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AOL's The 20 Most Essential Hip-Hop Albums

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  • AOL's The 20 Most Essential Hip-Hop Albums

    seems pretty good

    (In chronological order)

    1. Run D.M.C. 'Run D.M.C.'

    Queens-bred trio Run D.M.C. is more responsible for the style and sound of hip-hop than any other, and this 1984 album signaled the revolution. With tough, minimal production that hit with a rock edge, songs like 'It's Like That' and 'Hard Times' said goodbye to the block parties and got down to business, paving the way for every rap group that followed in Run D.M.C.'s wake.
    2. Eric B & Rakim, 'Paid in Full'

    Simply put, 'Paid in Full' upped the ante for all mid-'80s MCs in the game. DJ Eric B and rapper Rakim were both masters of their craft; it shows through on this innovative 1987 album, which has been sampled and quoted by more rappers than we can count. One listen to this album and you'll understand why Rakim quickly earned the nickname 'The God' upon its release.
    3. Big Daddy Kane, 'Long Live the Kane'

    If your introduction to hip-hop music came post millennium, then you might erroneously credit Jay-Z or Cam'ron with inventing the smooth hustler persona. But, as any fan of the genre's golden age knows, that honor actually goes to Brooklyn's Big Daddy Kane who 'Set It Off' with an intoxicating mix of flow, swagger and pure cool on this critically-acclaimed, 1988 album.
    4. N.W.A., 'Straight Outta Compton'

    N.W.A. may not have invented gangsta rap, but this 1989 album took it to deeper, darker and dirtier places than the music had ever been before. The violent imagery that poured from the mouths of Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and MC Ren makes Eminem seem mild mannered. It also brought the painful reality of the Compton streets into suburban teenage bedrooms, frightening as many listeners as it influenced. Every tough-talking MC owes his career to this seminal 40 minutes of music.
    5. Public Enemy, 'It Takes a Nation...'

    Using Run D.M.C.'s blueprint, Public Enemy was a hip-hop collective that hit harder than a rock band. Like KRS-One, Chuck D was an urban scholar that dropped socio-political science on the mic. But what makes 1989's 'It takes a Nation of Millions…' a classic is the way it deconstructed and rebuilt rap into a beast more invigorating, inspiring and influential than it had ever been before. Nearly 20 years after its release, it still has no equal.
    6. Beastie Boys, 'Paul's Boutique'

    Though initially dismissed upon its 1989 release (in part because it sold far less copies than the Beasties' 10x-platinum predecessor 'Licensed to Ill'), the album's dizzying tapestry of odd samples and old-school rhyme techniques continues to blow minds to this day. Current copyright laws, which have been updated since the '80s, would make 'Paul's Boutique' impossible to recreate today, making the album a testament to a time when hip-hop creativity flourished without boundaries.
    7. Ice Cube, 'AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted'

    Long before he began drawing audiences at the box office, Ice Cube was drawing stark, sobering images of inner-city life with his lethal rhymes. 1990's 'AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted,' Cube's first post-N.W.A. offering, is a raw, unrelenting articulation of the reality of the hood. The lyrical mastery with which he unleashed his visions caught the attention of the masses, and helped bring gangsta rap to more powerful and poignant level.
    8. Public Enemy, 'Fear of a Black Planet'

    With 1990's 'Fear of a Black Planet,' Public Enemy forced America to confront its racist past and decide its future. Lead rapper Chuck D brought social issues to the radiowaves with an uninhibited, militant rap style never before heard, influencing artists like Rage Against the Machine, Boogie Down Productions, the Coup and countless others.
    9. A Tribe Called Quest, 'The Low End Theory'

    A Tribe Called Quest's witty lyrics, jazzy beats and relatable themes helped make its 1991 sophomore disc one of those rare albums that flowed from beginning to end. Even the cover art was captivating! And anyone who doubted Busta Rhymes' prowess as an artist was proven wrong upon hearing his scene-stealing cameo on 'Scenario.'
    10. Dr. Dre, 'The Chronic'

    As perhaps the most crucial member of the gangsta rap godfathers N.W.A., Dr. Dre dictated the West Coast sound for years to come on his 1992 solo debut. Upon its release, Dre catapulted himself from the gutters of Compton to the upper echelons of rap royalty and introduced the world to the laid-back drawl of Snoop Dogg.
    11. Wu-Tang Clan, 'Enter the Wu-Tang...'

    At a time when West Coast rappers were taking over the airwaves, Staten Island's Wu-Tang Clan revolutionized East Coast rap with a raw, rugged production style. '36 Chambers,' released in 1993, proved to be a landmark in hip-hop history, subsequently launching the career of each individual member of the Clan.
    12. Snoop Doggy Dogg, 'Doggystyle'

    Westsiiiide! Wait, you're from Cleveland? No matter. When Snoop Dogg strolled on the scene, everyone wanted to be from Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland -- hell, anyplace in California would do. Picking up where Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' left off, 1993's 'Doggystyle' is 19 tracks of hilarious skits, innovative delivery and classic guest appearances that instantly secured its place in the hip-hop history books.
    13. Notorious B.I.G., 'Ready to Die'

    Representing Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Biggie Smalls (as he was affectionately known) went from "ashy to classy" with the release of 'Ready to Die.' Despite his brief career (his life was cut short in 1997 in a still-unsolved murder), Biggie's 1994 debut album is considered a must-have for every hip-hop fan.
    14. Nas, 'Illmatic'

    In 1994, at the tender age of 20, Nas put Queens in the spotlight and made his mark on the rap world with 'Illmatic.' Poetically describing the harsh realities of his environment, Nas made a first impression that lasts to this day, influencing the future careers of rappers like 50 Cent, Capone-n-Noreaga and Cormega, among others.
    15. OutKast, 'Southernplayalisticadillacmusik'

    The Dirty South might rule hip-hop's airwaves now, but back in 1994, many mainstream listeners were less than willing to venture below the Mason-Dixon line for anything more than a family reunion. OutKast's debut proved that one album could change everything. Suddenly, Atlanta was a hotbed of talent and Andre 3000 and Big Boi were holding the matches. For fans of the duo's more recent hits like 'The Way You Move,' this album is definitely worth checking out and should be required listening for any true hip-hop lover.
    16. Common, 'Resurrection'

    On Common's 1994 sophomore album, he resurrected the fading, old-school b-boy. Filled with complex similes and majestic metaphors, Common put his native Chicago on the map and proved his ability as a lyricist.
    17. Raekwon, 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx'

    A member of the groundbreaking Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon's 1995 album, 'Only Built for Cuban Linx,' may be the most commercially overlooked album on our list. With Ghostface Killah by his side on almost every track, Raekwon made good on the promise he showed with the Wu, delivering a cinematically-dense and Mafia-inspired album. Ask anyone who knows; they're still listening to this album.
    18. 2Pac, 'All Eyez on Me'

    In 1996, fresh out the pen and newly inked to Death Row Records, Tupac Shakur flipped his detractors the bird and dropped hip-hop's first double-disc, influencing a generation of MCs. Pac's insightful rhymes and unbridled passion made him one of the greatest to touch the mic, and even beyond the grave, we're still locked in his stare.
    19. Eminem, 'The Marshall Mathers LP'

    Detroit's Slim Shady was already a menace before his 'Marshall Mathers LP' dropped in 2000. But when suburban parents got an earful of the album's non-stop vulgarity, violence and misogyny, Eminem quickly became public enemy number one. With his masterful blurring of reality and fiction, humor and horror, Mathers proved himself the most potent and distinctive MC of the decade, paving the way for 50 Cent and inspiring the sound of new millennium hip-hop.
    20. Jay-Z, 'The Blueprint'

    Who knows what did it -- the subliminal mixtape disses aimed at him, the pressure of being a Roc-A-Fella, or maybe his spidey sense was attuned to America's impending vulnerability -- but something made Jay-Z snap! From the Jackson 5 sample on 'Izzo' (courtesy of Kanye West, a newcomer at the time), to Jay's lyrical fury on 'The Takeover,' 2001's 'The Blueprint' defined Jay-Z as one of the top artists of his genre.
    dO tHe DrUg DoNt LeT tHe DrUg Do YoU

  • #2
    its okay list.. i dont agree with blueprint and rather will replace it with Reasonable Doubt but okay..


    • #3
      Decent list. I won't take numbers into account.
      The Movement!



      • #4
        I dont think it was that good.


        • #5
          [sarcasm]AOL certainly knows about good rap music.[/sarcasm]


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