Let’s get something clear up front. The list below is based solely on my personal taste and I am not claiming to be the hip-hop expert. What you see here is my love and my knowledge of hip-hop. These works of art have inspired me, opened up my eyes, changed my world, or simply got me hooked on hip-hop. I find these albums to be creative, innovative, rule breaking, and history making. I hope you will enjoy the list as much as I do.
10. Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
Although it is an underground joint, Danger Mouse’s Grey Album is an innovative work of art. The blend between Jay-Z’s flows and Beatles’ beats is flawless. The seamless integrations not only bring out the aesthetic qualities from both genre but together they have also created one of the most amazing and engaging aesthetic experience. Danger Mouse makes history with the Grey Album.
09. DMX – It’s Dark and Hell is Hot
If you ain’t barkin’, you ain’t feelin’ Dark Man X. Not only his barkin’ is hot, his vocal is on fire as well. From the hardcore “Ruff Rider Anthems,” “Fuckin’ Wit D,” Get at Me Dog” to the sentimental “The Convo,” “How It Goin’ Down” to the devil “Damien,” the album is surely dark and hot as hell.
08. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle
Snoop’s Doggystyle invites you to the gangster party with “Gin and Juice,” “Tha Shiznit,” and “Doggy Dog World.” His ill rhymes combine with Dre bomb ass beats make you want to lay back and enjoy the party.
07. Kanye West – The College Dropout
It’s 2004 and Kanye is not afraid to take hip-hop back to the basic. It’s about blazin’ beats and delightful lyrics. West’s College Dropout is positive, innovative, and definitely hip-hop.
06. Eminem – Slim Shady LP
Oppose from Jay-Z who always brag about himself, Em finds his way into hip-hop as he describes himself in “Brain Damage” as, “A corny lookin’ white boy, scrawny and always ornery / ’cause I was always sick of brawny bullies pickin’ on me.” Em’s lyrical skill is undeniably wicked and his work is disturbing but astounding, especially in “Guilty Conscience.” He is an innovative rapper and always pushes himself to the limit. My only hope is that he would stop singing.
05. Notorious BIG – Ready to Die
“A chubby nigga on the scene.” Biggie’s Ready to Die proves that you don’t have to have a perfect body to be in the game. Hip-hop is all about skills. The 300-some-pounds sounds sexy as hell in “Big Poppa” and “One More Chance.” “Juicy” is still lyrically untouchable. The rhymes are simple but elegant and Biggie flows them smoothly to the beats. That’s the way Biggie rhymes – On “Suicidal Thoughts,” “When I die, fuck it, I wanna go to hell / ’cause I’m a piece of shit, it ain’t hard to fuckin’ tell.” – clear, concise, and powerful.
04. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
Jay shows me the meaning of attitude and confidant. Evidently, his success is based on these two words. Even on his debut album, he already brags about his status but I have to give it to him. He lives up to it. On Reasonable Doubt, he makes sure every verse clearly states that you “Can’t Knock a Hustle:” “All us blacks got is sports and entertainment, until we even / Thievin’, as long as I’m breathin’ / Can’t knock the way a nigga eatin’, fuck you even.” Wish I had a quarter of his attitude and confidant.
03. Nas – Illmatic
Obviously hip-hop is a form of poetry but I never perceived at it that way until Nas made me look. His writing is amazing. On “One Love” he spits, “Shorty’s laugh was only cold-blooded as he spoke so foul / Only twelve trying to tell me that he liked my style / Then I rose, wiping the blunt’s ash from my clothes / Then froze, only to blow the herb smoke through my nose.” Nas’s Illmatic is aesthetically unreachable. He brings life to his words, “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death.”
02. Tupac – All Eyez on Me
“Out on bail, fresh out of jail,” 2pac is rugged and raw. When he screams MOB (money over bitches), you better believe it. His outlaw charisma lingers on throughout the entire album from “No More Pain” to “Only God Can Judge Me.” Even when he goes emotional on “I Ain’t Mad At Ya” and “Life Goes On,” there is still a little bit of thugs in him. Pac is on fire and you can feel the anger in his voice. Even when he laughs, the madness is still in him. Thanks to Pac, I began to admire battling lyrics and it opened up a whole new world of hip-hop.
01. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
The first time I heard, “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit,” my eyes wide opened. It was the truest form of expression I ever heard. The entire album opened up the new world of music for me. From “CREAM” to “Tears,” Wu-Tang tells the realest stories of life. I began to listen to the lyrics carefully and the album is filled with aesthetic qualities.