A to the L’s 100 Favorite Hiphop Albums of All Time (Part 1)

100 List Part 1

I know to many people (me included) lists can often be boring. That’s why I’m going to attempt to break this up into around 12-15 albums per post to allow y’all to digest the knowledge I’m about to impart. It will also allow me to clear the 100 by this time next week, if things go according to plan. Please don’t get this twisted up either. These are my favorite albums ever, ever, ever. Not necessarily your favorites. Or your greatest. Or THE greatest. (Though at times, certain choices will tick a box on all those lists.)

Also bear in mind that these are not really assembled into any sort of order. So don’t be crying to me if “Cuban Linx” sits at number 96. Its not because that’s where I place it on the list – its because I just remembered it and posted about it at that time. Bearing that point in mind, its also worth noting that the first 40-50 albums in this list will be a breeze to jot down… after then is when a closer examination of my collection will come into play to decide if Chingy’s “Jackpot” should make the list ahead of “Loc’ed After Dark”, for example. (I may or may not be joking.)

Anyways, enough yakking – here’s part one… and remember – album numero uno aside, these are not sorted in ANY kind of order of preference.

01) Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
It Takes A Nation...
Seriously, what other record could sit here casually thumbing its nose at everyone else’s projects from atop its lofty perch? Hiphop is what – 258 years old now, and there’s still no other album in the history of this music that’s fucking with “Nation”. This is every member of the Bomb Squad at the height of their powers, Chuck and Flav making the leap from Run DMC and Cool J warm up acts to fully-fledged stadium-fillers in their own right, and my 7th-best DJ in the world squeezing the life out of the transformer scratch with reckless abandon. ‘She Watch Channel Zero’ aside, there are no other weak tracks on this album, and its testament to its strength and quality that it not only tops Hiphop polls on the regular, but that it also hovers around the top spots on ‘real’ music polls by ‘normal music’ magazines too… you know those ones that always have The Beatles, Nirvana, and Oasis in them? If you STILL don’t own this album, then please stop reading, and kill yourself now.

02) Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
It Fear Of A Black Planet
In my opinion, this is not a kick in the arse away from the number one slot, but there’s just a little too much of PE revelling in their ‘message-bringer’ roles at the expense of music quality too wrest the crown from “Nation”. Of course the musical terrain was different during the recording of this album compared to during “Nation’s” recording – that album’s success coupled with the explosion of ‘Fight The Power’ as a rallying cry from “Do The Right Thing” had already whetted Hiphop appetites for “Black Planet”. But when Griff’s expulsion truly catapulted PE into the mainstream media, who quickly tagged them geniuses/terrorists/racists depending on their underlying political leanings, it seemed that the whole world was driven into a frenzy when ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’ dropped as the first single. The rest of the album relied on sticky funk samples as opposed to its predecessor’s quick, steely groove loops, but the end result was the same – another PE classic. If your body is still twitching, then stick another bullet in it now if you don’t have this album either.

03) Count Bass D – Dwight Spitz
Dwight Spitz
Many of you still haven’t heard this. Its your loss, fools. Without a hint of exaggeration, this is easily the best Hiphop album of the new millenium. You want to come away feeling that you’ve been touched by the artist (nh)? Listen here. You want intelligent production that takes all the best parts of the best records of the past and locks it in with one individual’s interpretation of what Hiphop in the ‘noughties’ (I hate that word) should sound like? Listen here. You want ‘real Hiphop’ that moves your mental at the same time as your head and neck snap? Listen here. This is the antidote to all the guns, all the niggas, all the bitches, all the drugs, all the money, and all the idiots who’ve pushed Hiphop THAT way, while in our hearts we all want it to go THIS way. (And I like Lil Jon as much as the next man, but you know what I’m driving at here – shut up… I’m on a roll.) Dwight Farrell deserves to be in the top ten of my favorites list, yours, my greatest, your greatest… this album is simply one of THE greatest, and its never out of my changer.

04) Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill
Licensed To Ill
You want ‘real Hiphop’ that moves your mental at the same time as your head and neck snap? Sorry, you’re in the wrong place. Try album number 3. However if you want a white Run DMC rapping over some of the best beats Rick Rubin has ever made then welcome to “Licensed To Ill”. This album should never have worked – at times its 100 percent corny, at times 100% rock (and you know how me and those guitars never can agree)… but somehow Diamond, Yauch and Horovitz (are those some Law & Order-type handles or what?) pull it off with Budweiser-infused gusto. And ‘The New Style’ is still one of the best Hiphop songs ever made.

05) Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Paul's Boutique.
On this album the trio stepped away from Def Jam Records, and with the help of the Dust Brothers, out of the shadows of Rick Rubin and Russell Rush. No longer were the Beasties looked on as Run DMC’s gimmick white crew who got all the beats that Run and D rejected. With ‘Paul’s Boutique’, the Beasties brought genuine talent to the table that very few people realised they actually had, and wound up producing one of Hiphop’s most discussed long players. Where did they get that sample from? Who else would toss Johnny Cash into the mix like that? Why does the inlay cover give me a migraine? All valid questions on the lips of the cool kids once this album dropped.

06) De La Soul – 3 Feet High & Rising
3 Feet High & Rising
Many heads diss this record, simply because of the way it exploded in the mainstream media, who were looking for a safe, non-violent alternative to those nasty, aggressive NWA and Public Enemy fellows. De La gave them the perfect bandwagon to jump on – Hall & Oates-sampling, tree-hugging, daisy-waving, day-glo wearing teenagers from Long Island, who were a world away from those uncouth Compton oiks. Hiphop fans will try to tell you how this hasn’t aged well, how this record or that record is better, blah blah blah. Punch them in the eye (know) and tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about. This record is near perfect from its gameshow intro to its French-lesson sampling middle to its pothole-pushing end, and anyone who tries to tell you different is a scrub. A big scrub. With big fat dandruff.

07) De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
De La Soul Is Dead
As the mainstream media digested this record on release you could tell they wanted to be offended. ‘You mean these rapping hippies aren’t actually rapping hippies, and didn’t care for us tagging them with that label? How dare they!’ Unfortunately it was difficult to diss De La, as they switched styles with such ease and with no discernable drop in quality. “De La Soul Is Dead” is their response to fans and media who painted them into a corner and expected them to stay there – daisies were uprooted with baseball bats, and donut shops were subjected to scuffles as the Long Island trio retaliated against all-comers. This is also the last album in the history of Hiphop that had listenable skits and cool made-up words like ‘Schwingalokate”. Ah-huh-ah-hoo-ah-hoo-hee. Believe that.

08) De La Soul – Buhloone Mind State
Buhloone Mind State
Three De La albums in a row? Some would even go as far as putting “Stakes Is High” in a top 100 too. But not me. Three is the magic number, suckas. The sad thing is that out of ALL De La’s releases, this is probably the one that people overlook the most because on its initial release, a lot of it flew over heads. But listen, bitches – this is the album that had Maceo blowing the soul out of this here horn… this is the album that introduced us to Shortie No Mas (my other other other wife after Kelly Rowland and Monie Love)… this is the album that ushered in the dawn of the underground’s best ever rapper, Mos Def (lol)… this is the album that had Guru doing the Patti Dooke. What more could you want, ya fucking lasagne heads? Its arguably the first ‘straight’ Hiphop release De La knocked out – light on skits and gimmicks, with the accent more on beats and rhymes, and this switch up from the first two approaches is also probably another reason why this is criminally slept on. How could NME and Melody Maker (UK heads know the deal) ‘pigeonhole’ this when there’s no quirks, no high-brow samples, and nothing their little bland bunch of writers really relate to it on here? Its ‘just Hiphop’, and that’s why it makes my top 100.

09) NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton
Come on now. This is an automatic choice, as its big brother below. Despite being a true example of a record that has not aged well, there’s still something comforting to be found in the simple looped intro to ‘Straight Outta Compton’, the screaming of the ‘redneck, white-bred, chicken-shit motherfucker’ on ‘Fuck Tha Police’ over ‘Funky Drummer’, and the sparse production of ‘Compton’s In The House’. Never has a crew shouted out their hood so much than on this record (believe that NYC). Never has a Hiphop crew intimidated an entire planet as much as NWA did on the release of this album… while PE had their share of investigators and naysayers, Eazy and co trumped even them with FBI monitoring, police shutdowns of shows, and banning of album sales all contributing to their notoriety. Lest you forget, this was also the first record that really showed that this cat Dr Dre had some skills on the boards, and that the world’s seventh best rapper was ‘getting rid of motherfuckers as if they was a foreigner.”

10) NWA – Niggaz4Life
Ice Cube-less, many expected the 4 remaining members to stumble and fail. Bad luck suckas. This album brought the crew to a whole ‘nother level of exposure due to their embracing the roles of ‘big bad dangerous swearing black guys’ that the mainstream had painted them into. We could see that Eazy, Dre, Ren, andYella were having hella fun fulfilling white media’s fearful fantasies – swearing for the sake of it, bringing guns on top of guns on top of guns to the motherfucking fistfight, etc etc, but its still amazing to think that the mainstream BOUGHT this ‘world’s most dangerous group’ tagline and RAN with it. All that aside, this is STILL Dre’s best ever production work (and yes, I’m counting both Chronics, Eminem, 50 Cent and everything else), and ‘I’d Rather Fuck You’ is still better than the song it borrowed from.

11) Pete Rock & CL Smooth – The Main Ingredient
The Main Ingredient
Pete Rock may be an argumentative old cunt these days, and CL might never have been a great emcee (for ‘never been great’ read ‘teh ghey’), but this album is the duo at the peak of their relative powers. Pete continued to rape Biz’s old masters to stunning effect, while CL ‘adequately’ did his emcee duties in an ‘adequate’ way. I still have no clue why many prefer “Mecca And The Soul Brother” to this – to me, Pete’s production wins out on this album, and there are so many ideas and snippets of ideas here, that you’ll still find some fresh noteworthy stuff with each and every listen. And ‘I Gotta Love’ has the best horns in the world ever. Apart from a couple of other songs where Pete hooked up the horns lovely there too.

12) The 2 Live Crew – Sports Weekend
Sports Weekend
Didn’t expect to see this, did you? This takes the best of the schoolboy humor and Miami 808 from “Nasty As They Wanna Be” and attempts to build a decent album around it. Of course there’s still a load of call and response driven jams, but growth (nh) is evident on joints like ‘Here I Come’ and um… well ok just on that. The rest is nudge-nudge-wink-wink English postcard stuff on wax… lots of pussies, dicks, asses, bitches, and head. Its just better done (to me anyway) that on any other 2 Live Crew. Although Mr Mixx, the greatest southern DJ in the world, drops a lackluster ‘Mega Mix’ here, the ‘Chesterfield Island’ makes up for it in a big way. No homo.

13) Lord Finesse – Return Of The Funky Man
Return Of The Funky Man
The best rapper in the world ever (and that includes Rakim) at the height of his powers. DITC represents lovely with Showbiz, Diamond D, and Finesse himself manning the boards, while AG & Percee P help out on mic duties, supporting the Grand Imperial Funky Man as he drops punchline after punchline over some of the hardest beats imaginable. There’s really no excuse for you not to have this by now, and regulars to this site will already be yawning at the thought of me going off on another LF love-in… so I’ll stop now. If you don’t have this, you lick asshole on the regular, and your breath smells like an old boxing glove.

14) Lil Jon & The Eastside Boys – Crunk Juice
Crunk Juice
Fuck all y’all. This is a classic, classic album that builds on the successful formula of “Kings Of Crunk” and takes to it a whole other plateau altogether. As a snapshot of trends in recent commercial Hiphop it sums up all that’s right or wrong with this area of the music, depending on your viewpoint. Personally I think Lil Jon is a production genius, and a lot of people are mad because the simplicity of his beats teases them into thinking that they could and should have done it first. ‘Its nothing but ignant call and response records,’ you bleat. He’s taking it back to the essence of the old school then, I retort. ‘He’s an ugly dreadlocked dwarf, who does nothing but swear and make shitty music,’ you scream. ‘No that’s Terence Trent D’arby, you’re thinking of. Now quit hating, potna.
Sweet Jesus, this album has aged terribly. Ain’t it crazy what a few years will do to your perspective? Fuck was I thinking?

6 Replies to “A to the L’s 100 Favorite Hiphop Albums of All Time (Part 1)”

  1. Good looks A. I’m feeling you on the Count Bass D jawn as well. No Tribe??? Ahhhh…had to toss one of those up there along with Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid In Full” for me.

    I think I had like 7 copies of that cassette tape ‘cuz mofos fept stealing my shit. I actually just re-bought the uhhh yea, “re-mastered” version too. Rakim 2007 blows donkey nuts though.

  2. 14 albums out of 100… somehow I think Tribe may still feature…


    I’m actually writing up part 2 right now, and even without your comment Tribe had made it in there…

  3. “Fear of a Black Planet” is so overrated. Dang.
    Nicely on the Main INgredient, you know we’re right on that one.

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