Posted by: Benner | January 14, 2008

The T.T.F.R.A.O.A.T.

the top 25 rap albums of all time.

So, for no particular reason (I think there are about 4 people who actually read this blog) I’ve decided to post what I feel are the 25 best rap albums. I noticed through my blog digging that it was quite a popular thing to post last spring. I missed the boat I guess. Here it is anyway, I hope you don’t hate me.

Let’s begin…


25 – Atliens – Outkast   I think this is the quintessential Outkast album. Organized Noise layed a beautiful background for Andre and Big Boi, who were just at the brink of finding themselves lyrically. Southernplayalistic was fun and Aquemini had that fricking horn loop on Spottieottiedopaliscous, but Atliens was the perfect balance.                                                                                                                


24 – Naughty by Nature – Naughty by Nature    In my opinion this album deserves to stand alongside The Chronic, Illmatic, and Enter the 36 Chambers for being one of the most important records of all time.  Important in that NBN’s style was so “street” but they appealed to a pop audience.  Being street and appealing to the masses was nothing new (Run DMC, NWA).  But, this particular brand of “street” (the Rakim, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane brand of “street”) was different, and it ended up being the brand that was embodied the most by popular rap of 91-97.  This album should really be much higher, but it contains one of the absolute worst rap songs ever in Rhyme’ll Shine On.


23 – Enter the 36 Chambers – Wu-Tang Clan    This album was the beginning of an EXTREME obsession with the Wu family, which included me giving myself a Wu branding and washing my face with pencil shavings that I had first soaked and spread on a Rap Pages magazine cover with GZA on the the front (it’s a long story). Be nice, I was only 15 years old. There is no need to point out how important this album was.


22 – Stakes Is High – De La Soul     De La Soul finally figured it all out on this album. They got rid of their extra heavy reliance on skits and filler which was huge for me (bear in mind their usage of those skits on their first three albums was groundbreaking). And they also stopped relying exclusively on Prince Paul to produce their music (no disrespect to Paul, but I think the producers on SIH matched De La’s style a little better). My only problem is that this album hasn’t aged well. It comes off a little too hippity-hoppity.


21 – Liquid Swords – GZA     This album, more than any other, was directly linked to the themes and overall musical feel of Wu-Tang’s debut. It was also the only Wu solo disc from that era to feature every clan member, which is a huge plus.  I don’t think that this album has aged well however (you can hate me now).  Still there are absolute classics on this disc. 

(click read more to check out #20-#1)


20 – Soul Food – Goodie Mob    Looking back on my experiences with this album, I almost cringe. I remember sitting in my car with four friends and a bong (named Papkin) reciting EVERY SINGLE LINE of this entire album. I think I need to round up the troops and have a throwback listening session (shouts to Peter, Robert, Jourdan and Will) “Like elevators, but I ain’t the one thats pushin the buttons”  I love how Cee-lo gets the cleanup position on all of these songs. They all knew it wasn’t a good idea to try to follow him up. 


19 – The Chronic – Dr. Dre    Who knew gangster rap could sound this smooth. Although there is too much filler (and too much RBX and Lady of Rage) for my taste, this album is a gem. It is the Thrilller of rap records. I constantly scold myself for not liking this album as much as I should.  Bad Benner, bad Benner.


18 – Be – Common   This is the only album that was released after the year 2000 that made my list. I consider this to be Kanye’s masterpeice. Dilla doesn’t do a bad job himself on this record either. The only negative thing I can say about this album is that Testify makes my short list of the wackest songs ever.   The good thing is Faithful makes the short list for being one of the best songs ever.


17 – It was Written – Nas    There was no way that Nas was ever going to create an adequate follow-up to Illmatic, but he does an incredible job with this one. Luckily he saved his flops for the horrendously awful albums I Am… and Nastradumus. Premier, Dre, Trackmasters, Havoc, L.E.S. all on the beats, and guest spots from Prodigy, AZ, and Cormega make this a dunn classic. Nas still has yet to follow up with an adequate record since IWW. Although in all fairness I think God’s Son was good. And Street’s Disciple as a single disc might’ve sounded alright.


16 – Dead Serious – Das Efx   Great production + fresh delivery + non-sensical lyrics + fun (there’s a song about diarrhea) – guest rappers = classic album.


15 – Tical – Method Man    Short and sweet scary. Remember when Meth was the best rapper in the Wu. What went wrong? How did he go from making “Biscuits” to starring in Speed Stick commercials?  It sounds cliche to put it like that, but he really used to be grimy.  He basically inspired me not to bathe.  This album is jam packed with amazing beats, and incredible verses.


 14 – Everything is Everything – Brand Nubian    If this album only exsisted as an album cover it would probably still be in my top 25. Luckily there are incredible tracks on this record to compliment the intrigue generated by the album cover. I wish I could have been a passenger in that car no matter where it was headed.


13 – Dah Shinin – Smif-n-Wessun   I recently found a CD labled plainly “8th Best Rap Album of All Time”. I put it in my stereo and out came Smif-n-Wessun’s debut album. Not a bad choice for my top 10, but it turns out my tastes have (only slightly) changed.


12 – The Most Beatifullest Thing in the World – Keith Murray   Erick Sermon at his most experimental (and possibly his best).  I recently read an article where Keith was talking about how he is more of a “melodic, articulate emcee” so “loud crunchy beats” don’t work on him. He likes Sermon’s clean, smooth funk compositions to compliment his flow. NO. Keith you sound the best on the kind of beats that you use on these tracks. Which happen to be of the “loud and crunchy” variety.


11 – Reasonable Doubt – Jay-Z    Welcome to the Golden Era, Jay-Z. Here’s your late pass. Good frickin job on the album by the way. Classic.  This is excacly what a rap album should sound like.


10 – Dare iz a Darkside – Redman    Try to buy this one on tape (it’s actually red {shouts to the Purple Tape}). Put it in your car stereo and leave it there for one year. Enjoy.


9 – The Infamous… – Mobb Deep   After listening to this album I actually started to think that it might be a good idea to kill somebody. They made it seem that cool on this album. That was a close one.


8 – Bizzare Ryde to the Pharcyde – The Pharcyde   Do you remember when rap was fun? I do, and it actually only lasted for about 50 minutes, and it happened entirely on this album. Chris Rock said “only in rap do you get one-album wonders” when reffering to this album.  I couldn’t have said it better.   


7 – In a Major Way – E-40    Nothing made me want to stay out past curfew drinking 40s more than listening to this album. Studio Ton and E-40 introduced me to an entirely new sound and lifestyle. I think they owe me some brain cells. “bump this sh*t til your tape break”


6 – Ironman – Ghostface Killah    This is Ghostface at his absolute best. Supreme Clientele probably is a more accurate reflection of who GFK is, but one can’t deny the sheer deliciousness of Ironman. RZA kills it. The other joy about this album is that you have a Raekwon solo song (Faster Blade) on a GFK album (this is Ghost returning the favor for Rae giving him his own track on OB4CL). There’s also a semi-posse cut without Ghost on the album (Assination Day).  Those were the good ol days.


5 – Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill   I think that this album speaks for itself more than any of the other albums on this list. There are no grand concepts to grasp. No controversial political messages (aside from all of the “make weed legal” undertones). No wacky gimmicks. Just straight gangster rap. The beats that DJ Muggs selected for CH’s debut perfectly matched B-Real’s nasally flow. Sen Dog’s work as hypeman was also perfectly excecuted. Although Muggs used familiar drum breaks for the majority of his beats, the overall sound of the album seemed to come out of left field. Cypress Hill was coming from LA but the album was undeniably influenced by the rap being made in New York at the time. A near perfect album.


4 – Illmatic – Nas   “Rappers I monkeyflip em’ with the funky rhythym i be kickin, musician, inflicted composition of pain, i’m like scarface sniffin cocaine, holdin an M-16, see with the pen I’m extreme, now, bullet holes left in my peoples, i’m suited up in street clothes, hand me a nine and i’ll defeat foes, ya’ll know my steelo, with or without the airplay, i keep some e and j sittin bent up in the stairway” With that as his lyrical introduction to most peopole (including me), it was easy to see how the rest of this album would end up. And it ended up classic. The soundtrack was layed by the best producers in the game (except Q-Tip… why has the One Love beat never appealed to me, i guess i’ll say the same thing for the “The World is Yours” beat by Pete Rock while I’m taking shots at this classic). The lyrics on this album are sickening (in an extremely good way). There is no need to defend this album’s presence in my top 5. I guess the only explanation needed is to the question why isn’t it at the top of my list. Aside from the two beats that I mentioned earlier, the only thing is the album’s length (only 10 songs).


3 – Only Built for Cuban Linx – Raekwon    It feels silly coming up with reasons why OB4CL is in my top 5. Without getting into all the stuff about the influence of this record (which is humongous, for good or for bad), or how its timing was perfect, or how the concept was amazing, one can still feel how fantastic this album was. This album is the best work that RZA has done. And with Raekwon (in his prime) brilliantly paired up with Ghostface (who was just entering his prime) on most of the songs, the album was destined to be a classic. What more can I say.


2 – Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version – Ol’ Dirty Bastard    Wowzers… Absolutely nothing could prepare somebody for this album. His appearences on Wu’s debut album clued me in a little about what Dirty was like. Then came Tical, and I was like… uhhhhh, that was weird (in an absolutely fantastic way). Still I was totally floored the first time I listened to Dirty’s debut all the way through. Just the cover and the CD itself were incredibly alluring. A near perfect album, musically and lyrically. Dirty’s vocal performences on this album were incredible. I’m the first person to hate on rappers when they start in with the whole “I’m not a rapper, I’m an entertainer”. But the more thought about it, I realized, especially while compiling this list, that I like being entertained. And if there is one thing that ODB is, it’s entertaining. And you remain entertained the entire way through the disc. Even the couple songs that aren’t on par with the rest of the disc are entertaining. The thing about Dirty is that he didn’t have to choose if he was gonna be a rapper or an entertainer, he was naturally both.


1 – Death Certificate – Ice Cube   The fact that this album is the first full length rap cassette that I ever owned should be viewed strictly as coincidence. My sister gave me this tape for my birthday when I in 5th grade (K, what were you thinking?!? I was 10 years old!!) It certainly changed my life. The tape didnt make me fall in love with rap, it made me fall in love music (hella corny). Now, please forgive me in advance because I’m about to start talking big. Here we go… Death Certificate is the closest thing to a perfect rap album that there ever was. Try me. Musically it was the Chronic before the Chronic was, except that it sounded more like a rap record and not so much like an RnB record, as The Chronic did (not hating… my infatuation with TC is thick).  The Boogie Men (basically DJ Pooh), built the album around a collection of samples that were used to create some of the most timeless beats ever to be recorded. With a young Ice Cube in his prime (and mad as f**k), and a political backdrop that naturally incited strong dissent, the timing was perfect. From beginning to end this album delivers. Even the skits, which Sir Jinx and the Boogie Men weave in seamlessly through the album are classics. Each song has individual identity but they are tied in musically and conceptually to each other.


At this point I wouldn’t feel right posting this list without at least mentioning these classics which for various reasons couldn’t make it on my list.      

The Low End Theory

Still Standing

6 Feet Deep


Supreme Clientele

Wu-Tang Forever

Wild Cowboys

Hell on Earth


Midnight Marauders

Season os da Siccness




  1. by accident you left The Synthesis off your list

  2. oopsies!! I totally forgot to begin with that.

  3. NICE WORK. wonderful. top 5 top 25 lists of all time. except naughty by nature made the official list (#24) AND the honorable mention list. found a mistake! in your face! How many of these albums came out 1993-1997?

    I can’t even try at making a list like this, but I’d say that more than half of it would match.

    first reaction of some friends of mine you missed (no beef though):
    Dogg Food, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, Born to Mack AND/OR Get in Where You Fit In, Critical Beatdown, Criminal Minded, Strictly Business…

  4. Not bad… except you are way low on 36 chambers which is a top 10 possibly top 5er (by the way only built 4 cuban links is the best wu solo). I like the dark horse Death certificate as #1 choice…even though you are wrong because that honor goes to Midnight Marauders which did not make your list(!). ATliens being the best album from the best duo of all time (sorry epmd but it’s true) is also in my top 10

    10-Game Theory(I realize I’m probably the only one that thinks this, but being as they get better every album…….
    9- Aquemini-Would have been higher but mamacita? unlistenable….
    9-The Black Album (or the gray album because its just as good…then again maybe the black album because it inspired the gray album)
    8-Stakes is HIgh/Buhloone mindstate/delasoul is dead (asking me to pick a favorite of these 3 would be like asking me to pick which is my favorite child)…….these albums would have been in my top 5 except for track 8 on stakes is high “baby babybaby baby ooh baby” this is one of the worst songs I know, not quite as bad as mamacita though
    7-36 chambers
    5-Low End Theory (“classic….classic…..classic example of a…a” a classic of course)
    4-Licensed to ill -without this album who the hell knows what genre my top 10 would be
    2-Death Certificate
    1-Midnight marauders (I;m uncertain why this is even debatable but apparently it is because this album only got 2 stars ( out of 5)in rolling stone when it came out)

    by the way…a tribe called quest, Outkast, wu-tang and de la soul are a 4-way tie for the best rap group of all time. The roots are 5th

  5. B-TOWN – I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for pointing out my shortcomings. It should be noted that at this point the error you pointed to has been corrected. In fact the entire post was given an edit by my lovely editor BREAZY-E.

    FYI Only 7 of these records were made outside of the 93-97 era. And only one outside the 91-97 era. Question (and this goes to all you fools). Best year for rap releases? 91 or 94?

    I like all of your suggested additions… Honestly the only ones of those that I have spent any quality time with are Get in Where you Fit In and Strictly Business. I really need to peep Great Adventures, Criminal, and Critical. Here’s to Bars and Nuggets making my next list…

  6. GREG – I figured you might like this list. Considering that you, probably more than anyone, helped to shape my taste in this genre. I remember blasting the self-titled Cypress Hill tape in Long Beach, WA probably in early 92. I also remember rolling around Whistler in 95 bumping In a Major Way and Season of da Siccness. (Other albums on my list that have a heavy flavor of playgroup include: Bizzare Ryde…, The Infamous, Dead Serious, and Tical) In fact I probably should have dedicated this post to you, or at least to playgroup, for getting me into rap, and showing me what was good and what sucked.

    You’re probably right about 36 Chambers. I do think I shortchanged it a little. Being that it was the seed from which a lot of the high-ranking albums on my list sprouted from.

    I love your top 10. Although, and I swear I’m not trying to be nitpicky, I’m surprised that Licensed to Ill made your list. But, I do see your logic. FYI my favorite BB’s disc is Ill Communication (“phone is ringing (oh my god) …”). I also take issue with the fact that you have 12 (kind of 13) albums in a top ten list (jk).

    I fully apologize for Midnight Marauders not making my list. It probably should have. I need to revisit that, and spend some quality time with it.

    Oh yeah one more thing (not to start beef or anything). I sort of like “Baby Baby Baby Oooh Baby”. It’s one of Kate and my favorite songs. (“now I forgot how to forget, so I remember your face”)

  7. How could i resist?…

    25 — Tribe – Beats, Rhymes & Life

    24 — Digital Underground – Sex Packets

    23 — Too $hort – Get In Where You Fit In

    22 — Del – Both Sides of the Brain

    21 — Outkast – Southernplayalistic….

    20 — Kurupt – Tha Streetz Iz A Mutha

    19 — Biggie – Ready to Die

    18 — Mos Def – Black on Both Sides

    17 — Ice Cube – Death Certificate

    16 — The Roots – Illadelph Halflife

    15 — ODB – 36 Chambers Dirty Version

    14 — Wu Tang – Wu Tang Forever

    13 — Gza – Liquid Swords

    12 — Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill

    11 — 2pac – Me Against The World

    10 — Nas – It Was Written

    9 — Black Star – Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are…

    8 — Mobb Deep – The Infamous

    7 — Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

    6 — Tha Dogg Pound – Dogg Food

    5 — Ghostface Killah – Ironman

    4 — Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle

    3 — Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers

    2 — Dr. Dre – The Chronic

    1 — Nas – Illmatic

    P.S. — 94 over 91. On the strength of the Wu solo releases alone. One beast after another.

  8. scratch that. wu solo albums was 95.

  9. REZMATIC – Nice list. I think it is highly compatible with mine. I would love to go on a cross-country road-trip with you so we can rap the entire list to eachother at the top of our lungs (I call reciting all the female parts when the come up). However, there are certainly some blatant errors in your list, but none worth bringing up. Just kidding, you know how I like to tease you. I would like to mention, however, that I feel like you put Me Against the World that high up on the list just to get a reaction out of me. Too bad. Not happening. I’m keeping my mouth shut. And my fingers still. Starting now.

    I can’t beleive I forgot about Biggie!! Ready to Die would have definitely made my Top 25. How about I throw it in there and we call it a Top 26

    I heart that Kurupt album, hella hard. I can’t find it anywhere. Please tell me you have it, and are willing to send it to me.

    maybe I should have included 1995 as well. It’s definitely a strong contender. I have to go with 91. All three years had plenty of classic albums. The ones released in 94 and 95 were arguably better, but there were just more released in 91…

  10. Ay Greg remember this joint?

  11. Hell Yes!! This song has improved with age. THankyou. I forgot how much I needed to own this. After my Nonce cassette a)wore out or more likely b)got jacked I kind of lost track of this one…. Sad news about the nonce, I remember reading a news story a couple of years back that one of the members of the group was found dead under a freeway overpass….

    in other news-
    About my list I- agree Having 13 albums in my top 10 is kind of suspect. In order to give you a proper list I would have to put in a riddiculous amount of mental effort, including spreadsheets and pie charts, venn diagrams and graphs, in order to sort this out. I just felt that my list would be too native tongue-heavy if I included them all and incomplete if I didn’t. I also agree that licensed to ill was not the best beastie boys album, ill communication is….but this album like death certificate to you was a springboard into liking rap (I was 8 when I got this album). But now you have me thinking about the criteria for this whole list….

    don’t you know I have a baby to get ready for? I could argue about this shit all day.

  12. if we listen to chronic 2001 on our road trip, i wanna rap the female part where she’s like, “n***a what? i’ma hustlin bitch…” other than that, it’s all you.

    you’ve known for years my feelings on 2pac and the me against the world album. this should come as no surprise.

    i’ll send you that kurupt. remind me tomorrow.

  13. […] Both of these are hot-fire and definitely worth checking out.  Also, they both blatantly reference the greatest rap record of all time, so you know I had to love it.  I know, I know, 50 lost… but he still picks great beats […]

  14. Aiight, I can definitely ride with most of your picks, cept Das EFX. Still think Lord Finesse didn’t get the shine he deserved for what he spit on the ‘They want EFX’ beat.

  15. so you’re saying Ice Cube Death Certificate is the best hip hop album of all time??

    chu fuckin crazy maan

    it’s a hard one though im 24 and i been listening to hip hop since i was like 13 but i still don’t think im totally qualified to say what the best album is as i wasn’t even born when certain joints came out

    that beeing said it might be 36 chambers or ready to die

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