20 Of Hip-Hop’s Most Essential Double Albums

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  • album art
    In the second half of the 1990s, some of the genre’s most prominent rappers began releasing double albums. It’s a trend that worked for some and failed for others, and soon faded away, especially as singles and ringtones began to dominate the sales charts. These days, thanks to a combination, most likely, of listeners’ inadequate attention spans, labels’ disinterest in paying increased publishing for more tracks, and other factors, double albums are a rarity—or at least they'd seemed to be. The first few months of 2014 have seen three rappers announce upcoming double albums: <a title="clan" href="http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2014/03/wu-tang-clan-selling-one-copy-new-secret-album-1m/" target="_blank">Wu-Tang Clan's "secret" LP</a> that they'll be auctioning off for millions; Blu's followup to last year's <em>No York!</em>, to be <a title="blu" href="http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2014/04/blu-releasing-new-album-may/" target="_blank">titled <em>Good To Be Home</em></a>; and Lil Boosie's comeback LP since his release from prison, <em>Touchdown 2 Cause Hell</em>, which he boasted yesterday would be the <a title="tupac" href="http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2014/05/lil-boosie-says-touchdown-2-cause-hell-best-double-disc-album-since-tupac/" target="_blank">best double album since Tupac's <em>All Eyez On Me</em></a> in 1996.<br /><br />It's incredibly tough to make it through two entire discs from any artist without having a fan's attention waver, which is why there are so few truly great ones in the canon. But with double albums seeming like they may make a comeback, <em>XXL</em> has compiled 20 essential hip-hop double albums, from 'Pac to Biggie to Nas. Double up. —<em>XXL Staff</em>
  • Fresh Prince Jazzy Jeff
    <b>Album:</b> <em>He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince<br /><b>Release Date:</b> March 29, 1988<br /><b>Length:</b> 85:10<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 27<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. The hip-hop pioneers were first to bring the double disc format to a rap release with this early project. Though not particularly lengthy, in its initial form as a vinyl release, the project was the first double disc in hip-hop history.
  • 2Pac All Eyez On Me
    <b>Album:</b> <em>All Eyez On Me</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> 2Pac<br /><b>Release Date:</b> February 13, 1996<br /><b>Length:</b> 132:18<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 27<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. The album was released during a fever pitch of ’Pac’s popularity, and only served to add to his idol, spawning a number of hits and serving as the last release before he was murdered.
  • the notorious big life after death
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Life After Death</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> The Notorious B.I.G.<br /><b>Release Date:</b> March 25, 1997<br /><b>Length:</b> 109:12<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 24<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. Big’s final opus is widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time, and saw him taking more risks while maintaining a scarily-high level of rapping skills and flows throughout each of the album's 24 tracks.
  • wu-tang forever
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Wu-Tang Forever</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Wu-Tang Clan<br /><b>Release Date:</b> June 3, 1997<br /><b>Length:</b> 112:06<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 27<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. After a near four-year hiatus that included a string of solo efforts, the entire Clan got back together for this sophomore offering. The release was critically and commercially successful, and earned the Killa Bees a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in 1998.
  • bone thugs harmony art of war
    <b>Album:</b> <em>The Art Of War</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Bone Thugs-N-Harmony<br /><b>Release Date:</b> July 29, 1997<br /><b>Length:</b> 121:14<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 28<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Any album that is over two hours is probably going to be a bit much to digest; this fell in that category. The project still had its peaks, and is a solid peg in the catalog of one of the greatest groups ever to share the mic, but couldn’t quite touch the breakout <em>E. 1999 Eternal</em>.
  • Scarface My Homies
    <b>Album:</b> <em>My Homies</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Scarface<br /><b>Release Date:</b> March 3, 1998<br /><b>Length:</b> 136:33<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 30<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Sandwiched in between 1997's <em>The Untouchable</em> and 2000's <em>The Last Of A Dying Breed</em>—two fantastic albums—this one was too unfocused and repetitive to warrant its 30 tracks and grueling two-plus hour duration.
  • eightball lost
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Lost</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Eightball<br /><b>Release Date:</b> May 19, 1998<br /><b>Length:</b> 115:27<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 26<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Everyone was delving into double discs in this era, but losing his partner in rhyme MJG and <em>then</em> deciding to double his output on his debut solo album was not the wisest choice for the Memphis OG. Packaged with a bonus third disc of bonus sampler cuts from a slew of artists, it proved overwhelming for even Ball's most die-hard fans.
  • master p da last don
    <b>Album:</b> <em>MP Da Last Don</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Master P<br /><b>Release Date:</b> June 2, 1998<br /><b>Length:</b> 106:29<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 29<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Though this was Master P’s best-selling album of all time, it wasn’t necessarily his strongest musically. The project featured some four dozen guest verses for its 29 tracks, and though there were certainly some bangers on there, not everything was for keeps.
  • nate dogg g-funk classics
    <b>Album:</b> <em>G-Funk Classics Vol. 1 & 2</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Nate Dogg<br /><b>Release Date:</b> July 21, 1998<br /><b>Length:</b> 133:24<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 31<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes and no. It was fantastic to finally get a full Nate Dogg project—especially after this, his debut, had been put on the shelf for two years due to drama at Death Row—and it's great to be able to go back through hidden gems from the greatest hook-maker that hip-hop has ever seen. But as a cohesive project, it makes little sense. It didn't hurt Nate Dogg's career, of course, because as long as Dre, Snoop and, later, Eminem and 50 Cent, were all at the top of the rap game, he wasn't going anywhere.
  • E 40 Element Of Surprise
    <b>Album:</b> <em>The Element Of Surprise</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> E-40<br /><b>Release Date:</b> August 11, 1998<br /><b>Length:</b> 107:59<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 24<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Though 40 Water is a pillar of consistency and hard work in the rap game—having pumped out albums, songs and videos for years at an unbelievably prolific rate—he could have slang this disc with a few fewer tracks.
  • kuruption
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Kuruption!</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Kurupt<br /><b>Release Date:</b> Sept. 1, 1998<br /><b>Length:</b> 123:28<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 23<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Kurupt had been known for guest features that blew other artists out of the water on <em>The Chronic</em> and <em>Doggystyle</em>, so making his solo debut a double disc was a strange decision, to say the least. Kurupt will never have an issue striking fear into the hearts of other rappers, but doing it consistently over a two hour period is a task beyond even most of the best.
  • cypress hill skull bones
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Skull & Bones</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Cypress Hill<br /><b>Release Date:</b> April 25, 2000<br /><b>Length:</b> 64:27<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 18<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. Cypress Hill made plenty of noise with this combo hip-hop/rap metal album. The project’s biggest release was done twice over, with two versions, “(Rap) Superstar” and “(Rock) Superstar.” The album still only had 18 tracks, and was just over an hour, but the split spelled out the distinction within what they were attempting to do.
  • jay-z blueprint 2
    <b>Album:</b> <em>The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Jay-Z<br /><b>Release Date:</b> November 12, 2002<br /><b>Length:</b> 108:27<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 22<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No, and even Jay agreed; he dropped a streamlined version called <em>Blueprint 2.1</em> just five months later, consolidating the album down to a leaner, meaner and more gripping 12 tracks and fleshing it out with an additional five bonus songs. The sprawl was a little too much, even for die-hard Hov fans.
  • diplomatic immunity
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Diplomatic Immunity</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> The Diplomats<br /><b>Release Date:</b> March 25, 2003<br /><b>Length:</b> 103:18<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 27<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. The debut disc from the rowdy Harlem crew helped solidify their status as one of New York's most entertaining and exciting crews, and delivered bonafide stars in Cam'ron, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones.
  • outkast speakerboxxx love below
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Speakerboxxx/The Love Below</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> OutKast<br /><b>Release Date:</b> September 23, 2003<br /><b>Length:</b> 134:50<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 39<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. For the ATLiens’ first release since their widely praised <em>Stankonia</em>, the legendary Southern duo split duties and split discs. For <em>The Love Below</em>, Andre 3000 became increasingly experimental, flexing his pipes and infusing funk and pop into his hip-hop core. With <em>Speakerboxxx</em>, Big Boi stuck to his roots, firing off impressive wordplay and bringing along stellar guests (Jay-Z, Ludacris, Killer Mike). Though <em>Speakerboxxx</em> didn’t earn the acclaim of <em>The Love Below</em>, both were crucial to marking the moment, and the double disc became the highest-selling hip-hop album of all time.
  • lil flip u gotta feel me
    <b>Album:</b> <em>U Gotta Feel Me</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Lil Flip<br /><b>Release Date:</b> March 30, 2004<br /><b>Length:</b> 86:32<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 21<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Already established in Houston, Lil Flip brought his sound to the nation with this breakout LP, thanks to cuts like “Game Over (Flip)” and “Sunshine.” But the album didn’t warrant two discs, and with only 21 tracks total, clipping just a few could have made it a worthwhile single effort.
  • nelly sweatsuit
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Sweat/Suit</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Nelly<br /><b>Release Date:</b> Sept. 13, 2004<br /><b>Length:</b> 106:41<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 24<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Not exactly, and that was probably why Nelly initially split the two sides into separate albums released on the same day, each with competing and conflicting themes. As was typical for Nelly back then, each album had its share of big singles—he even crossed over into country with the Tim McGraw collaboration "Over And Over" from <em>Suit</em>—but he cut things down a bit by releasing a slimmed version of 17 tracks that clocked in at just over an hour in May of the following year.
  • nas streets disciple
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Street’s Disciple</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Nas<br /><b>Release Date:</b> November 30, 2004<br /><b>Length:</b> 87:50<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 26<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> No. Though it was generally well received critically, it didn’t seem like the streets liked what they had been given by the Disciple. There were surely gems, but Nas’ core fanbase wasn’t thrilled about the release.
  • UGK Underground Kingz
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Underground Kingz</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> UGK<br /><b>Release Date:</b> August 7, 2007<br /><b>Length:</b> 129:01<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 26<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes. For the first release since they Freed Pimp C, the Underground Kingz celebrated with a batch of Southern Fried audible snacks. With guest spots from OutKast (“Int’l Player’s Anthem [I Choose You]”) to Rick Ross (“Cocaine”) to Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap (“Next Up”), the Port Arthur, Texas natives further cemented their legacy. The Pimp passed just four months later.
  • tech n9ne killer
    <b>Album:</b> <em>Killer</em><br /><b>Artist:</b> Tech N9ne<br /><b>Release Date:</b> July 1, 2008<br /><b>Length:</b> 127:23<br /><b>Number Of Tracks:</b> 32<br /><b>Double Album Worthy?:</b> Yes and no; for Tech's fiercely loyal fan base, the answer would be the latter, and for casual fans the answer wouldn't be the former due to any lack of quality, but due to sheer exhaustion. Tech's creativity means that the album has very few skips, but its length—32 songs clocking in at more than two hours—is its biggest detraction.

Previously: Wu-Tang Clan Selling One Copy Of New Secret Album For $1 Million
Blu Releasing New Double Album In May
Lil Boosie Says Touchdown 2 Cause Hell Is The Best Double Disc Album Since Tupac’s All Eyez On Me