8. Showbiz and AG - Runaway Slave
AG's lyricism was a big part of the success recipe, but the music -- a blend of high-tension drums and jazz-influenced loops made this an unforgettable CD.
7. Pete Rock & CL Smooth - Mecca & the Soul Brother
Before The Chronic and Ready to Die, Pete Rock and CL Smooth signaled a pivotal point in hip-hop with their mix of smooth, horn-heavy beats and sophisticated rhymes.
6. Diamond D - Stunts, Blunts, & Hip-Hop
A student of the Diggin' in the Crates (D.I.T.C.) crew, Diamond D showed that he was more than just a sound architect by flaunting his ill mic handles on "Best Kept Secret."
4. Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
This L.A. group introduced the world to a form of hip-hop rooted in lacerating wit and devastating insight. The result was a cavalcade of excellent tunes, including "Yo Mama," "Otha Fish," and the woozy Summer staple "Passing Me By."
3. Brand Nubian - In God We Trust
It seems unusual that an album titled In God We Trust would include songs like "Pass Da Gat" and "Steal Ya Ho," but Brand Nubians helped steer hip-hop in an exciting new direction with their nearly flawless sophomore CD.
2. Gang Starr - Daily Operation
Guru and Premier, self-named ministers of the underground sound, constructed their 3rd LP around street-friendly beats and razor-sharp lyrics, yielding tons of memorable cuts.
1. Dr. Dre - The Chronic
Dre's combination of funky basslines and heavy synths revolutionized rap and made The Chronic a household name in hip-hop. Lyrical acrobatics from a young Snoop Dogg? Well, that's just the cherry on top.