The 10 Greatest Hip Hop Albums of All Time (In order)
Including these guys…
Anyone who’s visited the site will know that Interestment is obsessed with the BEST of everything. No half-measures, no horsing around, no monkeying about, we like to cut to the chase and find out what the best is. Head straight to the top. But isn’t it also true that BEST is so subjective, especially when it comes to music? Yes it is. No two ears hear exactly the same thing (no scientific proof of this), we also respond to different beats and sounds and rhythms in completely different ways (again, science has no comment on this), so any other rap fan would probably list ten completely different records here, but these were selected based on one simple criteria: how often do they get played, and do they make people universally happy? Okay, two criteria.
Main Source – Breaking Atoms
Literally the greatest hip hop album ever recorded, and I use the word literally in the most literal sense of the word, which means “actually” or “definitely” or “absolutely”. So good that in amongst the magnificence it even introduced the world to Nas as a throwaway bonus.
Nas – Illmatic
Widely considered the greatest rap album of all time by most people, and it’s hard to argue with that. The downside for Nas is that he’s had to spend the rest of his career attempting to recreate it. Goes well with voracious head nodding and folded arms.
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
The outfits, the sparseness, the rage, the Kung Fu, the chess – this album introduced the world to rap legends like Rza, Jizzer, Old Fucker, Ghostface (THE BEST ONE), Rake One, Rake Two, The Third Rake, Inspect Your Dick, Your God, Scarecrow, Murdock, The Face Man, BA, Ringo, Zayn, Tobin and the M.E.T.H.O.D Man. We were never quite the same again.
Camp Lo – Uptown Saturday Night
One of the unsung hip hop records of the 1990s or even EVER, these cats channeled the glory years of Blaxploitation cinema with their mad nonsense raps and retro outfits like tassley jackets and neck scarves. Neck scarves! No one wears neck scarves! NEWSFLASH: these guys do.
Brand Nubian – One For All
Taking a lead from the Muskateers/hounds, these New Yorkers stole the One for All catchphrase and really ran with it for their debut album. Socially conscious raps that doubled up as black history lessons so you were simultaneously dancing and scribbling notes.
De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
Just when rap music was getting way too scary, these guys put away their machine guns and flick knives and picked up a bunch of posies, started doing peace signs and carving their names into trees. The results were astronomically non-threatening (and brilliant).
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Wanted: Dead or Alive
When you really break it down, rappers spend their days writing poems to sing to their friends and frankly that’s a lovely thing to do. But then you hear the venom spewing forth from this guy’s mouth and you immediately know that your ears will never unhear it. Possibly the greatest MC of all time.
Bahamadia – Kollage
In the dick-grabbing darts-playing pipe-smoking world of hardcore raps the sisterhood has traditionally been criminally marginalised, but amongst the slim pickings of female rhymsters, Bahamadia has a serious flow to go with her serious ‘fro. She’s a big big underrated deal.
Mos Def and Talib Kweli – Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star
Individually these cats have unleashed some wonderful raps on the world, but together they’re as potent a mix as mustard and ketchup, peanut butter and jam, or butternut squash and quinoa. These beats go particularly excellently with a big bushy beard or a Joan of Arc bowl cut and an extremely unnatural white sense of rhythm.
3rd Bass – The Cactus Album
Vanilla Ice, Eminem and The Beastie Boys have all enjoyed their time as the Elvis of Hip Hop, but in amongst it all have been one or two Johnny Cashes and Roy Orbisons, notably people like RA the Rugged Man, Action Bronson and then these guys who made the tenth best rap album EVER (according to this).
BONUS! Common – Electric Circus
Hip hop is littered with experimental albums from groups like Outkast or N.E.R.D or people like Kanye West or Cee-Lo or any number of others. This one seemed to slide subtly under the radar in the early 2000s but it’s wicked. Here he is doing what I like to call a LOVE RAP.