Best Hip Hop Albums Of All Time: Top 40 Albums Ranked!

All it takes is a glance at the charts, and it grows clear that hip-hop permeates almost every perspective of modern music. Once a genre that was rejected airtime on mainstream radio services, these days, you’d be hard-pressed to discover an artist in the top 40 whose music hasn’t been inspired by hip-hop’s greats, whether it’s a complex nod in the production or straight-up respect. But its effects have not only been creative; it has also served as a political tool for the black youth of the United States and the United Kingdom, tracking the highs and the lows of black experiences and creating more room for people of color in major media at the same time.

When you’re looking for an introduction or want to rejuvenate your knowledge with the many subgenres which bend to regional sounds, picking the top hip-hop albums of all times is not an easy task, these 40 albums aren’t a bad place to start. So turn your speakers up because these albums deserve to be blasted out. 

So, to celebrate this colorful, controversial, and aggressive form of musical art, let’s round up the 40 greatest hip hop albums.

10. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton

Singer:N.W.A.
Label:Ruthless, Priority
Released Date;August 8, 1988
Key Track:Straight Outta Compton

The debut album of the 80’s music rap group artist N.W.A., led by the Eazy-E, in Los Angeles County’s City of Compton in early 1987, is Straight Outta Compton. On August 8, 1988, N.W.A member Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and Arabian Prince, released his label Ruthless Records with the lyrics written by Ice Cube and MC Ren members N.W.A. together with Ruthless rapper The D.O.C. Not only does the Compton violence depict the lyrics threaten to lead him again and again by attacking his comrades and even the police. The track “Fuck tha Police” drew a warning letter from an F.B.I. agent to help N.W.A., which was known as the “most dangerous group in the world.” 

Another extended version of the album came in December 2007, near the 20th anniversary of the album. And the theatre release of Straight Outta Compton’s biographical film reinvigorated sales of the album in 2015 following an album reappearance to limited edition cassettes, which was 3x multi-platinum certified at year-end.

9. 2Pac – All Eyez On Me

Singer:Tupac Shakur
Label:Death Row, Interscope
Released Date;February 13, 1996
Key Track:California Love (Remix)

All Eyez on Me is American rapper 2Pac’s fourth studio album and the last one in his life. Death Row Records and Interscope Records published it on February 13, 1996. The album includes Shakur, DJ Quik, Johnny “J” and Dr. D.R.E., Daz Dillinger, DJ Pooh, and Devante Swing. The album includes several Shakur productions. The album contains “How Do U Want It” and “California Love,” the number-one singles of “Billboard Hot 100.” There were four singles in all, most of the albums of Shakur. 

On both the Billboard 200 and the Top-R&B/Hip-Hop album charts, All Eyez on Me is the second 2pac album to sell 566,000 copies during the first week. Six months later, in a drive-by shooting, 2Pac was fatally injured. The album gained the 1997 Soul Train honor for Rap Album of the Year posthumously.

8. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP

Singer:Eminem
Label:Aftermath, Interscope
Released Date;May 23, 2000
Key Track:The Real Slim Shady

The Marshall Mathers LP is the third studio record released by Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records by American rapper Eminem on May 23, 2000. Dr. Dre and Eminem, The 45 King, The Bass Brothers, and Mel-Man were mostly the album producers. Recorded over two months in various studios in the region of Detroit, Eminem’s thoughts about rags and wealth, criticism of his music, and his estranged family and wife include more introspective lyricism. 

The first album was released on the 200 billboards and remained at its full eight weeks in a row. Compared to The Slim Shady LP just in the previous year, its first week sold 1.78 million copies, making it one of the most selling studio albums in the U.S. The album was a major commercial success.

7. A Tribe Called Quest Group – Midnight Marauders

Singer:A Tribe Called Quest
Label:Jive
Released Date;November 9, 1993
Key Track:Award Tour

The third studio album released on November 9, 1993, by Jive Records is A Tribe Called Quest. The album was recorded at Battery, Platinum Island Studios, and Scorner Sound in New York City. Their production was mainly carried out through Q-tip, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Skeff Anselm, Long Professor, and D.J. of the group. At the culmination of the previous two albums, the band featured an eclectic and sticky sound based on samples of jazz, funk, soul, and R&B, as well as socially conscious, positive, and funny lyrics.

Midnight Marauders was the first one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Charts, debuting at No. eight. Before the announcement of the final single, “Oh My God,” the first two singles were charted, “Award Tour” and “Electric Relaxation,” on the Billboard Hot 100. (RIAA) The Recording Industry Association of America declared the album with shipments in the United States in the summer of January 14, 1994, for 500,000 copies.

6. Madvillain – Madvillainy

Singer:Madvillain
Label:Throw
Released Date;March 23, 2004
Key Track:America’s Most Blunted

Madvillainy’s debut album Madvillain has been widely acclaimed for its unique approach. Their short songs, dark lyrics, and lack of choruses made a sound uncomfortable to commercial radio but was praised as a key aspect of their underground identity. In 2006, the Stones Throw Records and Adult Swim’s Chrome Children’s DVD/CD featured Madvillain with a new song. Following this, Kidrobot announced an action figure from Madvillain.

In 2009, Stones Throw announced that MF DOOM and Madlib were working on a second album, Madvillain. The song “Papermill” was released on the website of Adult Swim by Madvillain on May 26. Madvillain released the song ‘Avalanche & Victory Lap’ on Stones Throw Mixtape on January 3, 2011.

5. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Singer:Wu-Tang Clan
Label:Loud Record
Released Date;November 9,1993
Key Track:Ya Neck

The first American hip hop album Wu-Tang Clan, released by Loud Records on November 9, 1993, is Enter the Wu-Tang. Recordings were held at Firehouse Studio in New York City early to mid-1993, and the band’s de facto leader R.Z.A. produced the album. Its title comes from entering the Dragon’s (1973) and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin martial arts films (1978).

The album had a surprising peeping at 41 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, with 30,000 copies sold at its very first week, despite its crude, underground sound. By 1995 the platinum was certified by the U.S. Association of Recording Industry, and in October 2018, triple-platinum was certified. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was originally given positive reviews as one of the most important albums of the 1990s and is one of the biggest hip hop albums of all time.

4. Notorious BIG – Ready To Die

Singer:The Notorious B.I.G.
Label:Bad Boy Records
Released Date;September 13, 1994
Key Track:Juicy

Ready to die is the première album by Bad Boy Records and Arista Records, published by American rapper The Disreputable B.I.G. on September 13, 1994. The CD includes Yung Cheddar (James Ryan), Bad Boy founder, Easy Mo Bee, DJ Premier. It has been recorded in the Hit Factory and D&D Studios of New York City between 1993 and 1994. It was the only studio record that came out of his life, as the rapper was killed seventeen days before the release of Life After Death, his second album, in 1997. The album is partly autobiographical.

Ready to Die peaked on the 200 billboards at number 15 and was widely applauded and soon a commercial success. The album was made out of three singles: “Juicy” and “Big Poppa,” “One More Chance,” and “Warning” for Biggie’s promotional track. The lead single “Juicy” reached the 27th position on the Hot 100, the 14th position on Singles & Tracks of the Hot R&B/Hip- Hop, and was given the 3rd position on the Hot Rap Singles.

3. Dr. Dre – The Chronic

Singer:Dr. Dre
Label:December 15, 1992
Released Date;Interscope Records
Key Track:Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang

The Chronic is the first hip-hop producer and rapper Dr. Dre’s studio album. It was launched and distributed by Interscope Records on December 15, 1992, on its record label, Death Row Records. The album’s recording workshops took place in June 1992 in the Los Angeles Death Row Studios and at the Hollywood B.M.S. Bernie Grundman. The album is named after a dialect term for high-quality cannabis and is a tribute to rolling Zig-Zag papers. 

Although a solo album, it features many appearances by then-emerging American rapper Snoop Dogg, who used the album as a launchpad for his solo career. This Chronic has reached its peak on the Billboard 200 at number three and has been certified 3x Platinum by RIAA as one of the top ten best-selling American performing artists in 1993. In the U.S., it sold 3 million units.

2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Singer:Kendrick Lamar
Label:T.D.E., Aftermath, Interscope
Released Date;March 15, 2015
Key Track:Wesley’s Theory

The third album of U.S. rapper Kendrick Lamar is To Pimp a Butterfly. In his initial week, To Pimp a Butterfly sold 324,000 copies in the United States, earning a chart debut in the U.S. Billboard 200 and becoming the first number one album of Lamar in the United Kingdom. (RIAA) The Recording Industry Association of America eventually certified it as a block of platinum and sold a million models in the U.S. in 2017. 

Five singles, including the top 40 hits “I,” were released to promote the album. Also, Lamar supported the album from late two on the Kunta groove tour.

1. Nas – Illmatic

Singer:American rapper Nas
Label:Columbia
Released Date;April 19, 1994
Key Track:N.Y. State of Mind

Illmatic is the American rapper Nas’s first studio album. Columbia Records published it on April 19, 1994. Nas recorded the album with MC Serch’s help in Chung King’s studios, D&D Recording, Battery Studios, in New York City in 1992 and 1993. D.J. Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S., and Nas himself were responsible for producing the album. Illmatic is a hardcore hip-hop album and features multi-syllable inner-city rhymes based on Nas’s experiences in Queensbridge, NY.

On the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, the album debuted at 12th and sold 63,000 copies in its first week. Although Illmatic had little initial sales, most of the music critics who loved his production and the lyricism of Nas received ravishing reviews.

So, these are all about The Best Hip Hop Albums of all Time! If you want to take a glimpse of all the further 30 Ranked Albums with their respective details, then have a look below:

RankAlbumSingerLabelReleased Date
11.Paid In Full Eric B & Rakim4th & B’way7 July 1987
12.DoggystyleSnoop DoggInterscope Records23 November 1993
13.The College DropoutKanye WestDef Jam10 February 2004
14.The InfamousMobb DeepLoud RCA25 April 1995
15.The Miseducation Of Lauryn HillLauryn HillRuffhouse, Columbia25 August 1998 
16.It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us BackPublic EnemyDef Jam, Columbia28 June 1988
17.Reasonable DoubtJay-ZRoc-A-Fella, Priority25 June 1996
18.Black On Both SidesMos DefRawkus Records12 October 1999
19.The ScoreFugeesRuffhouse, Columbia13 February 1996
20.Death CertificateIce CubePriority Records29 October 1991
21.3 Feet High & RisingDe La SoulTommy Boy Music3 March 1989
22.Only Built For Cuban LinxRaekwonLoud Records1 August 1995
23.Get Rich Or Die Tryin’50 CentShady, Aftermath, Interscope6 February 2003
24.Paul’s BoutiqueBeastie BoysCapitol Records25 July 1989
25.Cypress HillCypress HillColumbia13 August 1991
26.Run DMCRun DMCProfile, Arista27 March 1984
27.Speakerboxx / The Love BelowOutkastLaFace Arista23 September 2003
28.Supreme ClienteleGhostface KillahRazor Sharp Records8 February 2000
29.BeCommonGeffen, Good24 May 2005
30.LabcabincaliforniaThe PharcydeDelicious, Vinyl14 November 1995
31.The Sun Rises In The EastJeru The DamajaPayday Records24 May 1994
32.The FixScarfaceDef Jam South6 August 2002
33.Jurassic 5Jurassic 5Pan, PAN015CD1 June 1998
34.Let’s Get FreeDead PrezLoud Records8 February 2000
35.Food & LiquorLupe FiascoAtlantic19 September 2006
36.Quik is the NameDJ QuikProfile Records15 January 1991
37.The Best Part (2001)J-LiveTriple Threat Productions1 May 2001
38.Jay-ZThe Blueprint Roc‐A‐Fella Records11 September 2001
39.Funcrusher PlusCompany FlowRawkus Records22 July 1997
40.Aquemini (1998)OutKastLaFace, Arista29 September 1998

Conclusion:

This is an excellent time to celebrate the best hip-hop albums and rap albums ever. Last year hip hop reached the grand old age of 45. It began with its birthday party, hosted by Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the west of Bronx, New York. It is now becoming the home to some of the world’s most important cultural music.

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