100 Essential Rap EPs – The Best of the Short & Sweet

More than ever, rappers are giving fans short, compact pieces of music, rather than full-lengths LPs. The format, formally known as an EP, or “extended play,” isn’t new. Hip-hop has utilized the quick fix strategy since the early 1980’s. Thanks to the success of Drake’s seven-track So Far Gone EP last year, though, a flood of artists, mostly newcomers (Freddie Gibbs, for example), are delivering sets that clock in at less than 30 minutes, with song tallies in the single digits.

Next Tuesday, the debut EP from Atlantic Records rookie, and one of XXL’s 10 Freshman for ’10, Donnis, Fashionably Late, will make its way onto iTunes. As he sees it, releasing EPs before official full-lengths equals smart business for new MCs. “In this day and age, it’s very difficult for an artist to just put out an album and sell,” says Donnis. “It’s something that you have to build up to and make sure that you’re gonna do numbers that are gonna make the record label happy, and know that you have longevity and a second chance.”

EPs aren’t limited to just rookies, however. Over the last three decades, both established and unproven artists have entered the short-form arena. Take a trip from the old to the new with XXL’s list of the “100 Essential Rap EPs,” presented in chronological order.

Too Short, Don’t Stop Rappin’
Label: 75 Girls Records and Tapes
Release Date: 1983

Too Short, Players
Label: 75 Girls Records and Tapes
Record Label: 1985

Too Short, Raw, Uncut and X-Rated
Label: 75 Girls Records and Tapes
Release Date: 1986

Mac Dre, Young Black Brotha
Strictly Business Records
Release Date: 1989

N.W.A., 100 Miles and Runnin’
Label: Priority Records
Release Date: August 14, 1990

E-40, Mr. Flamboyant
Sick Wid It
Release Date: 1991

Spice 1, Let it be Known
Triad Records
Release Date: 1991

Ice Cube, Kill at Will
Label: Priority Records
Release Date: January 1, 1991

Esham, Homey Don’t Play
Label: Reel Life Productions
Release Date: April 15, 1991

Pete Rock & CL Smooth, All Souled Out
Label: Elektra Records
Release Date: June 25, 1991

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  • http://www.twitter.com/Pierzy Pierzy

    “100 Miles & Runnin’” or “Kill At Will.”

    And no West Coast bias since I’m from the East. Those were just two super dope EPs.

  • Worley

    E-40 looks like he could be Gucci Mane’s pops in that pic.

    • Worley

      Good looks on mentioning Jemini the Gifted One. I have been trying to remember that dude and the “Funk Soul Sensation” joint for years. Salute.

  • Q461

    Wow you got alot of shit on here most niggaz prob never even heard of…aesop rock, atmosphere, etc. Should be interesting to see if the EP takes over for the mixtape as the album before the album trend. Lots of dope forgotten about shit on this list.

    • Mr. Uda

      u must be from MN….but i definetly cosign everything u just said with Mixtapes being EPs…..this was a really good look for XXL Mag, finally doing your homework

  • El Tico Loco

    I like EP’s/maxi singles, they usually lead to classic albums, and now that mixtapes are out you can tell that EP’s were’t a rush job. I can absorb 6 songs a time rather than 30 plus from one artist.

  • http://xxlmag jayruckNYC

    What about Lord Finesse’s The Awakening? It’s usually lumped in the EP catagory even tho it has alot of skits. Other then that everything I can think of made it. Kizz My Black Azz, It’s On 187um Killa and LA Confidential by Knoc-Turn’al are all my shits.

  • Simple like ABC, 123

    Bone Thugs EP (Thuggish Ruggish Bone, Holy Shit!)
    & Three 6 EP (Be a Witness with KKK, Damn!)


  • Chuck D

    Whats with no Relapse: Refill, I mean I know theres lots of people who aren’t crazy about Eminem, but ya got Young Berg on this shit, and no Relapse: Refill.

  • the kid frankie

    i see y’all started w/ WAAAY back in the day. lol. im 22. i had to skip to pg8 to get to some shit i cared about. Teflon Don might as well be an EP too.

  • D-90

    yo wat about The Lost Scripts of K.O.D. by tech n9ne? that shit is ultra ill

  • brand-new

    that jedi mind tricks joint was bananas!!

  • BeerGangsta

    NWA stand for Negit With Azz!! Super hard CD!! Too Short real hard shit!! Pete Rcok CL Smooth cool and hard!! No answer for the rest of them lol.

  • Chris S

    Rhymesayers always has the best EP’s. Atmosphere just released another one that’s really good. “To All My Friends…”

    also, Straight From The Lab EP by Eminem is outstanding.

  • gaddic



    Brother Ali always come good on every release every fucking piece of music this dude releases is either classic or close classic!!!
    same for Atmosphere

    That SFTLAB form Em was dope(WASAMERicans-one of his best tracks ever!)

    XXLMAG need to stop ignoring material because it doesn’t come from Big names

  • Lacey

    What about The Roots From The Ground Up EP?

  • Q461

    @ Mr. Uda

    Nahhh dog I’m from Ny. but I’m a student of hip-hop…everything from Aesop Rock and Jedi Mind Tricks to Slaughterhouse and Kanye…..

  • Lord Maximus

    @kid frankie hey man if you don’t care about the old school bro, you obviously don’t care about dope music that’s constantly referenced today jk lol but you should definitely give some of that old shit a try.

    Co-sign that this is a nice look for XXL and that the Mixtape is an EP (Just made a little more lazily). But I’m only 19 and love that Too $hort got mad props on this one. Old School EPs were and still are THE SHIT and are definitely underrated most of the time.

  • Nicholas

    Damn surprised yall got Charles Hamilton on this. Thats my dude I love MOST of his shit some of his is wack but This Perfect Life is great

  • Iveus99

    Nice list. I’d add Clyde Carson’s Bass Rock EP and Ya Boy & Big Rich’s Guns And Roses EP, that’d make this list perfect.

  • DadeFunk

    thank you for takin it back! def mentioned those who started it all. thankyouuuuu XXL

  • Redder

    E-40 – Mr. Flambouyant …Kill At Will…So Far Gone.. 100 miles and runnin

  • bigbang

    a’g–e is nothìng but just a number. My b”oy’frì’end and i both think so …
    He is almost 11year oldér than me .i met him via
    (seek cou gar。c0m) as my name says.
    Where for Oldér wo*mén and youngér m*én OR youngér wo*m*én and Oldér mén,
    to interact with each other…

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  • golfwang

    the cool kids- the bake sale ep
    I mean come on, you have young berg on here

  • Free Weezyyy

    I think whoever made this just searched dat piff and picked randoms considering young berg and new boys made it.

  • http://www.eatuupspituout.com Free Weezy

    I think the author of this just hopped on datpiff and let one of kids pick there favourite album cover. young berg and new boys.. gimme a breakkk