More than ever, rappers are giving fans short, compact pieces of music, rather than full-lengths LPs. The format, formally known as an EP, or “extended play,” isn’t new. Hip-hop has utilized the quick fix strategy since the early 1980’s. Thanks to the success of Drake’s seven-track So Far Gone EP last year, though, a flood of artists, mostly newcomers (Freddie Gibbs, for example), are delivering sets that clock in at less than 30 minutes, with song tallies in the single digits.

Next Tuesday, the debut EP from Atlantic Records rookie, and one of XXL’s 10 Freshman for ’10, Donnis, Fashionably Late, will make its way onto iTunes. As he sees it, releasing EPs before official full-lengths equals smart business for new MCs. “In this day and age, it’s very difficult for an artist to just put out an album and sell,” says Donnis. “It’s something that you have to build up to and make sure that you’re gonna do numbers that are gonna make the record label happy, and know that you have longevity and a second chance.”

EPs aren’t limited to just rookies, however. Over the last three decades, both established and unproven artists have entered the short-form arena. Take a trip from the old to the new with XXL’s list of the “100 Essential Rap EPs,” presented in chronological order.

Too Short, Don’t Stop Rappin’
Label: 75 Girls Records and Tapes
Release Date: 1983

Too Short, Players
Label: 75 Girls Records and Tapes
Record Label: 1985

Too Short, Raw, Uncut and X-Rated
Label: 75 Girls Records and Tapes
Release Date: 1986

Mac Dre, Young Black Brotha
Strictly Business Records
Release Date: 1989

N.W.A., 100 Miles and Runnin’
Label: Priority Records
Release Date: August 14, 1990

E-40, Mr. Flamboyant
Sick Wid It
Release Date: 1991

Spice 1, Let it be Known
Triad Records
Release Date: 1991

Ice Cube, Kill at Will
Label: Priority Records
Release Date: January 1, 1991

Esham, Homey Don’t Play
Label: Reel Life Productions
Release Date: April 15, 1991

Pete Rock & CL Smooth, All Souled Out
Label: Elektra Records
Release Date: June 25, 1991