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

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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

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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

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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

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109 comments
raoulduke
raoulduke

az- doe or die

mob deep- the infamous

bdp-criminal minded


otherwise pretty solid

nickajigga
nickajigga

Not sure what I would remove for the following greatest albums (except Cam'ron) but Mobb Deep, BDP and Special Ed's Youngest in Charge need to be on this list.

Flowalition
Flowalition

Capitol Punishment - BIG PUN im done here lol

3rdwrld
3rdwrld

Hey What about Enta Da Stage!!!

Ces1ne
Ces1ne

Very well written.....highlight was the EPMD write up!!

-obviously lists like this are opinions, but CNNs "The War Report" not being on a NY list is a criminal act. That album IS NY in the 90s.

heaterz
heaterz

Purple haze was dope maybe not as dope as listed... pretty good list though mobb deep and krs one and mos def should have made it though

davey
davey

Cool list and all, but  RE: Liquid Swords -- movie samples aren't skits.

barack.osama56
barack.osama56

Mobb Deep - The Infamous

It must be included. That is not debatable!

Donn
Donn

black star should be on this list. i mean how do you have purple haze and no black star.

Donn
Donn

black star should be on this list. i mean how do you have purple haze and no black star.

Donn
Donn

black star should be on this list. i mean how do you have purple haze and no black star.

nickleby
nickleby

i'd say Black Star fits all the criteria to be somewhere on this list. it's very NY, near flawless production and absolutely flawless lyricism by two of NY's greatest emcees.

wallyk3
wallyk3

i realized this list wasn't serious once they said Enter the 36 Chambers had "10" emcees

bunkerking86
bunkerking86

If the slim shady lp or marshall mathers album isnt up there then this list is fucked .......

alisonshabes
alisonshabes

lacking artists outside of NY, bullshit 

alisonshabes
alisonshabes

lacking artists outside of NY, bullshit 

chrissavvy
chrissavvy

@AnnakinSlayd cam'ron at 8..one of the peep makin list musta banged some chick to that album so he thinks its up there..

SamuriApocalysp
SamuriApocalysp

@bruthadub Camron better than Liquid Swords ??? Hahahaha No KRS no G Rap the Wrong Beasties the wrong De la no Midnight Marauders ??? FOH

TianHerstel
TianHerstel

@GerbenKor Dat ik ze bijna allemaal ken is gelet op mijn leeftijd geen goed teken voor de stand van de rap-scene...

kpoetic
kpoetic

No Kool G Rap.....are you serious?!?!? One of the best if not THE best street rapper....a story teller who has a gift of flow..... No Kane another flowsmith.....No KRS who is the greatest because of his ability to flow street AND education.......not having the aforementioned is a joke of the highest order, c'mon!!!

John Robert Hector
John Robert Hector

Flav & Rev Buzzy ! Hehehee! We was Bad in Bronx back when! Woe! Fun was cheap...& friends were4 keeps back n them houses then!

Jay Lane
Jay Lane

That list was pretty good, but omitting KRS ONE and BDP is an unforgivable crime. You should correct that "by any means necessary" Perhaps a little less love for the Beastie Boys, Jay Z, and Wu Tang Clan would allow for further diversity on what is a fairly solid list. What about Big Daddy Kane and the rest of the Juice Crew? Ultramagnetic MCs? Grandmaster Flash? And no female artists whatsoever? I just feel like you could have spread the love around better, that's all.

lyrical_gangsta
lyrical_gangsta

go on & throw popcorn at me ;-) but i was hoping 4 Black Sheep, Das Efx or Fushnikens ... but i'll take De La, Bboys, Run DMC & Tribe. Nice & Smooth had a really gr8 record back in the day, too. Digital Underground!!! I miss when hiphop was fun. i'm old ;-(

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