1. A Tribe Called Quest- Low End Theory
There just aren't albums like this anymore, in Hip Hop and Music. When listening to Phife and Q-Tip go at it, it truly sounds like professionals. Honestly, the play between them and just them alone will never be topped. I don't care who you are. When I get jaded with music, especially Hip Hop, I just put this on and I feel oh so much better about things. In the opening lines of the album Q-Tip talks about the similarities between Hip Hop and Bebop. That is what best describes this album. The album from begining to end is literally perfect. It is pushing limits, staying true to form, abstract, provocative, and extremely intelligent.
2 Nas- Illmatic
Can I think of a MC hungrier than Nas than on his debut. Jesus, the boy was throwing rhymes that were just too damn good and smooth it still hurts. You almost get the feeling he would walk into the booth and just knock one out. Also, this album is a rediculous blend of allstar producers ranging from Pete Rock to DJ Premier. It was as if all these people got together and said let's make just about the most perfect hip hop album ever. 10 songs, 9 technically, 1 collaboration, 5 producers, and the greatest MC is all it took to make Illmatic.
3. De La Soul- 3 Feet High And Rising
Poetry, true poetry, is what De La Soul's debut is. How can you listen to this album and not feel moved or uplifted? Illmatic was an allstar album in production, but it was a mix of producers. This album makes the greatest produced album ever easily. One, because the sampling is totally insane and so kick ass that I when every time I listen to I still just throw my hands in the air and laugh in the awe of it all. Second, one man, Prince Paul did the whole damn thing. I mean, he could have retired right after this. It is so so damn perfect. That's just the production. Plug One (Posndnuos) and Plug Two (Dove) are damn romantics on this album. The imagery that these guys come up with is utter poetry. Listen to the tale of romance on "Eye Know" or the surreal tale on "Tread Water." These three albums in the top three could all be number 1. This one though, has something that none of the albums on the list have, the greatest skit ever. And I hate hip hop skits. Listen to "Transmitting Live From Mars" and not be overly entertained by how cool it is.
4. Eric B and Rakim- Paid In Full
The blueprint. This album alone is what was solely respondsible for getting me into Hip Hop. To this day "Paid In Full" is the perfect hip hop song. Hip Hop was doing alright when Paid In Full came around, but it was really exhausted. I mean, I am as giddy as a school girl when I just think of the power and force in Rakim's voice aka the best rapping voice ever. He is to me the most mysterious man to ever be in Hip Hop. Say what you will about 2 Pac or Biggie, but Rakim is this shadowy figure that is like some Old Testament profit laying down the greatest rhymes even if they are about how great he is. It is still the freshest album to listen to, and Rakim came in turned Hip Hop completely around.
5. Wu-Tang Clan- Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers of Death)
This album is one of the longest surving Hip Hop albums in my cd collection along with Paul's Boutique (Oldest, got that in the 3rd grade or so) . I got this album in the 5th grade and ordered it from Amazon because I was not allowed to have Parental Advisory albums. I listened to it secretly ,and it just made it even better. The mythology the clan created has always been so intriguing to me. I would just love to listen to all the MCs different styles and techniques. Of course on this album the MCs who ruled the album were Raekwon, ODB, Method Man, Inspectah Deck and GZA. I just remember seeing the video for "Method Man" and just being entranced by everything. The lyrics in that song are ingrained my head more than any hip hop song. RZA created a new style of hip hop production that had not been seen before with his gritty drums and soul samples. This is an album that is so dear to my heart.
6. Mos Def- Black On Both Sides
Black Star had already come in a much needed time for new ideas in Hip Hop. After it Mos Def went off to make an album on his own that I think out does his previous effort with Talib Kweli. Mos Def came in like a Hip Hop savior with knowledge and wisdom. Not since Q-Tip had there been such an intelligent MC as Mos Def. He brought intelligent rhymes about society and the current state in music.
7. The Streets- Original Pirate Material
Mike Skinner was not kidding saying "This is orginal pirate material." I have written about his album before, I cannot describe how it seemed to of come out of nowhere and knock us all on our asses. From the begining on "Turn The Page' Skinner comes in one my all time favorite beats ever and to top it off with one of the straight up coolest lyrics I have ever heard. It was so new and different. It was a white English guy making hip hop! It was amazing. It is one of the finest albums to come out in my lifetime while being concious of music around me. The album is cool, funny, clever, sad, and utterly moving. Skinner took us all by surpise, and this album is still in a league of its own.
8. GZA- Liquid Swords
First off, this is a Wu-Tang Album. They are all there. All of them. Second, even if it a Wu album, GZA is still the best one in the bunch. His flow is effortless and smooth. What a cool album as well. It just does not get much better than "Shadowboxin" when Method Man joins the GZA on such a stellar song. GZA alone, at times, is second to none in lyrics. He is a deadly as a Samurai with his words. He penetrates your concious twists his verbal daggers. This and Enter the Wu-Tang go back an forth for me as what is the best WU effort.
9. Madvillain- Madvilliany
What a sick album. Madlib and MF Doom must have been out of their minds. The production is as crazy as the story and lyrics. The songs are short. It took me a while to get into it because it is so different from any hip hop album ever made. It follows none of the rules of conventional hip hop. It is one of the most original albums ever, easily. It was a collaboration that was highly anticipated, and they overimpressed us all.
10. Beastie Boys- Paul's Boutique
Oh boy, this album and I go way back. Talk about an album full of insane sampling. When it came out people couldn't keep up with what it was trying to do. People couldn't comprehend what was going on the album. Personally I don't know why people didn't like it at first. This album kicks Licensed To Ill in the nads. I mean the shit they pulled on this album is almost too much to comprehend. The guys rapped over the drum break from the closing "Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts" with other Beatles sampling from the suit on Abbey Road. "Superfly" got added to their balls crazy song "Eggman." I think the Beasties and Dust Brothers were literally insane when they made this album. It certainly could not of been made today. The balls to do this album are bigger than earth. The play between Adrock, Mike D, and MCA is just so amazing when you really think about it. It's like they all woke up one day and took genius pills.
11. The Pharcyde- Bizarre Ride To The Pharcyde
12. A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders
13. Outkast- Aquemini
14. Ultramagnetic MCs- Critical Breakdown
15. Quannum- Solesides Greatest Bumps
16. Edan- Beauty and The Beat
17. Gang Starr- Step Into the Arena
18. Dr. Octagon-Octagonecologist
19. Black Star- Black Star
20. EPMD- Strictly Business
21. Dizzee Rascal- Boy In Da Corner
22. Raekwon- Only Built For Cuban Linx
23. Eric B and Rakim- Follow The Leader
24. Boogie Down Productions- By All Means Unnecessary
25. A Tribe Called Quest- People's Instintive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm