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Top 10 Important Albums in Hip Hop History

VO: Matt Campbell
Script Written by Q.V. Hough. These albums are a rapper's delight. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Important Albums in Hip Hop History. For this list, we’re focusing on albums that made a significant impact on hip-hop culture and the music industry as whole. Special thanks to our users liam_schell and radon548 for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Important Albums in Hip Hop History


These albums are a rapper’s delight. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Important Albums in Hip Hop History.
For this list, we’re focusing on albums that made a significant impact on hip-hop culture and the music industry as whole.

#10: “Paid in Full”
Eric B. & Rakim (1987)

In a time when MCs rhymed in a structured manner, along came a lyricist by the name of Rakim. Influenced by the free-flowing style of John Coltrane and guided by the production skills of Marley Marl, Eric B. and Rakim took the art form to the next level by pushing the boundaries of their genre. Without the internal rhymes and deft lyrics highlighted on Paid in Full, there would be no Jay-Z or Biggie Smalls. Featuring some seriously impressive DJing from Eric B., and some classic verses from Rakim, Paid in Full set the bar high during the golden age of hip hop.

#9: “Run-D.M.C.”
Run-D.M.C. (1984)

Produced by Russell Simmons, this album introduced a trio from Hollis, Queens and instantly established a new school of hip-hop. With the opening track “Hard Times,” Run-D.MC. conveyed a grittier aesthetic complemented by minimal beats and forceful rhymes, while a track like “It’s Like That” strayed heavily from typical party-rock lyrics. Today, Rev Run, D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay are recognized as hip-hop legends, however back in the early 80s, their sound was anything but formulaic. Run-D.M.C.inspired producers to live in the studio and allowed MCs to express themselves in a whole new way.

#8: Me Against the World
2Pac (1995)

Released during his time in prison for sexual assault charges, Me Against the World proved that there was serious artistic merit to the gangsta rap genre. Critics praised the album for containing extremely personal themes of paranoia and nostalgia, as it took home the Grammy award for Best Rap Album. 2Pac compared the album to a blues record, and future rappers such as Kendrick Lamar would take note. Despite the album’s dark and somber subject matter, it is seen as a staple of the genre, and the magnum opus of a legendary recording artist.

#7: “The Marshall Mathers LP”
Eminem (2000)

Supremely produced and disturbingly dark, this Slim Shady joint sparked an American debate about free speech. Building off the success of his previous album, Eminem once again teamed up with Dr. Dre and produced an aggressive attack on mainstream pretensions and his own inner demons. The aggressive song entitled “Kill You” resulted in critical backlash, while the drama of “Stan” led Eminem to the Grammy stage for a surprise duet with Elton John. With a combination of surreal and literal messages, The Marshall Mathers LP teased at the hyper-sensitivity of listeners and reminded that Eminem was not a role model, but a musical artist.

#6: “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”
Public Enemy (1988)

Fueled by the politically-charged rhymes and punk rock style of Chuck D, this album conveyed the idea that regardless of where you’re from, everybody has a voice to be heard. By addressing inner city problems and prison life, Public Enemy brought awareness to social predicaments that had previously gone unnoticed in the mainstream media, which they would push even harder on their 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet. The blunt imagery and startling narratives pushed the genre forward, as Public Enemy announced that hip hop was definitely here to stay and an undeniable form of artistic expression.

#5: “Straight Outta Compton”
N.W.A. (1988)

Released just six weeks after our #6 entry, this album put the west coast on the map and inspired the phrase “gangsta rap.” While Public Enemy’s album symbolized the struggles of African-Americans, N.W.A.’s controversial release chronicled the reality of their day-to-day lives with their own type of flavor. Featuring the pronounced lyrical styles of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren, along with the musical backing of DJ Yella,Straight Outta Compton frightened the general public with a no holds barred approach. More powerful than any previous hip-hop album, Straight Outta Compton offered a wake-up call and symbolized a voice for the voiceless.

#4: “Ready to Die”
Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

East coast. West coast. Biggie and Pac. This was the album that preceded one of the darkest periods inhip hop history. After being signed by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, a rapper from Brooklyn revitalized the Big Apple rap game thanks to his raw vocals, unmistakable flow and a larger-than-life persona. The slow jam entitled “Big Poppa” immediately became a hip-hop anthem, and from beginning to end, Ready to Die expressed the trials and tribulations of the hustler lifestyle. Throwing homage to the golden age of hip hop, and featuring some seriously heavy beats, Ready to Die is a gangsta rap classic and a seminal release in hip hop history.

#3: “The Chronic”
Dr. Dre (1992)

Today, he’s known for making headphones, and way before that he was a member of N.W.A, but somewhere in between he was taking on the rap game by himself. Undoubtedly the master of G-Funk, Dr. Dre inspired decades of rappers with his laid-back debut that introduced Snoop Doggy Dogg to the world shortly before his own debut the following year. As one of the most acclaimed music producers of all-time, Dre created a definitive west coast sound with The Chronic, and classics like “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” and “Let Me Ride” can be found on party playlists almost 25 years later.

#2: “Illmatic”
Nas (1994)

Some MCs get the party poppin’ and others stimulate the mind. With this remarkable debut album, Nas accomplished both. Widely regarded as a prophet of the streets, Nas expressed his own life experiences withIllmatic, and his intellectual acumen baffled listeners along with his rapid-fire style. Although Nas was raised in the Queensbridge projects, the existential themes of Illmatic reached listeners from coast to coast, whether it was the brutally honest “Life’s a Bitch” or the inspirational “One Love.”

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Blackstar”
Black Star (1998)

“Three Feet High and Rising”
De La Soul (1989)

“Radio”
LL Cool J (1985)

“The Low End Theory”
A Tribe Called Quest (1991)

“License to Ill”
Beastie Boys (1986)

“Planet Rock”
Afrika Bambaata & Soulsonic Force (1986)

#1: “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”
Wu Tang Clan (1993)

History has proven that one unique voice can transcend an entire musical drama, and it was not one, but TEN New York City rappers who transformed hip-hip with their astonishing 1993 debut. And with such a unique collection of talent, including members Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man and Ghostface Killa, producer RZA effectively maximized the vocals of each while establishing the group’s gritty sound. An album that would allow for outstanding solo albums, including member GZA’s 1995 release Liquid Swords, Enter the Wu-Tang is not only considered one of the most important albums of the genre, but one of the most important albums of all time.
So, do you agree with our selections? What is your favorite important album in Hip Hop history? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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