List of hip hop albums considered to be influential

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This list provides a guide to the most important hip hop albums, as determined by their presence on compiled lists of significant albums: see the "Lists consulted" section for full details. Inclusion on a list is indicated by numbering after each release. The brief accompanying notes offer an explanation as to why each album has been considered important. The organization of the list is by date of release, ranging from Run-D.M.C.'s eponymous debut in 1984 to Jay-Z's 2001 album, The Blueprint.

Since for the period of 1979–1983, hip hop was a music for 12" singles rather than albums,[1] the absence of old school hip hop from the list has been compensated for by providing it with its own section of notable releases. Notable compilations of songs which contain important hip hop breaks (short percussive interludes used as the rhythmic basis for a hip hop song) are also included.


The break, the instrumental portion of a record (of any genre, though perhaps most often funk or rock) that emphasizes the percussive pattern, has been the fundamental unit of much of hip hop music. The collections below collect the original songs that contain some of the most popular breaks in hip hop.

  • Super Disco Brakes (Winley)[2] Vol. 1 was released in 1979, making it one of the first releases connected to hip hop culture, and almost certainly the first breakbeat record.[3]
  • Ultimate Breaks and Beats Vols. 1–25 (Street Beat, 1985–1990) 5 This comprehensive and influential series began just as the sampler was taking a central role in hip hop music.[4]
  • Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap Vol. 1 (Rhino, 1997) 5 One of the few breakbeat collections not of dubious legality.[4]

Old school hip hop[edit]

  • Live Convention '82 (Disco Wax, 1982) 1 This is a bootleg of a live event at T Connection on which one can hear various extracts and breaks, and Grand Wizard Theodore cutting up "Do the Funky Penguin" with rap over the top.[2]
  • Wild Style (Animal, 1983) 1 3 The soundtrack to the movie Wild Style has historical weight and yet "still feels like now", in the words of Jeff Chang.[5]
  • Go-Go Crankin' (4th & B'way, 1985) 5 Go-Go Crankin' is a hard-to-find early compilation of the related genre go-go. See also Meet Me At The Go-Go (Sanctuary, 2003).[6]
  • The Best of Enjoy Records (Hot Productions, 1989) 3 5 Enjoy were responsible for some of the most essential old school recordings; some contained here are "Superrappin'", "The New Rap Language" and "Feel the Heartbeat".[7]
  • The Sugar Hill Story - Old School Rap To The Beat Y'all (Sequel, 1992) 5 This is the definitive collection pertaining to the earliest hip hop label, compiled for Sequel by David Toop.[8]
  • Street Jams: Electric Funk Vols. 1–4 (Rhino, 1992) 5 These are compilations of the subgenre electro.[9]
  • Cold Crush Brothers: All The Way Live in '82 (Tuff City, 1994) 5 The Cold Crush Brothers were a direct inspiration for The Sugarhill Gang. This live 1982 recording obviously does not contain their 1984 single "Fresh, Wild, Fly and Bold", but it is an essential old school document. See also Cold Crush Brothers Vs. The Fantastic Romantic 5 (Tuff City, 1998).[10]
  • Warp 9: It's a Beat Wave (1983), (Island Records), 1983) Contains the iconic singles, "Nunk," and "Light Years Away," described as the "perfect instance of hip hop's contemporary ramifications,"[11] and a cornerstone of early 80s beatbox afrofuturism[12]
  • Pumpkin: The Tuff City Sessions (Old School Flava, 1995) 5 Pumpkin was the musician, percussionist and band leader behind many old school tracks for the Profile, Enjoy, and Tuff City record companies. This collection does not have his own "King of the Beat" (Profile, 1983) and suffers from poor sound quality, but captures some of his performances for Grandmaster Caz, Spoonie Gee and others.[13]
  • Spoonie Gee: The Godfather of Hip Hop (Tuff City, 1997) 5 Almost all of the best releases by "perhaps the first great MC" are compiled here.[14] Not to be confused with The Godfather of Rap (BCM, 1988).
  • Afrika Bambaataa: Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980-1985 (Tommy Boy, 2001) 3 5 Bambaataa is one of hip hop's most important figures; this collection best preserves his legacy.[15]
  • Harlem World: The Sound Of The Big Apple Rappin' (Heroes & Villains, 2001) 5 MC and producer Spyder D's disco rap "Big Apple Rappin' (National Rappin' Anthem)", released on his own Newtroit Records in 1980, gives its title to this collection of early hip hop.[16] See also Big Apple Rappin': The Early Days of Hip-Hop Culture in New York City 1979-1982 (Rhino, 2006).
  • Mantronix: That's My Beat (Soul Jazz, 2002) 5 This compilation is notable for containing "Adventures of Super Rhymes" (Dazz, 1980) by the influential early MC Jimmy Spicer. It also contains the early Bambaataa Zulu Nation party favorite "Computer Games" by Yellow Magic Orchestra, and the important T La Rock single "It's Yours".[17]
  • The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983 (Stones Throw, 2004) 5 Writer Peter Shapiro describes The Third Unheard as an "impeccable" collection of "irrepressible" early music.[18]

List of important albums[edit]












  • Nas: Illmatic (Columbia, 1994) 1 2 3 5 6 7 As writer Peter Shapiro frames it, Illmatic demonstrated a fitting of production to lyrics worthy of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, an analytical evocation of street life that matched the power of N.W.A., and a command of the microphone not heard since Rakim.[55]
  • Organized Konfusion: Stress: The Extinction Agenda (Hollywood BASIC, 1994) 1 2 3 5 Challenging but occasionally joyful music that demonstrates virtuosity even at its most difficult, this is noted not least for a gruesome narrative told from the perspective of a titular "Stray Bullet".[56]
  • The Notorious B.I.G.: Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994) 1 2 3 5 6 This album's platinum sales, rap skills, and bleak vision mitigated by humor and funk, completed the revitalization of New York hip hop begun with the success of the Wu-Tang's debut a year before.[57]
  • Common Sense(now known as Common): Resurrection (Relativity, 1994) 1 2 3 4 5 "I Used To Love H.E.R." is an extended metaphor for hip hop that attracted much attention, while on tracks like "Resurrection" and "Watermelon" Common's style is warm and witty, the tracks full of wordplay and assured jazzy production.[58]



  • The Fugees: The Score (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1996) 1 2 3 4 6 Massive singles aside, this was a dark, downtempo album; it sold over 18 million copies worldwide and was widely respected.[61]
  • Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt (Roc-A-Fella, 1996) 1 2 3 5 6 Jay-Z combined elements of the New York underground with a mainstream sensibility on his debut, proving himself a strong presence on the mic in the process.[62]
  • OutKast: ATLiens (LaFace, 1996) Andre 3000 and Big Boi make a hard return with ATLiens, providing relaxing, yet complex production and endlessly conscious lyricism.


  • Rakim" "The 18th Letter" (Universal Records) Rakim resurrected himself from the Eric. B and Rakim days to a rhyming machine on his own. His fast paced, smooth rhyme flow showed with the help of producers such as Clark Kent, Pete Rock and DJ Premier






  • Eminem: The Eminem Show (Aftermath/Interscope/Shady, 2002) An articulate, coherent, formally appropriate response to Eminem's changing position and role, one that acknowledges the privileges and alienations that accrue to all fame as well as the resolution of Marshall Mathers's worst traumas and the specifics of his success. Behind the hype and the swagger, he's still baring enough of his soul for The Eminem Show to be compelling theatre.

Lists consulted[edit]

Lists 1–5 are exclusively hip hop publications by writers respected in the field. 6–9 are essentially rock publications, though with some breadth of coverage, obviously; 6–7 are American, 8–9, British. 10 is a British dance music magazine that none-the-less had hip hop accounting for more than a fifth of its list. Albums that appear on any four lists or more have been included.

  1. "Hip Hop's Greatest Albums By Year" in Sacha Jenkins, Elliott Wilson, Chairman Mao, Gabriel Alvarez & Brent Rollins. ego trip's Book of Rap Lists, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999, pp. 331–337. ISBN 978-0-312-24298-5
  2. "Top 100 Albums of All-Time", The Source, January 1998.
  3. Oliver Wang (ed.) Classic Material, Toronto: ECW, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55022-561-7
  4. Brian Coleman, Check the Technique, New York: Villard, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8129-7775-2
  5. Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Hip Hop, 2nd. ed., London: Rough Guides, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84353-263-7
  6. "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", Rolling Stone, November 2003.
  7. "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005", Spin, July 2005.
  8. "100 Best Albums Of All Time", NME, March 2003.
  9. "Top 100 Favourite Albums of All Time", Melody Maker, January 2000.
  10. "Best Albums of All Time", Mixmag, 1996.


  1. ^ David Toop, Rap Attack, 3rd. ed., London: Serpent's Tail, 2000. (p. 213) ISBN 978-1-85242-627-9
  2. ^ a b Toop, p. 67
  3. ^ Shapiro, p. 384
  4. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 378
  5. ^ Oliver Wang (ed.), p. 163
  6. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 157
  7. ^ Shapiro, p. 124
  8. ^ Shapiro, p. 352
  9. ^ Shapiro, p. 121
  10. ^ Shapiro, p. 64
  11. ^ Toop, David (2000). Rap Attack 3: African Rap to Global Hip Hop. (Expanded Third Edition) London: Serpent's Tail, pp. 150-151 ISBN 1-85242-627-6.
  12. ^ Fitzpatrick, Rob, "The 101 strangest records on Spotify: Warp 9 - It's A Beat Wave," May 14, 2014 [1]
  13. ^ Shapiro, p. 369
  14. ^ Shapiro, p. 345
  15. ^ Shapiro, p. 5
  16. ^ Shapiro, p. 346
  17. ^ Shapiro, p. 344
  18. ^ Shapiro, p. 351
  19. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 327
  20. ^ Shapiro, p. 228
  21. ^ a b Shapiro, p. 26
  22. ^ Stephen Holden, "Bon Jovi and Bonbons", Pop Life, New York Times, December 30, 1987.
  23. ^ Shapiro, pp. 41–42
  24. ^ Shapiro, p. 126
  25. ^ Shapiro, pp. 32–33.
  26. ^ Shapiro, p. 337
  27. ^ Shapiro, p. 124, p. 126
  28. ^ Shapiro, p. 30
  29. ^ Shapiro, pp. 304–306
  30. ^ Shapiro, pp. 282–285
  31. ^ Shapiro, pp. 253–254
  32. ^ Shapiro, pp. 374–376
  33. ^ Shapiro, p. 198
  34. ^ Shapiro, pp. 84–86
  35. ^ Shapiro, pp. 309–310
  36. ^ Shapiro, p. 200
  37. ^ Shapiro, p. 304
  38. ^ Shapiro, p. 363
  39. ^ Shapiro, p. 389
  40. ^ Shapiro, p. 175, p. 177
  41. ^ Shapiro, p. 302–303
  42. ^ Shapiro, p.42
  43. ^ Shapiro, p. 152, p. 154
  44. ^ Shapiro, p. 85
  45. ^ Shapiro, p. 245
  46. ^ Shapiro, p. 73
  47. ^ Shapiro, p. 365
  48. ^ Shapiro, p. 329
  49. ^ Shapiro, p. 320
  50. ^ Shapiro, p. 299
  51. ^ Shapiro, pp. 108–109
  52. ^ Shapiro, p. 170
  53. ^ Shapiro, pp. 387–388
  54. ^ Shapiro, p. 339
  55. ^ Shapiro, p. 270
  56. ^ Shapiro, p. 290
  57. ^ Shapiro, pp. 281–282
  58. ^ Shapiro, pp. 64–65
  59. ^ Shapiro, p. 259
  60. ^ Shapiro, p. 387
  61. ^ Shapiro, p. 146
  62. ^ Shapiro, p. 187
  63. ^ Shapiro, p.147
  64. ^ Shapiro, p. 294
  65. ^ Shapiro, p. 122
  66. ^ Ahmed, Insanul (November 12, 2013). "Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)". Complex. Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
  67. ^ Shapiro, p. 189