40 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear

There a fair share of masterpieces out there, but there’s a special place in our heart for these 40 landmark hip-hop albums.

You can also check the list out on pinterest and hear it on youtube!

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear illmatic

Nas - Illmatic

“I made it for other rappers, I made it for other MCs, I made it for other hip-hop groups. I made it for artists, singers, people in the arts – that’s who I made it for.” Nas

Essential Track: NY State of Mind

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Doggystyle

Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle

“I don’t believe I’ve ever listened to the whole album and I’m being honest with you. I may have listened to songs, but I’ve never listened to it top to botttom.” Snoop Dogg

Essential Track: Who Am I? (What’s My Name)?

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To HearYo! Bum Rush the Show

Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush The Show

“My memories of that great time are of great competition and innovation and performance in hip hop. You couldn’t just repeat what the last man did, you had to better them in your own name, your style…” Chuck D

Essential Track: Miuzi Weights a Ton

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

Slick Rick - The Great Adventures Of...

“When I was going to school, I used to like to tell and write stories. When rap came out, it was basically the same thing… I guess with the accent it helped, it made me stand out a little bit. Plus, the schooling system in England is a lot better.” Slick Rick

Essential Track: Children’s Story

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear no one can do it better

The D.O.C. - No One Can Do It Better

“That was one take. I begged Dre for 3 months to make that beat. When it came on, it just sounded Jamaican and I just spit that shit. At the end I said ‘I can do it better.’ Dre was like, ‘Fuck that! I’m not changing none of that shit.'” The D.O.C.

Essential Track: It’s Funky Enough

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Buhloone Mindstate

De La Soul - Buhloone Mind State

“We had been through the ‘machine,’ I think we were truly burnt out.” Trugoy the Dove

Essential Track: Ego Trippin’

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear the score

Fugees - The Score

“An audio film. It’s like how radio was back in the 1940s. It tells a story, and there are cuts and breaks in the music. It’s almost like a hip-hop version of ‘Tommy’, like what The Who did for rock music…” Lauryn Hill

Essential Track: Fu-Gee-La

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear raising hell

Run-D.M.C.- Raising Hell

“The reason why we were making the rock/rap music is because we were rhyming over rock beats in the park!” D.M.C.

Essential Track: Peter Piper

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear mama said knock you out

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out

“The music with elevate and evolve naturally as long as the different group stay creative and innovate” LL Cool J

Essential Track: To da Break of Dawn

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Breaking Atoms

Main Source - Breaking Atoms

“It’s years later now and a lot of people say ‘I’ts a classic, a legend” and all of that, but in those times it didn’t even go gold. It was cool thought, we got our point across and it did get out there.” Large Professor

Essential Track: Live At The Barbeque

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear paid in full

Eric B & Rakim - Paid In Full

“Back in the day, music imitated life. Now it’s the opposite way around: life is imitating music. It’s like whatever the rappers say, people think that that’s how we’re supposed to be; but back then, we kind of looked at the streets, and we made music for that.” Rakim

Essential Track: My Melody

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Enter 36 chambers

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter 36 Chambers

“I try to make albums like movies, man.” RZA

Essential Track: C.R.E.A.M.

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear regulate

Warren G - Regulate...G Funk Era

“G-Funk still got a little bit of a hard edge, but makes you feel good at the same time. I want something like that, so you can ride in the sunset on PCH. You can smoke to it, barbeque, get your groove on. It feels good.” Warren G

Essential Track: This D.J

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear jazzmatazz

Guru - Jazzmatazz

“I decided I would step up as a pioneer of that era where we sampled jazz I was like, ‘ok I’m going to go and get the actual jazz cats who we sample and get them to come into the studio and jam to some hip hop.” Guru

Essential Track: No Time To Play

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear radio

LL Cool J - Radio

“Rick Rubin gave me my break. Adrock from the Beastie Boys heard the demo I sent them and afterwards I went down to Russell Simmons’ dorm at N.Y.U. and met with him, let them hear me out. And they formed Def Jam and put my first record out!”

Essential Track: Rock The Bells

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Licensed To Ill

Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill

“It changed everything… Nobody even knew how to do that stuff. During the making of Licensed to Ill, the sampler got developed. Everything where it seems like a sample is either DJ’ed in with records, or a tape loop around the studio, which was kind of cumbersome and complicated. Sampling didn’t really exist yet.” Rick Rubin

Essential Track: Fight For Your Right

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear the chronic

Dr.Dre - The Chronic

“I needed a record to come out because I was broke. I didn’t receive one fuckin’ quarter in the year of ’92, because Ruthless spent the year trying to figure out ways not to pay me so that I’d come back on my hands and knees. If I had to go back home living with my mom, that wasn’t going to happen.” Dr.Dre

Essential Track: Nuthin But a ‘G’ Thang

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear It Takes a Nation of Millions

Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

“Is it radical? What’s being said aside, it’s radical simply because it’s faster than anything on the radio right now. And yeah, it’s radical politically. The message is radical today because it’s not really being said a lot. You want it to not be radical, but it is because it’s totally different from Soulja Boy.” Chuck D

Essential Track: Rebel Without A Pause

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear in control

Marley Marl - In Control Vol.1

“I never had any chains, those in the cover are Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap’s. I borrowed those for the shot… you see on the back cover, I don’t have any chains on, they have them on!” Marley Marl

Essential Track: The Symphony

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Like Water For Chocolate

Common - Like Water for Chocolate

“I have been driven by the spirit to make dance music: just not corny dance music. In fact the major difference with this album from any albums I’ve done is that I think this one has more music that you can dance to.” Common

Essential Track: A song for Assata

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear follow the leader

Eric B & Rakim - Follow The Leader

“I know that I had to get better and that I could’ve done the first album better, nah mean? If anything, I was more eager to show them, Yo, y’all ain’t even heard nothing yet…” Rakim

Essential Track: Follow The Leader

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear me against the world

2Pac - Me Against The World

“Everything in life is not all beautiful, not all fun. To me, a perfect album talks about the hard stuff and the fun and caring stuff. What I want to know, though, is why everybody’s acting like gangs are some new phenomenon in this country. Everyone is affiliated with some kind of gang: the FBI, the ATF, the police departments, the religious groups, the Democrats and the Republicans.” Tupac Shakur

Essential Track: So Many Tears

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear People's Instinctive Travels

ATCQ - People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

“There are so many positive experiences that I can not single out one as the most positive. There have been times when fans tell me that our music has helped them through a difficult period in their life. Hearing that is always touching. It makes me feel like all the struggles & difficulties we overcame to get our music out there served a purpose for the greater good.” Ali Shaheed Muhammed

Essential Track: Can I Kick It?

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Criminal Minded

Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded

“We were under a certain hip-hop principle… Roxanne Shante was battling UTFO, MC Shan was battling LL Cool J… Salt ‘N Pepa was battling Doug E. Fresh – and here I come, answering MC Shan. It was the whole answer record era. So we were answering each other, not on a beef, ‘I’m gonna shoot you’, but out of competition.” KRS-One

Essential Track: South Bronx

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear black sunday

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday

“I wanted Cypress to do some Rock stuff on Black Sunday. Once we got a chance to write with Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth on the Judgment Night o.s.t, I saw the reaction that people had behind it, I was like, ‘At one point here, we’re going to have to take this chance and this risk and go Rock and Metal.’ It worked out good.” B Real

Essential Track: Hits From The Bong

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear mecca soul brother

Pete Rock & CL Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother

“Once you make a path, you go beyond it and you try to elevate and go up the steps until you reach the top.” CL Smooth

Essential Track: They Reminisce Over You

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear eazy duz it

Eazy-E - Eazy Duz It

“With this, he made it ok for all artists to be themselves; you don’t have to put up all the front. You can be as hardcore as you want to be and still make money like the bubblegum, pop stars and be just as famous as the bubblegum pop artists who have to put on a facade to be that.” Ice Cube

Essential Track: We Want Eazy

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear fear of a black planet

Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet

“Incident At 66.6 FM’ was actually a live radio interview that I did at WNBC in New York before a show we did with Run-DMC at Nassau Coliseum. Those people you hear in the record actually called the station. So it was people routing for us and people routing against us. I took that and pieced it together and made a whole song about it.” Chuck D

Essential Track: 911 Is A Joke

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear reachin'

Digable Planets - Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

“We got into the rap business and music business at a time when it still had to be original; it was more about the music. Then it started to be more economic, more material, and that disillusioned us. Being young and everything like that, we just sort of copped out. Because we weren’t really the industry types; it wasn’t really like that for us, so we didn’t feel like we were losing out on things.” Butterfly

Essential Track: Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Step In the Arena

Gang Starr - Step In the Arena

“What we like to do is bring about something different but on the same subject of what a lot of other brothers is talking about in their records. But as far as styles, I use jazz, country, whatever. It doesn’t matter. I’ll use sounds from the grass if it sounds good…” DJ Premier

Essential Track: Check the Technique

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear the main ingredient

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - The Main Ingredient

“We wanted to spread ourselves out a little bit and get a wider audience besides the ghetto folks… and give them a grasp of what we’re about.” CL Smooth

Essential Track: I Get Physical

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear

Stetsasonic - In Full Gear

“Originally our style, believe it or not, ’79 through ’81, was called “Gangster-Rock.” Nobody in Brooklyn was harder in those years…” Daddy-O

Essential Track: Talking All That Jazz

40 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear bdp ghetto music

Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music

“Intelligence sells, but it takes longer to sell than sex and violence.” KRS-One

Essential Track: Jack of Spades

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear a prince among thieves

Prince Paul - A Prince Among Thieves

“I’m gonna do what people wouldn’t expect me to do, even though they expect me to do the unexpected!” Prince Paul

Essential Track: Weapon World

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton

“NWA are reporting what’s going on in our town and the things we’re describing – the fighting, the poverty, the drug selling – aren’t fairy tales or scenes from a movie. This is our reality and that’s why we’re respected by the kids on the street. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the projects of Chicago or New Orleans, they can still relate to what we’re talking about because our messages are clear and to the point” Ice Cube

Essential Track: Fuck The Police

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear 3 Feet High and Rising

De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising

“It was fun, because we didn’t have any idea what we were doing. A lot of incredible moments on the album were mistakes, and we were like ‘Okay, just leave it.’ I’d make a joke about something and Paul would say, ‘No, try it.’ It was a lot of fun, and we learned a lot from Paul: We knew we could try anything, because at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work, you can scrap it. We learned to respect each other’s ideas.” Posdnuos

Essential Track: Say No Go

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear Strictly Business

EPMD - Strictly Business

“You never fast-forward though an EMPD album…nor none of the albums made back then neither.” Erick Sermon

Essential Track: You Gots to Chill

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear amerikkka's most wanted

Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted

“I have a lot of milestones that I’m proud of when it comes to music, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, I’m extremely proud of that. I was passionate about what I was fighting for, which was, I had refused to just be in the music industry if I knew that I wasn’t getting what I deserved. I rather quit than to be that kind of artist. I’m just glad everything worked out. And it’s still working out.” Ice Cube

Essential Track: Turn Off The Radio

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear ready to die

The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die

“I wanted people to look at me like, ‘Look at Big. He grew. He’s movin’ up. He’s not the same robbin’ ’em for the ‘Mom-pendant’-dude no more!'” The Notorious B.I.G.

Essential Track: Juicy

50 Hip-Hop Albums You Need To Hear madvillainy

Madvillain - Madvillainy

“We do music for the love of it. If it happens to be considered hip-hop, you know, then let it be considered hip-hop. It would be raw regardless.” MF Doom

Essential Track: Raid