The Top 50 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time

90s Hip-Hop records albums turntable mixer

Hip hop stands as a unique testament to creative resilience and socio-political relevance, shaping not just music but global culture. Its ascent from urban streets to dominating worldwide platforms showcases its ability to adapt, innovate, and influence music across genres and generations. The top 50 best hip hop albums made a revolutionary impact on the music industry, transforming hip hop into a leading genre, and creating a canvas for unprecedented musical experimentation.

If you're a hip hop head like us, make sure to also check out our articles on the 90s best hip hop artists and songs, the greatest rappers of all time, and our endless library of reviews of artists like Drake, Eminem, and many more. But first, lets jump into the best hip hop albums of all time, with the infamous Mobb Deep!

50. The Infamous

Mobb Deep

The Infamous Mobb Deep
Mobb Deep's 8th and final studio album "The Infamous", released in 2014.

With its raw, unfiltered narratives of street life in Queensbridge, New York, this album thrust its creators into the spotlight, marking a seminal moment in hardcore hip hop. The dark, atmospheric production coupled with haunting tales of survival and loss resonated deeply, influencing countless artists and securing its place as a touchstone for the gritty realism that defined much of '90s hip hop.

49. Return of the Boom Bap


Marking a return to hardcore hip hop roots with an emphasis on complex rhymes and hard-hitting beats, this 1993 release showcased lyrical prowess and social consciousness. Tracks like "Sound of da Police" became anthems of resistance, cementing its place in hip hop history as a powerful voice for social justice and artistic integrity.

48. Culture


This pivotal work not only solidified its creators' place in music history but also defined the trap music genre for the era. Propelled by hits like "Bad and Boujee," it captured the cultural zeitgeist, influencing fashion, language, and the overall direction of hip hop, showcasing the unique chemistry and innovation Migos brought to the scene.

47. The Impossible Kid

Aesop Rock

This album stands out for its intricate lyricism and deeply personal themes, exploring mental health, personal loss, and existential musings with unmatched depth. The production complements Aesop Rock's dense wordplay, making it a critical darling and a high point in underground hip hop, showcasing the artist's unique place in the genre.

46. I Am Not a Human Being

Lil Wayne

Released during a prolific period in Lil Wayne's career, this album showcased his versatility and creativity, mixing traditional hip hop beats with experimental sounds. Its success demonstrated Wayne's enduring appeal and his ability to evolve artistically, maintaining a significant impact on the music industry.

Lil Wayne (larger)
Lil Wayne performing live in 2015

45. Everybody


An ambitious exploration of identity, mental health, and social issues, this release from Logic resonated with a wide audience, thanks to its heartfelt lyricism and diverse soundscapes. The album's single "1-800-273-8255" had a profound impact on raising awareness for suicide prevention, highlighting Logic's ability to address serious topics with sensitivity and insight.

44. DS2


This project solidified Future's status as a key figure in the Atlanta trap scene, blending autotuned vocals with atmospheric beats to create a vivid portrayal of life, love, and loss. Its raw honesty and emotional depth captured the complexity of the human experience, setting a new standard for storytelling in the genre.

43. Liquid Swords


As a solo project from one of the Wu-Tang Clan's most cerebral members, this album is celebrated for its complex storytelling and cinematic scope, with RZA's production providing a dark, immersive backdrop for GZA's sharp lyricism. It's hailed as a masterpiece of the genre, reflecting on the struggles and philosophy of life with unparalleled depth and precision.

42. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx


This album, often cited among the best hip hop albums, set a new standard for storytelling in rap with its cinematic narratives of crime and survival. Raekwon, with notable contributions from Ghostface Killah and production by RZA, crafted a sprawling epic that expanded the boundaries of hip hop, influencing the genre's evolution toward more thematic and cohesive works.

41. Food & Liquor

Lupe Fiasco

This debut album from Lupe Fiasco offered a lyrical deep dive into complex themes such as youth, violence, and personal growth, framed by his experiences on Chicago's West Side. Its insightful social commentary and sophisticated wordplay challenged mainstream hip hop norms and earned critical acclaim, establishing Lupe as a key figure in the conscious rap movement.

40. Nothing Was the Same


Drake Nothing Was the Same cover
Drake's 3rd studio album "Nothing Was the Same" released in 2013.

Many joke that after Drake dropped "Nothing Was the Same" in 2013, for the albums that followed, literally nothing was the same. But that's often the case when an artist releases a great album like this, that's one of the most cohesive projects ever, blending introspective lyrics with minimalist production, and setting a moody atmosphere that has influenced the direction of hip hop and R&B.

39. Black on Both Sides

Mos Def

A landmark album in hip hop, this project is celebrated for its exploration of social, political, and personal themes, delivered through Mos Def's charismatic flow and insightful lyrics. Blending hip hop with soul, jazz, and funk, it helped define the sound of conscious rap at the turn of the millennium and remains a high watermark for the genre.

38. Dark and Hell is Hot


This debut album introduced DMX's raw intensity and emotional depth to the world, featuring a gritty realism and aggressive delivery that captured the struggles of street life. Its impact was immediate, offering a stark contrast to the hip hop landscape of the late '90s and solidifying DMX's legacy as a powerful voice in rap.

37. Reasonable Doubt


Jay-Z's debut album offered a nuanced, lyrical exploration of the hustler lifestyle, blending mafioso rap and introspective tracks. Its sophisticated storytelling and polished production marked the beginning of one of the most storied careers in hip hop, establishing Jay-Z not just as a rapper, but as a keen observer of urban life.

36. Hard to Earn

Gang Starr

As one of the best hip hop albums to blend jazz-infused beats with insightful lyricism, "Hard to Earn" cemented Gang Starr's legacy in the genre. Guru's smooth delivery over DJ Premier's complex, sample-heavy beats created a timeless sound that continues to influence hip hop artists and producers.

Gang Starr (cropped)
Guru and DJ Premier or Gang Starr performing live

35. A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Black Sheep

This album stood out for its humorous take on hip hop norms and society, delivered through clever lyrics and catchy beats. Black Sheep's unique approach to rap, filled with playful wordplay and social commentary, made this project a memorable and influential piece of early '90s hip hop culture.

34. Get Rich or Die Tryin'

50 Cent

50 Cent's debut album, produced by Dr. Dre and Eminem, burst onto the scene with a mix of gritty tales from the streets and catchy hooks. Its commercial success and cultural impact made it an instant classic, defining the sound of early 2000s hip hop and launching 50 Cent into superstardom.

33. Raising Hell


Run-D.M.C.'s third album broke new ground for hip hop, bringing it into the mainstream with a rock-infused sound that appealed to a wide audience. "Raising Hell" was pivotal in demonstrating hip hop's commercial viability, featuring collaborations that bridged cultural gaps and expanded the genre's reach.

32. The Predator

Ice Cube

Released in the wake of the LA riots, "The Predator" captures the social and racial tensions of early '90s America with Ice Cube's sharp commentary and aggressive delivery. The album's success highlighted hip hop's role as a platform for addressing societal issues, making it a critical and commercial hit.

31. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

The Pharcyde

Marking a departure from the dominant gangsta rap narrative of its time, this album introduced a playful, eccentric style to hip hop. Its innovative production, combined with the group's humorous and introspective lyrics, offered a fresh, alternative perspective that has endured as a cult classic within the genre.

30. Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

Digable Planets

"Reachin" by Digable Planets, released in 1993 and featuring a Billboard's top 15 hit "Rebirth of Slick".

This debut album from Digable Planets stood out for its seamless blend of jazz and hip hop, offering a laid-back, intellectual style that contrasted with the harder edges of early '90s rap. Its innovative sound and positive messages earned it critical acclaim and a place in the pantheon of hip hop classics.

29. Geto Boys

Geto Boys

This album played a crucial role in putting Southern hip hop on the map, with its raw depiction of life in Houston's Fifth Ward. The Geto Boys' gritty storytelling and controversial subjects pushed the boundaries of hip hop content, setting a precedent for future artists in the genre.

28. Cypress Hill

Cypress Hill

With its self-titled debut, Cypress Hill brought a distinct sound to hip hop, characterized by B-Real's nasal flow and DJ Muggs' dusty, psychedelic beats. The album's success was pivotal in the emergence of West Coast hip hop, making Cypress Hill one of the best hip hop albums to blend Latin influences with the burgeoning Los Angeles scene.

27. Paul's Boutique

Beastie Boys

While not as popular as our other best hip hop albums, "Paul's Boutique" has to be mentioned for the monumental shift it made in the use of sampling. Originally hip hop music was produced by DJs with a dual turntable setup, mixing a breakbeat on one turntable and layering or scratching a sample on the other. The Beastie Boys, along with the Dust Brothers, pushed the boundaries of this format layering a vast array of samples from diverse genres across the album's tracks. This innovative approach not only showcased the potential of sampling, but also set a new standard for the recording of hip hop, solidifying its place as one of the most influential and best hip hop albums of all time.

26. 3 Feet High and Rising

De La Soul

This debut album broke new ground with its positive vibes and eclectic sound, diverging from the prevailing aggressive tone of hip hop at the time. De La Soul's innovative use of samples from a wide range of genres made "3 Feet High and Rising" a landmark release, influencing the direction of hip hop towards a more diverse, inclusive approach.

De La Soul mika
Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo ofn De La Soul in 2002

25. Midnight Marauders

A Tribe Called Quest

Combining jazz-infused beats with socially conscious lyrics, "Midnight Marauders" is a cornerstone of alternative hip hop. A Tribe Called Quest's smooth flows and intellectual content solidified their status as pioneers of a more introspective, melodic approach to rap, making it one of the best hip hop albums of its era.

24. Everready

Tech N9ne

Tech N9ne's "Everready" is celebrated for its rapid-fire flow, complex rhymes, and diverse subject matter, from personal struggles to broader social commentary. The album's fusion of genres and innovative production techniques have made it a standout release, further establishing Tech N9ne as an influential figure in underground hip hop.

23. The College Dropout

Kanye West

"The College Dropout" broke the mold for what a hip hop album could be, with Kanye West's soulful samples and introspective lyrics addressing themes of education, self-consciousness, and social issues. Its impact on the genre was immediate and profound, challenging the dominance of gangsta rap and opening the door for a new wave of artists. This album is frequently cited as one of the best hip hop albums for its innovation and lasting influence on the music industry.

22. The Carter III

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne's "The Carter III" represents a high point in his career, with its innovative wordplay, versatile flows, and eclectic beat selection. It catapulted the rapper to superstar status, featuring hits like "Lollipop" and "A Milli" that dominated the charts. The album's critical and commercial success underscored Wayne's influence on hip hop, blending mainstream appeal with technical mastery.

21. Doggystyle

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg's debut album, "Doggystyle," produced by Dr. Dre, was a monumental release in the early '90s, setting the tone for West Coast hip hop with its laid-back beats and smooth lyrical delivery. Hits like "Gin and Juice" and "What's My Name?" became anthems, solidifying Snoop Dogg's place in hip hop history and influencing a generation of artists.

20. ATLiens


Outkast atliens
"Atliens", Outkast's 2nd studio album that put them and the Dirty South on the map.

Prior to OutKast's sophomore album in 1996 hip hop music was still primarily being produced in New York and California. While the group's debut album "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik" introduced the group in 1994, it was "ATLiens" that put Outkast on the map, and introduced Atlanta, GA as an up and coming rival for hip hop's dominance on the the east and west coasts. The album blended Andre 3000 and Big Boi's Southern drawl and unique lyricism, with stories of the "dirty south", creating a sound that was unprecedented and groundbreaking.

19. Ready to Die

The Notorious B.I.G.

This "notorious" Brooklyn-born artist showed remarkable versatility, masterfully crafting tales of heists to the backdrop of Easy Mo Bee's intense beats in tracks like "Gimme the Loot," while also effortlessly flowing over the smoother, more mainstream productions from Puffy and the Hitmen in hits such as "Juicy" and "One More Chance." Even without the accolades and pressures of being hailed as the King of New York, Biggie felt the weight of expectations, with his first album bearing witness to this reality.

18. Paid in Full

Eric B. & Rakim

"Paid in Full" is heralded for Rakim's complex lyricism and Eric B.'s innovative beats, marking a turning point in hip hop's lyrical and production standards. The album's influence is undeniable, shaping the future of rap with its sophisticated approach to rhyme schemes and rhythm, making it a foundational work in the hip hop canon.

17. Supa Dupa Fly

Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott's debut album "Supa Dupa Fly" broke new ground with its innovative production by Timbaland and Elliott's unique lyrical style. It stood out for its creative music videos, particularly "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," and its impact on both hip hop and R&B was profound, establishing Elliott as a groundbreaking artist in the genre.

16. The Blueprint


Jay-Z's "The Blueprint" is often celebrated for its soulful samples and introspective lyrics, setting a new standard for hip hop production and lyrical depth. Released on a day marked by tragedy, September 11, 2001, it remains a pivotal work in Jay-Z's discography and a defining moment in early 2000s hip hop, frequently listed among the best hip hop albums for its enduring influence.

Beyoncé e Jay Z
Jay-Z performing with Beyonce in London in 2009

15. Fear of a Black Planet

Public Enemy

"Fear of a Black Planet" is a powerful statement on race, politics, and society, featuring anthemic tracks like "Fight the Power." Public Enemy's ability to blend social commentary with aggressive beats and Chuck D's authoritative voice made this album a critical success, reinforcing hip hop's role as a medium for societal critique and change.

14. The Score


"The Score" blended hip hop with reggae and R&B influences, showcasing the Fugees' lyrical dexterity and musical versatility. Hits like "Ready or Not" and "Killing Me Softly" propelled the album to global success, making it a landmark release that expanded hip hop's mainstream appeal and showcased the genre's potential for crossover success.

13. Take Care


Drake's "Take Care" blends emotional introspection with expansive production, featuring collaborations that span genres. Its reflective nature and hit tracks like "Marvins Room" and "Headlines" have made it a defining album of the 2010s, showcasing Drake's versatility and cementing his place as a leading voice in contemporary hip hop and R&B.

12. All Eyez on Me


This magnum opus from 2Pac not only encapsulates the height of his career but also the complexities of his life, offering an expansive double album filled with anthems of resilience, struggle, and defiance. Its raw honesty and compelling storytelling solidified 2Pac's legacy as a pivotal figure in hip hop, influencing generations with its emotional depth and political insight.

11. Illmatic


Since its release in April 1994, Nas' inaugural album has been a cornerstone in the rap world, setting the standard for all solo debut albums that followed. It continues to cast a significant shadow over Nas' subsequent work, often serving as an unwavering benchmark. Bearing a legacy that might feel as heavy as the Empire State Building resting on one's shoulders, only Nas, once known as Nasty Nas, could navigate such immense pressure. Together with a legendary team of producers, he managed to surpass the lofty expectations, with Illmatic remaining hist most pivotal work.

10. Straight Outta Compton


Straight Outta Compton N W A
The debut studio album "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. released in 1988.

"Straight Outta Compton" shattered conventions with its raw depiction of life in South Central LA, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of the urban African American experience. N.W.A's confrontational style and social commentary ignited a cultural and musical revolution, laying the groundwork for the rise of West Coast hip hop and gangsta rap.

9. The Marshall Mathers LP


Eminem's third studio album shocked and awed the global music scene with its intense personal narratives, complex rhymes, and controversial themes. Hits like "Stan" and "The Real Slim Shady" showcased Eminem's unique ability to blend dark humor with societal commentary, making it one of the best hip hop albums of all time for its fearless exploration of fame, identity, and morality.

8. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Wu-Tang Clan

With its gritty production and collective lyrical prowess, this debut album from Wu-Tang Clan introduced the world to a new dynasty in hip hop. Its raw energy and innovative approach to hip hop production and ensemble performance have made it a cornerstone of the genre, influencing not just music but the entire culture surrounding hip hop.

7. Madvillainy

MF Doom

This collaboration between MF Doom and producer Madlib stands as a masterpiece of underground hip hop, celebrated for its abstract lyrics, unconventional samples, and dense wordplay. "Madvillainy" is a testament to hip hop's artistic possibilities, offering a complex, enigmatic work that has captivated listeners and critics alike, securing its place among the best hip hop albums.

6. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill's solo debut is a groundbreaking fusion of hip hop, soul, and R&B, addressing themes of love, motherhood, and spirituality with unparalleled artistry and emotion. Its critical and commercial success broke records for female artists and remains a seminal work, reshaping the landscape of hip hop and R&B with its profound impact and timeless appeal.

Lauryn Hill's music career began with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel of the Fugees in 1994

5. The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest

A Tribe Called Quest The Low Endtheory

A Tribe Called Quest's second album melds hip hop with jazz to create a smooth, cohesive sound that was revolutionary at the time of its release. Its laid-back vibe and intellectual lyricism challenged the genre's boundaries, influencing a new wave of hip hop focused on musicality and depth, and solidifying its status as one of the most important albums in hip hop history.

4. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick GKMC

Kendrick Lamar's major label debut is a cinematic masterpiece, weaving together a complex narrative of his upbringing in Compton. Its conceptual depth, lyrical complexity, and innovative production have not only earned Kendrick critical acclaim but also solidified "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" as a landmark in hip hop, redefining what a rap album could be and influencing the direction of the genre.

3. The Chronic

Dr. Dre

Dr Dre The Chronic

Dr. Dre's debut album "The Chronic" redefined the sound of hip hop with its polished production, laid-back funk rhythms, and introduction of G-funk. Featuring hits like "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," it not only launched the careers of several West Coast artists but also established Dr. Dre as one of the most influential figures in hip hop, setting new standards for production quality and collaborative creativity in the genre.

2. Licensed to Ill

Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill

As the first hip hop album to top the Billboard charts, "Licensed to Ill" marked a turning point for hip hop's mainstream acceptance. The Beastie Boys blended rock and rap in a way that was accessible yet undeniably cool, producing timeless hits like "Fight for Your Right" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Its success paved the way for future genre crossovers, making it one of the best hip hop albums and a cultural milestone.

1. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below


Outkast speakerboxx lovebelow

In the 1990s Outkast established themselves and the South as a legit rival to New York and California for hip hop dominance. In the 2000s they would not just rival them, but take the lead! With this ambitious double album the duo showcased creativity and versatility never seen before, with Big Boi's "Speakerboxxx" offering a more traditional hip hop sound, while André 3000's "The Love Below" explored elements of funk, jazz, and pop.

The album broke hip hop boundaries, experimenting with a variety of genres, including "Hey Ya!" a pop, funk track that immediately became a huge commercial success. Rolling Stone ranked "Hey Ya!" number 10 on their 2021 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The album also won the Grammy for Album of the Year, making it a historic achievement not only for Outkast, but the entire hip hop genre.

The enduring legacy of hip hop

Wherever I go, I bring the culture with me, so that they can understand that it's attainable. I didn't do it any other way than through hip-hop.

- Jay-Z

The top 50 best hip hop albums of all time are not just great music, they transcend the roots of the genre, evolving its sound, spirit, and expression. Their significance in the music industry lie not only in their commercial success, but in their capacity to narrate society, foster community, and inspire change. As we look to the future, there's no doubt hip hop will remain front and center, pushing artistic boundaries, and redefining the music across all levels, generations, and genres.

Leave a Reply!

Nappy Heads

Anybody coming here saying Emimen, Nas or Biggie should be higher, are mainstream radio fans. I would have liked to see Travis Scott, but got to give respect for including lesser known names like Aesop Rock and Gang Starr!

Rodney McCray

Even if its just this one mans opinion, I dont agree with the placing other than number one (I can live with Speakerbox/The love below) but the fact that theres no Nas, clearly indicates author is not a real hip-hop head. Shame on you!

Nappy Heads

I see Illmatic at #11. But Nas is a mainstream gimme. Doom, Tech N9ne, De La, Digable Planets tell me they more a hip-hop head than putting Nas.

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