When Del rhymed, "Life ain't all about busting caps or f--cking b--ches" on "At the Helm," he pretty much professed the group's mantra. Hiero was the first West Coast group to make a lasting impression without thuggin' on wax.
Best Album: 3rd Eye Vision | Purchase/Download
14. Black Moon
I can't imagine many hip-hop heads without Black Moon's 1993 gemstone Enta Dah Stage in their collection. With Da Beatminerz and DJ Evil Dee supplying hardbody beats and Buckshot dropping dimes in his trademark raspy voice, Black Moon kept East Coast hip-hop on lock for years.
Best Album: Enta Dah Stage | Purchase/Download
13. Salt 'N Pepa
Salt 'N Pepa's contribution to hip-hop extends beyond their status as rap's most significant female group. They took the entire rap game by storm and grabbed the attention of both men and women with their titillating ditties.
Best Album: Hot, Cool & Vicious | Purchase/Download
12. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Show of hands if you ever caught yourself mimicking Bone Thugs' melodic flow as a teenager. Yeah, me too. When these Midwest boys were Creepin on ah Come Up in the '90s, the game was rife with talented artists of all kinds from all regions. So, they created a sound that was both original and inimitable. Bone Thugs' blend of octane-fueled lyrics with harmonized vocals made them a household name.
Best Album: E 1999 Eternal | Purchase/Download
11. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5
Flash and the Furious 5 are creative inventors in every sense, having influenced generations of MCs, b-boys, DJs, and style icons. "The Message" and "White Lines (Don't Do It)" helped launch what we now know as conscious rap. To crown it all, they made history as the first hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The only chink in their armor was their fashion steez -- glam cowboy hats, studded belts, Kangols and dukey rope chains. Melle Mel should have fired their stylist.
Best Album: The Message | Purchase/Download
10. Geto Boys
Along with UGK and SUC, Geto Boys will always be revered as southern rap pioneers. Scarface delivered compelling stories about street life in Texas, while Willie D's impeccable mic presence and Bushwick Bill's maniacal rhymes kept things interesting. By all standards, the Geto boys paved the way for future southern hip-hop acts.
Best Album: We Can't Be Stopped | Purchase/Download
9. The Fugees
The Fugees were a super talented bunch -- in fact, too talented for their own good. Though they would later have one of the most heartbreaking breakups after just two albums, they left an indelible impression on the music world. Their 1996 masterpiece, The Score, garnered so much buzz that it eventually eclipsed their first, though less remarkable CD, Blunted on Reality.
Best Album: The Score | Purchase/Download
8. Beastie Boys
Who knew that three white kids would eventually become one of hip-hop's most influential acts ever? The Beastie Boys were amongst the legion of trailblazers who left an indelible impression on a generation of rappers to follow. The Beasties Boys came out with a bang — dropping 1987's massive-selling Licensed to Ill. The group also reinvented its sound with the sample-heavy Paul's Boutique.
Best Album: Licensed to Ill | Purchase/Download
7. The Roots
Hip-hop's first legitimate band defies genres as well as comparisons. The Roots often rely heavily on live instrumentals and little on samples to create original, timeless hip-hop music. Besides, if you're in the market for the ultimate live show experience, your money's always safe with these Philly boys.
Best Album: Things Fall Apart | Purchase/Download
6. De La Soul
While others were busy name-checking their gun collection, De La Soul positioned itself as the antithesis of everything gangsta rap represented. They were playful, intelligent, funny. Lyrically, they displayed maturity and vulnerability. Musically, they designed the manifesto that would alter the landscape of hip-hop forever.
Best Album: 3 Feet High and Rising | Purchase/Download