The Top 20 NYC Rap Albums of All Time: 20 - 11

Categories: Hip-Hop, Lists

16. The Beastie Boys
Licensed To Ill (1986)
Paul's Boutique may be hailed as the Beastie's hippest album, complete with its Lower East Side store title prank, but 1986's Licensed To Ill was the attention-grabbing record that launched the disorderly trio of Ad Rock, Mike D, and MCA as cheap-beer-swilling rap menaces to the world. Overseen by bearded maestro Rick Rubin, the record is a brilliantly gruff experience as monstrous beats are paired with nods to rock riffs and punk 'tude. Songs like "The New Style" and "Slow And Low" come off as winningly raw and prove that most times rap doesn't need to be much more than some tough beats and a bunch of rappers trading rhymes and cock-sure flows. At times Licensed To Ill kicks things deliberately uncouth -- "I grabbed two girlies and a beer that's cold!" -- but that's part of the charm of an album that endures as a better late-night dive bar soundtrack than anything else on this list. -- Phillip Mlynar

15. EPMD
Strictly Business (1988)
Eric Sermon raps like he looks, half asleep. Parrish too: smooth, but with palpable hints of undeniable anger. And it was often that odd combo that made EPMD (Eric and Parrish Makin' Dollars) such a unique and exciting duo, the two finishing one another's sentences in the Beastie mold, but with a finesse the trio lacked. On their 1988 debut, Strictly Business, they managed many a miracle, not the least of which was turning a sample of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle" into the backbone of a viable rap track on "You're a Customer." But the whole album soars, and on top of the aforementioned "Customer," "Strictly Business," "You Gots To Chill," and "Let the Funk Flow" are all break out songs. Even the silly would-be dance craze that never was, "The Steve Martin," was unabashed fun, laying down the law for how Otis Redding samples should be utilized in hip-hop. "Time keeps on slippin'," but Strictly Business remains vital. -- Brian McManus

14. De La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
A Tribe Called Quest may have gotten all the accolades over the years for being hip-hop's jazziest innovators, but we shouldn't forget that their fellow Native Tongues crew members De La Soul were the ones who initially broke free from rap's ghettofied conventions. On their 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising, this trio of Long Island bohos - Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove (later just Dave) and DJ Maseo - laid down quirky rhymes ("Potholes in My Lawn," anyone?) over beats provided by the great Prince Paul, who proved that songs from Hall & Oates, Steely Dan and the Turtles (who notoriously sued De La Soul for their song-jacking) had samples that were just as worthy as the average James Brown break. De La Soul may have been seen as hip-hop hippies, creating music for "the D.A.I.S.Y. age" (that's "da inner sound, y'all"), but they were the first to think outside of the box in the hip-hop arena. -- Craig D. Lindsey

13. Jay Z
Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Jay-Z's debut album could have very well been ripped from the minds of Scorsese or De Palma with its gangster bravado and illicit chaos. As much a protégé of Biggie as he was his contemporary, Jay-Z had an uncanny ability to breathe dimension into gritty rhymes with his quick wit and lyrical dexterity. But real Gs move in silence and unlike his peers, Jay was markedly the quiet hustler, never quite removing the veil even on introspective tracks like "Regrets" and "Can I Live" ("It gets tedious / So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S/ Ya see me stressed right? Can I live?"). Amid a remarkably prolific career that has spanned nearly two decades, Reasonable Doubt is still considered Jay-Z's magnum opus (and not even bringing the Nets to Brooklyn can top that). -- Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Sponsor Content

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault