35. De La Soul, Buhloone Mindstate
Released On: September 21, 1993 (Tommy Boy/Warner Bros.)
Released on the last day of Summer in 1993, Buhloone Mindstate, the third LP from De La Soul, marks yet another artistic departure from the norm for the venerated, (don’t call them) hip-hop hippies. On Buhloone Mindstate, De La’s dreamy jazzed out production and whimsical rhymes are in full-focus. Michael Jackson-sampling “Breakadawn” feels like a kid’s daydream on the last day before classes begin while the pounding “Ego Trippin’ (Part 2)” is a scathing parody of the era’s gangsta rap cliché. Praised as one of the ten best rap albums of all-time by comedian Chris Rock, Buhloone Mindstate is another unqualified classic in De La’s canon.
34. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Wanted: Dead Or Alive
Released On: August 13, 1990 (Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros.)
Few records tackle life in the streets and the unescapable allure of criminal enterprise better than Kool G Rap did on his ruthless Wanted: Dead Or Alive. A seminal influence on rappers like Nas and The Notorious B.I.G., Wanted: Dead Or Alive, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo’s sophomore album, tells tales of crime, poverty, racism and sex with a lyrical finesse unsurpassed by few of G Rap’s contemporaries. Spawning singles like the cold-blooded “Streets Of New York,” socially conscious “Erase Racism” and raunchy “Talk Like Sex,” Wanted: Dead Or Alive captures the feeling of being trapped New York project building in a hot day in August.
33. Big L, The Big Picture
Released On: August 1, 2000 (Rawkus)
In the wake of his tragic, unsolved murder, The Big Picture, Big L’s second and final album was released posthumously in August 2000. Cruelly hinting at L’s unlimited promise as an artist had he not been gunned down, The Big Picture highlights Big L’s lethal combination of witty punchlines and gritty street narratives. Modern classic, “Ebonics (Criminal Slang),” continues to serve as a textbook on New York slanguistics while songs like “Holdin It Down” and “Flamboyant” showcase an untapped commercial potential had we lived in a better world.
32. EPMD, Business Never Personal
Released On: July 28, 1992 (Def Jam/Columbia)
One of hip-hop’s most delightful ironies remains the fact that the most successful commercial single of EPMD’s storied career is a song attacking wack rappers for selling their souls for crossover success. That’s exactly happened when EPMD released “Crossover” off Business Never Personal. The album, their second release on Def Jam, remains the most commercially successful career. Songs like “Crossover”, “Who Killed Jane?” and Hit Squad party starting posse cut, “Headbanger,” featuring a debuting Redman, proves the album just as a success critically, too.
31. Big Mike, Somethin’ Serious
Released On: June 25, 1994 (Rap-A-Lot/Priority/EMI)
While largely forgotten in mainstream circles, in the canon of Houstonian rap classics, Big Mike’s Somethin’ Serious is essential listening material. A cult classic (and writer personal favorite) of epic proportion, Somethin’ Serious features the type of tough street narratives and swampy, swinging production that fans have come to expect from Rap-A-Lot Records. Loaded with titanic Texan anthems like Pimp C-assisted “Havin’ Thangs” and the swaggering “On Da Real,” Big Mike delivers an unforgettable performance that remains too overlooked to mainstream audiences.