Top 10 Best Rap Albums of All Time

The Top Ten
1 Illmatic - Nas

It isn't necessarily the message in the album, even though the messages are deeply inspiring. It's the flows that Nas brings when he speaks in this album. Each cut seems to always bring a lyrical synchronism unlike any other album I've ever heard. It's been over 20 years, and this album still has some of the most lyrically colorful combinations of bars in the history of rap. The craziest part is that he did this in 1994 when nobody had ever heard of this kind of synchronizing of words and melody in the history of music.

Not to mention, Nas was 19 years old when he created this piece, along with intellectually stimulating lyrics that continue to make you wonder, Whose world is this? throughout time. This is the craziest rap album of all time because it's simple, not over the top, yet it grows on you and never, ever gets old because it's straight, 100% real. And, at the end of the day, isn't that how the rap game is supposed to be exemplified? How real things can be? No, Nas killed it in 1994, and he'll keep killing it until 3094.

2 The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem

Everyone can say what they want about Eminem just because he is white. However, this album is a masterpiece. Each song is shockingly brilliant and simply incredible.

Stan is one of the greatest stories I have ever heard in a song. Songs like Criminal, Who Knew, and The Way I Am are classics that tell all his critics and haters to shut up and listen to what he has to say.

He made this album with no fear, and that is what makes it so special. It seems that people don't like a white guy being at the top of rap, but that's just the way it is.

3 Ready to Die - The Notorious B.I.G.

This is what hip-hop rap is all about. All the songs are just over the top. This album changed the game and the East-West beef. Long Kiss Goodnight pushed it to a level in hip-hop that will never be reached again. Puff's outro took it beyond beef. All the tracks came out on the radio. This is the only album that has done that to this level.

Illmatic from Nas is the original greatest album. This isn't just an album. It's the gospel of hip-hop. The murders of 'Pac and Biggie changed not just the game, but the world. This album is forever the best album ever made. His storytelling, his delivery, his heart was on display. His life and his death are in this album. It's not just an album. It's the man in words.

It's a thin line between love and hate. Love it or hate it, this debate is over. As Rick Flair said, To be the man, you have to beat the man. The man is dead and took the title with him.

4 Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wu-Tang Clan

I go back and forth between this, Illmatic, and Ready To Die for that top hip-hop album. After at least 25 listens of each, I'm convinced this is it. Illmatic might've had the bigger impact, but this was the blueprint for unique production techniques and posses that would later form. Plus, just about every MC here went on to have big solo success, so yeah.

This album is exhilarating from beginning to end. I've heard Ready To Die and Illmatic multiple times, and the same can't be said for them.

Amazing group of rappers. All did an amazing job on this album, making it one of the greatest rap albums of all time!

5 To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

Nothing compares to the depth, meaning, and complexity of To Pimp A Butterfly. The album is filled with various concepts and philosophies in its lyrics, and there is an intricate reason behind every single beat and rhythm. This is not just a rap album. It is a sublime piece of artwork, a masterful story, and a movement all in one.

Kendrick Lamar delves into the depths of his own life, society, Lucifer, and the people around him. The multiple genres of sound are all used for meaningful reasons. The number of concepts and messages he explores is unfathomable. Honestly, no other album can come close to this legendary work.

There is just far too much to discuss regarding this album. One can only go, listen, and learn for themselves. This is the greatest album of all time. No question.

6 All Eyez on Me - 2Pac

This was the White Album of rap: seminal, angry, and just a pure faucet for Pac to spill all of his thoughts after being locked up for months. Some of his other albums may have been more like Bob Dylan - poetic and succinct in their social commentary. But no other album captures a Shakespearean moment more than this one.

Yes, California Love may be too overplayed, but it's played for a reason. All the influences from Snoop to George Clinton on this make it the top rap album of all time. And it's not even close, in my humble opinion.

7 The Chronic - Dr. Dre

The Chronic changed everything in the rap game from a musical and production standpoint. Most rappers today were probably not born at the time this album dropped. It's a true classic album that should be number 1.

It is literally the smoothest, yet hardest album I've ever heard. It's just funk mixed with classic hardcore hip-hop. Nobody does it like Dre. This should be number 1.

This one, in my opinion, should be in the top 3. From track 1 to the last, it's all good. Everybody I know likes this album. I don't know why it's ranked so low.

8 Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A.

This is an album that changed history. It was one of the only albums that had a parental advisory sticker at the time. It was also the first group to ever say the police. Many people can agree that this is one of the greatest rap albums of all time.

With songs like Straight Outta Compton, The Police, Gangsta Gangsta, Express Yourself, and 8-Ball, these are some of the best rappers of all time. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E are great examples.

The first time I heard this album, it blew my mind! Almost 30 years later, it continues to outshine any competition. How this is not number one will always amaze me. Even today, you can hear the influence this album has had on modern music.

9 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West

Here are my thoughts on all the songs:

Dark Fantasy - An underrated song that introduces the themes of the album and perfectly illustrates the mix of previous Ye albums.

Gorgeous - The second most underrated song on here. It's beautiful and very smooth.

POWER - Two words: King Crimson.

All of the Lights - Rare opinion: I hate this song. It's way too pretentious in my opinion, and way too poppy.

Monster - I hate Nicki's music, but her verse on this is possibly the best verse on the album.

So Appalled - A very haunting track with nice use of samples.

Devil in a New Dress - The best song on the album. Not "Runaway." Similar to the last song, but on steroids.

Runaway - I don't even need to explain this one.

Hell of a Life - Nice song, but the synths sound like farts. Also, auto-tuned Black Sabbath? Really?

Blame Game - A song that makes me cry (at the beginning), but goes on a bit too long.

Lost in the World - A super depressing dance track that features nice use of a Bon Iver sample.

This album is an 8.5/10 to me. It's really amazing.

10 The Eminem Show - Eminem

Not only is this Eminem's best, but this is the greatest rap album ever. The five singles from this album are the following: Without Me, Cleanin' Out My Closet, Superman, Sing for the Moment, and Business. All are among his best songs and have countless outstanding lines, especially Without Me and Superman, which are filled with poetic genius.

The album also features notable songs not released as singles, including Square Dance, Say Goodbye Hollywood, and Hailie's Song. Another song not released as a single on this album is Till I Collapse, which I believe is the greatest song of all time to never have been released as a single. Eminem was at his best on this album.

The Contenders
11 good kid, m.A.A.d. city - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar showcases some of the best storytelling in hip-hop within 12 tracks. The story starts with him borrowing his mom's van and takes us through a day in his life in Compton. He covers everything from having freestyle sessions with his friends to being pressured into smoking and drinking. The most powerful track is Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst, which has a long runtime but is peak hip-hop and a contender for the best rap song ever.

This album is so consistent. It's the only album where every song is a hit. The lyrics flow so well, and the story they tell is a masterpiece mix of memories, struggles, and goals. This album has a bonus track that also includes all amazing songs. From Backseat Freestyle, to Poetic Justice, to Real, this is hands down the best album of the 2000s and one of the greatest albums of all time.

12 Life After Death - The Notorious B.I.G.

Why is this ranked so low? This is considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time. It is one of only seven rap albums to be certified Diamond, selling over 10 million copies, yet it can't even make the top 10.

The Notorious B.I.G.'s second and final studio album was completed before his death. With singles like "Hypnotize," "Mo Money Mo Problems," and "Sky's The Limit," this album features top-ten hits. Other great songs on this album include "Ten Crack Commandments," "Kick in the Door," "Going Back to Cali," and "You're Nobody Till Somebody Kills You."

It even beat Puff Daddy's "No Way Out" album to get a Grammy nomination. How can this not make the Top Ten?

13 Me Against the World - Tupac

All Eyez On Me over Me Against The World? That's a lie. I beg to differ because Me Against The World is lyrically consistent, unlike All Eyez On Me. This album shows Tupac at his prime and wasn't rushed like All Eyez On Me. In one of the most controversial years of his life, he still dropped one of the greatest albums hip-hop has to offer, and that's saying something.

Come on, All Eyez on Me over this? Please. No disrespect to All Eyez on Me because it is a great album, but it has more filler than my mother's stomach. Me Against the World is Pac at his best. He was also in one of the worst places in his life, but that gave way to amazing music. The only track that I would consider even slightly mediocre is Outlaws.

14 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back - Public Enemy

This was back before political rap went off track. Personally, I think it's gotten out of hand. Chuck D was brilliant at getting his message across without trying to be controversial. This might be thought of as criticism, but it's praise for not trying to stir up the media into giving them free promotion. The quality of this album speaks for itself.

This is it, people. I know there's a separation between fans of old rap and modern rap, but give this a listen. It's good to know where your music came from.

15 The Low End Theory - A Tribe Called Quest

This definitely should be high up on this list. Tribe were the pioneers of making positive and socially conscious rap, and so many countless rappers were influenced by this album. Not to mention, this album introduced the world to the legendary Busta Rhymes!

I won't say any particular album is the greatest of all time, but you're telling me any Biggie or Tupac record is greater than The Low End Theory? Are you crazy? Amazing album from front to back, amazing flow from Tip and Phife, and priceless beats by A.S. Muhammad. Top 5 of all time in my book!

16 Reasonable Doubt - Jay-Z

This is the best rap album, period. From the production of the instrumentals to the connection between the songs and their fluidity together, it makes up one whole "movie." The sincerity and emotion in the lyrics, the intelligence of the rapper and featured artists, the elegance of the delivery on every song on the album, and the truthful element it contains about Jay's life as a drug dealer or hustler all contribute.

Unlike most albums, it's not just a collection of singles pieced together with no connection or flow from one song to the next. This album will make you feel like you are from Brooklyn, no matter where you are from. It speaks for everyone struggling and trying hard to make a living. This is what rap is all about, added to the guilty conscience that Jay has because of his dealings in drugs.

"D'Evils," "Politics as Usual," "Can I Live," "Regrets," and "Dead Presidents" are definitely the top tracks.

17 Madvillainy - Madvillain

There is no hip-hop album that has ever been released quite like this one. MF Doom has a totally unique flow and is easily one of the greatest wordsmiths not only in hip-hop history but in music history.

You could read any verse of his at all, and it will blow your mind. Then there's Madlib, who, thanks to his incredibly vast knowledge of music, makes some of the most beautifully abstract instrumentals ever. I could go into great detail about every individual track because they're all fantastic, but I can't. You just have to experience it for yourself.

18 Liquid Swords - GZA

Lyrically, this is one of the greatest albums ever made. I'd go so far as to say it's as good (if not better) than Illmatic, lyrically, of course. However, the Wu-Tang style is not for everyone, and it definitely took me a while to begin appreciating Liquid Swords.

This is what turns people off about this album. It's not like anything you usually hear out of a rap song (unless you've listened to Wu-Tang). That being said, if you give this album, say, three or four complete listens, then you will realize why this needs to be at the top. Is it the greatest album of all time? No, it's too stylistic for people's taste and very different from any genre of rap/hip-hop. However, I'd take this over big albums like The Chronic or Me Against the World.

19 Paid in Full - Eric B. & Rakim

Without this album, we would never have had most of the albums listed above. Eric B is one of the best DJs of all time, combined with one of the best rappers of all time. Every song on the album is incredible, from start to finish.

Some people might not like the beats anymore because they are used to the way music is produced now. The imagery Rakim uses in every song on this album is unparalleled to anything I've ever heard. "Dance with the speaker till you hear it blow, then plug in the headphones because here it goes," has lots of double entendres. "Whoever's out of hand, I'm gonna give them handles, light them up, blow them out like candles, or should I just let them melt?"

He gives literal meanings to aspects you wouldn't normally think of, like breaking the word "inside" into different bars. Rhyming paragraphs with paragraphs, conveying a logical message, playing with syllables, and using math. He proves he "ain't no joke" to start off the album. "As the Rhyme Goes On" gets rougher as the rhyme goes on. I could go on forever, but this needs to be up. And it is child-friendly - I don't think there's a swear word to be heard once.

20 2001 - Dr. Dre

This should be way higher. Maybe it's one of the most well-produced albums of all time, along with The Chronic. Each song from top to bottom features amazing contributions, rapping, and production. This is especially impressive given that the album has over 20 songs and still manages to make every song enjoyable. It's a classic indeed.

It's ridiculous that this isn't at least in the top ten. 2001 contains some of the best and most popular songs in all of rap history and was an amazing recovery by Dre. With awesome artists like Eminem and Snoop Dogg also giving it their all, I loved Still D.R.E, which is one of the best rap songs in history, as well as Forgot About Dre. It's sad that 2001 isn't higher.

21 Raising Hell - Run DMC

This disc was far too influential to be left out of the top 25. It introduced early hip-hop to people who wouldn't have heard the genre otherwise.

22 The Slim Shady LP - Eminem

Of all of Eminem's mainstream albums, why is this last? Why are Recovery, Encore, and Relapse above this? This was Eminem at his most shocking and very funny. This is easily his most underrated album. Also, the guy who voted for The Carter I and said, "The Carter 3 should be #1 easily. Because Eminem never got a good album like this. This album goes hard just like the rest of Lil Wayne's. Eminem only has like 1 or 2 good albums, whereas Lil Wayne has like 10. Lil Wayne = Best rapper alive," needs to sit down.

23 The College Dropout - Kanye West

Superb album from start to finish. There's no dip in quality. The songs and skits are brilliant. The best part is probably the last three songs, and Last Call is a great ending.

This is probably the best list overall on this site, even if there's too much love for Eminem, as always.

Not only was this a good album, but it was also funny! The skits and some of the lyrics had me laughing out loud, something I didn't know I could expect from a rap album. Not only is this one of Kanye's best works, but it's definitely a memorable album, period.

24 Doggystyle - Snoop Doggy Dogg

Possibly the best hip-hop album ever made. Near-perfect lyrics and nearly perfect production. All around, a perfect album. This album also introduced and perfected the G-Funk sound that was created on Dr. Dre's The Chronic.

This album showcased Snoop Doggy Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Nate Dogg (Rest in Peace, Nathaniel Hale), Lady of Rage, Kurupt, and Warren G all at their best. This album graced us with tracks such as Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None) (my favorite song ever), Gin and Juice, Pump Pump, Gz and Hustlaz, Doggy Dogg World, The Shiznit, Murder Was the Case, and Snoop's magnum opus, What's My Name? (Who Am I?). All of which are near-perfect songs.

This album is a near-perfect experience and uses every minute of its length to near-perfect use. 10/10 album.

25 Get Rich or Die Tryin - 50 Cent

Good production and good executive production. I understand that without 50 Cent, this album wouldn't be like this. However, the lyrics are crap.

This isn't aimed at people who like good stories, good rhymes, or a reasonable flow. This is aimed at the party people, people who like the production, the message, the choruses. So maybe top 100, but not even top 50 for me.

There's a reason this album sold over 10 million copies. It is amazing. 50 Cent raps like he is already on top of the rap game.

This, combined with Dr. Dre's beautiful production, makes for one of the best, if not the best, albums of the 2000s. Who in the world hasn't heard In the Club?

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