Three Times Dope
Strictly Business – EPMD
A Constipated Monkey – Kurious
Radio – LL Cool J
Only Built For Cuban Linx – Raekwon
Liquid Sword – GZA
The Infamous – Mobb Deep
Ride The Rhythm – Chill Rob G
Runaway Slave – Showbiz & AG
Straight Outta Compton – NWA
Geto Boys – Geto Boys
Goin’ Off – Biz Markie
The Convicts – The Convicts
Controversy – Willie Dee
All For One – Brand Nubian
Lifestyles Ov Da Poor & Dangerous – Big L
Kool & Deadly – Just-Ice
It’s A Compton Thang – Compton’s Most Wanted
Put Ya Boots On – Double XX Posse

While you can still pick-up a lot of these albums, if you have trouble finding any of them you could ask at our new message board.

Here’s a little something to listen to:

Ultramagnetic MC’s – Bait (full version)

Lastly, I’ve started a new blog over at Vox which covers stuff not necessarily related to music. They have a “Question of the Day” thing which is vaguely entertaining. I might get sick of it in a few weeks, but in the meantime:

Opinions Are Like Beer Cans

Note: The templates over there all have pictures that look like they belong on Lego boxes. The choice of “rolling hills”, robots or a “Blocko” city was a tough one.

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51 Comments so far
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it’s a good list, but I wouldn’t recommend a lot of that stuff to a person who is new to hiphop. I think the best albums to start with would be Gangstarr LP:s, Pete & CL, Beatnuts, ATCQ, basically the 2nd half of the top ten… plus of course wu-tang LPs from 93-97. In my opinion albums like Critical Beatdown, By all means necessary, Criminal Minded etc. have a sound that’s too raw and stripped down for a new fan to truly appreciate, until they’ve studied the music a bit more… I might be wrong though. Also, I would highly recommend ORGANIZED KONFUSION, my fav. hiphop group of all time! I cant see it in your list, you sure KURIOUS or CONVICTS are more essential purchases, Robbie?

Comment by Double R 06.30.06 @

It would have taken forever for me to figure out the best LP’s to start out on, so I just listed shit I like. But I completely forgot Organized…their first two albums were ill. Equinox had it’s moments as well.

Comment by Robbie 06.30.06 @

Jungle Brothers – Straight Out The Jungle

This is a classic, right? Their only good album perhaps.

Comment by daWB 06.30.06 @

I would choose ‘Music II Drive By’ over ‘It’s A Compton Thang’ and ‘Moment Of Truth’ over ‘Step In The Arena’, but overal your list is pretty much on point. Good lookin’, 1.

Comment by The Funkologist 06.30.06 @

No Jay-Z albums? C’mon, who the f**k are The Convicts????

Comment by Wes 06.30.06 @

Jay-Z’s dope, but I’ve never liked any of his albums all the the way through – including “Reasonable Doubt”.

RE: The Convicts

Comment by Robbie 06.30.06 @

Thanks for the MP3 version of bait. I got a copy of it on wax from Red Alert’s 1st comp album but it faded out in the end. Also, your list is pretty soild but I have to agree with daWB, the JBs – Straight out the Jungle was a classic that should have been included.

Comment by Drlrockwell 06.30.06 @

You need to revist The Blueprint.

Comment by Wes 06.30.06 @

yikes, this dude really hasn’t heard any rap outside of new york!

Comment by BR 06.30.06 @

“Jungle Brothers – Straight Out The Jungle

This is a classic, right? Their only good album perhaps.”

Only good album? No way! “Done by the Forces…” is GREAT. Hell, even the next one (Remedy something) had fly beats. Anyone recall that QTip Remix from that album.

Comment by White Girl Lust 06.30.06 @

HAHA!! You said Willie D “Controversy”. Man, I think that’s still overall the worst album made even in today’s standards.

Comment by P-Matik 06.30.06 @

“Controversy” is one of the finest “ignorant” albums ever made. I’ll explain why in one of my next posts.

Comment by Robbie 06.30.06 @

I’m not trying to undermine your listm, Robbie. I love Hip-Hop. I love all music in general and I’d like to recommend some recent Rock releases that maybe Lily won’t find “fucking tired.”

Bang Bang Rock & Roll – Art Brut
Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam
Broken Boy Soldiers – The Raconteurs
Rather Ripped – Sonic Youth
Show Your Bones – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

If anything, I’d say that good Hip-Hop is on the decline recently and a lot of great new Rock bands have been emerging.

Comment by Horsechoker 06.30.06 @

Oh yeah,I almost forgot, Powder Burns by The Twilight Singers is one of the best Rock albums I’ve heard in a long time. Cop that!

Comment by Horsechoker 06.30.06 @

looking at your list, it looks like you stopped listening to hiphop since 95. And there’s no wutang, which hurts me since I began listening to rap with the 100+ wu and wufam albums I bought. Put something that’s good and that would appeal to a 15 year old boy. Iron flag. I dont know.

Comment by djeff 06.30.06 @

What about Digital Underground’s’Sex Packets’ and Cube’s ‘Amerikkkas Most Wanted’?

Comment by farnsq 06.30.06 @

Yo – who fed Tuff Crew some e’s?

Comment by farnsq 06.30.06 @

A very solid list, no doubt.

But in her letter she also mentioned, funk, soul & jazz, so it might be nice to list some albums or hip hop style mixes which have leanings towards those genres. Off the top of my head:

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist – Brainfreeze
Paul Nice – Soul on the Grill
Kenny Dope – 80s Roller Boogie
Double Dee & Steinski – The Ultimate Lessons

Ugly Duckling – Fresh Mode
Crown City Rockers – Earthtones
Madlib & MF Doom – Madvilliany
Ghostface Killah – Supreme Cliental
People Under The stairs – OST
Pharcyde – Bizzare Ride II


Comment by Dave Mack 06.30.06 @

I know there’s nothing like “Put it in your mouth” on Vagina Diner but I still had to laugh at suggesting it to 15 year old Lily. Anyways…a few more that I would add:

Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Special Ed – Legal
Lords of the Underground – Here come the lords
Leaders of the New School – Future without a Past
Eminem – Slim Shady LP (I have a feeling you won’t agree with this pick though)

Comment by 33jones 06.30.06 @

There are close to 100 albums that I could’ve listed, but that would’ve taken forever.

As far as newer stuff, I just find that most albums from the last ten years just aren’t that great as complete packages, even though they might have some dope songs. Some more recent LP’s worth getting include:

“The War Report” – Capone-N-Noreaga
“UN Or U Out” The UN
“Supreme Clientele” – Ghostface Killah
“Experience & Education” – Sadat X
“Y2k” – Screwball
“Clear Blue Skies” – The Juggaknots

Comment by Robbie 06.30.06 @

X Clan “To the East Blackwards”

Where the fuck is De La Soul “3 Feet High and Rising?”

Slick Rick “The Great Adventures of . . . ”
3rd Bass “The Cactus LP” (first, perhaps only tight white rappers)
A Tribe Called Quest “People’s Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm”
Black Moon “Enta da Stage”
KMD “Mr Hood”
O.C. “Word, Life”
Souls of Mischief “93 ’till Infinity”
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “He’s the DJ I’m the Rapper” (doesn’t matter what Will Smith is now); I played and attempted to imitate Live at Union Square at least one week for about two years.

I second the vote for Straight out the Jungle. EPMD never gets mentioned in the “Greatest Hip-Hop LP” lists. It’s always the same tired Criminal Minded and Nation of Millions. Yeah they were tight LPs but move on. Do you really think Criminal Minded is greater than By Any Means Necessary?

NWA “Niggaz4Life”
Common Sense “Resurrection”
Smif N’ Wessun “Da Shinin”
Dark Sun Riders

Fuck Willie D; you need Scarface “Mr. Scarface is Back;” there hasn’t been a harder LP since then.

Was Double X Posse really worth checking for? I agree with most things . . . about time someone included “Strictly Business.”

Comment by bedouin 06.30.06 @

“you need Scarface “Mr. Scarface is Back;” there hasn’t been a harder LP since then”

True. How could I forget Face!

Comment by Robbie 06.30.06 @

We just have to face facts and realise that its just too hard to list ALL of the good ones.

Comment by Dave Mack 06.30.06 @

De La Soul Is Dead..A great cd all the way through.

Pharcyde “labcabincalifornia”, every track stands on its own musically.

Jungle Brothers “done by the forces of nature”, minus maybe 2 or 3 tracks and this is incrdible.

“Raising Hell” or “Tougher than Leather” are better choices than “best of”. “best of”‘s are for those Krispy Kreme people.

Comment by biscuits 06.30.06 @

nice selection. but i miss some bootcamp.
smif n wessuns first is classic for me.
group homes first is dope.
redman anyone? jamal -last chance-undarated
grand daddy i u -smooth assassin-is da shit
above the law-livin like hustlers-
ganksta nip? ahh theres too much..

are there more than 2 chill rob albums?
anyway fanx robbie.

Comment by swordfish 07.01.06 @

i love how everyone is like “no you must include this, you must include that!” i don’t think there could ever be a solid consensus on ten greatest rap lp’s.

your choices are solid but like another poster said, i don’t think i’d start people off with that kinda stuff. it’s way too raw, and a lot of people seem to find it dated. i’ll admit a lot of that stuff is before my time or when i was more interested in barbies than rap, so i like people to use the same approach as i did…put them onto newer stuff or groups like tribe/de la and then if they think it’s dope, they dig. cus sometimes people get too caught up in that whole “i need some illmatic cus it’s a classic” type thing and then they overlook a lot of other dope stuff.

however your list is pretty well-rounded, that’s just my beef with these things in general.

Comment by that girl 07.01.06 @


Comment by The Eyechild 07.01.06 @

great list. why? cause i learned somethin…i now got somethin to look for on the internets or the bargain bin at j and r.

some albums off the top of my head:
raekwon: ob4cl
snoop: doggystyle
kokane: funk upon
goodie mob: soul food


Comment by Vik 07.02.06 @

just noticed raekwon on your list….disregard that.

add run-dmc-raisin hell
doc – no one can do it better

Comment by Vik 07.02.06 @

One glaring ommision is K Solo’s Tell The World My Name … very slept on but so many excellent concept tracks on there like The Fugitive, Speed Blocks, Tales From The Crackside, Everybody Knows Me, Your Moms In My Business, Spellbound, Rocking For My Hometown. Musically, this was a good album too with nice music by the EPMD stable.

Comment by Byron 07.02.06 @

Oh and Ra’s second and third LP’s were pretty classic in my eyes too … !

Comment by Byron 07.02.06 @

How did you miss ‘Hard to Earn’ the tightest lp from Hip-Hop’s greatest group ever?

Or ‘The Sun Rises in the East’. Pure Genius.

Comment by Big Articulate 07.03.06 @

A few that I’d have included:

The D.O.C. – No One Can Do It Better
De La Soul – Stakes Is High
Digital Underground – Sex Packets
Black Sheep – A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Comment by nyps 07.03.06 @

It’s kind of hard to recommend hiphop to a newbie. you never know how they’re going to take in such classics. Will they have the right mind to understand these gems? That’s a hard one. And I wouldn’t recommend starting someone off with a lot of that stuff. Especially when it appears that she’s a girl (no disrespect intended) so I don’t know if Vagina Diner or the Beatnuts selections would be the appropriate recomendations haha. I mean a song like “Eat The Pussy” may not work for a girl.

Comment by Planet 07.03.06 @

Am I black enough for you – Schooly D?

What about Run DMC – Raising Hell, you can’t include a greatest hits, thats cheatin’

Comment by Greenie1 07.04.06 @

He did say he’d just list his favourites… but yeah, if you wanted to ease her into it, do it with groups such as de la soul, pharcyde, jurassic 5, atcq, the roots, dilated peoples, mos def, etc. Sure, not the favourites of the purists, but more understandable to unfamiliar listeners.

Comment by taylor 07.05.06 @

“Iron Flag”? haha!

re: Vagina Diner recommended for girls
Some females get down to some raw stuff, so why not.

good list especially with the more contemporary suggestions. (Juggaknots…thumbs up)

Comment by mordecai 07.05.06 @

Jungle Brothers Done by the Forces of Nature is way better than Straight out the Jungle, which is a classic, don’t get me wrong I love that record, but that 2nd JB’s album is genius…and true, whoever said the ‘minus 2 tracks’ thing was right on point…I agree with an inclusion of Jay Z’s Blueprint….Controversy is a classic, much slept on, worth the price of admission for the album cover alone…

Comment by Boston George 07.06.06 @

How come nobody mentions Chino XL? One of the illest spitters out there!

Comment by Lethlal Leigh 07.06.06 @

I hope you “receiving an email” from this young wench Lily doesn’t translate as “i was in msn chat hollarin’ at pre=teens and impressin’ ’em with my rap blog god status when one of them asked me what the best rap albums are..”, Robert.

“Don’t sweat the technique” is actually the best Eric Barrier and William Griffin album.

I’d defantely include “AmeriKKKa’s most wanted”, “black bastards”, the diary” and “ridin’ dirty”

Also, “funky technician” is so much better than “return of the funkyman”

Comment by Brian Beck From Wisconsin 07.06.06 @

^ You do that too? My user name used to be “Rob Da Rap Blog Gawd” but I changed to “Ron Bergundy”.

Comment by Robbie 07.07.06 @

Man I Agree with mostly all those albums mentioned I have 2 crates filled to the brink with all those classic’s and more………
I know it’s oldschool but have you thought of introducing the young lady to some Melle Mel and how good is Beatstreet the movie for an overall introduction to the Hip Hop Culture,I know she was askin about Music though so far go, he some Albums that I can think of off the top of my head that weren’t mentioned……..
The 7A3 -(coolin in cali) DJ Muggs 1st production
Nice & Smooth -(self Titled)
MC Shan -(Down by Law)
Skinny Boys-(Can’t get enough)
JVC Force -(Doin’Damage)
Steady B -(Let the Hustlers Play)
Cool C -(I got a Habit)
MC Lyte -(light as a rock)
Stetsasonic-(on Fire)and(talking all that Jazz)
Ice T- (Rhyme Pays)
Masters Of Ceremony -(Dynamite)Grand PuBa’s 1st crew..
Queen Latifah- (All hail the Queen)
K SOLO -(Tell the World My Name) and I can’t believe no one has added……
The Doc -(No one can Do it Better) this album is jam packed with pure funky hip hop beats that Kick started DrDre’s production career man I’m more into oldschool but those street slangin Gansta Funk Flows are on piont thats a must have.
Anyway like I said Before that list is All good!
except Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s 1st Record (Road to the Riches) smashes (wanted dead or alive)……
Oh Oh Orh ar Oh Yeah I almost forgot Thanks for BAIT by Ultra I picked up Red Alert Gose Berserk in a 2nd hand record store called Jellies whilst traveling to Hawaii from DownUnder in the early 90’s and I didn’t know until now that there was a last verse missing That’s going straight on the MP3 player By the way about that song does anyone know if Ultra were paid any Royalities by GhostFace Because he use’s the same Loop Tune all through Daytona 500.
Also Here’s some cool flick that this new jack producer is puttin out called MuskaBeats it features heaps on influential Rapper’s Biz KRS The Wu, Melle MeL ,MC Lyte, GURU,Prodigy,Flavor Flav… here’s the link

it’s not bad Alrightee Then I’m OUTA Here like Last Year ABCee Ya.

Comment by SENSimon 07.07.06 @

Take A Look Around
Slaughta House
Sittin’ On Chrome
Disposable Artists
Long Hot Summer

pick one of the above and include it in list. Da Masta is the only Juice Crew alumni who still puts out dope shit.

Comment by ceedub 07.09.06 @

Robbie, you give props to Screwball. My folks produ2ed them cats.

Comment by Billy Sunday 07.22.06 @

^ You mean Mike Heron & Ayatollah?

Comment by Robbie 07.22.06 @

I wouldn’t include “Lifestylez Ov…” on the list. Sure, L’s rhymes are, how you say, fresh, but the Devil’s Son got buttfucked by the selection of sleep-inducing wino-ass beats. With the exception of the opening 3 songs, “Danger Zone” and “Let ’em Have It L”, it seems like D.I.T.C. used all their good beats on “Jealous Ones Envy”. GODDAMNIT FAT JOE!

How is it possible that Big L didn’t get at least one Large Professor beat? No Pete Rock? No DJ Premier? Hell, I’d even like to hear an Erick Sermon beat or two. Hadn’t they heard of him by then? At the time he was on the same label as Nas. OR…were the beats they gave him even shittier? Quite a mystery.

Comment by master gee 07.30.06 @


Comment by khalil 11.23.06 @

Good list,but i miss Mantronix, T-la Rock, Just-Ice

Comment by J.Sax 12.12.06 @

I meant to post this long ago…I had a New York tape (that’s what we called tapes people made of Friday & Saturday night WBLS & KISS) from the 80s that had a version of Ultra’s “Bait” that I have never heard since (my tape was stolen years ago). It must have been a rough, early version. Ced-Gee was in the break saying something like “Give ’em bait”. I wish I had that tape still. Has anybody else heard this version?

Comment by Anonymous 06.28.07 @


Comment by ggg 10.27.09 @

To not have ” It takes a nation of Millions to hold us back” makes this whole list INVALID

Comment by C Style 04.09.10 @

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