1) Nas - Illmatic
Whenever some hippie music rag puts together a Top 100 albums of all time list it always includes Kind Of Blue at the expense of every other Jazz album ever released. When hip-hop reaches that level of recognition, Illmatic will be the album to make the list. And by the way, Nas won.
2) Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the 36 Chambers
This album didn't leave my portable cd player for a year. To this day I get goosebumps every time I hear "Shaolin shadowboxing, and the Wu-Tang sword style...If what you say is true, the Shaolin and the Wu-Tang could be dangerous. Do you think your Wu-Tang sward can defeat me? En garde, I'll let you try my Wu-Tang Style."
3) Eric B. and Rakim - Let The Rhythm Hit Em
What Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em lacks in historical significance it makes up for by serving as the duos most concise and thorough album. I'll argue till I'm blue in the face that Side B of Let The Rhythm Hit Em is the best collection of golden age hip-hop ever. And Run For Cover is one of the best "I'm still the greatest, now get the fuck out of my way" songs.
4) Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Road to the Riches
My first real concrete hip-hop memory was in '88 when Kool G Rap swaggered through the saloon in the Symphony video. To this day I'm still trying to chop through G Raps dense and complex rhymes. Oh, and did I mention the dude wrote rhymes in the shower!
While listening to Return of the Mac I was reminded that nobody is as good as Prodigy in creating dark, dirty, fucked up imagery. Mix that in with Havoc's dark, dirty, fucked up beats and you have a dark, dirty fucked up classic.
6) Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
If this was the NBA draft, this pick would start the run on Wu-Tang solo albums. I remember buying this album at the Kings Plaza Mall with my boy Joe. The cover alone mesmerized us for hours. This is the only Wu-Tang solo album worthy enough to sit next to 36 Chambers.
7) Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded
Forget about the beats, which have not aged well. The main focus should be placed on KRS-One, more specifically, the knowledge he dropped. It's fun to sit and listen to Criminal Minded and pick out the lines (most of them) that others have quoted over the years.
8) Ghostface - Supreme Clientele
Ironman might seem like the logical choice but Ghost still had on the training wheels (Rae, Rza etc). Supreme Clientele is where Ghost shed the training wheels and established himself as the clans best soloist.
9) A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
Electric Relaxation and We Can Get Down are on my short list of all time favorite songs. Am I the only that stared at the album cover for hours pointing out all the faces?
10) Black Moon - Enta Da Stage
I can't begin to describe how much this album fucked with me after its release. The How Many MC's video forced me to drop everything for 3:40 every time it came on. My Tim's and Carhartt jacket are sitting in the closet waiting for the revolution.
11) Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die
Who Killed It? Biggie.
This album marked a sea change in hip-hop that was never to be undone or outdone. Many copied the blueprint laid out on Ready to Die to varying results, most poor. The truth is, none of the shark biters could reproduce Biggie's honesty, vulnerability, authenticity and original voice.
12) Jeru The Damaja - The Sun Rises in the East
Before golden age hip-hop lost the battle to the jiggy/bling era. And before O.C. told emcee's their time was up. Jeru was running around New York forcing rappers to Come Clean. Jeru spit truth on a lyrical and intellectual level. Mix Jeru's verbal gymnastics with career defining beats from Premo and this album is a no-brainer.
13) Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush the Show
I know what you're thinking. Why Bum Rush? This album is nowhere near as influential and earth shattering as P.E.'s latter work. But it's one of the most slept on debuts in hip-hop history. If P.E. stopped making records after Bum Rush their status would be solidified. If Road to the Riches is the best "Here I am, get the fuck out of my way" song, Public Enemy No. 1 is second.
14) Outkast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
This is the Outkast album that had the greatest impact on me. In 1994, while I basked in the bonanza known as East Coast rap, soaking up what seemed to be a classic album every two weeks, I bumped into Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Outkast served a dish I wasn't used to hearing but it somehow fit in perfectly with every other classic album released in '94.
15) GZA - Liquid Swords
Back in the mid-nineties, the release of a Wu- Tang solo album was like a holiday. Sleepless Monday nights and sweaty palms accompanied a nervous twitch. Nothing compares to putting on Liquid Swords and getting lost in Rza's weird world and mesmerized by GZA's confident, rock of Gibraltar flow.
16) Gang Starr - Hard To Earn
Premo and Guru move like a well oiled machine through this album of unskippable tracks. Not only does Hard to Earn possess an unskippable flow, it contains one of the slickest collabos ever. Peace out Premier, take me out wit da fader
17) Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside
It appears that everyone is on the Muddy Waters band wagon. Dare gets written off as being too weird or unfocused. On the contrary, it’s Redman's best album, lyrically and creatively. Dare makes you uneasy and forces a few what the fucks, which is what a Redman album should do. Plus, Green Island is so schizophrenic and mesmerizing, Eminem based his career on it.
19) Jay Z - The Blueprint
A lot of people will argue that Reasonable Doubt is Jay's best. Reasonable Doubt was too derivative for my taste. But on The Blueprint Jay was at his most obnoxious, playful and Machiavellian i.e. his best. It's the sound of a man consciously putting the genre on his back and bum rushing the mountain top.
Doggy Dogg - Doggy Style
This album spawned a bunch of hits, catch phrases and words that took over popular culture and still haunt us today. That alone would warrant inclusion, but when you add Doggy Dogg World to the mix it's another no-brainer.
21) Madvillain - Madvillainy
In a sense, Madvillain, like a super-hero saved hip-hop for me. At the time I was in and out of the genre. I was another 50 cent song away from giving up completely. Madvillian swooped in and smacked the sense back in me. Thanks DOOM.
22) Common - Resurrection
I must admit my interest in Common has wained a great deal over the years. But Resurrection was an instant classic in my mind. The rhymes and beats coalesced at a perfect pitch. Common dropped knowledge, had fun and provided enough word play to make you hit the rewind button numerous times.
23) Slick Rick - The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
This is one of those hip-hop DNA albums that even the non hardcore hip-hop head can agree on. Everyone from thugs to grandmothers can get down to Mona Lisa and Treat Her Like a Prostitute.
24) Artifacts - Between A Rock And A Hard Place
I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did this album make the list? You need to go back and listen to Tame One, one of the most underrated emcee’s of the last twenty years. "I'm out to bomb like Vietnam under the same name Tame One...."
25) Pete Rock & CL Smooth - The Main Ingredient
Aside from CL Smooth's failed attempt to introduce the word "Lucci" into the American lexicon, his performance on Main Ingredient was freaksihly flawless. And Pete Rock did his best job laying down the foundtaion for the next genreation of beat makers. Taken as a whole, Main Ingredient is one of those timeless, true and flawless hip-hop albums.