15. Redman, Whut? Thee Album
Released On: September 22, 1992 (Def Jam)
The Great Reggie Noble’s 1992 debut, Whut? The Album, remains one of the most celebrated albums in hip-hop history. Noted for it’s charismatic lyricism, wild sense of humor and super funky production provided by EPMD’s Erick Sermon, Redman’s debut is a landmark album in hip-hop. Red carved out a unique, every man persona on songs like “Time 4 Sum Akshion,” “Blow Your Mind,” “Tonight’s Da Nite” and “How To Roll A Blunt” that remains a signature of his music almost two decades later.
14. T.I., Trap Muzik
Released On: August 19, 2003 (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
After the poor sales of his debut album, I’m Serious, it was do or die for T.I.’s music career. Either his next album become a success or he would return to traps of Atlanta’s Bankhead neighborhood. Enter Trap Muzik, T.I.’s classic sophomore album and the LP that launched the once and future King of the South to the national stratosphere. Powered by Tip’s street savvy lyricism and gritty, drawling flow, Trap Muzik was a slow-burning commercial success that ultimately landed T.I. his first of many platinum plaques in career. Singles like the triumphant “Rubber Band Man” and the southern friend stomper, “24’s” breathed life into Tip’s career and sold him as a burgeoning star in the national consciousness.
13. Big Daddy Kane, Long Live The Kane
Released On: June 21, 1988 (Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros)
Before there was Jay Z and Biggie Smalls, Big Daddy Kane was the original, silky-smooth Brooklyn-born rhyming player. Long Live The Kane, BDK’s undeniably classic debut, is a golden era clinic of complex elaborate lyricism and buttery, silken flows. On songs like the furious “Set It Off”, “Raw” and “Ain’t No Half Steppin,” Kane delivers a performance easily memorable for the sheer number of classic quotables the album provides. Kane set the gold standard for rap’s elite while appealing to women by becoming one of hip-hop’s first true sex symbols.
12. De La Soul, Stakes Is High
Released On: June 18, 1996 (Tommy Boy/Warner Bros.)
In the summer of 1996, De La Soul sensed a cultural shift in the tone of rap music from the positive, party-loving culture of their youth to a perceived vacuum of toxic gun talk, negativity and commercial aspirations. Stakes Is High is the group’s album length rage against the industry machine filled with fake Italian gangsters and commercial wannabes. Even two decades later, Dave’s verse on the iconic, Dilla-produced title track remains as prescient as ever.
11. Geto Boys, We Can’t Be Stopped
Released On: July 1, 1991 (Rap-A-Lot)
From the gruesome cover photo to the disturbing level of violence found in the group’s often shocking lyrics, We Can’t Be Stopped, the Geto Boy’s fourth and most successful project, remains the standard for which all gangsta rap is measured. On the spectacular and harrowing “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill narrate the paranoid journeys of the group’s inner mind with a devilish wit that makes the song an early horrorcore classic. On other points, the album ventures in a decidedly political bent whether protesting the Grammy snubs on “Trophy” or criticizing the first Gulf War with enough vinegary venom left over to scald the second one a decade later.