To celebrate my 500th Westcheddar post (which actually went up earlier this month), I thought I’d do something special and put together a list of Westcheddar’s 50 Favorite ’90s Rap Albums. These are albums that hold a special place in my personal hip-hop history, and inspire my Westcheddar content. Many of them are classics that we can all agree belong on a Top ’90s Rap Albums list. A couple may be a little obscure, and that is a reflection of my taste. And some may be cause for debate, especially when looking at artists with multiple releases in the ’90s. We might not all agree on what album is superior in a given artist’s discography, and I understand that. Shit, I had a hard time with that too. This wasn’t easy. I had to leave some of my favorite rappers and rap albums of all time off here! But I’m confident in my list. It represents Westcheddar’s flavor to the fullest.
So here it is. Westcheddar’s 50 Favorite ’90s Rap Albums, listed in alphabetical order. This list is for people my age who want to make sure their collection is tight, or revisit some shit they might have missed or forgotten about. It’s also for the generations to come, who weren’t as lucky as I was to live through the true golden age of rap music, the ’90s. I’ve compiled my ultimate faves for all of us. Do the knowledge.
1. Artifacts- That’s Them (1997)
If this was a Top 50 Favorite Rap Singles of the ’90s list, New Jeruzalem’s knotty headed spitters the Artifacts debut single “Wrong Side Of The Tracks” off their first album would definitely be on it. But since we’re talking favorite albums, their second album is it. It’s more polished and sharper than their first, which some people may not prefer, but the production by dudes like the highly underrated Shawn J Period and the legendary D.I.T.C. beat monster Lord Finesse is so crispy and futuristic that I had to place it on this list. And Tame One and El Da Sensei are lyrically better than they’ve ever been on this album, playing off each other like the best backcourt in the league. This hogged up my headphones for many months.
*ip’s picks: “Collaboration of Mics” f/ Lord Finesse and Lord Jamar
2. The Beatnuts- Stone Crazy (1997)
The Beatnuts peaked on this album. It’s filled with hard beats, sick samples, and it’s lyrically on point too (especially Psycho Les). Most people remember their collabo with Big Pun “Off The Books,” but there’s a lot of other really top notch material on this album too. They’re the most underrated group out of Queens for sure. Real hard, dark, crazy shit.
*ip’s pick: “Find That”
3. Black Sheep- Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing (1991)
A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Jungle Brothers usually come to mind first when people think of Native Tongues. But Black Sheep were down too, and this album is one of the greatest releases to ever come out of that movement. It’s witty, funny, and creative throughout, from the samples to the lyrics. Dres was smoother on the mic than any MC that was out at this time. And their hit record “The Choice Is Yours” is still getting major shine in today in television commercials, movies, and all that. Don’t sleep on the sheep.
*ip’s pick: “Butt In The Meantime”
4. Black Moon- Enta Da Stage (1993)
Brooklyn boys Black Moon did something that I hadn’t heard anyone do yet at the time that this album came out. They took jazz samples, and flipped them into hardcore tracks. It’s like The Low End Theory from out the project hallways. And Buckshot is a beast. His flow is super ill. I recently saw them perform this album in full with a live band at Southpaw in Brooklyn, and had a chance to interview Buckshot backstage before their set, and I gotta say, they’re still as dope as ever. Props to DJ Evil Dee too for his production. Great horns, hard drums, and banging bass lines all the way through.
*ip’s pick: “I Got Cha Opin”
5. Beastie Boys- Ill Communication (1994)
Some crazy whiteboy is gonna want to fight me probably for putting Ill Communication on this list over Check Your Head. Shit, I kind of want to fight myself. But as an album, I feel like Ill Communication is superior. Plus, I just like it more. They really stepped their instrumentation up on this one, and their lyrics are next level too. I mean, any rap album with a Rod Carew reference in it needs to be on a Westcheddar favorites list, right? But no disrespect to Check Your Head. That album is the reason I fell in love with the Beasties. “So What’cha Want” is one of my favorite songs of all time, and “Pass The Mic” is ridiculous. I still sport a Check Your Head shirt on the reg, too. But Ill Communication gets the nod. It’s too strong from top to bottom.
*ip’s pick: “Get It Together” f/ Q-Tip
6. Big Punisher- Capital Punishment (1998)
Big Pun is a beast on the mic. He’s like a fucking machine gun, spitting lyrics rapid fire. This album is as quality as a debut solo album can be. He holds his own on solo cuts, and brings in the best of the best for guest appearances, ranging from Prodigy to Black Thought to his Bronx brother Fat Joe. It’s a fun album to listen to, no question. And it’s got a bunch of hits on it too. Pun nailed it, first try. RIP.
*ip’s pick: “Beware”
7. Brand Nubian- Everything Is Everything (1994)
This is my personal favorite, and by far most slept on Brand Nubian album. Sadat X is exceptional on this. Grand Puba had been solo, and they put out In God We Trust, which had some shit on it, but they finally settled in and came correct with Everything Is Everything. They were chillin’ on this album, just like on the cover. Is that not the best location for a Parental Advisory sticker ever? Putting it on a girl’s ass is too easy. This was clever. These are local heroes to me. Now Rule neighbors. “Word Is Bond” was a hot single, and so was the righteous rap ballad “Hold On.” But the album cuts on here are what make the album what it is. The back and forth freestyle “Straight Off Da Head” is so my speed. “Alladat” with Busta Rhymes is vicious. And “Down For The Real,” with the live band, is fucking fire. Love that shit. Salute the gods.
*ip’s pick: “Down For The Real”
8. Camp Lo- Uptown Saturday Night (1997)
Camp Lo are some cool cats. They talk slick, use heavy throwback street slang, and put jive turkeys in their place when they’re on the mic. And with Ski handling mostly all of their production, with enough ’70s sounds for Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede to bounce bars off each other, Camp Lo’s debut album is a classic. No one has, and will ever, rap like these dudes. They’re true originals.
*ip’s pick: “Krystal Karrington”
9. Capone-N-Noreaga- The War Report (1997)
This may be the hardest album to ever come out of Queens, and that’s saying a lot considering they have guys like Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, and Kool G Rap as competition. But The War Report, which essentially compares Queens project houses to countries in the Middle East (Lefrak is Iraq, etc), shows the grimey side of life in the streets. It’s not too flashy. It’s real violent shit, from two dudes (and guest star Tragedy) who spent time locked up, now reflecting on their triumphs and mistakes. And it’s super slang heavy, so you might not understand what the fuck they’re talking about some of the time. Noreaga especially shines: he’s young, hungry, and volatile with every verse he spits.
*ip’s pick: “T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York)”
10. Common- Resurrection (1994)
Want dope lyrics and metaphors? Well, Common’s got those in the smash on his second album. “I Used To Love H.E.R.” sucked us all in, but it was clear after one listen in full to Resurrection that this man was no one-hit wonder. And No I.D.’s production is flawless, with hard drums and clever samples that made it comfortable for guys like me from New York to get into Common’s rap style. Resurrection gave Chicago a place in hip-hop’s history, and opened the doors for guys like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco to blow up at the turn of the century.
*ip’s pick: “Book Of Life”
11. Company Flow- Funcrusher Plus (1997)
I never got into the really, really deep underground hip-hop scene. But this album was the shit. And El-P is still doing his thing today. Company Flow was one of the first groups I ever heard out of the Rawkus camp, and they were on that graffiti, subway track stomping, evil, outlandish Brooklyn rap shit. And lyrically, they’re completely abstract and bizarre, but super ill. I would not want to fuck with these guys on the mic in a cipher. This is a raw hip-hop album with seriously sick production that should be cherished for its lewdness. Just look at the cover! These guys are fucking out of their minds! And I mean that in the best way.
*ip’s pick: “Bad Touch Example”
12. Cypress Hill- III: Temples Of Boom (1995)
Damn, I might really get snuffed for this one. I know, Black Sunday is the shit! But this shit right here?!?!? Yo. This is a mature Cypress Hill. They’ve already established that they like to smoke trees and take bong hits and all that. Now, they’re ready to really get wicked. My crew gave this album dumb burn in high school, and rightfully so. It’s slower, and even moodier than Black Sunday, which may not make it better- but for the real smokers out there, it’s more potent.
*ip’s pick: “Killa Hill Niggas” f/ RZA and U-God
13. Diamond D- Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop (1992)
I had the pleasure of interviewing Diamond D about his classic records for Complex Magazine earlier this year, and it was hard to narrow down the cuts on this album to talk to him about. There’s a lot of great songs on here. Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop is the perfect blend of classic, New York hip-hop breaks, and easy-to-digest raps packed with punchlines, boasting, and toasting. It’s also a glimpse of life in the Bronx during the early 90’s, with songs like “A Day In The Life” and “Sally Got A One-Track Mind.” Diamond called himself “the best producer on the mic” later in the decade on a Fugees feature, and this album is early proof that he’s worthy of that title.
*ip’s picks: “A Day In The Life” f/ Sadat X and Lord Jamar
14. De La Soul- Buhloone Mind State (1993)
De La Soul grew out of the Daisy Age on their third album and put together something, with the help of Prince Paul, that felt like a deep breath of fresh air. It was still fun, but not as light as their previous albums. Their lyrics were trickier, and their beats were a bit darker, but it was still about individualism. And at no point was it an attempt to win over the mainstream. In fact, “it might blow up, but it won’t go pop” was the underlined motto for the album. I have a vivid memory of copping this at the Galleria and thinking that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Dope album. Plus, Pos shouts out some chick from White Plains on “Eye Patch”!
*ip’s picks: “3 Days Later”
15. Del The Funky Homosapien- No Need For Alarm (1993)
I was born in Oakland, so I always felt a very strong connection to the Heiroglyphics crew. I remember my Dad brought this back for me from a trip out to The Bay. I could’ve bought it at home, but for some reason, I requested that he get it for me from out there. Like, I wanted an California copy of what would become one of my favorite albums ever. See the radio on the cover that he’s holding? I had that same exact shit. It was my first CD player, and I had it for about a year or so before this album came out. Yes, Del and I were in sync. His first album has some great songs on it, don’t get me wrong (check out “Sunny Meadowz”), but this album made me want to rap. This album inspired me. He doesn’t rap with a traditional format. The rhymes connect in odd spots. It’s an interesting style. He’s hard as shit, but doesn’t talk about guns or violence when he murders rappers. Del is the man. And this dark and glorious album is his opus.
*ip’s pick: “Wack MC’s”
16. Dr. Dre- The Chronic (1992)/The Chronic 2001 (1999) *tie*
Is it crazy to say I like The Chronic 2001 as a whole more than the original The Chronic? I don’t really think so. The Chronic is where we first heard Snoop Dogg, and it has “Nothin’ but A G Thang” on it, which is probably the greatest rap song ever to come out of California. And the “Bitches Ain’t Shit” beat is harder than almost anything New York has ever produced. But The Chronic 2001 had one thing the first one didn’t have: Eminem. And that helped a lot. Plus, the production by Dr. Dre and his team is on another plateau for the sequel. Great features, huge hit records, and it came at a time when rap was seriously slacking in the classic album department. I like The Chronic 2001 as a whole a little bit better, but it wouldn’t exist with out its predecessor, which is why I’ve included both The Chronic albums on this favorites list- our one and only tie with no breaker.
*ip’s pick (The Chronic): “Let Me Ride”
*ip’s pick (The Chronic 2001): “Xxplosive”
17. Fat Joe- Jealous One’s Envy (1995)
I just interviewed Fat Joe for a Complex Magazine 25 Essential Songs feature, and it was one of the ultimate highlights of my freelance career as a hip-hop journalist. Fat Joe is the god, and deserves the utmost respect. His name never really gets thrown around during the G.O.A.T. rapper discussions, but regardless, he’s nice as fuck on the mic. He makes that gangster, Bronx, New York music, that we hold sacred in the 914. We spend a lot of time in the BX as Westcheddar residents, and we all hail Joey Crack as our King of the Streets. This album is him at his best, filled with nothing but hard bars and high quality production.
*ip’s picks: “Bronx Tale” f/ KRS-One
18. Gang Starr- Daily Operation (1992)
Gang Starr could’ve had four albums make this list. But I narrowed them down to my absolute favorites. Daily Operation is when DJ Premier really started to come in to his own with the production. There are earlier glimpses of greatness on previous projects of course, but this is where he turned it up. This album features gritty drums, and smooth jazz samples and loops, with nothing too monsterous or hard-hitting to distract the listener. It’s laidback at times, rugged at others, and fresh all the way through. It’s an album that really focuses on the bare essentials of rhyming, beatmaking, and scratching, while still being innovative. And it works. RIP Guru. How dope was he? Sheesh.
*ip’s pick: “Ex Girl to Next Girl”
19. Gang Starr- Hard To Earn (1994)
This will forever be my favorite Gang Starr album. It’s incredible. They took everything that was great about Daily Operation and amplified it. Now, the beats are crispier and more pronounced, the samples are tighter, and somehow the rhymes even sound smoother. Guru has some stories to tell, and issues to touch on too. And they managed to stick one of the illest party records of all time, “Dwyck,” in the middle of it all. Gang Starr is definitely the sure shot, and Hard To Earn is a sure bet.
*ip’s pick: “The Planet”
20. Genius/GZA- Liquid Swords (1995)
Wanna have an internal debate about favorite Wu solo albums? The obvious pick is Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, but the real deal Wu heads always bring this one up as their favorite. And in many ways, it may be the best of all their solo efforts, though I still say OB4CL is my top choice. The GZA is brilliant on this album. Every song is his chamber is cold-blooded. The beats are venimous, and the lyrics are razor sharp. All the Wu member who pop up and make a move on the chess board are in attack mode, and the RZA is absolutely ridiculous with the beats. Damn, I’m about to go put this on now!
*ip’s pick: “Shadowboxin'” f/ Method Man
21. Ghostface Killah- Ironman (1996)
Ahhhh! Back to back insane Wu-Tang solo albums! This one gets slept on the most I’m sorry to say. To me, this is the sequel to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Same stars, continued story line. Ghost goes off on this album once again, proving that he’s not to be fucked with. And Cappadonna comes in to his own on here too. And Rae is Rae. He’s always ill. The middle of this album, from like track 5 to 12, may be the best sequence of Wu-Tang Clan songs in the history of their crew’s music making career.
*ip’s pick: “Camay” f/ Raekwon and Cappadonna
22. Grand Puba- Reel To Reel (1992)
This was literally the first CD I ever bought. I got my first CD player in ’92 (the one I mentioned before above that Del is holding on his album cover), and I copped this right when it came out. “360 Degrees (What Goes Around)” was the hottest song out when I started my freshman year at White Plains High School. And Puba, who is from New Rochelle, was the coolest guy in the 914. Everyone was dressing like him, with the Hilfiger and Polo shirts. Shit, he even made wearing a backpack look cool. And this album was all I listened to for a long time. He was my favorite rapper for a while. Plus, his production was all funky, James Brown sounding loops and samples, which was a sound I really gravitated towards. He made me want to see what else was out there. He made me curious, like, “I wonder who else is nice?” I credit this album with starting my journey into the depths of hip-hop. And he’s a major reason I would eventually start writing rhymes myself too.
*ip’s pick: “Ya Know How It Goes”
23. Group Home- Livin’ Proof (1995)
Group Home gets a hard time for not being great lyricists, but they’re dope rappers. They both got flows, and ill voices. But the star of this album is DJ Premier. He blessed these dudes with a canvas to get busy on. And they really didn’t have to do much. Just keep it real and spit their bars. This album gets a lot of love from underground heads because Primo produced every track, and they’re all phenomenal. But Group Home did what they had to do, and took those beats and made them into great songs. I love this album. Every time a DJ would drop a Group Home single from this album on their mixtape, we would bug out. And on a very personal note, “2 Thousand” is one of my favorite rap songs of all time.
*ip’s pick: “2 Thousand”
24. Heltah Skeltah- Nocturnal (1996)
Boot Camp Click wasn’t as deep as Wu-Tang Clan, but they had quite a roster. Ruck and Rock were like the Rae and Ghost of the BCC. They were the illest in their crew, with the craziest flows and lyrics. And they sounded great together. Nocturnal was their time to shine on their own, and they stepped up and made a really awesome album. Da Beatminerz laced them with that signature Boot Camp sound, and they did what they do best: spit wreckless. Nowaways, Sean Price aka Ruck is revered as one of the best underground rappers still doing it. And to think, this was his rookie LP. And Rock is a monster too, still. Listening to this reminds me of my freshman year at Maryland playing NBA Live with my boy Bobby in the dorms. This is all we listened to when we first got to school. Reasonable Doubt and It Was Written was out that summer, but there was something about this album that we kept coming back to. It was the sleeper album of the summer of ’96.
*ip’s pick: “Sean Price” f/ Illa Noyz
25. Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt (1996)
When I graduated from White Plains High School, my parents gave me one of those Aiwa three disc changers to bring to college. I copped Reasonable Doubt the same day, and would thump the fuck out of it in my room to test out how dope the speakers were. And it sounded so good! I went and told my boys that this album was a classic, and that it was as good as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and Illmatic. They looked at me like I was crazy. But they finally recognized. It’s Jay-Z’s best album, even after going #1 so many times. Fuck The Blueprint. This is his best. The duet he did with Biggie is insane, all the songs with Primo beats are out of this world, and Ski laced him too. Lyrically, it’s so advanced and smart, that it makes other rappers sound like idiots. He literally changed the game with this album. Every bar is platinum. It will forever remain in my Top 5 rap albums of all time.
*ip’s pick: “D’Evils”
26. Jeru The Damaja- The Sun Rises in the East (1994)
Jeru’s another guy who was privileged enough to have his whole debut album (and his follow up too) produced by DJ Premier. Jeru’s style is unorthodoxed, but extremely dope. He brings that Brooklyn rasta mentality to hip-hop. There is a chemistry between him and Primo that is truly special, and it comes out in every song on this album. Jeru is righteous, and not afraid to speak his mind. He’s wise, scientific, and prolific. He’s talking mad shit about white people at times on this album, and I could care less. The shit is dope as hell. He will be forever remembered for “Come Clean,” but this whole album is fire.
*ip’s picks: “D. Original”
27. K-Dee- Ass, Gas, Or Cash (No on rides for free) (1994)
Every list needs a sleeper, right? This is mine. This guy personifies pimping. Look, my G got a chick pumping his gas! Executive produced by Ice Cube, this album is K-Dee’s one and only release, but it features some great songs to ride around to. Nice laidback Los Angeles pimp shit. It’s kind of crazy that I’m putting this album on here over all of Ice Cube’s albums, but I don’t care. Ice Cube’s made some of my favorite songs ever, like “Steady Mobbin’,” “Today Was A Good Day,” and “Down For Whatever,” but I never really got into his albums as a whole. Lethal Injection was sick enough to make the HONORABLE MENTIONS, but this K-Dee shit needs some shine. Great summer album. Ride out to this.
*ip’s pick: “Into You”
28. Kool G Rap- 4, 5, 6 (1995)
This album bangs. It’s the perfect soundtrack to be blasting out of a boombox during a game of cee-lo. I heard a lot of these songs for the first time on mixtapes, and when I finally copped the album, it was nice to have them all in one place. Fans of Nas should love this album because, well, Nas is on it! The cover, and the wet duet “Fast Life.” Plus, G Rap is like the original Queens street rapper. And he’s got that rapid fire flow that sounds particularly dope on some of the slower, harder beats on this album. One of my favorite songs ever is on here, “For Da Brothaz,” which I looped up for my song “Wifey Material.” Another personal connection I have to this album is that Joe Naughty, who produced the first single off of this, “It’s A Shame, ” also produced my songs “Pay U No Mind” and “Uptown Girl.” Crazy, right? Anyway, to sum it up, G Rap is a rapper’s rapper, with skills out the wazoo, perfectly displayed on this short but sweet LP. Head crack!
*ip’s pick: “For Da Brothaz”
29. Method Man- Tical (1994)
What’s that shit that they be smokin’? Yes, welcome to the dust chamber. The dirty, underground sounds of Shaolin, led by Methtical. This shit is the grime under hip-hop’s fingernails, smeared on wax. It’s nighttime, skully cap, ghetto shit. Meth at one time was one of my favorite Wu members, but over the years, he kind of fell off a bit to me, and lost his edge or something. But when I revisit the early Wu days, and this album especially, I instantly remember why I was such a big fan. Dude is crazy good, in the most demented way. This album is his drug baby.
*ip’s pick: “What The Blood Clot”
30. Mobb Deep- The Infamous (1995)
Another classic album out of Queens to add to the list. Mobb Deep’s made a ton of amazing rap songs over the years, and some solid albums too. This is their best though. Hell On Earth deserves plenty props too, and I might get heat for not putting it on this list, but this is the orignal Queensbridge album to thug to. Great stories, killer beats, hungry raps, and award winning guest appearances from Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Big Noyd. Prodigy is still in my Top 5 favorite rappers of all time. And he raps his ass off on Hell On Earth at certain times I admit, especially on “Hell On Earth (Front Lines)” second verse and “Apostle’s Warning.” But I have to give The Infamous the upperhand, dun.
*ip’s pick: “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)” f/ Nas and Raekwon
31. Nas- Illmatic (1994)
This album is perfect. We all know it. Ten tracks, nine songs, great intro, immaculate production from the best in the game (Primo, Pete Rock, Large Pro, L.E.S., Q-Tip), and the ground-breaking poetic street styles and words of a young and poignant Nas. No need to ever hit the fast forward button. Just rewind. Listen to it today. It still sounds incredible. I really, really think that Nas, when it’s all said and done, is my favorite rapper of all time. He has too many great songs. This album changed everything in hip-hop. It influenced Biggie, Jay-Z, and everyone who came after them. It’s in my Top 5 forever, no question. The cover is crazy too. I hold this album sacred. If I had to make a time capsule for our generation in 1994, I would have put this in there over everything else. It was that important to me. And a lot of other people too. Still is.
ip’s pick: “Memory Lane”
32. Nas- It Was Written (1996)
How do you follow up a classic debut album and not drop a dud? This is how. It Was Written is a win, because Nas changed. He didn’t try to do the same thing. He grew up a bit, and matured on the mic. He wasn’t scared to try new things with the production. But to his credit, he also had the sensibility to keep his topics all the way Queensbridge. I love this album. The Trackmasters beats aren’t as rough as the ones on Illmatic, but musically, they’re exceptional. Plus, Primo still makes an appearance, and if the Dr. Dre track hasn’t hit you by now, well, you need to smoke more chronic. And Nas raps his ass off on this album. It’s hard to put two rap albums by the same artist on a Top 5 of all time list, but if there was room, I’d squeeze this in.
*ip’s pick: “Shootouts”
33. The Nonce- World Ultimate (1995)
When I first heard The Nonce’s song “Mix Tapes,” I was like, “who are these dudes?” It was like old school, west coast rap music. Then, I copped their album, and I loved it. It’s so original, and fresh. Nouka Basetype and Yusef Aflout (RIP) are both nice on the mic, and complement each other well. There are some really cool beats on this. If you want that laidback west coast sound, without the gangster talk, this shit hits the spot. And it’s not too out there or abstract. It’s simple, and breezy.
*ip’s pick: “On The Air”
34. The Notorious B.I.G.- Ready To Die (1994)
We skipped school to cop this album. Biggie was the man back in high school. We loved Nas, sure. And Wu was the shit. But Biggie was that dude. A new Biggie song came out, and it was an event. So when his album dropped, it was a big deal. I think “Unbelievable” was the song that really made me the ultimate Biggie fan. It was all over the radio that summer, and on every mix tape. And I couldn’t wait to hear more shit like that. Of course, by the time the album was out, we had heard a lot of it. But now, we had the official versions of all the songs, clear, and crisp. This album didn’t leave the tape deck in my car for months. It still bangs, too. This is Top 5 for me also. And not because I think every beat is amazing, because that east coast funk sound isn’t necessarily my favorite shit. But there are enough ridiculously classic songs on here to make the couple fillers worthy of getting some playing time. Plus, Biggie’s rapping is good enough to make even a decent beat sound super dope. RIP Biggie. We miss you, Big Poppa.
*ip’s picks: “Unbelievable”
35. The Notorious B.I.G.- Life After Death (1997)
It’s unfortunate that this is the last Biggie album we really got. The posthmous releases don’t count. This was is second, and last album. Luckily, it’s a double disc, packed with hits. Unfortunately though, we never got to see what was next. We all know the best was yet to come. Just think where Jay-Z is at now. It’s sad, really. Everyone’s favorite rapper, gone too soon. Biggie was the best. Maybe if you break everything down into categories, he wasn’t technically #1. But he was the best. The most likeable, and the illest. This album shows us all sides of his artistry and personality. He goes hard, mellows it up, spits quick shit, tells stories, puts together concepts, brags, shares his vulnerability, cracks jokes, and even sings. We all laughed, cried, and pressed rewind over and over listening to this. Again, RIP Biggie. Your spirit will live on.
*ip’s picks: “My Downfall” f/ DMC
36. O.C.- Jewelz (1997)
Diggin’ In The Crates crew representative O.C. is a really, really dope rapper. He’s one of the few guys that can get on a track and sound hard without talking about violence. He’s the guy who keeps everyone in check. “Time’s Up” is one of the greatest rap songs of all time, without question. But even though that track is on his first album, Jewelz is his best work. It’s got incredible production from Premier, Lord Finesse, Buckwild, Da Beatminerz, and Showbiz. And lyrically, O.C. is observant, clever, and smart. Great album.
*ip’s picks: “Hypocrite”
37. Outkast- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)
My crew listened to this album constantly in high school. I’m gonna talk shit and say that we were up on Outkast way before they popped. This was really the only southern rap group we liked. We never got into Geto Boys or UGK or anything like that. But we loved this album. I listened to it by myself all the time, too. But we thumped this everywhere we went as a click. Big Boi and Dre were both ridiculous rappers. And the beats on this album are so dope! This is that player, pimp shit. I’m glad this album exists so we all can look back and be reminded that before Outkast got huge and Andre 3000 turned weird, they were just some kids from Atlanta with mad skills.
*ip’s picks: “Crumblin’ Erb”
38. Outkast- Aquemini (1998)
Oukast is one of the most important rap groups of the ’90s, and it’s only right that they have two albums on this Westcheddar favorites list. Their second album had a couple highlights on it, but this album is an undisputed classic. They expanded the horizon of what a rap album could sound like. They were able to blend the best of both of their worlds together, hence the title. Big Boi’s pimp side and Andre 3000’s poetic side, mashed into one album. And the production was like gumbo: a little bit of everything. There’s hard beats, synths, funk, soul, and even some up-tempo stuff to dance to. And lyrically, 3 Stacks went off on some of his verses. This album really put him in the Top 5 Dead or Alive discussion. But don’t sleep on Big Boi, he came correct too. I love Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, but Aquemini is probably their best album ever.
*ip’s pick: “Return of the ‘G'”
39. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth- Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992)
I’m throwing both Pete Rock & CL Smooth albums on this list. Fuck it. 914 stand up. “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” is the G.O.A.T. rap song, or at least tied for first with a couple others. This was one of those albums I skipped around a lot through as a kid, and never really listened to in sequence, which is weird but true. I always thought C.L. Smooth was an ill rapper. No one sounded like him. And Pete Rock, well, that dude just flat out makes some really soulful, funky beats. I interviewed him for Complex earlier this year, and he told me the stories behind some of the songs on this album, including how they all started crying in the studio after “T.R.O.Y.” was recorded. This is an important album for Westcheddar (they’re from Mount Vernon of course), and was one of the first albums I really cherished in my collection. And Grap Luva’s beatbox freestyle in the beginning of “On and On” might be my favorite musical interlude in hip-hop history. Respect.
*ip’s pick: “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”
40. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth- The Main Ingredient (1994)
As much as I love Mecca and the Soul Brother, The Main Ingredient is my favorite of the two. The production is so fucking fantastic, and C.L. is smoother than he ever was. This is a great road trip hip-hop album. It feels good, all the way through. It’s a nice listen, especially the way they link all the songs together with instrumental interludes. Their first single “I Got A Love” is so underrated. And “Worldwide” with Rob-O and Pete Rock going verse for verse is a personal favorite. Pete Rock stepped his rap game up on this album a lot (peep his solo “Escapism”). It’s a shame these dudes broke up after this.
*ip’s picks: “Worldwide” f/ Rob-O
41. The Pharcyde- Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (1992)
The Pharcyde’s first album is on some next shit. If you want some “alternative” rap, this is it. They’re kind of like skateboard kids that spit, even though they’re not skaters. Does that make sense? But “Passin’ Me By” is a classic, no matter how you choose to describe or label these guys. Some wacky, weeded out shit from the west coast, with plenty of great songs on it. Their second album had some flavor on it too, but this is them in their purest state.
*ip’s pick: “Passin’ Me By”
42. Raekwon- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1995)
This album deserves a few accolades from me. Top 5 rap albums of all time. Greatest Wu-Tang album ever released. And probably Top 5 albums in any genre, ever released. Period. This is the illest shit ever. No need to skip any tracks. Raekwon and Ghostface are the duo of the century, and hold down most of the album themselves on classics like “Rainy Dayz” and “Criminology.” And their Wu brothers are all peaking on this too, which makes for some sick posse cuts like “Wu Gambinos” and “Guillotine (Swordz).” Plus, Nas spits one of the most memorable verses ever on “Verbal Intercourse.” And Rae and Ghost go off solo too, like Rae on “Incarcerated Scarfaces” and “Knowledge God.” Ghost’s solo cut “Wisdom Body” was my shit too!!! Still is. And then, to top it off, Cappadonna makes his debut, and proves that he is just as ill as his any of his Wu partners in rhyme. I interviewed Raekwon for Complex earlier this year, and he told me the stories behind a bunch of these songs, face to face. The 16 year old Ipcus shit his pants.
ip’s pick: “Guillotine (Swordz)” f/ Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, and Genius/GZA
43. Redman- Dare Iz A Darkside (1994)
Okay, so Redman’s first album obviously was off the hook, and the reason I became a die hard fan. He held a tight spot in my Top 5 rappers throughout the ’90s. And his third album Muddy Waters got so much damn burn my freshman year of college that it’s a shame I’m not putting it on this list. My boy Apo may un-friend me on Facebook because of it. But Dare Iz A Darkside is the one. It’s my personal favorite, but also, I truly believe, it’s Redman in his illest form. It’s his most essential body of work. Drug influenced production and ridiculous rapping, on a level like no other. No wonder the Wu made him an honorary member. He’s on their wavelength. This is dirty, grimey, fiery rap music from the Funk Doc himself. The album cover says it all.
*ip’s pick: “Green Island”
44. The Roots- Do You Want More?!?!!!? (1995)
The Roots just dropped their 14th album. Can you believe that? Wow. This set it off for them. Technically, this is their second album (Organix was their demo that ending up getting put out), but it was their first release on a major label. The Roots made rocking with a band cool. They did it the right way. Black Thought is a beast, too. These guys put Philly back on the hip-hop map. I was a huge fan. And to be able to say that I rapped on stage with them at the age of 18 in New York City at one of their shows will forever be my biggest highlight as a rapper. That shit was unreal. Read about it HERE. Anyway, this album displays how a band can make dope beats using live instruments, and what a true MC is. Black Thought is an MC. Their live show is unmatched, but this album captures their brilliance just as well. And to add a cherry on top to translating the live hip-hop experience on record, they snuck a beatbox track with Rahzel and a very young Dice Raw freestyling on the album at the end. This album is very important to me. I spent a lot of time listening to it.
*ip’s pick: “The Lesson Pt. 1” f/ Rahzel and Dice Raw
45. Smif-N-Wessun- Dah Shinin’ (1995)
Welcome to Bucktown, USA. Smif-N-Wessun was the second group out of the Boot Camp Click to drop an album, and they came strong. “Bucktown” was a great single, but this album had plenty more fire. This is true Timberland boot music. And Tek and Steele show nothing but brotherly love to each other and their pound. No corny songs about chicks, no political messages. Just music to light up to with your click in the cipher. Da Beatminerz deserve a finger point too for this. Brooklyn stand up.
*ip’s pick: “Timz N Hood Check”
46. Snoop Dogg- Doggystyle (1993)
Snoop as the frontman with Dr. Dre behind the boards is how it should be, which is why this album is my favorite of all the Death Row releases. It just has too many great songs. It has hits, like “Gin and Juice” and “Doggy Dogg World,” straight up spit showcases like “Tha Shiznit,” and that ignorant fun shit like “Ain’t No Fun.” I thumped this hard body, for a long, long time. And considering how many dope albums were coming out of New York during this time period, that says a lot. Snoop may be the coolest rapper in history. And with Dr. Dre, Kurupt, Daz, Warren G, Lady of Rage, and Nate Dogg in the building with him, he created a timeless west coast gangster classic.
*ip’s picks: “Tha Shiznit”
47. A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory (1991)
This is literally the album that made me fall in love with hip-hop music. I am who I am because of this album. Period. It means everything in the world to me. I listened to it everywhere I went. I would take trips around town with my Dad to do errands, and just sit in the car while he had shit to do so I could listen to the tape. Q-Tip was that dude. Phife was the perfect compliment. The songs had meaning. The lyrics had cultural significance. But most of all, it was just fucking dope. My ears never heard anything like it before. This will forever be my favorite album ever in the history of music. Nuff said.
*ip’s pick: “Vibes and Stuff”
48. A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders (1993)
Okay, here we go. People want to argue about which is better, this or The Low End Theory. And I can see why it’s worthy of a debate. This shit is a very, very hot album. But I can’t say it’s better than The Low End Theory. Maybe it’s just because I prefer darker sounding shit. This A Tribe Called Quest is a tad bit happier. Just a tad. To me, even though this is called Midnight Marauders, it feels more like the daytime. A cloudy day at times, sure. But it’s brighter. Not all the way through, but it has more sunshine peaking through than The Low End Theory. The production on here is in many ways a step up from their previous efforts. It’s got a gloss to it, without losing its edge. And it still hard drums, great basslines, and impeccable samples. The Low End Theory will forever be my favorite, but this certainly deserves a spot high up on the G.O.A.T. rap album list. I won’t argue with that for a second.
*ip’s pick: “Keep It Rollin'” f/ Large Professor
49. Wu-Tang Clan- Enter The Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers) (1993)
Do you remember where you were the first time you heard “Protect Ya Neck”? I do. I was at YMCA summer camp, and some kid from Brooklyn had it on a mixtape. And we all were like, “What the fuck is this?” It was unreal. A ton of rappers on one song, all dope, killing a crazy beat with karate sounds all over it. I didn’t even get it. Once I had this whole album, I figured it out though. They were street dudes, just like any of the other rappers we loved, but they applied a martial arts mentality to their music and lifestyle, which was dope. Lyrically, most of these dudes got better after this album. Especially Ghostface, right? But as a click, they were all solid, and made great songs. “C.R.E.A.M.” was a game changer, most def. As was “Method Man” and “Can It Be It Was All So Simple.” This album was like a introduction of what was to come for the next few years from the different Wu-Tang Clan chambers. And what’s ill is that pretty much every song on here became a classic in its own right.
*ip’s picks: “Can It Be All So Simple”
50. Wu-Tang Clan- Wu-Tang Forever (1997)
Double disc from the Wu. Nuts. The first disc has one of those Wu runs on it, with like a bunch of songs back to back to back that are ridiculous. “Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours” to “Maria” is wild. And the second disc has some serious jewels on it that took hip-hop music to a whole other level. For example, Ghost’s verse on “Impossible,” when he’s with his man right after he gets shot talking to him as he’s about to die, is about as moving as a rap verse can get. I’m not even the biggest “Triumph” fan, but to have that set off your second disc is just stupid. Like, they saved it for the second disc. Then, you’ve got crazy cuts on here like “M.G.M” with Ghost and Rae at the boxing match, and “Duck Seazon,” where RZA finally just spazzes on the mic. It’s hard not to look at a double disc and want to take the best from both and make one. But at the time, both were necessary.
*ip’s picks: “Duck Seazon”
HONORABLE MENTIONS | 50 MORE FAVORITES:
Artifacts- Wrong Side Of The Tracks
AZ- Doe Or Die
AZ- Pieces Of A Man
Tha Alkaholiks- Coast II Coast
The Beatnuts- Street Level
Beastie Boys- Check Your Head
Big L- Lifestyles Ov Da Poor & Dangerous
Black Star- Black Star
Brand Nubian- All For One
Cappadonna- The Pillage
Casual- Fear Itself
Cypress Hill- Black Sunday
De La Soul- De La Soul is Dead
De La Soul- Stakes Is High
Del The Funky Homosapien- I Wish My Brother George Was Here
Digable Planets- Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
Digable Planets- Blowout Comb
DMX- It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot
Tha Dogg Pound- Dogg Food
EPMD- Business As Usual
EPMD- Business Never Personal
The Fugees- The Score
Gangstarr- Step in the Arena
Gang Starr- Moment of Truth
Ice Cube- Lethal Injection
Jay-Z- In My Lifetime Vol. 3
Jeru The Damaja- The Wrath Of The Math
KRS-One- Return Of The Boom Bap
KRS- One- KRS-One
Keith Murray- The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World
Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lil’ Kim- Hardcore
Main Source- Breakin’ Atoms
Mobb Deep- Hell On Earth
Mos Def- Black on Both Sides
O.G.C.- Da Storm
Ol’ Dirty Bastard- Return To The 36 Chambers
Organized Konfusion- Stress: The Extinction Agenda
Pete Rock- Soul Survivor
Redman- Whut? Thee Album
Redman- Muddy Waters
The Roots- Illadelph Halflife
RZA- Bobby Digital in Stereo
Sadat X- Wild Cowboys
Showbiz and A.G.- Goodfellas
Slick Rick- The Art Of Storytelling
Souls Of Mischief- ’93 Til Infinity
A Tribe Called Quest- People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
2Pac- All Eyez On Me
Thanks to all my loyal Westcheddar readers for 500 plus posts of support. The content will surely continue, so stay tuned. Please feel free to tell us what your favorite 90’s rap albums are in the comments section. I welcome the discussion. Holler at your boy!!!!!