XXL Looks Back at the Milestones of 2011


Hip-hop's come a long way. Considered at a fad for years—even as rappers began winning Grammys in the late '80s—the genre has produced a number of legends. This year, many of those revered MCs, from Run-D.M.C. to Nas to Geto Boys to 2 Live Crew, celebrated anniversaries of classic albums. XXL looks back at some of the important albums that reached milestones in 2011.—XXL Staff

Run-D.M.C., Raising Hell (1986)


Release Date: July 18, 1986
This legendary Queens trio elevated to superstardom with the release of their third album. Featuring tracks like "It's Tricky," "Walk This Way" and "My Addidas," the LP sold three million copies.

2 Live Crew, The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are (1986)


Release Date: July 25, 1986
Uncle Luke and company made their entrance on the hip-hop scene 25 years ago. The gold-selling album set the tone for the crew' raunchy ways.

Whodini, Back in Black (1986)

Whodini - BackIn Black (1986)

Release Date: October 25, 1986
The third LP from Brooklyn outfit Whodini, Back in Black hit stores 25 years ago. Featuring songs like "Funky Beat," "Growing Up" and "One Love," the album was certified gold.

Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew, Oh, My God! (1986)


Release Date: July 7, 1986
Doug E. Fresh's debut LP didn't make much of a dent on the charts 25 years ago, but it's still remembered for classics like "The Show" and "Play This Only at Night."

Beastie Boys, License to Ill (1986)


Release Date: November 15, 1986
This legendary Brooklyn group shot up to superstardom with this historic release. Featuring classic songs like "Paul Revere," "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" and "Fight for Your Right," the album was the first hip-hop release to top the Billboard 200 and sold 9 million units domestically.

Salt-n-Pepa, Hot Cool& Vicious (1986)


Release Date: December 8, 1986
This femcee trio burst onto the scene with their debut 25 years ago. Lead by the raunchy "Push It," the LP struck platinum.

Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, Planet Rock: The Album (1986)


Release Date: December 1, 1986
Afrika Bambaataa released an EP featuring the legendary "Planet Rock" 25 years ago. The project also included appearances by Melle Mel.

Gang Starr, Step in the Arena (1991)


Release Date: January 15, 1991
Gang Starr released their sophomore effort 20 years ago. The album featured timeless songs like "Who's Gonna Take the Weight" and "Just to Get a Rep."

N.W.A, Niggaz4Life (1991)


Release Date: May 28, 1991
The first full length released post Ice Cube's departure from the group, Niggaz4Life still went platinum. The album featured songs like "Appetite for Destruction" and "Alwayz Into Something," among others.

De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead (1991)


Release Date: May 13, 1991
De La released the second of their back to back classics 20 years ago. The LP was an attempt at distancing themselves from the hippy tagged they earned with their debut, 3 Feet High and Rising. The album featured singles like "A Rolling Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'" and "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)" and was certified gold.

Geto Boys, We Can't Be Stopped (1991)


Release Date: July 1, 1991
After going unnoticed for several releases, Geto Boys finally found platinum success with their fourth album 20 years ago. The album featured the classic single, "Mind Playing Tricks on Me."

Main Source, Breaking Atoms (1991)


Release Date: July 23, 1991
This Extra P-helmed collective dropped their debut 20 years ago. In addition to the hit, "Lookin' At the Front Door," the album featured "Live At the Barbecue"—the song that introduced the world to Nasty Nas.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Homebase (1991)


Release Date: July 20, 1991
This Philly duo dropped their fourth album 20 years ago. Featuring hits like "Ring My Bell" and "Summertime," the LP was certified platinum.

A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (1991)


Release Date: September 24, 1991
Tribe's sophomore album paved the way for hip-hop and jazz fusion 20 years ago. The timeless offering featured songs like "Check the Rhime" and the hard-hitting "Scenario" featuring Leaders of the New School. The album went platinum.

Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back (1991)


Release Date: October 3, 1991
Capitalizing off the success of Geto Boys's first platinum LP, Scarface released his first solo album. The album went gold.

Public Enemy, Apocalypse Now... The Enemy Strikes Back (1991)


Release Date: October 3, 1991
PE dropped their fourth album 20 years ago. Lead by singles like "Bring the Noise" and "Shut 'Em Down," the LP went platinum.

Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (1991)


Release Date: October 22, 1991
This Queens/Brooklyn duo dropped their gold-selling debut 20 years ago. The album featured "Flavor of the Month" and the smash hit, "The Choice Is Yours."

Ice Cube, Death Certificate (1991)


Release Date: October 29, 1991
Cube continued his platinum ways with the release of his sophomore album 20 years ago. The album featured "Steady Mobbin'" and the scathing N.W.A. and Jerry Heller diss, "No Vasoline."


Release Date: November 12, 1991
'Pac dropped his debut album 20 years ago. Featuring classics like "Brenda's Got a Baby" and "If My Homies Call," the album went gold.

The Fugees, The Score (1996)


Release Date: February 13, 1996
The Fugees took the hip-hop and pop worlds by storm with their sophomore effort 15 years ago. With hits like "Fu-Gee-La," "Killing Me Softly" and "Ready or Not," the LP sold 17 million copies worldwide and made superstars out of Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean.

2Pac, All Eyez on Me (1996)


Release Date: February 13, 1996
'Pac dropped his first album on Death Row Records 15 years ago. A double disc, the LP spawned hits that include, "California Love," "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," "I Ain't Mad At Cha," "How Do U Want It" and "Ambitionz az a Ridah," just to name a few.

Busta Rhymes, The Coming (1996)


Release Date: March 26, 1996
The Dungeon Dragon finally released his solo debut 15 years ago. Featuring hits like "Whoo Hah!!!Got You All in Check" and "It's a Party," the album went platinum.

Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt (1996)


Release Date: June 25, 1996
It's the LP that started Jay-Z's legend 15 years ago. Released on Roc-A-Fella Records, via Priority, the LP featured too many classic songs to list. Hov's "Can't Know the Hustle" with Mary J. Blige, "Brooklyn's Finest" with Biggie Smalls, "D'Evils" and "Can I Live" are just a few of the LP's memorable tracks. The album went platinum at the time and earned a platinum certification over time. To date, it's considered one of the best albums in hip-hop history.

Nas, It Was Written (1996)


Release Date: July 15, 1996
Nas Escobar went platinum for the first time in his career with his sophomore album, 15 years ago. The album featured singles like "If I Ruled the World" and "Street Dreams." It sold 2.5 million copies and is Nas's highest-selling album to date.

De La Soul, Stakes Is High (1996)


Release Date: July 2, 1996
De La called hip-hop dead 10 years before Nas did on the release of their fourth LP, 15 years ago. The album didn't make much of a dent on the charts, but is considered arguably De La's best album.

UGK, Ridin' Dirty (1996)


Release Date: July 29, 1996
The underground kings finally struck gold with their third effort, Ridin' Dirty.

The Roots, Iladelph Halflife (1996)


Release Date: September 24, 1996
The Roots released their third LP 15 years ago. Though it sold under 500,000 copies, it's considered one of their best works to date. It features singles like "What They Do," "Clones" and "Concerto of the Desperado."

OutKast, ATLliens (1996)


Release Date: August 27, 1996
This futuristic ATL duo dropped their sophomore set 15 years ago. The LP featured singles like "ATLiens," "Elevators" and "Jazzy Belle" and went double platinum.

Makaveli (2 Pac), The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)


Release Date: November 5, 1996
The first of 'Pac's many posthumous LPs—it was recorded in seven days—the LP was released a month and a half after his death. Though he'd made peace with many East Coast rappers prior to dying, the album featured many disses to the likes of Nas, Mobb Deep, Biggie and Puff Daddy. Songs like "Hail Mary," "To Live & Die in L.A." and "Me and My Girlfriend" have become legendary. The LP sold four million copies.

Lil' Kim, Hard Core (1996)


Release Date: November 12, 1996
Kim changed the game with her debut album 15 years ago. Released seven days before Foxy Brown's Ill Na Na, which also embraced hyper-sexualized rhymes, the album laid a new blueprint for female MCs to follow. Sex sells indeed. Hard Core nearly moved 2 million units.

Foxy Brown, Ill Na Na (1996)


Release Date: November 19, 1996
Fox Boogie played her part in changing the game alongside Kim with her debut, 15 years ago. Featuring hits like "Take You Home" and "I'll Be," the LP almost sold 2 million copies.

Missy Elliot, Miss E... So Addictive (2001)


Release Date: March 15, 2001 Missy released her third LP 15 years ago. As always, the LP featured Missy and Timbaland's unorthodox singles. This time, the Virginia rapstress lead the charge with "Get Ur Freak On" and "One Minute Man," which resulted in another platinum plaque.

Fabolous, Ghetto Fabolous (2001)

Fabolous - Ghetto Fabolous

Release Date: September 11, 2001
Fab's debut often gets forgotten. Perhaps because it was released on the same day as Jay-Z's Blueprint. Still, the LP featured two Top 40 hits, "Can't Deny It" and "Young'n (Holla Back)" on the way to Fab's first platinum plaque.

Jay-Z, The Blueprint (2001)


Release Date: September 11, 2001
Despite being release on the same day the World Trade Center's Twin Towers fell, Hov's Blueprint sold nearly 500, 000 copies and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," the album featured "Takeover"—Hov's diss towards Nas. The LP introduced then upstart producers Kanye West and Just Blaze and ushered in the sped up soul sample sound.

Masta Ace, Disposable Arts

Disposable Arts [Front]

Release Date: October 18, 2001
This Brooklyn MC released an underground classic 10 years ago. The LP told the tale of a fresh-out-of-jail man looking to enroll in school to get away from his troubled surroundings. The album sold well independently and received critical acclaim at the time of its release.

Ludacris, Word of Mouth (2001)


Release Date: November 18, 2001
Ludacris released his second consecutive triple platinum LP 10 years ago. The album featured hits like "Roll Out (My Business)," "Move Bitch," "Area Codes" and "Saturday (Oooh Oooh!)."

Nas, Stillmatic (2001)


Release Date: December 18, 2001
Following the underwhelming Nastradamus, Nas kicked off the second leg of his storied career with Stillmatic. The album featured "Ether," Nas's rebuttal to Jay-Z's "Takeover" and "One Mic," among many other standouts. The LP was certified double platinum.

T.I., King (2006)


Release Date: March 28, 2006
Tip graduated to superstar status with this LP. The album featured hits like "What You Know" and "Why You Wanna." Released in conjunction with the King of the South's motion picture debut, the album was T.I.'s first No. 1 record and almost sold 2 million copies.

J Dilla, Donuts (2006)


Release Date: February 7, 2006
Dilla released his last LP on his last birthday— three days before his untimely death—five years ago. Several of the album's instrumental were later used by MCs like Ghostface, Busta Rhymes and The Roots.

E-40, My Ghetto Report Card (2006)


Release Date: March 14, 2006
E-40 released his first and only LP on Lil Jon's BME label four years ago. Featuring songs like "Tell Me When to Go" and "U and Dat," the album help take Bay Area's hyphy phenomenon nationwide.

Ghostface Killah, Fishcale (2006)


Release Date: March 28, 2006
Big Ghost released his fifth album five years ago. The LP was Ghost's highest-charting LP since 2000's Supreme Clientele—debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and selling 110, 000 units.

Lupe Fiasco, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (2006)


Release Date: September 19, 2006
Lupe dropped his debut LP five years ago. The album didn't sell as well as expected— but featured highlights like, "Kick, Push," "Hurt Me Soul" and "American Terrorist"—and received critical acclaim.

Jay-Z, Kingdom Come (2006)


Release Date: November 20, 2006
After a three-year hiatus, the God MC returned to rap with Kingdom Come. Though the LP received mixed reviews, Jay generated the highest first-week sales for the album, 680, 000.


Nas, Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)


Release Date: December 19, 2006
Nas released his first album on Def Jam Records five years ago. The LP took hip-hop to task for its deteriorating climate at the time. The album went gold.