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

Categories: Hip-Hop

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

12. Beastie Boys
Paul's Boutique (1989)
While the Beastie Boys' critically-lauded sophomore album Paul's Boutique was recorded almost entirely in Los Angeles, the trio's transplant into the City of Angels managed to flush out exactly what made them such definitively New York artists. The Boys' abilities as MCs has been somewhat underrated in hip-hop circles. While they've never been the "lyrically lyrical spiritual miracle"-types, their styles fully took shape and excelled on Paul's Boutique as an industrial-strength pop-culture web of every media they'd ever experienced, immaculately complimenting a similarly-minded groundbreaking sample-hodgepodge of a production. This newfound niche captured how New York-influenced they truly were, down to naming the album after a lower east side Manhattan clothing store. With all of its multi-textual references and obscenely layered production, Paul's Boutique is the rare album that feels like its actually alive, pulsating with a vibrant energy whose relationship with the listener reveals something new with each listen. -- Chaz Kangas

11. Ghostface Killah
Supreme Clientele (2000)
Conventional wisdom states that Supreme Clientele is far and above the gem of the second wave of Wu-Tang solo albums. And sometimes, conventional wisdom is such for a reason. Supreme Clientele indeed occupies a very specific space in the Wu-Tang discography. The album is front-to-back amazing and as bizarre as you could hope, from Ghost cutting the best song on the thing ("Saturday Nite") off halfway through, to him copping to fucking his own fans on "Mighty Healthy" to RZA's beat on "Stroke of Death," which centers around a single ominous scratch being run continually back. Written largely during an extended trip to Africa by Ghost and Executive Producer RZA, the album was a lyrical turning point for Ghostface, menacing at times, silly and downright psychedelic at others. It was one of last battle cries from a dying empire, proving that even late in the game Wu-Tang still had one undefeated champion. -- By Drew Millard

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