Hip Hop Anonymous: The 5 Greatest Hiphop Albums of All Time (According To Me)
Posted on 18 February 2015
DJ Premier. Remember that name. He's important. He single handedly styled the golden age of hip hop for me, and he's been behind some of the biggest records to grace a turntable. Gang Starr, Biggie, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Big L, Nasty Nas, Rakim, and the list goes on. If you're looking for a place to start, start with him. Anything he's produced or been a part of, because he's there for a reason. He's that good.
Today we rundown the 5 best hiphop albums of all time. Before we get started let it be known that I'm well aware that there is plenty of room for debate here, but these 5 albums shaped hip hop for me. They set the bar (or 16 bars rather - see what I did there?) so unbelievably high that there hasn't been another contender to come close within the past 15 years. Now I know some people are saying "WHAT?! IS HE KIDDING? WHAT ABOUT KENDRICK? JAY? YEEZY?" Yes, there has been some great hip hop albums in recent years, but to me were born of influence, and therefore lack that revolutionary first step. Not to say this list of 5 aren't "odes" in their own right, because they are... But they were odes first. Maybe I'm getting old, which is entirely possible because I find myself saying "Kids don't know shit about music" quite often. Just like my dad did. And his dad did. And his dad did. And so on, and so on. Maybe I'm missing the point of new music. Maybe I just don't care.
This is a personal "best of" list. This is not meant to be fact (to me it is but whatever). People are passionate about music, and that's what's so great about it. We can agree to disagree. Please keep in mind that this is also not a "Most Important" list, where NWA's Straight Outta Compton is an easy top 3, and yet here it's nowhere to be found. This is strictly personal taste. If you agree with it then we'll have lots to talk about over coffee.
So let this be your guide. Or don't. But I bet you'd be hard pressed to find even the nit-pickiest of self-proclaimed hip hop aficionados that don't agree with at least 1 masterpiece on this list.
Ready? Let's drop the beat...
5. Nas - Illmatic • The debut studio album from Nasty Nas, produced by DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip. A defining east coast hip hop album. Lyricism unmatched. The definition of a banger from start to finish.
••••4. The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die • The world's introduction to Biggie Smalls. A master of storytelling, a genius of grit. 21 years old when he made this record. Twenty. One. The blueprint hip hop autobiography, you are east coast when this hits the wheel.
••••3. The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde • West coast doing it right in 1992. Ridiculous to believe that this is a debut album. A jazz infused masterpiece, and hilarious at the same time. "Passin' Me By" is a definitive single, an opus.
2. Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang 36 Chambers • Here they come... The birth of the Wu. Produced by RZA, dirty, raw, and hard as hell. Have you ever heard another group spawn solo albums as good as GZA, Method Man, ODB, Ghostface, or Raekwon? And they were all on this record, together.
1. A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders • My #1. The Holy Grail of hip hop. Yes The Low End Theory is amazing, but this is jazz, soul, and hip hop at it's finest. Perfect from start to finish. If you only get one, let this be it.
Honorable mentions: Dr. Dre - The Chronic, Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique, GZA - Liquid Swords, Gang Starr - Get in the Arena, KRS-One - I Got Next, The Roots - Things Fall Apart, Pete Rock & CL Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother, NWA - Straight Outta Compton, Jay-Z - The Blueprint, De La Soul - De La Soul Is Dead, 2Pac - All Eyez On Me, Mobb Deep - The Infamous, Kanye West - Late Registration, Souls Of Mischief - 93 'Til Infinity, Black Star - Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
There you have it. Love it. Hate it. Create your own list. You'll find it's more difficult than you think.
*Drops mic, walks off stage.