In the modern era, there are few artists that are as acclaimed or prolific as Kanye West, but he almost never happened.
As one of the Best Hip Hop Producers, Kanye could not get a label to back his first album which started the trend of using vocals, both clean and altered, as legitimate forms of instrumentation–you can also thank him for the rise of the autotune explosion.
The Slim Shady LP – Eminem
The self-proclaimed “Rap God” may have more of a hit-or-miss history than most of the other artists on this list, but “The Slim Shady LP” had to important impacts on the history of hip-hop.
First, it showed the world there was a genuine way for white artists to make hip-hop.
Second, it opened the door for shock rap to be an acknowledged genre in its own right.
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
While it may not have been the first hip-hop album, it was arguably the most important.
“Straight Outta Compton” gave voice to a whole people who felt neglected at best and outright attacked at worst.
This album not only catapulted the careers of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre it showed the world hip-hop could be used to say something powerful and that all people of color have a voice to contribute.
The Blueprint – Jay-Z
The Blueprint is an album choked full of bangers that allow you turn it on and let it play without skipping a song–much like how the album never misses a beat.
However, it was the fact that Jay-Z used The Blueprint as a makeover album of sorts that makes it so important.
No longer was hip-hop simply a young man’s game as the king could wear the crown (and still does) for years to come.
All Eyez on Me – Tupac Shakur
Aside from the fact that this was the last album the Tupac released while he was still alive, aside from the fact that it was his best-selling album of his sadly short discography, and aside from the fact that it featured his most famous track, “California Love,”
All Eyez on Me also took hip-hop from the streets to the soundstage with larger than life productions that were almost unheard of for the genre.
Ready to Die – Notorious B.I.G.
While some people may prefer Biggie’s double-album “Life After Death,” it is his debut album “Ready to Die” which made Biggie who he was in hip-hop and shook the foundations of how artists expressed themselves.
As one of the first and most influential autobiographical rappers, the Notorious B.I.G. followed in the footsteps of country and rock artist before letting his lyrics tell the story of his life.
The Chronic – Dr. Dre
While Dr. Dre was not the first music producer who also became a hip-hop artist, he was certainly the first one to make it to the level that he did which is even more impressive considering he was already a part of the wildly popular N.W.A. With The Chronic, Dr. Dre also helped solidify that smooth West Coast sound with distinct bass and screaming highs.
As one of the Best Hip Hop Albums, it also helped launch the next entry on our list.
Doggystyle – Snoop Dogg
Let us be clear, there are likely plenty of people out there who will strongly disagree with this selection, but when you consider the impact that Snoop Dogg has had on the hip-hop genre, hip-hop culture more broadly, and even pop culture the world over.
Whether it is his smooth style both on the tracks or off, Doggystyle cemented returning to older forms as a regular conceit.
Illmatic – Nas
Nas may not be the name he was in the 90s and 00s, but his impact still reverberates throughout the world of hip-hop today.
Arguably one of the most influential artists within the genre, Nas’ biggest influence which began with his seminal “Illmatic” was the use of his flow which featured off or downbeat rhythms as well as a conversational style that was unheard of at the time.
Rapper’s Delight – Sugarhill Gang
Okay sure, Rapper’s Delight is probably not on too many people’s Best Hip Hop Albums of all time list, but we would be remiss if we did not include the album that started it all.
Not only did Rapper’s Delight kick off the entire hip-hop genre, it even literally detailed in its lyrics what hip-hop was at its base fundamentals.
To not include it on our list would be blasphemy.