From a new way of expressing artistically to a mainstream genre, rap has come a long way indeed, and it couldn’t have if it wasn’t for these best rap albums of all time, the cream of the crop. We take a glad look back at the most pivotal, genre-influencing and just plain amazing albums rappers have cooked up in studios all across the United States throughout the last 35 years or so.
As quickly and as low as he has fallen, 50 Cent was once the supreme leader of the rap genre, quite possibly the one that returned it to the spotlight after a short slumber. He did it with his second, but the first major-label album which was pretty stacked with 19 tracks and at least a dozen hits like 21 Questions, Many Men, In da Club, Wanksta and P.I.M.P.. Thanks to Get Rich or Die Tryin’ rap game was dominated by a similar style for at least five years and with all due respects to Kanye, it was this album that held rap in the 21st century.
If you get to last 26 years without disappointing your fans you must be doing something right, and Cypress Hill announced their skill to the world with a well-recognized Cypress Hill album back in 1991. A different take on rap from the spirit of the era, yet one that has found its audience and brought rap closer to fans of other genres. Cypress Hill’s track’s from their debut album became cult classics and 26 years later no one can resist bouncing to them as if it’s the first time hearing them.
One of the most artistically revered rap albums of all time, Nas’s Illmatic may have just 10 tracks on it but it has genuinely influenced more people than the majority of artists manage to do throughout their careers. A true representative of East Coast school of rapping, it’s the closest rap has come to a professor’s lecture. Illmatic is the home to some of the truest and best rap lines since someone coined the name for the genre. Impressively enough, Nas achieved this high level of cultural relevance with just one feature on the whole album.
Probably the most surprising entry on this list of best rap albums of all time, yet the quality all areas of the project have warant for a place in high society. The East Coast duo of DJ Premier and Guru are inexplicably less-known, therefore the album isn’t on many lists like this, but it’s one of the technically best albums ever. DJ Premier delivers the perfect, distinctive, memorable beats, while Guru slides over them delivering his powerful, important messages. It’s a ride along the streets of New York, and you have the best tour guides.
The establishment of rap as a mainstream genre, regardless of how much it has evolved and moved from its roots, couldn’t have been done without Eminem, as his wacky earlier style drew a generation towards it. The Eminem Show is rapper’s fourth album, yet all of them came in quick succession, and it’s the 2002 one that had the most hits and showed proper maturity. It was the year’s best-selling album in the United States, and it reached the number one spot in 19 countries!
Consistency track-wise has been the soft spot of 21st-century rap, yet, somewhat ironically but mostly sad, not for the most hated rapper ever Kanye West. And while 808s and Heartbreak is his highest rated album, it’s not quite as rap as it is electropop/R&B. Graduation, on the other hand, is pure rap, a fresh take on the genre, providing with great music and some of the best rap quotes ever. Monster hits and the innovation that it brought is the reason we let Kanye’s antics slide.
Biggie is regarded by most as one of two best rappers ever, and he managed that with only two albums made during his lifetime, so that means they must be amazing. The rap legend’s debut album Ready to Die holds most of Biggie signature tracks, two of the most famed – Juicy and Big Poppa, and it also has the man’s own favorite track Machine Gun Funk. It’s arguably the best rap album when it comes to the flow and the delivery.
There is a common belief that gangsta rap peaked and originated in the ’90s, it was this 1988 album that made the first, and the biggest splash in the sub-genre The track the album got its name from, Fuck the Police, and Express Yourself had an undeniable influence on the culture, and the recent movie of the same name sealed the legacy of THE rap group’s first album. If N.W.A. didn’t express itself through its debut album as harshly and raw as it did no way that rap would become the powerhouse it is now.
While today rap is a mainstream genre, the artist today don’t even bother to make an album that is holistic in its theme or in its quality, and to risk sounding like a jaded old man, that wasn’t the case back in the day. You could pop in an album like Doggystyle and forget about skipping a track or two, even the skits were great and the picture Snoop Dogg paints with it is enough to cement his place in the top 10 list of best rappers ever even though he became a parody of himself.
Of course the man himself had to have a spot on the list, and of course, it had to be number one. You have the best rap lyrics, you have the fresh beats, you have the unique pure energy, and you have the basis for the biggest legacy of the genre. 2Pac’s fourth studio album and the last one released during his life had incredible 27 tracks, with none of them being a skit. And when at least 15 of them are classic, it’s certain that this is the best rap album of all time!
Do you agree with our assessment of best rap albums of all time or are you making a diss track?