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50 Most Influential Hip Hop Classics

1. Dr. Dre, The Chronic – Released in December 1992 this classic album changed the entire sound, scope, and requirements in Hip hop. Not only was it sonically incredible it pushed both producers and Artist, East and West coast to play more instruments in their production, giving hip hop a more musical tone. The first of few studio albums Dre ever released, Jimmy Iovine, co founder of Interscope Records is the only executive to see Dr. Dre’s talent early on as no one wanted to touch or even distribute the ground breaking project. Even though this album was Dr. Dre’s solo project it featured several verses and participation from fellow west coast rapper Snoop Dogg who used The Chronic to launch his debut album and hugely successful career.  “The Chronic”

2. Dr. Dre, Chronic 2001 –  Released in November 1999  album would be the second studio project from Dr. Dreattaining huge success the first week, selling over 500,000 copies. Peaking at number 2 on the U.S. Billboard charts its no surprise that 2001 was a masterpiece at the time of its release. Joining Dr. Dre on production this time around was Lord Finesse and Mel-Man. Guest artist featured include The D.O.C., Hittman, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Xzibit, Nate Dogg and Eminem.

3. N.W.A., 100 Miles And Running – released August 14, 1990 through Ruthless Records 100 miles & running is the only extended play recorded by the controversial group N.W.A. Critics reviews were mostly positive pushing the EP to certified platinum status in the US. “100 Miles And Running”

4. N.W.A., Efil4zaggin – Released May 21, 1991, as the second studio recorded album by the controversial group N.W.A. Later the same year shortly after the album was released the group broke up following the departure of Dr. Dre and songwriter The D.O.C. to form the infamous Death Row records, Ice Cube had already departed 2 years earlier in 1989. After the albums second week of release ZAGGIN4LIFE peaked at #1. “Efil4zaggin”

5. Gang Starr, Daily Operation– Released May 5, 1992, is the third installment by American hip hop group Gang Starr. This album is personally one of my favorites, DJ Premier really went in on the production on this album. Although the album was greeted with cold reviews Daily Operation eventually went on to be named 100 best hip hop albums by The Source magazine in 1998. “Daily Operation”

6. Gang Starr, Hard To Earn – Released March 8, 1994, featured the memorable singles “Mass Appeal” & “DWYCK”. It’s the fourth installment from Gang Starr. Guest appearances include Group Home, Jeru the Damaja & Big Shug, all at the time were part of the Gang Starr Foundation. “Hard To Earn”

7. M.O.P., Firing Squad – Released October 26, 1996, through Relativity is the second album from the Brooklyn based duo M.O.P. (Mash Out Posse). Firing Squad delivers on everything needed to be a classic, production, delivery & pure grit. All production & mixing on this album was supervised by DJ premier. Guest artist featured are Kool G. Rap, Teflon & Battle. “Firing Squad”

8. Mobb Deep, The Infamous – Released April 1995 under Loud Records, Mobb Deeps sophomore release The Infamous set the tone for The renaissance era of hip hop. Prodigy’s life like lyrics and Havoc’s dark, gritty soundscape is just what was needed for the commercial success of such a dark album. Upon its initial release, it reached number 15 on the U.S Billboard charts. Guest artist featured on the album include Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Nas, and Q-tip. “The Infamous”

9. Raekwon, Only Built For Cuban Links – Released in August 1995 under Loud Records OBFCL is the debut solo album from Wu-tang member Raekwon. When the album was released it peaked at number 4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 130,000 copies in the first week. This album by far is one of my personal favorites with one of the most memorable parts being the infamous purple cassette. The concept of OBFCL was for it be like a film with Rza as the director, Raekwon as the lead star a Ghostface Killah as the guest star. The album features every member of Wu-Tang except for Ol’Dirty Bastard, Nas also drops an incredible verse on the song Verbal Intercourse. “Only Built For Cuban Links”

10. Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle – Released in November of 1993 through Death Row and Interscope Doggystyle is the debut studio album from Snoop Doggy Dogg. Snoops distinctive flow and style on this album helped Doggystyle earn the title from critics as one of the most significant albums of the 1990’s. Doggystyle peak at number 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts selling over 800,000 units in its first week. Up until 2000, it was the fastest selling hip hop album ever. “Doggystyle”

11. Redman, Docs Da Name – Released in December of 1998 Doc’s Da Name is the fourth album from New Jersey rapper Redman. At the time of its release, it peaked at # 3 on the U.S. Billboard charts eventually reaching platinum status in less than 3 months. The production on this album is super tight with Redman’s lyrical content and delivery as the icing on the cake. “Doc’s Da Name”

12. Main Source, Breaking Atoms – Released in July of 1991 Breaking Atoms is the debut studio album from Main Source. The production on this album is known as the launch pad for the whole 90’s hip hop sound, sampling soul, and classic Jazz tunes. Breaking Atoms is very important part of hip hop history and anyone who considers themselves a part of hip hop history should be very familiar. One other important fact is the song Live At The Barbeque is the reason behind the massive success of Queens rapper Nas. This record was out of print in the U.S. until it was reissued 2008. “Breaking Atoms”

13. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Mecca And The Soul Brother – Released in June of 1992 this critically acclaimed album Mecca And The Soul Brother is the first release from Producer Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Labeled as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time this record is homework to anyone who wants to get close to the golden era of hip hop. “Mecca And The Soul Brother”

14. Busta Rhymes, E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event) The Final World Front – Released in December of 1998 E.L.E. is the third album from experimental rapper Busta Rhymes, it was released through Elektra. The album is based on the apocalyptic theories Busta began exploring in 1996 with his debut album The Coming. Beautifully delivered and produced the album was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards Best Rap Album, Best Rap Solo, Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. “E.L.E.”

15. Big Pun, Capital Punishment – Released in April of 1998 through Loud Records, Capital Punishment is the debut studio album from Bronx Rapper Big Pun. Another one of my personal favorites, it peaked at # 5 on the Billboard 200 charts and was nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy Award in 1999. Capital Punishment broke barriers for the Latin community being the first solo Latin record to go platinum. “Capital Punishment”

16. Kanye West, 808’s & Heartbreaks – Released in November of 2008 808’s is the fourth album from Kanye West. This album is the one where Kanye actually found himself as an artist. 808’s forced Kanye to think creatively out of the box, many say it was due to a series of personal events. 808’s would also mark the first time Kanye began experimenting with electronic sounds and singing vocals through Auto-Tune. One of the main components in the making of this record was the TR-808 drum machine by Roland. “808’s & Heartbreaks”

17. Kanye West, My Dark Twisted Fantasy – Released in November of 2010, My Dark Twisted Fantasy is the fifth studio recorded album by Kanye. Mostly recorded in Hawaii in 2009, this record, in my opinion, was more like a statement piece. I believe the album was done to address the non-believers, those who felt like West had lost his mind and took a new direction in music. The album peaked at # 1 on the Billboard charts, going on to sell more than 1 million copies in the U.S. alone. Musical guest on the album includes Jay Z, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, John Legend just to name a few. It’s listed and ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time.  “My Dark Twisted Fantasy”

18. Kanye West, Yeezus – Released in June of 2013, Yeezus is the sixth studio recorded album from Kanye West. Yeezus is probably one of my favorites in the whole line up, of course, there are others but this one just stands out to me. Yeezus delivers a punk rock in your face attitude that fits Kanye’s persona all the way. The album peaked at number 1 on Billboard charts selling over 300,000 units within the first week.  Shortly before the albums release producer Rick Rubin was brought in to strip down certain elements of the record to give it more of a raw rock feel. Other producers on the project include Travis Scott, Daft Punk, Hudson Mohawke to name a few. Most critics note Yeezus as being Kanye’s best work, I think I would agree. “Yeezus”

19. Jay Z, Reasonable Doubt – Released in June of 1996 through Roc-A-Fella and Priority Records, Reasonable Doubt is the debut album from Jay-Z. The highlight of this critically acclaimed classic is not only the buzz worthy lyrics it’s the amazing production. The cinematic production on the album was crafted by D.J. Premier, Ski, DJ Clark Kent and Knonody.    Reasonable Doubt charted at number 23 on the U.S. Billboard 200, reaching certified platinum status. It’s been labeled as one of the greatest rap albums ever and Jay Z’s best work to date. “Reasonable Doubt”

20. Jay Z, Vol. 3 Life & Times Of S. Carter – Released in December of 1999  Vol. 3 is the fourth album from Jay Z. This album is a break from the commercial Jay Z and a return of Jay Z’s street rooted sound of Reasonable Doubt. Well received by fans and critics it reached number 1 on the Billboard 200, in its first week it sold over 400,000 copies. The album features production from Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, K Rob, DJ Clue, DJ Premier and Irv Gotti. ” Vol. 3 Life & Times Of S. Carter”.

21. Jay Z, The Blueprint – Released in September of 2001, The Blueprint is the sixth studio album by Jay Z.  Ranked on Rolling Stones 500 greatest albums of all time The  Blueprint is responsible for launching production careers of Kanye West and Just Blaze. Producers Timbaland, Trackmasters, Bink & Eminem also helped create the overall sound of the album with Eminem also adding the only guest verse to the project. This album has also gone down with critics as one of the greatest albums of all times praising the production and clever lyrics. “The Blueprint”
21. Beanie Sigel, The B. Coming – Released in March of 2005 through Dame Dash Music Group, The B. Coming is the third album from Philly rapper Beanie Sigel. The album received generally good reviews, to me, this one was more personal as the music appears to be put much tighter than previous projects. Verses on point as usual with beats like a charm. Featured guest includes Jay Z, Redman, Freeway, Snoop Dogg, Bun-B & Cam’ron. “The B.Coming”.
22. Biggie Smalls, Life After Death – Released in March of 1997 Life After Death is the second and last album from Brooklyn rapper Notorious B.I.G. It was released after his death on March 9, 1997. The double album was a masterpiece, a window into what a great artist Biggie truly was and quickly becoming. Guest on the project includes 112, Jay Z. Lil Kim, Mase, Bone Thugs, Too Short, Angela Winbush, D.M.C., R Kelly, The Lox, and Puffy. Rolling Stones magazine ranked it as one of the greatest albums of all time. “Life After Death”
23. Puff Daddy & The Family, No Way Out – Released in July of 1997 No Way Out is the debut release from Puff Daddy, now known as Diddy or Sean Combs. The project was put out on His own impurint Bad Boy Records. Production on the album was provided by Puffy’s team of producers known as the Hitmen. Although the album received mixed reviews for various reasons it eventually earned Puffy 5 Grammy nominations at the 40th Grammy Awards in1998,
winning him the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

24. Group home, Livin Proof – Released in November of 1995 is the debut album from Group Home. Original Gang Starr associates the albums hit single Supa Star put the Brooklyn duo on the map. The album’s production is magnificent and flawlessly pieced together thanks to the big beats of DJ Premier, the voice & original wordplay of Lil Dap mixed with the old school raps of Malachi the Nutcracker. Widely praised, it is one of DJ Premier’s best project to date.  Check it out and see for yourself. “Livin Proof”

25. Genius, Liquid Swords – Released in November of 1995 it is the second solo album from the lyrically gifted Wu-Tang member the GZA. A product of Geffen Records & produced by the RZA, this masterpiece speaks for itself. The gritty well-executed sound of this album was mostly recorded in RZA’s basement studio. If you want to hear crime and philosophy to a super dope soundtrack, you can start with “Liquid Swords”.

26. DMX, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot – Released in May of 1998 It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is the debut album of Dark Man X better known as DMX. I love the energy and distinct sound of this album, it was new and fresh for that period. The bulk of the production was put together by Dane Grease and PK, additional production was also provided by Irv Gotti and Swizz Beats. The album is highly praised and considered a classic among fans and many critics, myself included. “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot”

27. DMX, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood – Released in December of 1998, no more than 9 months after his debut, Flesh Of My Flesh is the second studio recorded album by DMX. The album charted at #1 shipping over 600,000 copies within the first week. Eventually the album would go 3x platinum in U.S. The Flesh Of My Flesh release made DMX the first artist to make two #1 albums in one year while still alive under the same name. Swiss Beatz made a name for himself on this project producing a bulk of the music. “Flesh Of My Flesh Blood Of My Blood”

28. Ghostface Killah, Ironman–  Released in October 1996 through Epic Records, Ironman is the debut release from Ghostface Killa. Many say this album is Only Built For Cuban Links part 2, I would not disagree. I believe it has taken on that label for a few reasons, RZA really did an excellent job on production and the lineup of guest featured. The tone of Ironman is mostly old films and rare soul samples which never gets old in my opinion. Peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 the album was certified platinum. “Ironman”

29. Tribe Called Quest, The Low-end Theory – Released in September of 1991 through Jive Records The Low-End Theory is the 2nd album from A Tribe Called Quest. Due to the melodic production of the album, The Low-End Theory laid the groundwork for an alternative hip-hop sound and is deservingly regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. It only peaked at #45 on the Billboard 200 but eventually reached certified platinum status bridging the gap between jazz and hip-hop. “The Low-End Theory”

30. Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders – Released in November of 1993 Midnight Marauders is Tribe Called Quest 3rd album. Reaching #8 on the Billboard 200 the album was a massive success. Beautifully produced and the most memorable album art to date Midnight Marauders features the song The Chase Part, 2, the groups highest charting single. “Midnight Marauders”

31. Big Daddy Kane, Long Live The Kane – Released in June of 1998, Long Live The Kane is the debut album from Big Daddy Kane. Produced by Marley Marl, this album is hands down one of my top ten personal favorite hip-hop favorites of all time. Long Live The Kane is another classic defining the golden age of hip-hop along with a few others mentioned on this list. Big Daddy Kane is also one of the illest lyricists to ever pick up a microphone. If you have not taken the time out to study this album and you call yourself a rapper, fan or critic, kill yourself. “Long Live The Kane”

32. Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Forever – Released in June of 1997 through Loud/RCA Records Wu-Tang Forever is the second studio album from Wu-Tang. A double album, it was released after a long run of successful solo projects from various group members. Selling over 550,000 units within the first week the album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 charts eventually going certified platinum 4x. In 1998 at the 40th Grammy Awards in Wu-Tang Forever was nominated for Best Rap Album. “Wu-Tang Forever”

33. Ice Cube, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted – Released in May of 1990, by Priority Records Amerikkka’s Most Wanted is Ice Cubes controversial first album following his departure from N.W.A. Produced mainly by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad production team the album turned out to be a huge commercial success. Today the album remains one of the defining hip-hop albums of the 90’s. “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”

34. Eric B. & Rakim, Paid In Full – Released in July of 1987 through 4th & B’way Records, Paid In Full is the debut album from Eric B. & Rakim. Recorded mostly at producer Marley Marl’s home in NYC, the project peaked at #58 on the Billboard 200. The group would form after Eric B’s search for a rapper to complement his DJ’ing skills in 1985. 5 singles were squeezed out of this classic album. Paid In Full is noted as a benchmark to the golden age of hip-hop, it’s a classic. “Paid In Full”

35. Nas, Illmatic – Released in April of 1994, Illmatic is the debut album from Queens rapper Nas. Anyone fortunate enough to be around during this release already knows it speaks for itself. Dj Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-tip, L.E.S. & even Nas himself were responsible for producing this classic. Illmatic peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200 only selling 60,000 units the first week. Despite disappointing sales, the album eventually went on to sell over 500,000 copies. Today it is still regarded as a milestone in hip-hop history. “Illmatic”

36. Nas, It Was Written – Released in July of 1996, It Was Written is the second album from Nas. This album would be classified as Nas’s most commercially successfully album peaking at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. It Was Written was mainly produced by the Trackmasters and remains his top seller moving over 2 million copies in the US. Many fans say Nas sold out with the release of this album but in my opinion, it showed his growth from a street rapper to a world renown poetic genius. “It Was Written”

37. Kendrick Lamar, good Kid m.A.A.d city – Released in October of 2012 good Kid m.A.A.d. city is the second studio album from Kendrick Lamar. through Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment. Producers who  contributed include Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Hit-Boy, Scoop Deville Jack Splash & T-Minus. The album is marketed as a short film by Kendrick Lamar based on his experiences as a teeneager on the streets of Compton. Critics praised the album earning Kendrick four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. “good Kid m.A.A.d city”

38. Makaveli, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory – Released in November of 1996 The 7 Day Theory is the last studio project from late rapper Tupac Shakur. This is one of my favorite Tupac albums, it was released 2 months after his murder. The album was completed in 7 days and released through Death Row/ Interscope Records. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 selling 664,000 in the first week eventually going 4x platinum. “The 7 Day Theory”
39. Rick Ross – God Forgives I Don’t – Released in July of 2012 God Forgives I Don’t is the fifth studio album from Rick Ross. This album is super dope, Ross displayed his ability to pick beats and flow on point with the best wordplay & performance. It peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart moving over 200,000 units in the first week. This is definitely one of Ross’s best releases to date. “God Forgives, I Don’t”
40. The Game, The Documentary –  Released in January of 2005, The Documentary is the debut album from The Game. with production from Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Scott Storch & Timberland how can you possibly go wrong. I would go so far to say this was an excellent album, it provided everything Hip-Hop needed at the time. This would be The Game’s only album on Aftermath and G-Unit Records, as he left the label after a feud began to occurred between him and fellow G-Unit label-mate 50 Cent.The Documentary sold over 80,000 units within three months of its release. “The Documentary”

41. The Game, Doctors Advocate – Released in November of 2006, Doctor’s Advocate is the second album from The Game. If you appreciated the first then you definitely know how special Doctor’s Advocate is. After The Game’s split from G-Unit, a lot of people thought he was done, Doctors Advocate proved everyone wrong. Do yourself a favor and add this monster to your playlist. “Doctors Advocate”

42. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Released in June of 1988, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the second album from Public Enemy. A staple in hip-hop history this album would be recognized for the strong social commentary wrapped around the hard-hitting production of Hank Shocklee & The Bomb Squad. The album was recorded at several studios in the NYC area. “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”
43. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet – Released in March of 1990, Fear of a Black Planet is the third album from the controversial group Public Enemy. Released through Def Jam the Bomb Squad again laced the album with the militant heavy layered sound that made the second album a classic. Lead member Chuck D calls this album deep & complex in comparison to other projects they have recorded. “Fear of a Black Planet”

44. EPMD, Strictly Business – Released in June of 1988, Strictly Business is the debut album from hip-hop pioneers EPMD. Way ahead of its time, this album is one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, also ranked 459 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the greatest albums of all time. It peaked at 80 on the Billboard 200 earning gold status four months after its release. Since its release, its received heavy praise from critics. “Strictly Business”

45. EPMD, Unfinished Business – Released in August of 1989, Unfinished Business is the second album from the hip-hop duo EPMD. Beautifully executed and produced,  the lead single “So Wat Cha Saying ” put the album on the map. Unfinished Business is the second album from the group to hit #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “Unfinished Business”

46. EPMD, Business as Usual – Released in December of 1990, Business as Usual is the third album from the group EPMD. Not as praised as the first 2 albums, Business as Usual is still on my list as one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. This album would also be the platform to showcase rapper Redman’s creative ability who later on would become a star on his own. “Business as Usual”

47. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead – Released in May of 1991, De La Soul Is Dead is the second album from golden era hip-hop group De La Soul. The album was produced by Prince Paul who was responsible for the sound of their debut record. This album would be the first to receive a perfect five-mic rating in The Source magazine along with an induction into The Source’s 100 Best Rap Albums. Many consider De La Soul is Dead as one of the best albums of the 1990’s.
48. 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin – Released in February of 2003, Get Rich or Die Tryin is the first major label release of rapper 50 Cent. The album was released through Shady, Aftermath & Interscope. Hugely successful, Get Rich or Die Tryin peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 selling over 800,000 copies within the first week of release. Nominated for a Grammy and praised by many critics worldwide, as of 2016 the album sold over 8 million copies. At number 37 on Rolling Stones list of best albums of the 2000’s any supporter of the genre should definitely know why. “Get Rich or Die Tryin”
49. Boogie Down Productions, By All Means Necessary – Released in May of 1988, By All Means Necessary is the second album from B.D.P. following the murder of DJ/producer Scott La Rock. Released through Jive Records KRS-One began experimenting with conscious rap songs and picked up the name the Teacher. Government, Corruption and the drug trade in America over catchy stripped down drum beats is the best way to describe this classic. Certified gold, By Any Means Necessary speaks to a generation and still goes hard today. “By All Means Necessary”
50. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III – Released in June of 2008, Tha Carter III would be the 6th album from Lil Wayne. To be honest, this slot was a toss up between Tha Carter III and Scarface’s The Diary, I had to go with the Tha Carter III. This album was the arrival of Lil Wayne as a bonafide star and a much talked about lyricists. Selling over 1 million copies in the first week, it’s no surprise that it is on the list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Everything about this album is worth it, production, lyrics, presentation and most of all solid songs. “Tha Carter III”
October 11, 2017