Willie T. Plaza’s 5 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time
Okay, you’ve read our latest writeup on the Top 5 Rappers of All Time. Now, we’re going to shake up the world! Here are our picks for the 5 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time.
First let us say, this was a very challenging list to produce. There are SO many superlative rap albums out there and we love SO many of them that this shortlist was nearly impossible to craft. However, after vigorous contemplating and sleeping on it several nights, we’ve ultimately drawn five conclusions. Hold onto your unlaced Timberland constructs and Parasuco jeans as we present to you the 5 best rap albums ever.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan
Sliding in at #5 on our list of the 5 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time is Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the fabled Wu-Tang Clan. The characteristic, gritty, underground sound of the LP formed a blueprint for hardcore rap during the 90s and helped NYC hip-hop return to national eminence. The album’s sound became vastly influential in modern rap production as well, while the crew members’ free-associable, witty, and pictorial lyrics have served as a templet for numerous subsequent rap records. RZA‘s aural collages from vintage soul samples and snippets from karate feature films were unparalleled and largely unmatched in hip-hop. Additionally, Method Man and Raekwon both evidenced themselves as crackerjack lyricists who premeditated to judder the rap game for years to come. The project was radically ahead of its time and is still unrivaled to this present day.
And the classics on this project…lawdy lawd, oh the classics on this joint! “C.R.E.A.M.” is the first to come to mind. “Oouu, oouu, oouu, yeahhh ahhh!” “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin‘” too is our jam. “Bring Da Ruckus,” “Protect Ya Neck,” “Clan in da Front,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F’ Wit” — the list is just way too long to name. Wu-Tang revolutionized the rap game by becoming the first hip hop group to comprise 9 members, and their ageless debut album marks them as perhaps the greatest rap faction in music history.
The Chronic – Dr. Dre
Eh, even Jay Z himself insinuated that Dr. Dre and allies had the rap game on lock around the time The Chronic dropped. On “This Can’t Be Life” on The Dynasty album, Hov spit: “It’s like ’93, ’94, bout the year That BIG and Mag dropped. and “Illmatic” rocked; Outta every rag drop, and the West had it locked…” The Chronic dropped in December 1992 and literally set NYC-based hip hop back a few years. Dre’s LP is universally considered the record that reshaped West Coast rap, exemplified gangsta hip hop’s commercial prospective as a multi-platinum asset, and recognized G-funk as the most prominent sound in rap music for numerous years after its release. Dre’s unprecedented instrumentals had all producers staying late in the lab trying to figure out how they were going to keep up! Throw in a young Snoop Dogg‘s satiny voice and combustible bars, Nate Dogg‘s singular vocals, Kurupt, Lady of Rage, The D.O.C., Daz Dillinger, and Warren G, and you have yourself the fourth-best hip hop album of all time (on our list, at least).
“Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” naturally, is the notable track on the album. Then you know we bump “Let Me Ride” when we spin the Pinto around the block! And who in their right mind could forget the Eazy-E diss record “F*ck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” and the gut-busting video featuring Anthony Johnson as Eazy. Then there’s “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” that makes us want to tie a bandana around our face and reach for a water pistol. And the beat on “Deeez Nuuuts” can burn a house down! Supposing we still used them, The Chronic is one of those albums that would remain in the car’s 6 disc CD changer for life!
The Blueprint – Jay Z
We know … “How y’all gonna pick The Blueprint over Reasonable Doubt? Now I know why they call y’all ‘loud’ news, ’cause y’all must be on pot for this one!” Now, we totally agree Reasonable Doubt is perennial and monolithic. However, The Blueprint is where Jay Z ascended and cemented himself as hip hop’s top dog. How’d he do that? One word: “Takeover.” When Jay came out of left field and crushed Nas on the diss track, the whole world was like “whoa!!! did he just say that for real?” Yeah, you remember the feeling! You knew Nas was going to hit back, so it was similar to watching the top heavyweight champions duke it out in a Las Vegas ring with Michael Buffer announcing. And though Nas struck back fiercely with “Ether,” many say there were various falsehoods in the record which by default makes Hov victor of the bout.
Since we’re comparing, Jay’s bars on The Blueprint were just as hard as they were on Reasonable Doubt (if not harder); plus, he utilizes a young Kanye West‘s beats throughout the LP. Seriously, you’re not going to beat that if you tried! “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” “Never Change,” “Takeover,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Girls, Girls, Girls (Part 2)” — all Yeezy bangers! Throw in a couple of Just Blaze fireballs (“Song Cry,” “U Don’t Know,” “Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise“) and you have yourself a full-scale hip hop album that virtually no rapper can touch, ever.
Now…how’d we do? Figured you’d give us a pass! The Blueprint – third-best hip hop album of all time. (Honorable mentions: Reasonable Doubt, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life)
Illmatic – Nas
You figured Illmatic would be on this list—it was just a matter of where. Nas‘ debut album is #2 on our list of greatest hip hop albums of all time and for satisfactory reasonings. Let’s begin simply with Nas’ bars … nobody, and we mean nobody, in the early 90s was spitting on Nas’ level. He took a different route lyrically than every rapper and gave a deep, realistic, and personal viewpoint on life in the Queensbridge Houses. When you listened, you vividly saw Nas’ perception, as if you were right there with him in the projects yourself. Nas’ lyrics had a fatalistic and empirical bend that’s extremely uncharacteristic of a person so young. Bars such as “I switched my motto—instead of saying f*ck tomorrow, that buck that bought a bottle could’ve struck the lotto” from “Life’s a B*tch” come off as much sounder than the rapper’s 20 years at the moment of recording. Still, till this day in 2020, no hip hop artist can quake a studio’s booth like Nas.
Aside from having no features on the album (except AZ), the production also makes Illmatic a contemporary classic. The album falls into the syrupy spot between A Tribe Called Quest‘s affable jazz and the Wu-Tang Clan’s trenchant grit. The music is luxuriant but seamless. There’s merely a hefty instrumental over a bass line and a few ambient samples, reiterated for roughly four minutes until Nas is done delivering what’s on his chest. These tracks are ideal backdrops for the rapper to read his lyrics over.
Another plus is the album is brief and lean—a mere 40 minutes with only 10 tracks that are unlittered by superfluous skits. In this day and age, the shorter the album the better. Pusha T‘s Daytona album is 21 minutes in length and boasts 7 tracks. Thereby in hindsight, Nas’ truncated LP in 1994 was ahead of his time. With all of this said, Illmatic could have been number one on our list, easily. However, “there’s one life, one love, so there can only be one King…” (pun intended)
Ready to Die – The Notorious B.I.G.
Biggie Smalls‘ debut album Ready to Die comes in at #1 on our list of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. There are so many justifications as to why this LP is substantial, however, let’s begin with its concept. Ready to Die is perhaps the first album to revolve around an actual theme. Throughout the record, B.I.G. articulated the unforgiving realities of the inner city and how they had him on the brink of losing his mind. The drug game (and all its subterfuge and vehemence), the convoluted relationships with the women in his life, and the poverty-stricken environs of Bed Stuy had Biggie literally ready to die. And when BIG committed suicide on the last track…every listener’s jaw hit the floor when they initially heard it. The Notorious B.I.G. unfeignedly pioneered theme-based albums.
Next up, is the production. “Unbelievable” by Preemo, “Juicy” by Poke and Puff, “Big Poppa” by Chucky Thompson and Puff, and a slew of bangers from Easy Mo Bee (“Warning,” “The What (featuring Method Man)”, “Gimme the Loot,” “Friend of Mine,” etc) set the stage for some of the nastiest instrumentals rap has ever encountered. Released in September 1994, Ready to Die‘s sound shifted the genre of rap and helped various producers plant their flag atop Mount Hip Hop.
Last but certainly not least – the bars. “I wouldn’t give a fuck if you’re pregnant, give me the baby rings, and the #1 Mom pendant.” “I got my honies on the Amtrack, with the crack in the crack of her a*s, two pounds of hash in the stash; I wait for hun to make some quick cash, I told her she could be lieutenant, b*tch got gassed! At last…” “So instead of making h*es suck my d*ck up, I used to do stick-ups, ’cause h*es is irritating like the hiccups; Excuse me, flows just grow through me, like trees to branches, cliffs to avalanches; It’s the praying mantis…” “I bring pain, blood stains on what remains—of his jacket, he had a gun he shoulda packed it, cocked it; Extra clips in my pocket, so I can reload and explode on your a*shole! I f*ck around and get hardcore, C-4 to your door, no beef no more…” Need we say more? Ready to Die — best rap album ever.
Keep it Loud!
Don’t forget to follow us @loudnewsnet on all your favorite social media platforms. And subscribe to our weekly That Loud newsletter!