When it comes to best hip hop albums, almost everyone has differing opinions because deciding what is the best is completely subjective. There are many artists who have released amazing rap albums; however, in this article, we are going to include the most notable rappers who have marked the era of hip hop, such as Dr. Dre, Tupac, Eminem and The Notorious B.I.G.
So if you are a fan of this genre of music or you are simply curious to know which hip hop albums are considered the best (referring to the sales, critical success, and the general impact on the public), then keep reading because this article is for you. Let’s check out 12 best hip hop albums!
All Eyez on Me by 2Pac
All Eyez on Me is the fourth studio album by American rapper 2Pac, and the last to be released before his death. It was released on February 13, 1996 and featured two of his most famous songs “How Do U Want It” and “California Love”. All Eyez on Me charted at number one on the Billboard 200 and also at most of the hip hop albums charts, selling half a million in the first week.
It is interesting to note that this album was part of an agreement he made with Suge Knight and Jimmy Iovine in exchange for the money they paid for his bail in order to get him out of jail. That is probably one of the reasons why 2pac decided to go with the main theme of the “Thug Lifestyle” and all the lyrics revolve around it. He felt like “all eyes were on him” including the police and allegedly false accusations.
The album has been sold in more than 5 million copies to this day.
Considered to be one of the most well-produced hip hop albums of all time, The Chronic was sold in more than 3 million copies in the United States which shot Dr. Dre to stardom. He became the most prominent rapper of the 90s.
The album is also known as a stepping-stone of Snoop Dog who had been featured in several songs in the album and paved his own solo career following the album’s success.
The mainstream hip hop scene at that time primarily consisted of party music and samples; however, Dr. Dre made his own innovative music that many rappers even today measure their work against it. It used live instruments, synthesizer bass lines and new beats. The lyrics were criticized because of the sexist and violent subjects. The most popular singles are: "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," Fuck wit Dre Day," and "Let Me Ride."
The Slim Shady LP by Eminem
The Slim Shady LP is the second studio album by American rapper Eminem. It was released in 1999 and was mainly produced by Dr. Dre and Eminem himself. The album won Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance (for "My Name Is") at the 42nd Grammy Awards and it is now considered one of the most recognizable and innovative hip hop albums ever.
As it was similar with Dr. Dre, Eminem became at that time one of the most controversial rappers who often used misogynistic lyrics and dissed many celebrities in his songs. However, the album is still considered one of the best debuts ever and it features singles: “My Name Is,” “Role Model,” and “Guilty Conscience.” The success of the album turned Eminem into a real high-profile celebrity who soon after that got his own label – Shady Records. The majority of the album’s content is written from the perspective of Slim Shady – Eminem’s alter ego.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the fifth studio album by American rapper Kanye West, released in 2010. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold around 1.3 million copies in the United States, making it a huge commercial and critical success.
Kanye West was the main producer of the album, but included many notable names who performed vocals or made beats, such as: Nicki Minaj, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Fergie, John Legend, Drake, Jay-Z, and many others. It is interesting that West tried to be as secretive about the album as possible; he forbidden his crew to tweet or email anything; however, the leak happened and then he decided that they were all going to record in hotel rooms in the future.
The main singles on the album include: “Power,” “Runaway,” “Monster,” and “All of the Light.”
Get Rich or Die Tryin' is the debut album by American rapper 50 Cent. It was released in 2003 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 selling almost a million copies in the first week. The album has sold over 8 million copies to this date and it is considered one of the best albums of the 2000s.
50 Cent had had a troubled past before Eminem discovered him in 2002. He was also working with Dr. Dre who introduced him to the mixture of R&B and gangsta rap which worked very well with 50 Cent’s image, both personal and professional.
The main singles included “21 Questions,” “Many Men (Wish Death),” “P.I.M.P.” and “If I Can’t”; however, the most famous song has always been “In da Club” was also served as the lead single. It was listed on “Best Songs of the Decade” and “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” lists.
Life After Death by The Notorious B.I.G.
Life After Death is the second and final studio album by American rapper the Notorious B.I.G., released in 1997. Included on “the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list, it was released only 16 days after he was shot in a drive-by in Los Angeles and it was a direct sequel to this previous album Ready to Die.
The Notorious B.I.G. belonged to the subgenre of hip hop also called as Mafioso rap. He had always had conflicts with other rappers and that was the prevalent theme in this album too. Jay-Z and Puff Daddy were some of the big names that were featured on this release.
The main singles included “Hypnotize,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and “Sky’s the Limit.” The album received widespread acclaim and it set the standard for hip hop at that time.
Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg
Doggystyle is the debut studio album by American rapper Snoop Dogg released in 1993. Snoop Dogg had been already featured on many tracks by Dr. Dre and his distinctive vocal flow became very popular and prominent, which means that he had already paved his way through the industry before releasing his debut album.
The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 800,000 copies in the first week. Snoop Dogg wrote the majority of the songs and even though he received some mixed reviews, the album became both the critical and commercial success.
The main singles include “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?),” “Gin & Juice,” and “Doggy Dogg World.” Dr. Dre did most of the production which was praised by the critics as well. Snoop Dogg was praised for returning the funk sound to the hip hop world, but he was also criticized for degrading women in his lyrics which is believed to have affected young black males.
Illmatic by Nas
Illmatic is the debut studio album by American rapper Nas, released in 1994. It is interesting that this is one of those albums that flipped commercially – it debited at number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold barely 100, 000 copies; however, it received positive reviews from all critics.
The most praised parts of the album are production and lyrics. Nas was praised for reviving the New York City rap scene and reintroducing many new trends. The main singles include: “Halftime,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “Life’s a Bitch”, “The World Is Yours,” and “One Love.”
Nas used jazz, soul, funk, and vintage beats in his songs. He was also commended for not using misogyny in his lyrics like many other rappers did at that time.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is the debut studio album by American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, released in 1993. Despite selling only 30,000 copies in the first week and debuting at number 41 on the Billboard 200, the album is now regarded as one of the most significant hip hop albums of the 90s.
Wu-Tang Clan is famous for using the hardcore hip hop sound and their songs have the raw and underground vibes. The main singles on the album include: “Protect Ya Neck,” “Method Man,” “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Can It Be All So Simple.”
It is also interesting to note that the group leader used samples from the famous martial arts movies such as Shaolin and Wu Tang. As it can be guessed from the group’s name, they were all inspired by the kung fu movies.
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (also stylized as good kid, m.A.A.d city) is the second studio album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar, released in 2012. The producers included Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams, and T-Minus.
The album debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and sold around 200,000 copies in its first week. It has sold almost 2 million copies to this date.
The main singles include: "The Recipe", "Swimming Pools (Drank)", "Backseat Freestyle", "Poetic Justice", and "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe". The content of the album describes Lamar’s childhood and teenage gang lifestyle in Compton. The album has received mostly positive reviews and it is considered one of the best rap album released in the last decade.
Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z
Reasonable Doubt is the debut studio album by American rapper Jay-Z, released in 1996. The album featured the appearances of Mary J. Blige and the Notorious B.I.G. so as you can expect it belongs to the subgenre of Mafioso rap. It is now considered as one of the greatest rap albums ever.
The album was supported by four singles: “Dead Presidents,” “Ain’t No Nigga,” “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” and “Feelin’ It.” Just a few years before his debut album, Jay-Z had been selling his tapes from his car around in order to get a record deal. He had been an aspiring rapper looking for a breakthrough but found it in the 90s.
The Infamous by Mobb Deep
The Infamous (also stylized as The Infamous...) is the second studio album by the American hip hop duo Mobb Deep, released in 1995. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and sold around 500, 000 copies. Despite the solid commercial success, the album received the wide acclaim due to its beats and lyrics that dealt with crime and poverty.
The duo’s album was also praised for introducing the hardcore hip hop into the scene. The main four singles were: "Shook Ones Pt. II", "Survival of the Fittest", "Temperature's Rising", and "Give Up the Goods (Just Step)". The first single ended up being the most successful.
The reason why these albums found themselves on the list is because they contributed to the global hip hop scene by introducing innovative beats, important lyrics and sounds.
To sum up, we have talked about 12 best hip hop albums of all time. The list included some of the most prominent rappers such as 2Pac, Eminem, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Nas, the Notorious B.I.G. and others. Even though it is highly subjective as to what is prominent and important, we can all agree that these albums are here for a good reasons. They all influenced hip hop artists all around the world and their critical successes prove it.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask us anything! What is your favorite hip hop album that you think it deserves to be places on this list?