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

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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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107 comments
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 ;-(

dezlax1
dezlax1

@mdunbar3rd only built for Cuban links was my favorite album growing up. As was illmatic. Great list. Not to sure about Purple Haze though

mdunbar3rd
mdunbar3rd

@dezlax1 right...never loved Cam'ron. Always loved Low End Theory..great list.

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