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The Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of All Time

Posted in music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Tuesday, 2010 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Narrowing down the Best Hip-Hop Albums of All Time to ten is a challenge. If you search the internet and ask all your friends, you will likely get a lot of similar lists (but there will always be differences and debates). In fact, there could probably be a great top 10 list of incredible rap albums that were left off the list below (hence the 15 honorable mentions). Choosing only ten was difficult enough, so these are not ranked and appear chronologically.

Public Enemy – It Take a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Please disregard any list of the best hip-hop albums of all time if this isn’t on it. Nothing ever sounded like this before, and only a few imitators and some other Public Enemy albums sounded like it after. “Bring the Noise” wasn’t just a song title, it was a mission statement. The music, the lyrics, the message, Chuck D’s clear delivery: this was an album that simply couldn’t be ignored.

De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
While Buhloone Mindstate or Stakes Is High might be their “better” album, there’s a reason “3 Feet High and Rising was and still is hailed as a classic. They made it cool to be peaceful and artsy. For better or worse, they practically invented the hip-hop skit and certainly broke ground by sampling off the beaten path stuff like Steely Dan and French language instructional tapes.

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)
Straight-up beats, rhymes, and life propel this jazzy masterpiece into almost everyone’s Top 10. Often imitated but never matched, this is the kind of album that even impresses people who think they don’t like rap.

Nas – Illmatic (1994)
Perhaps the undisputed classic rap masterpiece. Expert beats and production from DJ Premier perfectly showcase the lyrical fury and on-point delivery of a young Nas on his incredible debut.

Gang Starr – Hard to Earn (1994)
A bit of a hidden gem here, though most hip-hop fans are down with Gang Starr (Guru and DJ Premier). They had several good albums, but this one is a real standout.

KRS-One – KRS-One (1995)
KRS-One probably deserves his own list collecting his Boogie Down Productions albums with his best solo stuff. Most lists usually have BDP’s By Any Means Necessary, and rightfully so. But this one is the true banger.

GZA/Genius – Liquid Swords (1995)
One of the first and best solo albums from the extended Wu-Tang Clan family. While it’s certainly hailed as a classic in the hip-hop community, this is the needle in the haystack that the masses have never heard of.

OutKast – Aquemini (1998)
The pre-cursor to their future classics like Stankonia and Speakerbox/Love Below, this one has all the elements and was so original and so perfectly executed by Andre 3000 and Big Boi. It not only put the South on the hip-hop map, it pushed the envelope of what rap music could be.

The Roots – things fall apart (1999)
It’s so hard to pick just one album from the Roots, and since their live show is so legendary, they aren’t usually found on lists of the best rap albums of all time, but they should be. “Illadelph Halflife,” “Game Theory,” the eclectic “Phrenology,” or raw “Do You Want More” could easily make this list. But “things fall apart” was hip-hop artistry from a band just hitting their stride.

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides (1999)
Mos Def’s collaboration with Talib Kweli (Black Star) could be in this spot, but Black on Both Sides gets the nod. It’s sprawling yet consistent, lyrically driven but very musical and textured. This is another great album that may have slipped through the cracks of the collective (un)consciousness.

Honorable Mentions:

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
Dr. Dre – The Chonic and Chronic 2001
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
Wu-Tang Clan – 36 Chambers
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Black Star – Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star
Boogie Down Productions – Edutainment and By Any Means Necessary
Raekwon – Only Built for Cuban Linx (and pt 2)
Jay Z – The Blueprint
Run DMC – Raising Hell
EPMD – Strictly Business
Redman – Doc’s Da Name

Rick Rubin’s Resume

Posted in music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Friday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Actually, Rick Rubin’s Resume would be a cool name for a band, assuming he didn’t sue you. Anyway, wow. He not only has produced influential debuts from the Beastie Boys to LL Cool J to Run DMC to Public Enemy, but in the process proved that rock and rap could co-exist. He’s pretty much responsible for Johnny Cash’s late-career comeback and produced the flourish of albums at the end of Cash’s life. He produced a mid-career masterpiece for Tom Petty, almost all of the Slayer albums, and I think every Chili Peppers record since and starting with the classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He’s done solo/acoustic records for Neil Diamond and Jakob Dylan, alt-rock stuff like Slipknot, and produced the album that contains “Baby Got Back.” Most recently he got the unfocused and feuding Metallica to stop putting out crap and make a classic-sounding Metallica album and then produced a great rootsy folksy ditty for indie favorites the Avett Brothers. That kind of variety is what makes him incredible. He’s done everything at every end of every spectrum and everywhere in between and most of it is great. Sometimes all within the same year.

He started work with U2 on their most recent album but those sessions were shelved and never heard, as the boys when back to Lanois/Eno to do No Line on the Horizon. I heard, or read… or read on the internet that someone heard… anyway, this reliable source said that Rubin is a hardass, and he won’t just take and record the first 10 songs you show up with. He’ll send you back to write more and tell you to do better. Maybe Bono and the Edge didn’t like that and they wanted Yes Men at the controls? Maybe Rubin thought U2’s new stuff sucked and told them to get lost? Who knows. Just adds to the legend.

But the real legend is in his resume. It’s one thing to say “damn, go read this guy’s Wiki page!” It’s another to then realize that there’s a separate Wikipedia page for his Album Production Credits! Check out his bio on allmusic.com and click “credits” and take a look.

My Top 10 Favorite Albums Produced by Rick Rubin:

1986: Raising Hell – Run-DMC

1987: Yo! Bum Rush the Show – Public Enemy

1988: South of Heaven – Slayer

1991: Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers

1994: American Recordings – Johnny Cash

1994: Wildflowers – Tom Petty

2000: Renegades – Rage Against the Machine

2003: De-Loused in the Comatorium – The Mars Volta

2008: Death Magnetic – Metallica

2009: I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers

The Top 10 Albums Produced by Rick Rubin that didn’t make the list above:

1985: Radio – LL Cool J

1986: Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys

1986: Reign in Blood – Slayer

1987: Electric – The Cult

1988: Danzig – Danzig

1998: Chef Aid: The South Park Album – South Park

1999: Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

2001: Toxicity – System of a Down

2002: American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash

2002: By the Way – Red Hot Chili Peppers

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