25. Cypress Hill, Black Sunday
Released On: July 20, 1993 (Ruffhouse/Columbia)
The key to the success of Los Angeles hardcore rap group, Cypress Hill, was their wide-ranging crossover appeal to a large group of demographics. Appealing to stoners, rock fans, rap-loving sorority girls and pure hip hop heads, Cypress Hill have a little bit of everything for everybody. Their second album, Black Sunday, is the group’s magnum opus. The album’s driven by DJ Muggs spooky, blunted production and B-Real’s exaggeratedly nasal vocal delivery. Big hits like “Hits From The Bong,” “I Ain’t Like Going That” and the mega-smash “Insane In The Brain.” sent the album to triple platinum including an impressive 261,000 copies in its first week. Enough to give the group the highest amount of Soundscan scales in history for the rap at the time during the summer of 1993.
24. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Homebase
Released On: July 23, 1991 (Jive/RCA)
If there is a one single song in the history of rap music more associated with warm weather, cookouts and pretty ladies, it’s undoubtedly “Summertime”, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s smooth, Kool & The Gang-sampling groove off 1993’s Homebase. Played incessantly on the radio on every June 21st as if it were Christmas music, “Summertime” marks the unofficial start of the summer season for hip-hop fans. Homebase has other virtues including a maturation in subject matter and feel for the group. Smith deepens his voice and tackles more adult oriented subject matter than on the duo’s early material. A key signifier of his evolvement from the Fresh Prince to perpetual world saving, alien defeating movie star, Will Smith.
23. Nas, Life Is Good
Released On: July 13, 2012 (Def Jam)
After a twenty-year career, the only thing that Nas has left to prove is that he can make it another twenty years. On Life Is Good, Nas makes a strong case that he will find a way to still be doing this in his sixties. His most mature album of his career, Life Is Good works as a bookend to the young project dweller described in his classic debut, Illmatic. Nas discusses divorce (“Bye Baby”), fatherhood (“Daughters”) and the eternal allure of the street game, (“A Queens Story”). A minor comeback of sorts, Life Is Good proves that Old Man Nas is as relevant as ever.
22. 8Ball & MJG, Comin’ Out Hard
Released On: August 1, 1993 (Suave House)
Comin’ Out Hard, the debut from seminal Memphis rap group, 8Ball & MJG, established the duo as canonistic group in the emerging Southern rap scene. the album released in August of 1993 sold like hot cakes across the South despite nonexistent national attention and instituted the group as cult favorites in hip-hop. Fans gravitated to the group’s hard-hitting rhymes and trunk-rattling bass with songs like “9 Little Millimeta Boys,” “Mr. Big,” and “Armed Robbery” that have become part of the Southern gangster rap institution.
21. Young Jeezy, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101
Released On: July 26, 2005 (CTE/Island Def Jam)
You gotta believe! Young Jeezy’s ascendance from dope boy to rap star began in the summer of 2005 with the release of his platinum-selling smash, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. Summer school for aspiring hustlers everywhere, Jeezy plays the role of a Hood Tony Robbins teaching financial empowerment through every mean’s necessary economics. Songs like “Standing Ovation”, “Soul Survivor” and “And Then What” remain hood classics while Jeezy continues to be one of rap’s eminent stars.