45. Salt-n-Pepa, A Salt With A Deadly Pepa
Released On: August 2, 1988
While “Push It” established the iconic female rap trio, Salt-n-Pepa, as pioneering superstars, their sophomore LP, A Salt With A Deadly Pepa, established them as artists as accomplished as any of their male counterparts. A Salt With Deadly Pepa is a funky, highly danceable album filled with tight rhymes, grooving beats and Spinderella’s razor sharp cuts. The record spawned hit singles like “Shake Your Thing (It’s Your Thing)” and “Twist And Shout” propelling the album to land at gold in the summer of ’88.
44. Twista, Adrenaline Rush
Released On: June 24, 1997 (Creator’s Way/Big Beat/Atlantic Records)
Seven years before he slow jammed with Kanye West, Twista was setting land speed records for fast rapping while selling enough records on the independent grind to go gold. Twista’s seminal Adrenaline Rush is a Midwestern classic of tornado-like rapping and G-Funk-inspired production. The titular lead single is a clinic of Twista’s signature Midwestern-style “Chopper” rap that powered the album to sell 500,000 records with minimal national radio play or critical attention. A cult classic.
43. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter
Released On: June 29, 2004 (Cash Money/Universal)
Before Tha Carter, Dwayne Carter Jr. was best known as the pint-sized, teenaged gremlin overshadowed by his more dynamic Cash Money label mates during the label’s late-90s golden era. 2004’s Tha Carter started the seismic shift in public opinion and is considered the genesis of Lil Wayne’s mid-00s transformation from Hot Boys also-ran to the “Best Rapper Alive.” On the album, Wayne displays a remarkable lyrical and creative maturity delivered over one of Mannie Fresh’s finest collection of beats. Lead single, “Go DJ” is a heater that is still one of the favorites of Weezy’s ever-growing discography.
42. Wyclef Jean, The Carnival Featuring The Refugee Allstars
Released On: June 24, 1997 (Sony Music/Columbia Records)
After the record smashing success of The Score, Wyclef Jean was looking to establish an identity beyond The Fugees. He accomplished that with the release of his solo debut, The Carnival, in the summer of 1997. The album features an eclectic diaspora of global influences including hip-hop, reggae, folk, disco, soul and traditional Haitian music that make The Carnival, one of the most musically diverse releases of all-time. Singles include Lauryn Hill-assisted “Guantanamera,” “Gone Til November,” and “To All The Girls.”
41. Puff Daddy & The Family, No Way Out
Released On: July 1, 1997 (Bad Boy)
Nobody knew just how prescient Suge Knight during his infamous Source Awards speech when he alluded to Sean Combs’ superstar aspirations. Diddy’s debut, No Way Out, was a chart-destroying mass success that transformed Combs from Diddy-bopping executive producer in videos to cultural-lightning-rod-cum-rap-megastar in one fell swoop. Pushed back to a summer release date in the wake of Biggie’s death, No Way Out is loaded with classic singles like “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” “I’ll Be Missing You,” It’s All About The Benjamins,” “Been Around The World” and “Victory.” It also helped set the stage for Bad Boy Record’s second wave of hip hop superstars introducing the world to Yonker’s The LOX and a flashy, shiny-suited pastor by the name of Ma$e.