The Ten Greatest Hip Hop Albums of All-Time

Well hello everyone! To begin I’d like to say I’m glad to be a part of the Place To Be Nation and I’m looking forward to contributing in every form, especially when it comes to hip hop music, something I’m very passionate about, basically since birth! Yes, I would say I was born to enjoy this culture. I remember my first exposure to hip hop was via LL Cool J’s classic “I’m Bad”. My mom would be the first to tell you that whenever that song came on, I would lose my mind! From there, my love for hip hop only continued to grow. My dad used to listen to it back in the day, and I would often get cassette tapes from him (my mom always tried to prevent that, but it didn’t work!). The inspiration to start collecting music, as well as organizing it with “cd racks”, booklets, etc, all of that I inherited from my dad. After I grew out of cassettes, I started collecting CDs in 1996 and never looked back. My collection is VERY extensive and it continues to grow and grow! I have a strong desire/ambition to enter the music business, and with hard work and dedication, that’s a dream I WILL achieve! In addition, my blog is solely dedicated to hip hop and my love for it. Although I am aware of what’s happening today in music, the majority of what I’ll be presenting my thoughts on will be from hip hop’s historic beginnings untill about 1997 (and yes, post 1997 will be covered as well). I’m VERY nostalgic at heart, so that’s where most of my material will come from.

When it comes to albums, every hip hop fan in some form has a top 10 list, or a top 20, 25, 50, etc. It can go on and on. Although it took me a slightly long time to pick ten favorites (mainly because there’s A LOT of albums I like), the following list will likely never change. These albums are not only long time personal favorites of mine, they instantly take me back to a time and place in my life that I fondly look back on (#nostalgia). In addition to the respective discographies of Nas and Jay-Z, my top 2 favorite artists of all-time, these ten 5-star albums define my taste in hip hop and they are 10 of the greatest albums of all time.

#1 – Nas – illmatic

5 favorite songs – The World Is Yours, Halftime, One Love, It Ain’t Hard To Tell, & Represent

Wayne’s Words – Well, what more can be said about this album that hasn’t been said already?! This is quite simple the greatest album of all-time, and of course it would come from my #1 favorite artist of all time, Nas. Released in a great year, 1994. this album captures what hip hop is about and then some. FINE lyrics, tight production, NO filler, what more can you ask for in an album.

#2 – Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

5 favorite songs – Knowledge God, Rainy Dayz, Guillotine (Swordz), Verbal Intercourse, & Glaciers Of Ice

Wayne’s Words– This is one of many albums that I’ve owned since its initial release, and it’s SO timeless. This is such a cinematic masterpiece on all levels. Rae and Ghost, along with the rest of the Wu members (except ODB-RIP), essentially delivered in spades on the mic, and The RZA made what is possibly the best produced album ever. It’s a classic in every sense of the word, and it was difficult trying to pick 5 favorite songs on this one!

#3 – Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

5 favorite songs – CREAM, Protect Ya Neck, Bring Da Ruckus, Da Mystery Of Chessboxin, & Can It Be All So Simple

Wayne’s Words –  A hell of a debut from my favorite group of all time. Classics up and down the lineup. This is one of many albums that’s credited with the “East Coast Renaissance” in the early 1990s.

#4 – Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt 

5 favorite songs – Can’t Knock The Hustle, Politics As Usual, Dead Presidents II, D’Evils, & Can I Live

Wayne’s Words – You’re about to witness a dynasty like no other. I know Jay hadn’t uttered these words in 96 when this classic was released, but it certainly does apply here. Although he’s been close on one occasion to besting this album (The Blueprint), my #2 favorite artist of all time was at the top of his game when he dropped this, and it remains his most distinguished body of work.

#5 – The Notorious B.I.G. – Life after Death

5 favorite songs on disc 1 – Somebody’s Gotta Die, What’s Beef, Last Dayz, N***** Bleed, & Hypnotize

5 favorite songs on disc 2 – Long Kiss Goodnight, My Downfall, You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You), Sky’s The Limit, & Notorious Thugs

Wayne’s Words – To this day, I still say 1997 was the greatest summer I ever had, and when I think of hip hop music at the time, this album is usually one of the first I mention. If only the late great Christopher Wallace had been alive to enjoy the success of this album. As far as double albums go, it’s in the top 5 no question.

#6 – GZA – Liquid Swords

5 favorite songs – Swordsman, Duel Of The Iron Mic, Shadowboxin, 4th Chamber, & Gold

Wayne’s Words – “Liquid Swords is basically coming sharp with your tongue”. GZA was once quoted as saying this and I agree 100 percent. Released in 1995, along with other Wu classics like “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” and ODB’s “Return To The 36 Chambers”, this is another awesome album, lyrically and production wise. Sadly, GZA hasn’t come close to matching this album, but as it stands, it remains his best and a true statement to his mic skills.

#7 – Dr. Dre – The Chronic

5 favorite songs – Nuthin But A G Thang, Rat Tat Tat Tat, Stranded On Death Row, Dre Day, & The Day The N***** Took Over

Wayne’s Words – If there ever was an album that not only captivated hip hop fans and defined the entire West Coast sound, it’s this album. Dr. Dre continued his stellar track behind the boards, and introducing the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, The Lady of Rage, RBX, etc, was more icing on the cake. As mentioned by Dre years back when it came to Death Row Records, “The Chronic was the foundation”. Yes indeed. Oh yeah, I wish “Deep Cover” was on this album also!

#8 – Mobb Deep – The Infamous

5 favorite songs – Shook Ones Pt. II, Survival Of The Fittest, Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mine), Give Up The Goods (Just Step), & Trife Life

Wayne’s Words –  My dad actually had a copy of this album on tape, and he let me have it (not sure if he didn’t like it or not), and once I heard it, I couldn’t stop playing it. This is one of many albums that defined the east coast sound in the mid 90s. Havoc and Prodigy delivered a bone chilling classic that’ll always remain their best album on all levels. I still can’t believe the first part of “Shook Ones” was not on this album. Either way, it’s still classic.

#9 – Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle

5 favorite songs – Pump Pump, Gin & Juice, Serial Killa, Doggy Dogg World, & Murder Was The Case

Wayne’s Words – This album features Snoop Dogg as his absolute best, especially from a lyrical standpoint. After “The Chronic” made him a star, he embarked on this historic debut album journey, becoming the first hip hop artist whose very first album went number one. Once “The Chronic” was finished, Snoop said “we through with The Chronic, it’s all about you Snoop, you the hottest thing comin out of the West Coast in a long time, and Dre gon produce it, and when Dre producing it from top to bottom, you can’t lose” Very true. Another good point that was mentioned was Snoop did bring another style to hip hop, and with the exception of possibly Big Daddy Kane, no one was rocking the mic with such flair, style, and grace (and a touch of gangsta, lol) like Snoop, and this album embodies that.

#10  – Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full

5 favorite songs – I Ain’t No Joke, Paid In Full, Move The Crowd, Eric B Is President, & I Know You Got Soul

Wayne’s Words – Rakim is one of the most influential hip hop artists in history. If this were the only album he ever released, his influence would still be felt. Talk about an album with so many hip hop quotables, classics up and down the tracklisting, production that was slightly simple yet VERY effective, and you have the makings of a hip hop classic.

What are your ten favorite hip hop albums of all-time? Share your list with Wayne on the Place to Be Nation Facebook page.

Author: Wayne Maye

Wayne, a true 80s baby, is a long time fan/supporter of hip hop culture, gangster & action movies and pro wrestling (especially the Golden Age of the 80s and the Attitude Era of the 90s (pro WWF/E). Strong nostalgic person at heart, always hard working, dedicated, loyal and dependable. You can also check him out via his hip hop blog, mayepov.blogspot.com!!