9. EPMD - Business As Usual
Business as usual? EPMD's third entry was anything but. The classic soul production that blessed their first two had evolved into frenetic blasts of funk, the rhymes had grown increasingly confrontational.
8. Brand Nubian - One for All
On their debut album, Grand Puba, Sadat X, Lord Jamar, and DJ Alamo brought political commentary and spirituality to the forefront, excelling with sensible tunes like "Slow Down" and "Wake Up."
7. Gang Starr - Step in the Arena
Virtually fresh on the scene, Guru and DJ Premier quickly stood out from their peers by meshing thoughtful lyrics with snazzy, sample-heavy tracks.
6. LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out
After dropping two mediocre albums back-to-back, Cool J decided to heed his grandmother's instruction to knock his critics straight to the curb.
5. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Wanted: Dead or Alive
G Rap diversified his rhymes to include a much-needed discussion on racial divisiveness and personal responsibility.
4. A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Through their honest and introspective rhymes, Tribe appealed to America's urban youth on their debut album.
3. Eric B. & Rakim - Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em
These two made plenty of classics together, but none ever matched the intricately stitched expressionism on Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em.
2. Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
Following a bitter split from N.W.A., Ice Cube filled his debut album with dark stories of manic frustration.
1. Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet
That Fear of a Black Planet was not PE's best work but still managed to eclipse 99% of everything out at the time is a testament to the group's impact on 90s hip-hop. Dark, incendiary, and inevitably brutal, Fear gave yield to classics like "911 Is a Joke" and "Who Stole the Soul."