1. Notorious B.I.G. / Ready To Die
Biggie’s debut album in 1994 was a huge, huge success going quadruple platinum. It’s simply and undeniably a really fucking good album. Unequivocally the most important rap album to come out in the early 90s. Do I sound a little biased? Maybe.
2. Jay Z / The Blueprint
Released September 11 2001, Jay Z’s The Blueprint is debatably considered the Brooklyn-based rapper’s best album to date. The blending of Jay’s poetic lyrics on top of classic soul samples made this album a masterpiece.
3. AZ / Doe or Die
After dropping verses on Nas’ famed album Illmatic, Anthony Cruz, aka AZ, blessed us with Doe or Die in 1995.
The Brownsville native’s debut album immediately generated outstanding reviews from critics and hip-hop fans alike and it’s solid success landed the album on Billboard’s Top 200 list. This gem of an album is a classic and yet too underrated. Do yourself a favor and take a listen.
4. Nas / Illmatic
Almost 20 years ago we were given one of the best albums in music history. Nas’ debut album is a classic, timeless, and a landmark in hip-hop history. The beats (huge kudos to Large Professor) are impeccable, but it was Nas’ lyrics that makes the album outstanding. Not many songs can compare to the impressive “NY State of Mind”. What’s even more impressive? He delivered the verses in ONE TAKE.
5. Beastie Boys / Licensed to Ill
Who would’ve thought three white Jewish boys wearing track suits could generate something so alternatively cool?
With the wide-range of sounds, beats, and beatbox, Licensed to Ill was such a success it went multi-platinum and album sales continue to soar to this day. REST IN PEACE MCA.
6. Wu-Tang / Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers)
Over 20 years ago, the clan solidified their place in the hip-hop world with their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Their gritty sound and masterful rhymes and raps made way for an outstanding album. Let’s all pray to based god that the clan can hash out the beef and give us another album.
7. Run DMC / Raising Hell
Raising Hell is still considered one of the first hip hop albums to blur the line between old school rap and “rap-rock” (i.e. Walk This Way with Aerosmith). The Queens natives received their first Grammy for the album in 1986, which went on to achieve multi-platinum status. Rolling Stone listed it at #123 in it’s Greatest Albums of All Time” list.
8. Mobb Deep / The Infamous
A classic album in hardcore hip-hop. The entire album was almost completely produced by Havoc and Prodigy themselves. Nas, Raekwon and Ghostface Killa are all featured on the album. Poetic and gritty lyrics with cool beats and dissonant sampling makes this album an essential 90’s hip-hop classic. This album gives me chills even after the twentieth time I’ve listened to it.
9. Boogie Down Productions / Criminal Minded
In 1987, KRS-One, Scott La Rock, and D-Nice released their debut album, which is considered a classic and is credited to have solidified the east coast gangsta rap framework in hip-hop. The album is filled with influences from reggae and soul to pop and rock. The rappers detailed the bleak urban life of the South Bronx. The record went on to sell hundreds of thousands of albums, but the success came to a tragic halt when just 5 months after the album was released Scott LaRock was murdered in a shooting in the Bronx. KRS-One decided to move forward with Boogie Down and Scott LaRock was credited with all subsequent releases.
10. Mos Def / Black on Both Sides
What’s not to love about Mos Def? He’s confident, cool, and he gave us this pretty fucking dope album. Black on Both Sides was an outstanding debut for the Brooklyn native. Mos Def raps about everything from social issues to his love for Brooklyn.