10. Dr. Dre - The Chronic
1991 produced many great albums: Pete Rock & CL Smooth's Mecca & the Soul Brother, Pharcyde's Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, Diamond D's Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop. But it was Dr. Dre's The Chronic that towered over hip-hop that year and many years to come. Dre's G-funk basslines, bolstered generously by Snoop's slick flow, announced the new name running the game.
09. Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded
KRS-One was the dreaded poet, Scott La Rock the musical visionary. Together, they cooked up an album that shook up the landscape of hip-hop. Criminal Minded should be studied in college.
08. N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton
Eazy, Dre, Cube and 'em had to fight for their right to party. No one--not even the alphabet people--could stop them from publicly, viciously and explicitly indicting the powers that be. A true west coast masterpiece.
07. A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory
The Low End Theory is Tribe at their best. Ali Shaheed, Q-Tip, and Phife Dawg became one of the greatest rap groups of all time by trafficking in smart lyrics drizzled over smooth, jazz-rap layers.
06. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... is a journey through the thrills, the violence, and the rote regimen that constitute a New York drug kingpin's life. A crime-rap manifesto that would shape the course of mafioso rap throughout the 90s.
05. Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
36 Chambers is one of the greatest debuts hip-hop has ever seen. the 12-song spectacle barely gave the nine original swordsmen enough room to stretch out their eccentricities. Highlights include: "C.R.E.A.M.," "Protect Ya Neck," and the pragmatic life hack "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit."
04. Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full
While his peers bragged about the size of their manhood, Rakim styled on them with peculiar precision. The man loves painting pictures with words and Paid in Full is his ultimate canvas.
03. The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die
Biggie's ability to cooly captivate an audience with his storytelling chops, or capture a difficult emotion (i.e. suicidal thoughts), or mine comedy from the most serious of subjects (i.e. robbery) are skills rarely seen in the same package. Biggie Smalls is the illest.
02. Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Public Enemy challenged everything that posed an obstacle to the oppressed: racism, injustice, crooked cops, profiling, everything. P.E.'s second album is an undeniable hip-hop classic.
01. Nas - Illmatic
There are great hip-hop albums, and then there's Illmatic. A 19-year-old word wizard, Nas packed potent poetry into 39 minutes, while A-list producers like DJ Premier and Pete Rock supplied the perfect score. Illmatic is the greatest hip-hop album of all time.