Filed under: Albums,Conservative Rap Coalition,Crates,Features,Not Your Average,The Unkut Opinion
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
I’ve had a few requests of late to break-down my list of personal favorite rap albums, so to set off this tenth anniversary week of Unkut Dot Com, here are the twenty tapes I’d like to be buried with, or take to a desert island with a crate of AA batteries for the Walkman.
MF Doom - Operation: Doomsday
The ultimate underdog rap without a hint of struggle rap, MF Doom recreated himself over dollar bin 80’s rap and R&B chops which had a nation of million backpackers riding his log for years. Fact remains that I’m still catching gems in his verses years later, not to mention the fact that he re-recorded every single previously released song for the album, which is a feat yet to be repeated in rap and still blows my mind to this day, even though it sounds like it was recorded on a Fisher-Price microphone.
Roc Marciano - Marcberg
Not since Raekwon’s debut (and the aforementioned Operation: Doomsday) has a record as successful in transporting the listener into the MC’s world from beginning to end. Roc Marciano completely ignored whatever was going in at the time and just made music that he thought was great, and as a result created a powerful statement that clearly read: “You’re either with us or against us”.
Three Times Dope - Original Stylin’
Still sounds crispy fresh, thanks to E.S.T‘s timeless rhyme technique and Chuck Nice‘s drum programming which makes Steady B / Cool C records from the same period sound prehistoric by comparison.
Ultramagnetic MC’s - Critical Beatdown
This album was so futuristic that it may take another thousand years until the world catches up. The programming on this was one of the first demonstrations that even well-worn breaks can sound brand new when flipped correctly, while the lyrics proved that rapping that calling bum MC’s “germs” is perhaps the pinnacle of Brag Rap.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Wanted: Dead or Alive
The opening three tracks on Road To Riches were incredible, but it was with the assist from Large Professor that G Rap was able to really flex his verbal muscle to the best of his abilities. KGR considers “Play It Kool” to be one of his favorite tracks, and who am I to argue?
Akinyele - Vagina Diner
An entire album produced by Xtra-P in his prime? Featuring a gruff-voiced Lefrak, Queens rapper dude who has entire song about how he doesn’t fux with playing sports and a cut named “I Luh Her” which earned an angry Source magazine editorial? How can you go wrong?
Schoolly-D - Saturday Night – The Album
While it lacks “PSK” and “Gucci Time”, there’s something about “Housing The Joint” which wins every time, not to mention that the title track is a piece of drunken genius and the first time I have caught a contact high was while playing this in my old man’s car while he drove us back from vacation while puffing on that cheeba cheeba. Also, please pour out a little liquor for the Traffic re-issue which Sony killed off before it was released…
The Beatnuts - The Beatnuts
With Fashion aka Al’ Tariq on board and flawless production, this is the ultimate Beatnuts experience. That Grand Puba cameo? Unfuckwittable. Not to mention that “Straight Jacket” must be included in your “Top 10 Rap Songs Featuring The Sounds of Running Water” list when you make it.
Mobb Deep - Hell On Earth
As great as the high points of Infamous are, the third Mobb LP found them at their leanest and most ruthless, as Havoc stripped back the beats to the bare basics and Prodigy gave us the greatest verse of his career on “Apostle’s Warning”.
GETO Boys - GETO Boys
Rapping over church organs and harmonicas never sounded so great, while the chemistry between Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick trading raps is tough to match. Plus “Read These Nikes” should be the blueprint for your life.
A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory
This will always hold special place in my cold, shriveled heart on account of the the way they transformed from borderline corny Rap Bohemians featuring a guy called Phife who sucked at rapping to the 90’s answer to Run-DMC. This record brought together everything that was great about New York rap in 1991.
Raekwon The Chef - Only Built For Cuban Linx…
As much as I enjoyed Supreme Clientele, it was the Starski & Hutch qualities of Ghost and the Chef at their hungriest that will always define them, while this also stands as RZA‘s magnum opus in terms of his musical vision. It’s also why Linx 2 didn’t really work for me, as it lacked the clarity and chemistry of the first, despite containing some strong work.
EPMD - Business As Usual
Hard loops, brilliant guest spots (“Hardcore” and “Rampage”) and no excess fat makes this the finest example of the magic that Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith were able to weave for over the course of four albums.
Just-Ice - Kool & Deadly
“This record you’re about to hear…contains explicit, dirty lyrics like ‘shit’, ‘fuck’, ‘your mother’s dick’, ‘asshole’, all that shit”. If Scott La Rock had lived long enough to produce this, it may have been even more amazing, but as it turned out, KRS and DJ Doc did a fine job regardless.
Main Source - Breaking Atoms
I never get tired of “Snake Eyes” or “Looking At The Front Door”, nor the quality of wide-eyed innocence that a youthful Large Professor’s rhymes brought to the table. Not to mention “those two DJ’s” really did their thing.
Diamond D - Stunts, Blunts and Hip-Hop
Edges out Runaway Slave as the finest representation of the D.I.T.C movement due to a more diverse sound and the relatively light-hearted rap style of Diamond. “Sally Got A One Track Mind” just might be my favorite instrumental of all time, too.
Lord Finesse - Return of the Funkyman
Grandpa Finesse, two songs with Percee-P in his prime and some of the most hilarious depictions of rap dating advice ever recorded combine with Brag Rap in it’s purest form to make this an album that never wears out it’s welcome.
Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane
I can still recall standing in a record shop, holding this and Doug E. Fresh‘s World’s Greatest Entertainer in my hands while trying to pick which one to spend my pocket money on. I clearly made the right choice, as this remains as my favorite Juice Crew project and the ultimate showcase for Kane’s abilities as a sarcastic wordsmith who will steal your dame from right in front of you.
Boogie Down Productions - Sex & Violence
Thanks to those countless remakes on the Man & His Music compilations, I may never be able to enjoy Criminal Minded in the same way ever again. For me, this album was KRS with his back to the wall, fighting off all contenders and loving every minute of it. The beats from Prince Paul, Pal Joey and Kenny Parker are the best since his the days of Scott La Rock, while Freddie Foxxx bodies his guest spots beyond belief.
Prodigy - H.N.I.C. 2 [Collector’s Edition]
This expanded edition added six more songs and an entire CD of Prodigy explaining every song for five minutes each. Everything about this album is brilliant, from the bizarre Clotheshorse P cover artwork to the Sid Roams and Alchemist beats to the dumbed-down, no fux given vocal stylings of Prodigy himself.
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