20. Clipse, Lord Willin’
Released On: August 20, 2002 (Star Trak/Arista)
Debuting in the summer of 2003, Clipse’s classic, Lord Willin’, is a cynical, drug dealer classic that remains one of the seminal albums of the 2000s coke rap canon. Coming from Virginia by way out of outer space, Lord Willin’ is powered by the Brothers Thornton criminal tales of a Tony Montana lifestyle and the dangers and regrets that life will bring. The Neptunes’ spacey, futuristic beats give the album a decidedly cold and ruthless feel that highlights the duo’s cynical detached worldview that values pragmatic capitalism above all else.
19. LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out
Released On: August 27, 1990 (Def Jam/Columbia/CBS)
It wasn’t exactly a comeback but Mama Said Knock You Out set the tone for LL Cool J’s commercial domination for the rest of the decade. Arguably the fiercest rhymes of his career, Mama Said Knock You Out helped to recapture the hardcore, minimalist aesthetic of his first two albums by employing Juice Crew producer, Marley Marl and keeping the cheesed out lover man shtick to a minimum. Classic cuts like “Jingling Baby (Remixed But Still Jingling),” “Around The Way Girl” and the title track are still dance floor favorites. The album went on to sell two million copies and re-establish LL as a commercial force while revitalizing his career.
18. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, E. 1999 Eternal
Released On: July 25, 1995 (Ruthless/Relativity)
After the success of their breakthrough single, “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” over the previous summer, Cleveland’s own Bone Thugs-N-Harmony looked to capitalize on their newfound success did exactly with the success of their multiplatinum debut LP, E. 1999 Eternal. Earning praise for their melodic, sing-songy rapping style and G-Funk-esque production provided by DJ U-Neek, E. 1999 Eternal spawned massive chart-topping singles like “1st Of Tha Month,” and “Tha Crossroads” that drove the album to a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in 1996 that they eventually would lose to Naughty By Nature’s Poverty Paradise. Almost two decades after its release, E. 1999 Eternal remains a Midwest classic and a favorite of 90s rap fans.
17. Scarface, The Fix
Released On: August 6, 2002 (Def Jam South/Island Def Jam/Universal)
After a decade in the rap game, Brad Jordan – a.k.a. Scarface – was looking for a change in his career in Summer 2002. After spending the majority of his career on independent labels like Rap-A-Lot and Priority, Scarface was named President of Def Jam South, the newest boutique of the legendary label, and dropped The Fix, a career magnum opus. The Fix is a ruthless record categorized by vicious rhymes and production by an all-star lineup of producers that include Mike Dean, The Neptunes and a young Kanye West. Standout tracks like “Guess Who’s Back?” featuring Jay Z and Beanie Sigel, “My Block” and “In Cold Blood” make the album essential listening for hip-hop fans.
16. Kanye West, Graduation
Released On: September 11, 2007 (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
September 11th, 2007 will be remembered as the day that Kanye West ascended to hip-hop’s throne. On that day, Kanye West challenged King 50 Cent to war of commercial supremacy and defeated the Queens rapper’s Curtis in total sales with over 957,000 copies sold of his third LP, Graduation. The album marks a tonal shift for Kanye switching from the soul-sample heavy production of his earlier works to a synthesizer heavy sound built for stadiums. Graduation was a massive album that spawned hit singles like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Stronger,” “Good Life,” and “Flashing Lights” turning Kanye into rap’s premier auteur.