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

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4. Eric B & Rakim
Paid in Full (1987)
Paid in Full is hip-hop's essential document, the reason the rappers you already love began rapping in the first place, and rapped the way they did. It's also the source of some of the most frequently quoted lyrics in all of hip-hop. With Eric. B providing a brilliantly sourced backdrop, Rakim transformed Paid in Full into a collection of indelible songs, with the most versatile rhymes ever spit, including what is still, arguably, the greatest line ever written in rap, on "My Melody." Rap it with us: "I take seven MC's put 'em in a line/ Add seven more brothers who think they can rhyme/ It'll take seven more before I go for mine/ Now that's 21 MC's ate up at the same time." From the snarling opener "I Ain't No Joke" to the iconic opening lines and scratching tutorial of the title track, Paid in Full was the first golden age album that sounded fully formed, containing all the essential ingredients that came to define rap. -- Jonah Bromwich

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3. Raekwon
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
The movie samples, the soulful production, even the interludes about dying Wallabees and dudes who emulate their styles: Every aspect of Raekwon's solo debut was without flaw. Though ODB and Method Man had already released their debuts, the anticipation for Only Built 4 Cuban Linx unreal, and it stood up to the high expectations. The intro finds Ghost and Rae about to embark on a final attempt to reach "a pot of gold" by selling drugs. The cinematic lyrics and dark, haunting production that follow made for the perfect mobster movie aesthetics in song form. Cuts like "Rainy Dayz," "Verbal Intercourse" and "Ice Water" illustrated the street life in such detail every notable New York rap album that followed OB4CL's summer of 1995 release took a page from Raekwon's rhyme book. Even Nas, the only non Wu member to be invited to rap on a Wu project at the time, revamped his image the following year to suit the wave Rae and Ghost started by renaming himself Escobar and injecting more crime boss isms to the mix. Which makes sense, when you consider it's the most influential New York rap album next to his own Illmatic. That kind of influence buys you a number three spot on the best NYC rap albums of all time list, no doubt. -- J. Pablo

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2. The Notorious B.I.G.
Ready to Die (1994)
The perfect rap bildungsroman, on Ready to Die The Notorious B.I.G. vividly wove poignant, funny and sometimes altogether horrifying tales of growing up in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn at the height of the crack epidemic, whilst still maintaining a commercial sheen thanks to the adept executive production of a young Sean "Diddy" Combs. The bleakness of "Things Done Changed" or "Suicidal Thoughts" was offset by the braggadocio and excess of "Big Poppa." Lead by the seminal rags-to-riches anthem "Juicy"--which every bonafide rap fan is expected to be able to recite word-for-word-- Ready to Die immediately anointed Biggie as the "King of New York" in hip-hop's Pantheon; a title many fervently believe he still holds 16 years after his death. -- Sowmya Krishnamurthy

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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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