70. Queen Latifah - All Hail the Queen
Latifah's debut showcased her Grade A rapping chops, with songs like "Wrath of My Madness" and "Ladies First" announcing the Jersey native as rap's new royalty.
69. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
Endtroducing is one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time. The largely instrumental album sounded like nothing else that was out in 1996. Shadow culled samples from obscure places to create a hazy spell of an album.
68. AZ - Doe or Die
After his star turn on Nas' "Life's a B*tch," AZ launched his solo career with the arrival of Doe or Die. Nas returns the favor on "Mo Money, Mo Murder," while songs like "Rather Unique" and "Gimme Yours" hearken to Illmatic's street spirit.
67. UGK - Ridin' Dirty
Ridin' Dirty is UGK's most important album and one of the best rap albums ever recorded. The album gets its unique identity from Bun and Pimp's yin and yang connection. Bun is the surgical emcee, while Pimp is the flamboyant philosopher. Everyone should buy two copies.
66. Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary
If you're one of those glass half-full people you'll note that the only positive side of Scott La Rock's unfortunate murder was in the direction of By All Means Necessary. KRS-One found himself denouncing black-on-black violence and railing against injustice on the classic BDP album. La Rock would approve.
65. Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
Mos Def's solo debut, Black on Both Sides, scores major points in key categories: aesthetics, substance, production. It knocks from end to end. Whether kicking rhymes about his personal politics or painting a portrait of a plump backside, Mos does it with vivid skill.
64. Nas - Stillmatic
Nas would spend the rest of his career chasing a shadow named Illmatic. 2001's Stillmatic was the closest he came to capturing the angst and paranoia of his boyhood self. Standouts include: the scathing Jay Z diss "Ether" and the time-bending classic "Rewind."
63. Xzibit - 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz
Xzibit molds his voice into a gruffy instrument, overpowering the beats when necessary. A brilliant move when it works.
62. GZA/Genius - Liquid Swords
Liquid Swords introduced GZA as the cerebral swordsman. And RZA's serene, atmospheric boardwork helps transform the album from alt-rap bravery to a Wu masterpiece.
61. OutKast - Stankonia
Creative ebullience abounds, yes. But also three of 2002's best rap songs are all here: "B.O.B.," "So Fresh, So Clean," and the baby mama drama jama "Ms. Jackson."