Top 5 Pre-2000 Hip Hop Albums


Ah, the good old days, back when hip hop was REAL! Groundbreaking, socially conscious, politically charged-- all ways to describe rap’s Golden Age. Choosing only five was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, but we, at least, feel confident that all five of our selections are all-time classics and worthy of their inclusion on our list

1) Nas - Illmatic

Nas - Illmatic album
  • Features multi-syllabic internal rhymes and inner-city narratives based on Nas's experiences in Queensbridge
  • Production was handled by Nas, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S., and DJ Premier
  • In 2001 it earned platinum certification from RIAA
  • Landmark album in East Coast hip hop
  • Album remains one of the most widely celebrated albums in hip hop history

2) De La Soul - De La Soul is Dead

De La Soul - De La Soul is Dead album
  • One of the first to receive a five mic rating in The Source
  • Pitchfork Media ranked it at #63 on their Best Albums of the 90s list
  • Rolling Stone ranked it at #87 on their Best Albums of the 90s list
  • Lyrics are heavily praised for their intelligence
  • The album's strength further stems from the production of Prince Paul

3) Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded

Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded album
  • Considered a highly influential hip hop album
  • Credited with providing a prototype for the East Coast gangsta rap
  • Unusual samples from Reggae, to artists like Billy Joel and AC/DC
  • Included in Vibe's 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century
  • Ranked #444 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All-time

4) Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album
  • Hailed it for its production techniques and the socially & politically charged lyricism
  • Regarded by music writers as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time
  • Runaway choice as the best album of 1988 in The Village Voice‍
  • RIAA certified Platinum
  • Highest ranked hip hop album on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of All-Time list

5) GZA - Liquid Swords

GZA - Liquid Swords album
  • The best “Wu Tang” album (and there are many great ones!)
  • Received critical acclaim for its complex lyricism and hypnotic musical style
  • Heavily samples dialogue from the martial arts film Shogun Assassin
  • Ranked the 81st best album of all-time on Rate Your Music
  • “One of the most substantial lyrical journeys in hip-hop history”- Chicago Tribune

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