Criminal Minded (Produced by Ced Gee, KRS-One & DJ Scott la Rock) [B-Boy Records 1987]
1|Poetry|4:194.5-5 2|South Bronx|4:315 3|9mm Goes Bang|4:10 5 4|Word From Our Sponsor|4:254.5 5|Elementary|4:264.5 6|Dope Beat|4:134.5 7|Remix for P Is Free|4:154.5 8|The Bridge Is Over|4:215 9|Super-Hoe|4:165 10|Criminal Minded|4:265
Good lord, Boogie Down Productions is one of the greatest groups to ever exist. KRS-One is one of the best and most knowledgeable MCs to ever touch the mic. He truly wants to educate the streets. So many rappers owe this album and KRS so much. If you listen to Criminal Minded you can hear how many people have been influenced by this, everyone from JLO to Action Bronson. “9mm Goes Bang” is one of those songs I can listen to 600 times in a row no matter what mood I’m in. It’s perfect. This is just one of the essential albums in any rap collection that you’ll find yourself playing all the time. It’s boom bap at its finest.
11. Live and Let Die (Produced by Sir Jinx & Kool G Rap unless noted) [Cold Chillin’ Records 1992]
1|Intro|0:40 —— 2|On the Run|4:405 So fucking good. 3|Live and Let Die|5:165 4|Crime Pays|2:175 5|Home Sweet Home|2:374.5-5 6|Train Robbery|4:134.5 7|No. 1 With a Bullet (feat. Big Daddy Kane)|2:365 They both bring out the best in each other. Neither go down without a fight. 8|Operation CB|4:285 9|Straight Jacket|3:11 (Produced by The Trackmasters) 5 10|Ill Street Blues|3:46 (Produced by The Trackmasters) 5 11|Go for Your Guns|4:374 12|Letters|3:405 Ridiculous. 13|’Nuff Said|2:474.5-5 14|Edge of Sanity|5:125 15|Fuck U Man|4:01 (Produced by The Trackmasters) 4 16|Still Wanted Dead or Alive|3:244 17|Two to the Head (feat. Bushwick Bill, Ice Cube & Scarface)|4:465
Kool G Rap is one of the best lyricists of all-time. His hard, commanding voice coupled with the lisp he has makes you have to listen to what he has to say, it also gives him the ability to rhyme shit other people never could. This is my favorite Kool G Rap & DJ Polo record because this is the most gangster rap album they put out and I love the production on this one. Kool G drops some of the best gangster storytelling tracks I’ve ever heard, most notably “On the Road,” which is a crime-filled story of what happened when he tried to run away with the mob’s money. It’s soo good. Also, Ice Cube’s verse on this album is one of the hardest verses you could imagine. Do yourself the favor and check out this underrated masterpiece from one of the best rap duos of all-time.
1|The Genesis|1:45—— 2|N.Y. State of Mind|4:54 (Produced by DJ Premier) 5 3|Life’s a Bitch (feat. AZ)|3:30 (Produced by L.E.S. & Nas) 5 4|The World Is Yours|4:50 (Produced by Pete Rock) 4.5 5|Halftime|4:20 (Produced by Large Professor) 5 6|Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)|4:08 (Produced by DJ Premier) 4.5-5 7|One Love|5:25 (Produced by Q-Tip) 5 8|One Time 4 Your Mind|3:18 (Produced by Large Professor) 5 9|Represent|4:12 (Produced by DJ Premier) 4.5-5 10|It Aint Hard to Tell|3:22 (Produced by Large Professor) 4.5-5
I don’t know how to start this shit. What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? Nas has never come anywhere close to this level again in his career, but honestly, how could he? This is the kind of album that can only happen once and it had to be at the exact right time and place. It’s damn near perfect and gets better the more you listen to it and the more you listen to what Nas is actually saying. Like Reasonable Doubt, except from a different perspective, this album tells the tales of the streets and what they can do to you. “NY State of Mind” will always be one of the best rap songs of all-time and to be honest, even though most people think it’s slightly weaker, “One Time 4 Your Mind” is one of my personal favorites on the album. I listen to that one nonstop. I cannot stress how good this album is.
1|Can’t Knock the Hustle [Produced by Knobody]|5:17 4.5-5 2|Politics as Usual [Produced by Ski]|3:41 5 3|Brooklyn’s Finest (feat. The Notorious B.I.G.)|4:37 4.5-5 I hate the fucking guy at the beginning but otherwise this song is fire. 4|Dead Presidents II [Produced by Ski]|4:28 4.5-5 5|Feelin’ It (feat. Mecca) [Produced by Ski|3:48 4.5-5 6|D’evils [Produced by DJ Premier]|3:33 5 7|22 Two’s [Produced by Ski]|3:29 5 8|Can I Live [Produced by Irv Gotti]|4:10 5 9|Ain’t No Nigga (feat. Foxy Brown) [Produced by Big Jaz]|4:02 4 It’s a solid song for sure, but compared to the rest of the album it is weak and it also interrupts the flow the album had going. 10|Friend or Foe [Produced by DJ Premier]|1:50 4 11|Coming of Age (feat. Memphis Bleek) [Produced by Clark Kent]|4:00 5 12|Cashmere Thoughts [Produced by Clark Kent]|2:57 4 13|Bring It On (feat. Big Jaz & Sauce Money) [Produced by DJ Premier]|5:01 4 14|Regrets [Produced by Peter Paniac]|4:32 5
Reasonable Doubt is seriously the Scarface of hip hop albums, except actually good. It defines the gangster genre of rap and is one of the most swagger-packed records ever released. Jay-Z completely changed up his style and flow from his early Jaz days and what you get is a slower, more laid back delivery packed with metaphors and brilliant storytelling techniques about what the street can make a man do. Besides a few semi-weak tracks it is like watching a great gangster movie and is a masterpiece of the genre. It was actually somewhat hard picking a favorite Jay album since he has had so much good shit over the years, constantly doing different things for the genre, but this one stands out as his most emotional, smart, and interesting album that demands the most relistens of any of his work. Anyone who acts like Jay-Z isn’t one of the best MCs ever is confused as to what makes an MC good. He’s done it all.
#16. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (Produced by J-Swift & The Pharcyde unless noted) [Delicious Vinyl 1992]
1|4 Better or 4 Worse (Interlude)|0:44—— 2|Oh Shit|4:225 3|It’s Jiggaboo Time (Skit)|1:26—— 4|4 Better or 4 Worse|5:054 5|I’m That Type of Nigga|5:154.5 6|If I Were President (Skit)|1:01—— 7|Soul Flower (Remix)|4:235 8|On the DL|4:284.5 9|Pack the Pipe (Interlude)|0:21—— 10|Officer|4:005 11|Ya Mama|4:215 12|Passing Me By|5:035 13|Otha Fish|5:22 (Produced by Slim Kid 3) 5 14|Quinton’s on the Way (Skit)|2:10—— 15|Pack the Pipe|5:044 16|Return of the B-Boy|3:394
The Pharcyde is unlike many other rap groups out there. They are about as fun and zany as it gets and the album’s title warns you of this. It really is a Bizarre Ride. The MCs have a good contrast from high-pitched to lower-pitch and have spastic and unique flows which creates an uneasy and unexpected feeling throughout each song similar to riding a roller coaster. Despite this, the album overall has a laid back vibe like a few kids are just rapping and passing around blunts, but the result is a hip hop classic. Pop this one on at a cook out or when you’re just chilling during the summer, it will work perfectly. “Passing Me By” is also a hip hop masterpiece and there’s definitely a reason Kanye calls this his favorite album ever.
#17. Creepin On Ah Come Up (Producers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, DJ Yella, DJ U-Neek, Rhythum D) [Ruthless Records 1994]
1|Intro|1:25 —— 2|Mr. Ouija|1:20 4.5 3|Thuggish Ruggish Bone|4:41 5 4|No Surrender|3:36 4.5 5|Down foe My Thang|4:48 5 6|Creepin on Ah Come Up|4:51 4.5 7|For tha Luve of $ (feat. Eazy-E)|4:32 5 8|Moe Cheese|4:33 ——
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony is one of my all-time favorite rap groups. Not all of their catalog is amazing, but especially with this EP and their follow-up, E. 1999 Eternal, it is classic shit. No one sounds like Bone Thugs, they invented their own style of rapping with ridiculous speed and precision while mixing singing and harmonizing vocals into it with ease. The production is dark and grimy and it perfectly compliments their styles and lyrical content of crime and making paper. I didn’t want to try to include any EPs on this list, but this is just too good and each song is amazing, most notably “For tha Luve of $.” Eazy-E’s verse on this takes simplistic rhyming to the next level but I love it. I cannot help but rap it every time the song is on. “Motthaaaa Fuckaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh”
#18. Check Your Head (Produced by Beastie Boys & Mario Caldato, Jr.) [Grand Royal 1992]
1|Jimmy James|3:144 2|Funky Boss|1:353.5 3|Pass the Mic|4:165 4|Gratitude|2:454 5|Lighten Up|2:414.5 6|Finger Lickin’ Good|3:394.5 7|So What’cha Want?|3:365 8|The Biz-vs-The Nuge|0:335 9|Time for Livin’|1:484 10|Something’s Got to Give|3:274.5 Fucking reminds me of a funkier “Planet Caravan” by Black Sabbath. 11|The Blue Nun|0:32—— 12|Stand Together|2:474.5 13|POW|2:133.5 14|The Maestro|2:525 15|Groove Holmes|2:33 —— 16|Live at P.J.’s|3:185 17|Mark on the Bus|1:054.5 So fun. 18|Professor Booty|4:125 19|In 3’s|2:23—— 20|Namasté|4:014
I had trouble even including Beastie Boys on a hip hop list because they honestly transcend the genre. They mix so many different genres, sounds, and are constantly changing their style even within the same album. I also had a hard time picking my favorite album by them, I love their first five albums so much. This one just happens to be my favorite and the one I go back to the most. It was the first Beastie Boys release in the 90s and defined a certain 90s sound and style for me. The way the album was recorded sounds raw and gritty and has many imperfections, which is what makes it stand out so much. MCA and Mike D bounce off each other splendidly and it’s always a joy to listen to them feed one another lines and go back and forth within the same verses. They are unlike any other rappers, but both are very talented and drop some ridiculous lines that no one else could think up. Some of the songs have a hardcore punk sound, some sound like early Rage Against the Machine, some sound like reggae, and some just have the sound that only Beastie Boys could create. The production on this album is insane, so many samples from different genres, loud booming bass, instrumentation, DJ scratching, it’s just fucking ridiculous and there’s not much more that can be said about them or this album other than it’s a classic and a must own for fans of music.
Such a sad coincidence that MCA just passed away today. I could not be sadder and really am tearing up thinking about it. He was truly a legend and without him hip hop (and music in general) would not be the same.
#19. Season of da Siccness (Producer Kevin Mann, Phonk Beta) [Black Market Records 1995] 1|Cusche Break|0:18 —— 2|Siccmade|3:454 3|Dead Man|0:52 —— 4|Rest in Piss|4:415 5|Get da Baby|0:35 —— 6|Return of da Baby|4:135 7|Locc 2 da Brain|5:275 8|Q-Ball|1:07 —— 9|Liquor Sicc|5:214 10|40 Break|1:14 —— 11|Datz Real Gangsta|2:334 12|Deep Down|6:504 13|Dead Man Walking|3:334.5 14|781 Redrum|0:47 —— 15|Season of da Siccness|3:535 16|Welcome 2 Your Own Death|5:195 17|Real Loccs|4:15 —— 18|Inhale With da Devil|2:23 ——
I fucking love how absurd and ridiculous Bortha Lynch is and his constant slow-down, speed-up flow is fantastic. He is one of the forefathers of the horrorcore genre and one of the best. The only flaw of this album is the ridiculous amount of unneeded skits. In fact, in my iTunes I even deleted all the skits. All the actual songs on the album are hilarious, dark, and fucked up. The beats are dark and spooky creating a really creepy atmosphere to the whole album and as ridiculous as the album is, Brotha Lynch is a scary mother fucker. You get the impression that there is some truth to a lot of what he is saying. This has endless replay value and I still rock it often. A must have album in everyone’s collection.
#20. Runaway Slave (Produced by Showbiz and Diamond D) [Payday Records 1992]
1|Still Diggin’ (feat. Diamond D)|3:42 5 2|Fat Pockets|3:37 5 3|Bounce ta This (feat. Dres)|3:50 4.5 4|More Than One Way Out of the Ghetto|4:28 5 5|Silence of the Lambs (Remix)|4:49 5 6|40 Acres and My Props|4:18 4.5 7|Runaway Slave|4:50 4.5 8|Hard to Kill (feat. Diamond D)|5:12 4.5 9|Hold Ya Head|4:35 4 10|He Say, She Say|4:18 11|Represent (feat. Big L, Deshawn & Lord Finesse)|5:53 5 “Cuz phony faggots I froze, it’s a fact, I flip fast on foes with fabulous fantastic flows. L is the rebel type, I’m rough as a metal pipe, fuck a benz, cuz I could pull skins on a pedal-bike. Props, I got the most, no MC comes close, coast-to-coast, shows I host, foes I roast, adios, I’m ghost…” 12|Silence of the Lambs|5:07 4.5 13|Party Groove (Bass Mix)|3:19 4 14|Soul Clap (Short Version) (feat. Diamond D)|4:01 5 15|Catchin’ Wreck|4:15 4.5 16|Party Groove (Instrumental)|3:17 (don’t rate instrumentals or skits)
Showbiz and A.G. are two dudes from the D.I.T.C. crew and they dropped a classic in 1992. It’s a sign of what was to come later from that crew, especially the Big L verse on “Represent,” which is possibly the best verse on the album and an absolute classic hip hop track. This is just some excellent braggadocious boom bap from New York. If you haven’t noticed yet, I lean more toward jazz-infused hip hop and hardcore boom bap over other hip hop subgenres. Showbiz is a great producer that truly found some gems while he was digging in the crates. A.G. is a great MC with a really commanding voice and honest inflections. He’s got a great flow and has all he needs to back up his claim he is one of the best to grab the mic. Showbiz also raps and is fantastic, which doesn’t happen to often with producer + rapper combos.
#21. Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (Produced by Butterfly) [Pendulum Records 1993]
1|It’s Good to Be Here|5:065 2|Pacifics|4:315 3|Where I’m From|4:355 4|What Cool Breezes Do|3:213.5 5|Time & Space (A New Refutation Of)|3:325 6|Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)|4:215 7|Last of the Spiddyocks|4:274 8|Jimmi Diggin’ Cats|3:415 9|La Femme Fetal|4:353 10|Escapism (Gettin’ Free)|3:244.5 11|Appointment at the Fat Clinic|2:583.5 12|Nickel Bags|3:184.5 13|Swoon Units|4:004 14|Examination of What?|4:445
Digable Planets released two great albums in the early 90s, but this one is my favorite of the two. It features a couple weak songs, but the strong tracks way outweigh the weak ones, and as a whole, the entire sound/experience is fantastic. Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug Mecca all have unique vocal delivers that flow with their smooth jazz-influenced beats and compliment each other well. They aren’t super technical, but their sound is like butter and their lyrics have interesting political leanings. I can say without a doubt that no album flows as smooth as this. Think of that feeling of being incredibly thirsty and taking a nice swig of Coke, that’s Reachin’ defined. It is poetry in a small jazz club. It results in endless snapping and head-bobbing. I put this album on any time I want to relax. “Rebirth of Slick” is one of my favorite songs ever recorded.
If you like any of the following you will love me: film, Chloe Sevigny, VHS, The Criterion Collection, The Simpsons, Harmony Korine, horror, Nickelodeon, Jean-Luc Godard, tattoos, Degrassi, music, Pogs, and kingly shit.
I also run VHShitfest, a review blog for terrible movies viewed solely on VHS. Go follow that shit! And add me on Facebook. I run yet another VHS-related blog, VHS Is the Best. Also, my newly made Tumblr to showcase my love of Pogs, Pogs Are the Best.
Please click the picture below to donate to my feature-length VHS documentary. I need all the help I can get to help finish this!