The Top 20 NYC Rap Albums of All Time: The Complete List

Categories: Hip-Hop

Liquid Swords560.jpg
Any list of the Greatest New York Rap Albums of All Time is, essentially, a list of simply the Greatest Rap Albums of All Time. The genre was invented here, after all, and over the years -- from early days to Golden Age and onward-- the city's hip-hop history has been an embarrassment of riches. Fashioning this list, then, was no easy task, and though some of the albums on it are of the "DUH" variety, a couple may surprise you. Here now, our list of the Top 20 NYC Rap Albums of All Time, the complete list.

20. 50 Cent
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
The coin drop. You know the one. Right off the top, before tape clicks and cues the building beat of "What Up Gangsta," 50 Cent makes his presence known--and it only takes a short seven second burst of sound. That's what 50 Cent does: He makes himself known. And with his debut studio album Get Rich Or Die Tryin', released in 2003, the rapper said hello to the entire world. Under the direction of Dr. Dre and Eminem, the record--which sold just under 900,000 copies in four days and has since been certified six-times platinum--has become a blueprint in how to create success in the rap game. It's also how 50 Cent became a name recognized by your grandpa. The lead singles "In da Club" and "21 Questions" are bouncy, radio-friendly jams, but tucked away are cuts that embody the attitude of the streets of 50's Jamaica, Queens. "Many Men (Wish Death)" carries obstinacy. "If I Can't" shows swag. "Heat" illustrates struggle. Get Rich's diversity of sound, combined with the rapper's mass appeal, speaks to 50 Cent's quality as a musician and a brand. -- Eric Sundermann

19. LL Cool J
Radio (1985)
Bursting onto the scene like a guy who knew he was poised to become a hip-hop legend, Kangol-hat wearing, Queens native James Todd Smith (better known as Ladies Love Cool James) rocked every kind of bell when he dropped his debut album Radio on Def Jam in 1985. Using minimal beats and scratches that were infamously "reduced" by future producing guru Rick Rubin, the callow yet utterly confident Smith (who was just 17 at the time of the album's release) injected the rap world with swag way before anyone knew what the hell that meant. Radio is littered with boombox anthems -- "I Can't Live Without My Radio," "Rock the Bells," "I Can Give You More" - that showcased LL's knack for witty, simplistic and effective rhymes. Ushering both Def Jam's reign as the premier hip-hop label and Smith's eternal rep as the genre's studliest b-boy, Radio gave ghettoblasters all over this great land their own signature soundtrack. -- Craig D. Lindsey

18. Run-DMC
Raising Hell (1986)
The first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and arguably rap's first full-length masterpiece, Raising Hell changed the way the world heard hip-hop. A mere seven years after the genre's first single was committed to wax, Run-DMC proved what was still being written off as a "fad" had the potential to truly become the next greatest innovation of 20th century American music. While "Walk This Way" fully bridged the gap between rap and the pop-rock world by making an old standard new and exciting again (revitalizing Aerosmith's career in the process), it also showed how memorable rapping at its most masterful could be. While rap will likely always remain a single-focused medium, Raising Hell proved not only could album-minded hip-hop be done, but could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the efforts of any genre. -- Chaz Kangas

17. Slick Rick
The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)
When well executed, rap music's ability to tell stories has always been one of the genre's most championed achievements. Perhaps the rap artist most synonymous with storytelling is MC Ricky D, better known as Slick Rick. On his landmark 1988 debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, "the eye-patched-one" delivers fable-after-fable, not solely for shock value or braggadocios purposes, but rather as a somewhat-subtle bit of edutainment from someone who's seen enough to pass the wisdom on. From the cautionary ("Children's Story") to the wistful ("Teenage Love") to the wise ("Hey Young World") Rick offers quite the poignant guidance in-between a how-to guide of the New York dating scene. Rick became the Ali Baba of late-80s NYC, making The Great Adventures of Slick Rick a treasure-trove of all the emotions hip-hop was capable of resonating in a person alongside some of the most memorable productions of the era. While Rick's follow-ups would sadly be compromised by subsequent prison time, Great Adventures remains the standard by which all rap storytelling is judged. -- Chaz Kangas

Sponsor Content

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault