XXL Ranks Rappers With the Best First Five Album Runs in History

With apologies to De La Soul, five is the magic number. It’s usually the amount of albums in a standard record deal, but few MCs ever fulfill their contractual obligations with as much aplomb as they started. Whether an artist peaks early or late, staying consistent over the duration of five albums has proven challenging no matter the era in hip-hop. It’s a feat worth acknowledging.

Today, XXLMag.com kicks off a new countdown focused on the 25 rappers (solo, duos or groups) with the best first-five album runs in hip-hop history. A new act and their ranking will be revealed each day of the week throughout the month of October and the Top 5 will be revealed on November 5th.

The rankings were determined by the XXL staff and a committee of veteran hip-hop writers and editors who used consistency and sustainability as main indicators for the selections. They factored in: impact, influence, and classic albums as criteria.  MCs who began their career as part of a group were allowed to combine group and solo efforts provided that they were the sole MC in the group, (i.e. Rakim and Eric B. & Rakim).

So, who had the best first-five album run in hip-hop? Kanye West? OutKast? A Tribe Called Quest? Jay-Z? Let us know and get the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #XXLFirst5. —Carl Chery (@cchery)

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  • Natsu

    Kanye definitely

  • http://twitter.com/Bauerle_Preston Preston Bauerle

    That is impressive. Nas, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, OutKast, Ludacris, Too Short, E-40, Brother Ali, Atmosphere……. #XXLFirst5

  • MassAppeal

    nas my fav. rapper, but nastradamus (and iam) will hurt him in this. you can argue that his 2nd five album run is better. eminem and common have shitty 5th albums (encore and electric circus) outkast, qtip, scarface, ghostface, ice cube, kanye west, jay-z, and 2pac will do really well

  • MassAppeal

    forgot to mention: the roots, rakim, krs-one, and redman-who should be #1, imo

    • http://www.facebook.com/ejrupert E.j. Rupert

      I would agree with Redman except for that Malpractice album, not his best work at all…

  • http://www.facebook.com/R1can Matthew Molina

    eminem, tupac, jay z of course, tho i hate on him, south park mexican, t.i., ll cool j, ice cube, lil wayne, nas, nelly, rakim, bdk, redman, kanye, ludacris, snoop

    • raytarded

      LOLOL Lil wayne?? You ain’t talking bout ‘Tha Block is Hot”, “Lights Out” and “500 Degreez” right????

      • v shell

        Right. I’m a mid-career wayne fan but 500 degreez kills it. hands down.

      • Cross

        Tha Block is Hot was a great album; Lights Out sucked except for Shine and 500 Degreez was OK.

      • http://www.facebook.com/R1can Matthew Molina

        yeah i am plus carter 1 and 2

  • 2012Industry1

    Tie between Outkast and Kanye Hands Down! Both flawless and game changing. Poeple would argue 808′s, but that album spawned Drake, Cudi, Big Sean and influenced a whole generation of hip hop as we know now. Ye’ may have the edge because of that.

    • FPastell88

      ye outkast n kanye gotta make the list as 1 bein outkast and 2 bein kanye ti can be on it 2

  • FPastell88

    outkast ugk eightball &mjg should all make this list an outkast should be number 1 no matter wat cuz didnt no body do it better than the kast man

  • Dreamer

    Kanye West got this easily. 3 or 4 classics

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.jack Ronald Jack

    Ja Rule, T.I., Mos Def (including Black Star album), Nas and Kanye West


      Ja Rule? Really? Kanye West nope, they said five quality albums he had 2.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.jack Ronald Jack

        The only thing that messes up the Ja Rule argument is Blood in My Eye. But I didn’t count that one because it was more like a diss mixtape. But Venni Vetti Vecci, Rule 3:36, The Last Temptation, Pain is Love, R.U.L.E can stand next to any other artists first five albums.


          Aint none of his albums quality,he had a few hit songs thats it. Pure bubble gum rap for the ladies. Get the fuck outta here with that Ja Rule garbage.


      Ja Rule?Really? Kanye West? Nope they said 5 quality albums not two.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ejrupert E.j. Rupert

      Mos Def? Black Star and his debut were both classics but ever since The New Danger, he changed, not necessarily for the better.

  • Nielsen700

    Kanye… that is all.

  • the ghost sp

    Ghostface Killah No Doubt

  • Vaughan Edward

    1. It’s Dark & Hell is Hot (Look Thru My Eyes, Let Me Fly & Stop Being Greedy)
    2. The Great Depression (Who We Be, We Right Here & When I’m Nothing)
    3. …& Then There Was X (Party Up, What’s My Name & Comin’ for Ya)4. Grand Champ (Where the Hood At, Shot Down & We’re Back)
    5. Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (It’s All Good, Slippin’ & No Love 4 Me)

  • Vaughan Edward

    1. Man vs. Machine (Multiply, Say My Namem, Enemies)2. Restless (Front 2 Back, X & Don’t Approach Me)
    3. At the Speed of Life (Positively Negative, Paparazzi & The Foundation)
    4. Weapons of Mass Destruction (L.A.X, Cold World & Klack)
    5. 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz (What U See Is What U Get, Focus & Let It Rain)

  • http://www.facebook.com/izzy.reynard Izzy Reynard

    If Infinite counts, Em’s is pretty strong, but I’ll go with ‘Ye.

  • http://twitter.com/BWSMG718 GangstaRapMadeMeDoIt

    Game better be in the top 10 or 15

    2 out of his 4 albums have been classics, and he has another album coming by the end of the year

  • Jsin

    I love this idea. Here’s my prediction for XXL’s top 5 “Best 5″ and then my personal top 5 after.
    5. A Tribe Called Quest – XXL respects the consistency without using “classic” 3 times
    4. Tupac – choosing to disobey their own indicators, XXL forces him in way too high
    3. Kanye West – XXL had to balance his greatness and consistency with the fact that his type of impact and influence is not and never will be the same type/depth/experience as the two artists ahead of him.
    2. Outkast – Of course XXL had to pull a shocker. Obviously the most consistent and sustainable, and they also made 5 albums each considered classic by various respected people that know WTF they are talking about. Plus, they influenced, confused, and reinfluenced a culture that they helped create. How are they not at the top?
    1. Rakim – XXL decided that ultimately, when one person is quoted more than anyone, influenced every thug rapper, braggadocio rapper, pimp rapper, conscious rapper, drug/clean/killer/saint rapper, black thought rapper, battle rapper and wordsmith rapper, while at the same time making consistently great albums – albeit 1 solo after hietus, than that person was the model for which their entire criteria was based upon. As such, Rakim cannot be bested. If rap was the 100 meter dash than Rakim was not just the gold medalist, he was first to cross the line, showered, interviewed, medaled and home in bed with a bad bitch massaging his feet while he read the Koran, with a wad of 100′s in his pocket and and a gun under his pillow….. Before the next best rapper clocked his silver medal time.

    My personal list
    5. EPMD – the ultimate “Yeah, I’m a 33 year old white guy from Seattle, but I know my shit.” Group.
    5b. Gangstarr – how could you all forget
    4. Public Enemy – forgive the 5th because they made Fear of a Black Planet and it still sounds new. Oh and that other one most people think is the best album ever.
    3. Outkast – would balk at them being #1
    2. Rakim – God asks “I need a rapper to face the devil.” Here you go.
    1. A Tribe Called Quest – I loved their first two but I never have sat around and did nothing but chill out to one album more than Midnight Mauraders. If Beats, Rhymes and Life had been released after any other album/series of albums or by any other group, it wouldn’t have taken 15 years and Dillas passing to be regarded as a great album. Love Movement sucks given this groups capabilities and is below average by normal standards but It could do one thing most albums can’t – bring in the ladies. I know some of y’all had this on trying to snuggle up. Nerds.

    Sorry Jay-z, no Blueprint but a Vol. 1? Out. Ice cubes the real loser. Should be top 5 or top 2 since he wrote almost every damn NWA lyric, but rules are rules.

  • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies


  • trizzle

    1. 2pac
    2. Outkast
    3. Kanye West
    4. Pubilc Enemy
    5. Ghostface Killah

  • http://www.facebook.com/woodstaypolished Chron Dick

    bone thugs e.1999 & the art of war krayzie,bizzy& flesh 1st solo albums

  • http://www.facebook.com/woodstaypolished Chron Dick

    kanye 1st 5

  • http://www.facebook.com/woodstaypolished Chron Dick

    pac too