As a 2000 year old reincarnated mummy, I've listened to a lot of rap music in my day. Some of it has been just plain awful (See: Flava Flav's solo album), and some of it has been pretty darn good with its hippin and its hoppin and its bippin and its boppin. But the ten below are better than just pretty darn good, they're out-right classics. You may not agree with all of them, or at least, the placement of some of them, but just remember this--I'm right, and you're wrong. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way...
10. Life After Death by The Notorious B.I.G.
(Image taken from: amazon.ca)
If you asked me to name the greatest rappers who ever did rap, Biggie would not be on my list. Not even close. He was good, but there have been SO many better rappers out there before and since him. Even Big Pun was better, but that's a blog post for another day.
That said, Life After Death is a masterpiece of an album that still holds up today, even after everybody's already forgotten about the east coast/west coast rivalry that made it such a landmark album at the time. Some may say that his first album, Ready to Die was a better release, but no, those people are wrong. The problem with Ready to Die was that it was unfocused. Biggie didn't know at the time if he wanted to be hardcore or commercial, and it lands somewhere in-between, making it good, but not great. But Life After Death is fully realized, and DEFINITELY a commercial album, even if the rhymes are still pretty gritty. The production is air tight and it's a double disc that's actually good on both sides. A classic album that is still just as good as when it was released. I love it.
Best lyric on the album: "Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns/as I crush so-called willies, thugs, and rapper-dons"
9. I Got Next by KRS-ONE
(Image taken from: sf4singapore.blogspot.com)
Now, if you asked me to name the greatest rappers of all time again, KRS-ONE would DEFINITELY be on my list. His flow is just incomprehensibly good and if the government was looking for an ambassador for hip-hop, I have little doubt that KRS-ONE would fill that seat. This album, his third as a solo artist, is definitely his best. The tracks all seamlessly blend together to make an experience that takes it back to the old days, but still stays fresh, even today. There are a lot of great tracks on the album, but I'd be remiss if I didn't put the video to his first single on it, "Step Into a World (Rapture's Delight)" below. That Blondie hook is really insane. Love, love, love this album.
Best lyric on the album: "I'm not saying I'm number one, uht, I'm sorry, I lied/I'm number one, two, three, four, AND five!"
8. Aquemini by OutKast
(Image taken from: amazon.com)
Part Aquarius, part Gemini, Aquemini, the third album from the trend-busting group, OutKast, is their best album ever. Yes, I know, they won a Grammy for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, but that album can't touch this one. That album is segmented into two, whereas this album, again mentioning the combination of Big Boi and Andre 3000's astrological signs, is the perfect mixture of their very diverse sounds. It comes out smelling like roses (Instead of poo poo). There are SO many great tracks on this album, with each one sounding massively different, but "The Art of Storytelling" featuring Slick Rick is definitely my favorite. I sometimes listen to it before I go to sleep.
Best lyric on the album: "Damn, damn, damn, Jaaames"
7. The Chronic by Dr. Dre
(Image taken from: amazon.com)
Sure, you could call me a sucker for 90s rap, and I won't be mad. But seriously, how monumental was Dr. Dre's first solo album when it first came out, and how great is it still today? You can have your Drake, you can have your Nicki Minaj, you can have your 'Lil Wayne (Who's HARDLY the best rapper alive today as long as KRS-ONE is still breathing air), give me Dre, Snoop, and RBX any day over them. All of the tracks on this record are solid, and even the interludes, which I've always hated on rap albums, are pretty funny. Snoop has never been better than he was on this album, and no other album, I think, at least, encapsulates the West Coast more than this one did and still does today. It's so sun drenched, that you can even get a tan while listening to it. It's spectacular.
Best lyric on the album: "And break the white man off something lovely, biddy bye-bye/I don't love dem so dem can't love me"
6. Only Built For Cuban Linx by Raekwon
(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)
It was tough choosing between this and Liquid Swords when deciding on which early solo Wu album was better, but this one won out in the end, just because Ghostface makes such a good compliment to the Chef Raekwon. This is when Wu-tang wasn't a joke, and when their name was pretty much THE name in hip-hop at the time. Weaving crime saga tales throughout like only Raekwon could, this is as much his album as it is Ghostface's as the two of them share just about as much mic time together. The album goes from high to low, from quick paced to slow, so much that it's sometimes hard to take it all in in on one listen. And Rza's production has never been better than with this album. He seriously reached his peak on this one. Sigh, this is back when the chef wouldn't be caught DEAD rapping on a Justin Beiber song. And RZA DEFINITELY wouldn't have approved of it.
How times have changed.
Best lyric on the album: "Call me Dough snatcher/just a brother for the rapture/I hang glide/holdin' on strong/hard to capture"
5. Mm..Food by MF Doom
(Image taken from: amazon.com)
MF Doom's (And the MF stands for metal face, which he has since removed from his title, I don't know why) first album, Doomsday is a classic, and if I had a space for more than ten on this list, it'd probably be number 11. But his second album, Mm..Food is a more balanced release with some of the best production for a rap album I've ever heard. If you don't like, or even, don't know, MF Doom, you should. It's nerd rap to the nth degree, and anybody who can rap about Jet Jaguar and cookies, is the rapper for me. There's a whole series of interludes in the middle with a guy who kind of sounds like Dennis Hopper talking about eating in the woods, and on most album, I'd just say cut the crap. But it somehow fits on this album, and it makes it even more interesting. Definitely not for everybody, but that's just because everybody can't be awesome.
Best lyric on the album: "Yuck/is they rhymers or strippin' males/out of work jerks since they shut down Chippendale's"
4. Supreme Clientele by Ghostface Killah
(Image taken from: uulyrics.com)
While I might get some flak for putting this above Only Built For Cuban Linx, I don't care. This album is better, and in my opinion, it's the last great Wu album ever released (As opposed to being just good, which some of the recent ones have been). What makes this one so great is that it has heart. It doesn't weave great stories or have the bizarre sounds of a RZA laced album, but it still has something going for it that makes it a very interesting and introspective album into the very soul of Ghost. This album is all Dennis Coles and you can feel that he might not have even known what a deep album he was making at the time, which makes it all the more startling with how superb it all came out. I'll take this album over any of the other solo Wu albums any day.
Best lyric on the album: "Hey, yo, I sham-punched Ma$e in the face, over some bullshit"
3. The Circle of Tyrants by Necro, Ill Bill, Gortex, and Mr. Hyde
(Image taken from: retardriot.com)
Necro has made some great solo albums, all gore-tastic masterpieces, but none of them ever completely came together as a whole. But this album, which features his brother, Ill Bill, Mr. Hyde, and Gortex, who no longer rolls with the Psychological crew, is his crowning achievement. Now, this isn't like any of the other albums on this list. This album is very graphic, almost like a snuff film, and features, I think, the best lyrics ever put to record. I also know that a LOT of people wouldn't like it, but if they don't, then they just don't like great production and clever lyrics. That's okay. Not everybody does. Again, some people like Drake.
Best lyric on the album: "Cause it matters when you scatter when I shoot the 45th/cause you can get your data splattered out of your computer chip"
2. Enter The 36 Chambers by the Wu-Tang Clan
(Image taken from: amazon.com)
You will not find a grittier album on the planet than in the Wu-tang Clan's first album, Enter the 36 Chambers. It sounds like the movie Taxi Driver looks, gritty, hard, and real. This is the album that got everybody into the group and for good reason, as every member shines on this classic gem. From the kung-fu movie snippets, to the dirty production, to every member's very different flow, it's a wonder how I don't consider this the greatest rap album of all time, but I don't. There's one that's even better.
Best lyric on the album: "Raw/I'ma give it to you/with no trivia/raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia"
1. The Cold Vein by Cannibal Ox
The Cold Vein by CanOx transcends rap in so many ways. Hell, it even transcends music in general. This wouldn't be possible without El-P's production, which is about as spacey as it gets. Vast Aire definitely steals the show here, with lyrics that verge on the point of being so abstract that they don't even make sense when separated with the rest of the song ("Because my name is closer to Thor's than yours"), but Vordul Mega definitely holds his own against the modern poet. From the very beginning of low class ghetto economics, to the rising from the ashes at the end (Scream Phoenix!), The Cold Vein is the greatest rap album ever released and a testament to where rap could be taken if put in the right hands. If you haven't listened to it yet, do so. Do so now.
Best lyric on the album: "If there's crack in a basement/crackheads stand adjacent"