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

Liquid Swords560.jpg
10. GZA
Liquid Swords (1995)
GZA's always had a way with words, and on 36 Chambers his wit and slurred, somewhat-muted delivery made him stand a bit taller than the other MCs in his Clan. That album served as an amuse bouche for Liquid Swords, GZA's deft main course, which revealed in one fell swoop that most other rappers, comparatively, had lyrics as weak as clock radio speakers. How good is the album? So good it might even convince you that skits between songs don't suck. Of course, it helps when said skits include Shoguns being decapitated and a Samurai imparting knowledge to his son while still an infant. ("Chooooose the ball...") Add to them the unforgettable cover art--DC-Milestone Comics chief Denys Cowan packing every Wu-cliche (martial arts, chess, neck protecting and the lack thereof) into one stunning and brutal illo -- and GZA's always impeccable rhymes, and what you have is an instant classic, one the MC is now paid real American dollars to play live in its entirety. "Liquid Swords," "Duel of the Iron Mic," "Living in the World Today," "Labels," "Cold World": The album seldom misses (we could do without "B.I.B.L.E."), and when it hits, it kills. -- Brian McManus

_jay2.jpg
9. Jay Z

The Blueprint (2001)
Stuffed with swagger from the very second you hit Play, The Blueprint was a statement to anybody who might have been paying attention that the God MC did indeed run this rap shit on every tip, be it artistic or commercial, absolutely destroying his competition ("Takeover"), going confessional ("Song Cry,"), commercial ("Izzo"), or playful ("Girls, Girls, Girls"). The Blueprint offered a Jay-Z at the height of his powers, hitting a stride that never really went away. -- Drew Millard

_camron.jpg
8. Cam'ron
Purple Haze (2004)
After almost a year of delayed release dates, Purple Haze finally saw the light of day at the end of 2004. Though often written off as eccentric with an ego too massive to impart any noteworthy lyrics about self reflection and moments of vulnerability, Cam'ron does muster up some humility here and there (check "SDE" if you're doubtful). It's just enough to keep from appearing completely amoral, but still it feels genuine. It makes you realize that Cam's smirking dexterity comes from actually being great at what he does. And though Purple Haze may be one of his more unapologetic and ostentatious works, it was also his least dark. Choosing to rely on the tried and true soul sampled Dip Set sound, he went with more upbeat fodder for loops and interpolations like "More Reasons" and "Soap Opera." The content was still about flipping birds and getting fly, but Cam's eye for detail is unquestionable, a trait only matched by Ghostface. On Haze Cam dropped the infectious "Get 'Em Girls" and "Shake" to rock clubs all through the Midwest, plus "The Dope Man" for his California constituents. The lump sum of all those records left a New York City classic in it's wake at a time when few New York rappers were finding it difficult to maintain any consistent relevance. -- J. Pablo


My Voice Nation Help
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 ;-(

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...