List of hip hop albums considered to be influential

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This list provides a guide to the most important hip hop albums, as determined by their presence on compiled lists of significant albums: see the "Lists consulted" section for full details. Inclusion on a list is indicated by numbering after each release. The brief accompanying notes offer an explanation of the album's importance.

Since hip hop was a music for 12" singles rather than albums for the period of 1979–1983,[1] the absence of old school hip hop from the list has been compensated for by providing it with its own section of notable releases. Notable compilations of songs which contain important hip hop breaks (short percussive interludes used as the rhythmic basis for a hip hop song) are also included.

Breakbeats[edit]

The break, the instrumental portion of a record (of any genre, though perhaps most often funk or rock) that emphasizes the percussive pattern, has been the fundamental unit of much of hip hop music. The collections below collect the original songs that contain some of the most popular breaks in hip hop.

  • Super Disco Brakes (Winley)[2] Vol. 1 was released in 1979, making it one of the first releases connected to hip hop culture, and almost certainly the first breakbeat record.[3]
  • Ultimate Breaks and Beats Vols. 1–25 (Street Beat, 1985–1990) 5 This comprehensive and influential series began just as the sampler was taking a central role in hip hop music.[4]
  • Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap Vol. 1 (Rhino, 1997) 5 One of the few breakbeat collections not of dubious legality.[4]

Lists consulted[edit]

Lists 1–5 are exclusively hip hop publications by writers respected in the field. 6–10 are rock publications; 6–7 are American, 8-9, British. 10 is a British dance music magazine. Albums that appear on any four lists or more have been included.

  1. "Hip Hop's Greatest Albums By Year" in Sacha Jenkins, Elliott Wilson, Chairman Mao, Gabriel Alvarez & Brent Rollins. ego trip's Book of Rap Lists, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999, pp. 331–337. ISBN 978-0-312-24298-5
  2. "Top 100 Albums of All-Time", The Source, January 1998.
  3. Oliver Wang (ed.) Classic Material, Toronto: ECW, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55022-561-7
  4. Brian Coleman, Check the Technique, New York: Villard, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8129-7775-2
  5. Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Hip Hop, 2nd. ed., London: Rough Guides, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84353-263-7
  6. "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", Rolling Stone, November 2003.
  7. "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005", Spin, July 2005.
  8. "100 Best Albums Of All Time", NME, March 2003.
  9. "Top 100 Favourite Albums of All Time", Melody Maker, January 2000.
  10. "Best Albums of All Time", Mixmag, 1996.
  11. “The 40 Most Groundbreaking Albums of all Time,”Rolling Stone, n.d.

Old school hip hop[edit]

List of important albums[edit]

1984[edit]

1985[edit]

1986[edit]

1987[edit]

1988[edit]

1989[edit]

1990[edit]

1991[edit]

  • De La Soul: De La Soul Is Dead (Tommy Boy, 1991)1 2 3 5 7 Following the success of their debut, De La Soul killed off their hippy image, producing this sometimes frustrated, sometimes uplifting album with rich grooves in both moods.[46]
  • Main Source: Breaking Atoms (Wild Pitch, 1991) 1 2 3 5 Breaking Atoms is noted for introducing both Nas and Akinyele, for its clever production (by Large Professor) and for its sophisticated storytelling in tracks like "Peace Is Not the Word to Play" and the metaphor for racism that was "Just a Friendly Game of Baseball".[47]
  • Cypress Hill: Cypress Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1991) 1 2 3 4 5 Sardonic and menacing, marijuana-toking Cypress Hill's debut had B-Real's unmistakable nasal-whine delivery and extraordinary beats on this commercially successful record.[48]
  • A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory (Jive, 1991) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The album demonstrated that hip-hop was an aesthetic every bit as deep, serious and worth cherishing as any in a century-plus of African-American music".[49]
  • Scarface: Mr. Scarface Is Back (Rap-A-Lot, 1991) 1 2 3 5 Scarface's skillful rapping about the thug and hustler lifestyles includes reflecting on their consequences.[6]

1992[edit]

1993[edit]

1994[edit]

  • Nas: Illmatic (Columbia, 1994) 1 2 3 5 6 7 As writer Peter Shapiro frames it, Illmatic demonstrated a fitting of production to lyrics worthy of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, an analytical evocation of street life that matched the power of N.W.A., and a command of the microphone not heard since Rakim.[57]
  • Organized Konfusion: Stress: The Extinction Agenda (Hollywood BASIC, 1994) 1 2 3 5 Challenging but occasionally joyful music that demonstrates virtuosity even at its most difficult, this is noted not least for a gruesome narrative told from the perspective of a titular "Stray Bullet".[58]
  • The Notorious B.I.G.: Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994) 1 2 3 5 6 This album's platinum sales, rap skills, and bleak vision mitigated by humor and funk, completed the revitalization of New York hip hop begun with the success of the Wu-Tang's debut a year before.[59]
  • Common Sense (now known as Common): Resurrection (Relativity, 1994) 1 2 3 4 5 "I Used To Love H.E.R." is an extended metaphor for hip hop that attracted much attention, while on tracks like "Resurrection" and "Watermelon" Common's style is warm and witty, the tracks full of wordplay and assured jazzy production.[60]

1995[edit]

1996[edit]

  • The Fugees: The Score (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1996) 1 2 3 4 6 Massive singles aside, this was a dark, downtempo album; it sold over 18 million copies worldwide and was widely respected.[64]
  • Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt (Roc-A-Fella, 1996) 1 2 3 5 6 Jay-Z combined elements of the New York City underground with a mainstream sensibility on his debut, proving himself a strong presence on the mic in the process.[65]
  • Nas: It Was Written (Columbia, 1996) 1 2 3 5 6 Despite the mixed reception and backlash, it received upon its release, it has since received more acclaim retrospectively in the hip hop circles and it has been widely as one of the most important mafioso rap albums of all time. Several rappers, most notably Lupe Fiasco, have cited it as their favorite album.[citation needed]
  • Makaveli: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (Death Row, 1996) The album is frequently recognized as one of the most influential posthumous albums of all time.[66][67][68]

1998[edit]

2000[edit]

2010[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ David Toop, Rap Attack, 3rd. ed., London: Serpent's Tail, 2000. (p. 213) ISBN 978-1-85242-627-9
  2. ^ a b Toop, p. 67
  3. ^ Shapiro, p. 384
  4. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 378
  5. ^ Oliver Wang (ed.), p. 163
  6. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 157
  7. ^ Shapiro, p. 124
  8. ^ Shapiro, p. 352
  9. ^ Shapiro, p. 121
  10. ^ Shapiro, p. 64
  11. ^ Toop, David (2000). Rap Attack 3: African Rap to Global Hip Hop. (Expanded Third Edition) London: Serpent's Tail, pp. 150-151 ISBN 1-85242-627-6.
  12. ^ Fitzpatrick, Rob, "The 101 strangest records on Spotify: Warp 9 - It's A Beat Wave," May 14, 2014 [1]
  13. ^ Shapiro, p. 369
  14. ^ Shapiro, p. 345
  15. ^ Shapiro, p. 5
  16. ^ Shapiro, p. 346
  17. ^ Shapiro, p. 344
  18. ^ Shapiro, p. 351
  19. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 327
  20. ^ Shapiro, p. 228
  21. ^ "Hip-Hop Gem: Ice-T's "6 in the Mornin'" Was Inspired By Schoolly D's "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" – Stop The Breaks - Independent Music Grind". www.stopthebreaks.com. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  22. ^ "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back–Public Enemy (1988) Vibe". www.vibe.com. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  23. ^ "The Punk History Behind the Beastie Boys' First Album, 'Licensed to Ill'". 11 November 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  24. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 26
  25. ^ Stephen Holden, "Bon Jovi and Bonbons", Pop Life, New York Times, December 30, 1987.
  26. ^ Shapiro, pp. 41–42
  27. ^ Shapiro, p. 126
  28. ^ Shapiro, pp. 32–33.
  29. ^ Shapiro, p. 337
  30. ^ Shapiro, p. 124, p. 126
  31. ^ "~~~~ www.rocklist.net ~~~~". www.rocklist.net. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  32. ^ "Acclaimed Music - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back". www.acclaimedmusic.net. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  33. ^ "~~~~ www.rocklist.net ~~~~". www.rocklist.net. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  34. ^ "Public Enemy". Discogs. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  35. ^ Shapiro, pp. 304–306
  36. ^ Shapiro, pp. 282–285
  37. ^ Shapiro, pp. 374–376
  38. ^ Shapiro, pp. 84–86
  39. ^ Shapiro, pp. 309–310
  40. ^ Shapiro, p. 200
  41. ^ Shapiro, p. 304
  42. ^ Shapiro, p. 363
  43. ^ Shapiro, p. 389
  44. ^ Shapiro, p. 175, p. 177
  45. ^ Shapiro, p.42
  46. ^ Shapiro, p. 85
  47. ^ Shapiro, p. 245
  48. ^ Shapiro, p. 73
  49. ^ Shapiro, p. 365
  50. ^ Shapiro, p. 320
  51. ^ Shapiro, p. 299
  52. ^ Shapiro, pp. 108–109
  53. ^ Shapiro, p. 170
  54. ^ Shapiro, pp. 387–388
  55. ^ Shapiro, p. 339
  56. ^ "Best hip hop albums of all time". Shortlist.com.
  57. ^ Shapiro, p. 270
  58. ^ Shapiro, p. 290
  59. ^ Shapiro, pp. 281–282
  60. ^ Shapiro, pp. 64–65
  61. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 259
  62. ^ "How rap revolutionary Prodigy, dead at 42, overcame the pain of sickle cell anemia". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  63. ^ Shapiro, p. 387
  64. ^ Shapiro, p. 146
  65. ^ Shapiro, p. 187
  66. ^ "The Greatest 50 Albums Since '93". Vibe.
  67. ^ David Drake (24 October 2012). "Kendrick Lamar's 25 Favorite Albums". Complex.
  68. ^ "Acclaimed Music - Vibe list". Archived from the original on 2013-10-05. Retrieved 2016-01-29.
  69. ^ Shapiro, p.147
  70. ^ Shapiro, p. 294
  71. ^ Ahmed, Insanul (November 12, 2013). "Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)". Complex. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  72. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far (2010-2014)". Pitchfork. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  73. ^ Acclaimed Music. Acclaimed Music http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/album/A5079.htm. Retrieved 10 October 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)