Posted by: vincentlopez | April 24, 2009

The Top 50 Hip-Hop Albums…according to this old man



You’ve probably never met me before but I keep a low haircut. However, I’ve ripped out close to 300 hairs thinking about this list over the past 4 months. Travis over at WYDU recently had a post that reminded me to finish my list after a few weeks of procrastinating. Back in 2007, this thought provoking experimental post @ Passion of the Weiss probably had heads spinning. I didn’t read it until January/February 2008 and whether you agree or disagree with that post, it makes you thimk about your own list of great albums. So why was this list so difficult (and possibly incomplete)? Because I battled myself over my favorites versus albums I know are more deserving of the status of greatness (meaning end to end enjoyment, lasting impact that has stood the test of time, overall cohesiveness, lyrics, production, mood, etc.). Mind you, I like every album on my list below but I left out a few favorites that originally were there.


For example, MC Shan’s Down By Law, Kool G Rap’s Wanted: Dead or Alive, Boogie Down Production’s Sex & Violence and Edutainment, Redman’s Time 4 Sum Aksion, Main Source’s Breaking Atoms, The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do it Better, Above The Law’s Livin’ Like Hustlers, Jungle Brothers’ Straight Out the Jungle, The FugeesThe Score, Scarface’s Mr. Scarface is Back, Common Sense’s Resurrection, Souls of Mischief’s ’93 til Infinity, Mobb Deep’s Hell on Earth were all originally on the list but after debating with myself, I didn’t do it. They would make it in the next 50 but not the first 50.


I love those albums, especially MC Shan’s, which gets a ton of play to this day, but are they great albums to me? So favorites don’t necessarily equal great but I do think that you have to actually like/love an album a lot (from beginning to end) to even consider it for greatness. And just because something is popular, does that mean it’s great? Most importantly, it’s my list and I’m 95% happy with it. I’m sure some albums will change slightly in position again as they have over the years but the top 4 have remained unchanged since 1994 and #1 has been there since I bought that tape in ’88 (the greatest single year in hip-hop to me). If I were 25 or 26 now, then the greatest years in hip-hop to me would probably be 1996 to 1999. But I’m older, so if this list pegs me as outdated, grumpy, stubborn or crazy, then I’m ok with it and prepared for all the hate. Let me know if you agree/disagree (I’m sure some of you have a T.I. or Too Short album as your #1) and maybe take the time to create your own list for comparison.


FYI – My list is below.  I will post Brandan’s (Recognize the Real‘s mixtape king) top 25 list in a day or two.  He’s a little younger than me so you know his list is much different.


1. Public EnemyIt Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Rarely has any hip-hop music changed my thinking, awareness and behavior from the inside out. Of all the albums on my list, only #6 and this one did that for me.  At 15 years old, I memorized every album that I purchased but this one mesmerized me as well.  I clearly recall debating with one of my friends over this album and Paid in Full.  I think I told him that this one just means more.  It was the height of the crack era back then and to hear this and that BDP album at that time was just incredible.  Every Nissan Pathfinder, Jeep Cherokee or Ford Bronco in the city equipped with booming speakers was playing this.  And everything clicked for me on this album: the multiple uplifting and/or insightful messages, the sequencing, the production, the lyrics, the mood, the energy, the approach, etc. It has stood head and shoulders above every other hip-hop album I’ve ever heard before and since it was released. In my opinion, no other hip-hop album has been this influential to children, teenagers, college students, the media, musicians, politicians, athletes, etc. Even P.E. wasn’t able to top it with their next album. I mentioned before that we listened to this daily as teenagers and there’s just no comparison today. If I were 14 or 15 today, who would be my musical heroes? Kanye? Lil Wayne? Rick Ross? Kid Cudi? What the heck?!?


2. Eric B & RakimPaid In Full
3. A Tribe Called QuestThe Low End Theory
4. NasIllmatic

5. A Tribe Called QuestMidnight Marauders

6. Boogie Down Productions By All Means Necessary

7. Ultramagnetic MC’s Critical Beatdown

8. De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising

9. Boogie Down Productions Criminal Minded

10. N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton

11. Big Daddy Kane Long Live the Kane

12. Run-DMCRaising Hell

13. Slick RickThe Great Adventures of Slick Rick

14. The RootsIlladelph Halflife

15. RaekwonOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx

16. Ice CubeAmerikkka’s Most Wanted

17. LL Cool JMama Said Knock You Out

18. PharcydeBizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

19. Wu-Tang ClanEnter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

20. OutkastAtliens

21. Dr. DreThe Chronic

22. Mobb DeepThe Infamous

23. Masta AceSlaughtahouse

24. Notorious B.I.G.Ready to Die

25. GangstarrDaily Operation

26. Black MoonEnta Da Stage

27. Pete Rock and C.L. SmoothMecca and the Soul Brother

28. O.C.Word…Life

29. Brand NubianOne for All

30. Organized KonfusionStress: The Extinction Agenda

31. De La SoulBuhloone Mindstate

32. Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet

33. Run-DMC Run-DMC

34. Eric B and Rakim Follow the Leader

35. Ice CubeDeath Certificate

36. N.W.A.Efilzaggin

37. GZA/GeniusLiquid Swords

38. LL Cool J – Bigger and Deffer

39. EPMD – Strictly Business

40. DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince – He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

41. A Tribe Called QuestPeoples Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm

42. TupacMe Against the World

43. Digable PlanetsBlowout Comb

44. De La SoulDe La Soul is Dead

45. The RootsDo You Want More?!!!??!

46. Three Times DopeOriginal Stylin’

47. Beastie BoysLicensed to Ill

48. Queen LatifahAll Hail the Queen

49. EPMDBusiness As Usual

50. Goodie MobSoul Food






  1. Nice list but you should check out some UK rap – London Posse, Gunshot, Blade.

  2. a rock solid list, quite a few would end up on my list as well

  3. It’s funny…..these are basically the only albums I ever listen to anymore.

  4. Very, very solid list at first glance. I agree with many of your choices here and agree 100% with everything you said about #1! Today’s artists and financial backers don’t put nearly as much thought or depth into projects as from days past. Like Masta Ace stated….today’s rap/hip hop is “disposable art”. As with movies, it seems to be based on what #’s you did on release day with no thought of replay value or if in 5 years you’ll ever listen to this again. Real music is suppose to be timeless!!! Thanks for your thoughts and insight.

  5. Old man indeed.

    Dah well. I own ’em all.

  6. hello. i’ve only been following your blog for a couple weeks. i’m of the younger generation and didn’t get into hiphop until i was 17. but i started with nas. then went straight to PE/cypress hill/ice cube/NWA and then into underground stuff. i’ve heard most of these albums and liked almost all of them. so i do have SOME current mainstream stuff but really the true gold hip hop is no longer there. look into other stuff for musical heros.

  7. what’s the point of an album being influental to children, teenagers, college students, the media, musicians, politicians, athletes etc.? Sure, it’s nice to know that everyone else is feelin’ it too, but it doesn’t do anything for me and my enjoyment. If I love the album than it doesn’t matter if it is influental or not. It could be my all time fav even if I’m the only person who heard it, ya dig? I just concentrate on the music and I don’t care about all the hype, that’s why no one ever mentions AZ’s Doe or Die as their favourite album, ok, there are better CD’s but I enjoy this one the most even though it wasn’t really that well accepted.

    • Every society is judged by the art it creates. Whether it’s Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, The Renaissance era, or the Civil Rights era.

      Art is the conscience of the society that produced it. People will look at “It Takes A Nation of Millions. . . ” 200 years from now and learn about the 1980s crack era. They’ll listen to NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” and learn about what Black life was about in 1988 in Compton.

      That’s why it’s important and why today’s records are devoid. They aren’t the conscience of today’s world. How many major rappers made songs about the Iraq War? Hurricane Katrina? The War in Afghanistan?

      That’s why when you see movies set in the 1960s, there’s this great soundtrack to go along with the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement, because the artists were being directly influenced by the times.

  8. I like your list though. I’m younger and my fav years in hip hop are 93-98, peace.

  9. this list is much, much better

  10. A List I cannot fight.

  11. Good list, shocked to see Masta Ace’s Slaughterhouse and not Take A Look Around. Only album I would add to the list is Nine’s “Nine Livez”- has to be the most underated album of all time.


  12. This list contains everything hip-hop fan needs, no matter if it’s beginner or long-time fan…50’s a nice number, though..

  13. Probably one of the best lists I’ve seen. All essential listening for any hip-hop fan. Well done!

  14. Awesome list.

  15. I saw Branden’s list first, so I’m loving this list right now. Of course, everybody’s list would be different. I would probably replace only 25% of this list.
    Nothing on here pisses me off. LOL
    Good job.

  16. 1. Illmatic- Nas
    2. Ready To Die- The Notorious B.I.G.
    3. Paid In Full- Eric B. & Rakim
    4. The Chronic- Dr. Dre
    5. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back- Public Enemy
    6. Straight Outta Compton- NWA
    7. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)- Wu-Tang Clan
    8. Life After Death- The Notorious B.I.G.
    9. Raising Hell- Run-DMC
    10. Reasonable Doubt- Jay-Z

  17. I’d say our lists are pretty close to the same albums, just in different spots. I didn’t see any Redman on yours, which I have two of his in my top 10. 3 Feet High isn’t in mine and I don’t have Atliens in my top 25. It’s cool to see that 3xD though in yours and you are one of the few people to have Slaughtahouse on any list such this besides myself. Us old fogies gotta stick together

  18. Nice list. Even though It Takes A Nation doesn’t have my number one spot, that belongs to Illmatic, I can never argue with anyone who has it as theirs.

    Unfortunately it is so good that someone broke into my house and stole it, so I am currently It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back-less 😦

  19. It’s an OK list. It’s a little East Coast centric for my tastes.

    I actually like Dan’s list a little bit more, because at least it has “The Chronic” and “Straight Outta Compton” in the top 10.

  20. Like the list. Rather than “Ill Communication” though I think the Beastie Boys “Paul’s Boutique” is the better by album to be included on a top 50 list.

  21. What an excellent website. You guys have done a great job organizing everything and making the navigation easy to browse. How can I subscribe to your RSS feed? If you have one please let us know how to get more great information from your website.

  22. Great list. Very solid. We’re definitely from the same era, though you were more of a backpacker than I was. I’ve always believed the whole NY arrogance, its refusal to embrace or acknowledge contributions outside of the 5 boroughs as top tier art – created the climate that got Pac & BIG killed. The Chronic is a top 5 record, and so is Death Certificate. I guess I lean towards that hardcore funk. It was all great music though. Here are a few omissions I would’ve included..

    Black Sheep – Wolf In Sheeps Clothing
    Redman – Whut Thee Album
    Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
    King Tee – Tha Triflin Album
    Diamond D – Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop
    Snoop – Doggystyle
    Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
    Smiff & Wesson – Dah Shinin
    De La Soul – Bahloonhole Mindstate
    Capone & Noreaga – The War Report

  23. Oh yeah.. One more.. Can’t forget!

    Common Sense – Ressurection

  24. Cypress Hill self-titled is necessary for me.

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