Asking someone to name their favorite rap album is like asking what their favorite mood is. Some albums are angry. Others are sweet. There’s rap for all reasons and all seasons. Nevertheless, hip hop turned 50 this month – yep, it’s middle-aged – we’re looking back at some of the most important, vital, and best albums in rap history. Just like our list of underrated rappers, we’ve enlisted rappers themselves to chime in and share their favorite albums. And as you can see below, one album stands out from the rest of the pack.
I don’t think there is a best rap album.
There’s too much diversity of style, flow, content, and sound to say there is a best rap album.
Out of all the ones ever considered the best, there’s an album that’ll definitively fit in its place once you listen to it.
So you can’t say there is a best one because so many are great!
People have their favorites but it’s all a matter of choice based on feeling and how you receive it.
Raising Hell is great, It Takes A Nation of Millions is great, The Chronic is great, and Brand Nubians’ One For All album is one of the best out there! It’s also that perfect rap album!
The first thought that comes to mind for the greatest hip-hop album of all time is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [by Ye]. I think it’s just the apex of hip-hop as an all-encompassing art form that swallows influence from everything and regurgitates it as gold.
Illmatic, It Was Written, Reasonable Doubt, Me Against the World. Those albums perfectly defined who those artists were at the time. It was like a time capsule. It’s just, you know, their minds, thoughts and emotions. It’s classic.
Slick Rick’s The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. My greatest influence in this shit, from the way I dress and the jewelry down to the pockets in the beats where I choose to rhyme.
Big Daddy Kane’s It’s a Big Daddy Thing. Simply put, the best flow of all time.
A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory. My brothers, all because I took this little gamble and pulled up on Greene St. Studio.
DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. The most exciting and challenging shit on the planet, and the start of Swiss busting ass for three decades.
Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. I fucking cried the first time I heard it.
Soup of Jurassic 5
There are so many, but since you’re forcing me to pick, I gotta go with…PE’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Never has there been such an album with so much vital information, while keeping your head nodding and never losing the message within it (pure perfection).
It’s crazy that after decades, I still find myself going back to listen to Criminal Minded 1987 by Boogie Down Productions. So many bangers that take me back to a time when hip hop was ON FIRE with every release damn near. They came straight out of the gate with the song “Poetry” with that beat I make with my mouth from day to day with my 4-month-old. It calms her actually! Many other jams like “The Bridge Is Over,” “South Bronx,” “9mm Goes Bang” and so many others. Come on man THE P IS FREE! The whole album goes in my opinion and I still enjoy it like it’s my first listen every time I run it.
Kodak Black’s Project Baby 2 is one of my favorite rap albums of all time. That project dropped around the same time I decided to take my music to a whole other level. I used to meditate listening to it when I was playing college football. The music helped keep me grounded.
The Love Below by Andre 3000/Outkast. Back when I was in school, nobody made anything like that and it felt like a movie, very cinematic. It felt like you were going into a different world right up until the end of the album.
Bad Azz by Boosie: I was living the same type of shit he was talking about at that time. It really felt like that man coming down the street was our theme music at that time back in the day. Really timeless music.
Erick the Architect
I debate my favorite rap album all the time, I think my answer will change depending on what day it is but I stand firmly to say one that continues to come back is DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot. This album brings back so many memories of my childhood, hearing DMX’s voice sounding through the neighborhood when the cars drove by on my block! The Intro of it has such a sick beat, the way X comes on after his short skit always gives me goosebumps. The instrumental of that record was also in the video game, Def Jam: Fight for New York, a game I played constantly as a kid. This album is a sure classic to me simply because of the story X told, raised as an orphan dealing with life on his own with opposition all around him. From production from Swizz Beats, Irv Gotti, P.K. & Dame Grease, X put together a project with great cohesion and allowed him to talk about a story only he could tell. With songs like, “Stop Being Greedy,” “How’s It Going Down,” “Fuckin Wit D,” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” X showed on his first effort that he could make really big records by embracing vulnerability and coupling it with being tough too. I still play it to this day and knowing that X was truly doing something special right out the gate— at the peak of crack and HIV in the ’90s, X told a story that was very relatable to people all over the world who were suffering and they weren’t alone. He was bigger than just the city of New York, he was inventing himself as one of the most unique and recognizable artists of all time. Rest in Peace, DMX.
In my opinion, it’s probably a tie for greatest hip-hop album of all time between Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions and N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton. These two albums contributed greatly to hip-hop’s refusal to merely deliver feel-good songs without acknowledging the issues that plagued our communities.
This answer changes quite often obviously, but because of the greatness that is the song “A Friendly Game Of Baseball” from the classic album “Breaking Atoms” by Main Source. I’m gonna have to rep for Queens and the TDOT. The ominous Lou Donaldson sample used for the backdrop hits home every time. Not only does the song metaphor my favorite sport brilliantly, but it takes on the wicked system that oppressed black people to this day, at one of the most crucial times in our country’s history. Songs like “Peace Is Not The Word To Play” still resonate and hold up in 2023. Also being a fan of comics, and all my comic collectors will get get this reference. How can you not appreciate the first appearance of the legend Nasty Nas? How do you even write a relationship record as good as “Looking At The Front Door” at that age? Shout out to Large Pro, Sir Scratch and K-Cut. *Stands and applauds*
Slug of Atmosphere
Unfortunately, I don’t think I could name a favorite. Far too many amazing albums have influenced my life over the last 50 years. I would love to give an honorable mention to Done By The Forces Of Nature by the Jungle Brothers. It’s the first rap album that showed me vulnerability and a full spectrum of what humanity looked like through the hip-hop lens.
My favorite rap album of all time might be The Documentary by The Game. My reasoning is definitely more of a time stamp thing. I remember listening to that album in sixth grade and saying “Whoa. What is this? Where am I?” It wasn’t my introduction to rap, but I think it was the first album that made me want to rap. Classic album top to bottom.
Almost Healed by Lil Durk is one of my favorite rap albums this year. I’ve had the songs “Pelle Coat” “Sad Songs” and “Big Dawg” on repeat. Durk is my brother and I can relate to everything he talks about on the album. Moneybagg Yo’s Hard To Love is fire too though.
Polo G is one of my favorite artists. I can really relate to a lot of the pain he raps about especially when he mentioned death at an early age. I can also relate to when he talks about the recovery process. My favorite song off Hall of Fame is “Bloody Canvas” for these reasons.
One of my favorite hip-hop albums is Wale’s Ambition. It was perfectly curated from the tracklist to the transitions to the production to the lyricism. An artist like him is why we’ll celebrate hip-hop forever.
Project Pat is a Memphis legend that inspired me a lot. He’s my favorite rapper and this album (Getty Gree) stuck out to me because it was crunk combined with funny skits
Definitely 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying. No skips. It influenced me in a lot of my younger years.
MM..Food. I feel like he combined appreciation for beauty with the beats with a strict adherence to the raps. In terms of style and perspective, he was like the most unique and refitting the DOOM persona for the early 2000s, it was really cool especially if you compare it to what was coming out at the time.”
My favorite rap album is Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides – an incredible debut from what would be a one-of-a-kind talent. It brought together legends during a time when hip-hop was seeing a transition between generations.
My favorite rap album is All Eyez On Me by Tupac because I feel like since birth it’s always been all eyes on me. Even before I started rapping, when I walked into the classroom everybody was always staring so I connected with the energy on that album.