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

Categories: Hip-Hop

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7. A Tribe Called Quest
The Low End Theory (1991)
A Tribe Called Quest's second album closes with "Scenario," a rambunctious rhyme-for-all that's powered by a ramped-up rowdy beat, features a show-stealing turn by Leaders Of The New School's Busta Rhymes, and is in with a decent shout of claiming the spoils as rap's greatest ever posse cut. Before that though, Q-Tip, Phife and Ali offered up 13 songs that dwell in a dark and dusky zone, with tracks crafted around the pared-down formula of deep bass loops and canny drum breaks. Over Tribe's most seductive sonic concoction, the raps spew forth with an air of effortlessness: Stream-of-conscious tinged verses from the Abstract interplay lovely with Phife's peppy sports-referential raps, while both MCs check their egos and personal problems at the door to rhyme back and forth in a voice of unison. And in "Check The Rhime," Tribe coined a joyful rap anthem guaranteed to leave a perma-smile on the listener's face, complete with a video that has them coming live from Linden Boulevard. -- Phillip Mlynar

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6. The Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
36 Chambers was, and still is, perhaps one of hip-hop's most bizarre classic albums: A motley crew of 10 emcees, including breakout solo stars Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, spitting free-associative lyrics about street life imbued with Kung-Fu references, eerie humor and some damn good rapping. Catalyzed by tracks like "C.R.E.A.M." and "Protect Ya Neck," the landmark album redefined NY street rap while RZA's menacing, soul-laden soundscapes indelibly changed the art of hip-hop beat-making, influencing generations of producers thereafter including Kanye West and Just Blaze. Wu-Tang itself has since become its own cottage culture, vastly spreading the gospel of Shaolin to the world at large. -- Sowmya Krishnamurthy


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5. Public Enemy
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Chuck D once famously said rap music is "CNN for black people." He just happens to be the guy who made the album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, that proved it. Nation of Millions is like graduate level course in black history, black nationalism and black revolution: Farrakhan, Chesimard, Garvey, and a host of other leaders (Barkley!) get name-checked from Chuck's podium at the head of the class, over Hank Shocklee and Carl Ryder's bold and innovative production. The album won our Pazz & Jop poll in '88, and in the issue that year Robert Christgau wrote it's "the bravest and most righteous experimental pop of the decade." Turns out, that remains 100-percent correct. -- Brian McManus



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