70. Beastie Boys Ill Communication
(Grand Royal/Capitol, 1994)

Following Check Your Head‘s focus on live instrumentation and grit, Ill Communication brought the Beasties back to a more conventionally hip hop sound. But they also weren’t willing to put their instruments back in the closet either. “Tough Guy” and “Heart Attack Man” are blunt reminders that the Beastie Boys’ roots are in punk. Elsewhere, the boys lay down solid instrumental grooves, most notably on the smash “Sabotage.” Under normal circumstances, I would wince at a 20 track hip hop album. Generally, this means that there’s a lot of filler, or there are a bunch of segues that will lose their novelty after one listen. But the Beasties give us 20 tracks showing off not only their rhyming skills, but their breadth of musical literacy. As cliquish as middle school can be, Ill Communication was a rare moment that pretty much all of us agreed upon: the hip hop kids, the alternative kids, the rock kids, the punk kids. And that says a lot, as snotty and superficial as we were back then. Were Hot Sauce Committee part 2 such an incredible return to form, I would have said that Ill Communication was the last great Beastie Boys album. Hot Sauce redeemed them in my eyes, but there’s no denying that Ill Communication is one of the best albums of the 1990s, hip hop or otherwise.-Dr. Gonzo

69. Common Resurrection
(Relativity, 1994)

Growth is defined as “Development from a lower or simpler to a higher or more complex form; evolution.” Common Sense has grown and Resurrection is the very definition of evolution.  The Chicago based lyricist walked on the scene in 92 with Can I Borrow A Dollar.  It was a debut that was fun, quirky, full of word play and pop cult references.  It gave him a name but nothing that stood.  Up next came Resurrection in 94.  You could tell Com Sense grew on this one.  Also production wise No I.D., who rode shotgun on this journey too, stepped up his beat game as well.  Com dropped the not-too-serious Heidi Hoes, Charms Alarms, and Puppy Chows and replaced them with Resurrection, Chapter 13 (Rich Man Vs. Poor Man), and Thisisme.  He’s put down the fisher price and picked up the big boy microphone.  He penned a top-10-of-all-time song in I Used to Love H.E.R.  It was admired by many and offended others at the same time.  Ice Cube and West Side Connection wrote “Westside Slaughterhouse” in response to Common’s insinuation that left coast gangsta rap  was a detriment.  The grown man in Common hit back even harder with a top-ten-of-all-time diss track in “The Bitch in Yoo.”  The man has definitely come a long way.  And he’s only going to get better.-Peter

68. EPMD Unfinished Business
(Fresh/Sleeping Bag, 1989)

Certified gold in 1989, “Unfinished Business” was EPMD’s sophomore release. Critics believed the group was washed up after their debut album, “Strictly Business”. To their dismay, the group release the lead single off their second album entitled “So Wat Cha Sayin’” to address all critics and negative comments towards the longevity of their careers. Another fan favorite was “Please Listen to my Demo” which is a story about what happened and how the duo felt around the time they were shopping their demo to record labels. Nonetheless EPMD was become known for other classic tunes after they signed on the dotted line.-June

67. Mos Def Black On Both Sides
(Rawkus, 1999)

Easily the hottest album ever made by a former child actor who co-starred on a sitcom with Nell Carter.-Big Money

In an era besieged by gangsta’ rappers’ and their gunplay, Black On Both Sides‘ mission was to bring positivity back into hip hop. Influenced by myriad musical influences (jazz, funk, soul, and reggae, even rock) and directed by a high calibre bunch of producers, Black On Both Sides is taken to the next level by its chief protagonist: enter my man, Mos Def. Packing a ridiculously distinctive voice, a hyperactive flow, and layered multi-syllabic rhymes, he’s easily one of the most talented rappers of his generation. And whether it be the lack of clean water in the third world on “New World Water”, the state of the game on “Hip Hop” and “Mathematics”, white music’s appropriation of black music through history on “Rock and Roll” or vivid narration of his hometown (“Brooklyn”) , Mos Def delivers consistently engaging, thought-provoking lyricism throughout the course of this intelligent LP. But perhaps the Brooklynite’s crescendo comes with “Mr Ni**a”, a stunning, simmering analysis of inequality, racism and prejudice which effortlessly recalls memories of Public Enemy and Ice Cube at their best.

Simply put, Black on Both Sides is a tour-de-force, and one of the finest rap albums n the last 15 years. I have only one thing left to say: WHY did you have to basically stop rapping, Mos?-Paul

66. OutKast Southernplayalisticadillacmusik
(LaFace/Arista, 1994)

“Talk bad about the A-Town, I’ll bust you in yo fucking mouth”

Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik stands out, even amongst Outkast’s illustrious back catalogue. This is the start of the Outkast journey and it ain’t rocket science to work out why. Start by forgetting about latter-day singathons like “Hey Ya”. Instead, here you’ll hear a young and raw Andre 3000 dropping endless twisting flows and mindbendingly complex rhymes, while his hugely underrated partner Big Boi bounces joyously along with an insanely melodic flow and a conveyor belt of witty punchlines. Powered by these two extremely talented artists,  Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik strikes a beautiful balance between injections of funky, spaced-out sounds/lyrics in classic Outkast fashion (“Funky Ride”, “Playas Ball”, “Crumblin’ Erb”) and harder-edged, stripped down street stuff straight from the streets of Atlanta ( such as “Myintrotoletuknow”, “Ain’t no Thang”, “Call of Da Wild”). This shift in styles is matched perfectly by sonically impressive soundscapes concocted by producers Organized Noize. All of this hits a crescendo on the opus “Git Up, Get Out”, which is an outstanding Goodie Mob collaboration posse cut that is in my eyes one of the finest examples of positive social commentary ever. Forget about this album proving Outkast were destined for great things – they already were great.-Paul

65. Public Enemy Yo! Bum Rush The Show
(Def Jam, 1987)

Chuck D. chastised those who “rhymed for the sake of riddlin’,” but if you listen to Yo! Bum Rush The Show, you’ll see that Chuck did a pretty good job at just that. On the Long Island crew’s debut, the Bomb Squad’s production isn’t fully formed yet, and the rhyme style and political consciousness of Chuck D. isn’t fully formed yet. Even Flavor Flav hasn’t reached full Flav potential on this album. So even if Yo! isn’t the stylistic equal of Nation of Millions or Black Planet, it’s still a damn good record. Chuck’s authoritative voice carries songs like the mission statement “Public Enemy #1,”  braggadocious jams like “Miuzi Weighs a Ton” and “Megablast” and Vernon Reid’s presence on “Sophisticated Bitch” pointed the way towards a less cheesy rock/rap fusion than the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC were capable of at the time. Even though they hadn’t totally figured out the Public Enemy sound yet, they were still better than 90% of rap groups. Yo! gets short shrift when it comes to the evaluation of PE’s catalog, and it shouldn’t be that way.-Big Money

64. Cypress Hill Cypress Hill
(Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1991)

DJ Muggs gets nowhere near enough props as a producer. Cypress Hill’s debut might be-from a beat perspective-one of the 10 best albums in hip-hop history. I guarantee that you will spend most of this album nodding your head so hard you might get whiplash. Add in the distinctive (to say the least) voices of B-Real and Sen Dog, and what you end up with is an absolute classic. “How I Could Just Kill A Man” and “Hand On The Pump” are Grade-A gangsta rap, and songs like “Latin Lingo” offered up a more authentic version of bilingual hip-hop than acts like Mellow Man Ace and Gerardo had at that point. Plus, Cypress Hill is the epitome of hip-hop’s obsession with weed. This album would go on to influence everyone from Kris Kross (Jermaine Dupri utilized many of DJ Muggs’ beats for Totally Krossed Out, at least according to the liner notes on one of The Roots’ greatest hits albums) to Dr. Dre. There is NO way The Chronic gets made without Cypress Hill’s debut to lead the way.-Big Money

63. Eminem The Slim Shady LP
(Aftermath/Interscope, 1999)

World, Eminem. Eminem, world.

The album that introduced us all to the angry rapper from Michigan. Eminem and his lyrics, though somewhat dark (SEE: “’97 Bonnie & Clyde”), were fresh and often made you wonder why you were laughing, especially in his hit single “My Name Is?” and one of my favorite rap duets of all-time “Guilty Conscience” where Eminem plays the Devil to Dr. Dre’s Angel. The Slim Shady LP laid the groundwork for future Eminem work. We were just about to get a taste of how angry, but how talented Mr. Shady was.-KJ

62. 3rd Bass The Catcus Album
(Def Jam, 1989)

The Beastie Boys were the first white rappers to make an impression, but 3rd Bass were the first white rappers with skills to make an impression. Although best known for their smash Pop Goes The Weasel in 1991, 1989’s Catcus Album was their magnum opus. In a situation that turns out to be the reverse of the way society usually works, Serch and Pete Nice had to rhyme twice as well to be just as good, and they did. The first taste was the slammin’ “Steppin to the A.M.,” and the rest of the album didn’t let up. The fellas were not hesitant about bringing a political element to their music, as evidenced by songs like “Triple Stage Darkness” and “Product of the Environmen.” Yet, there was still an element of humor present in their music-“Brooklyn/Queens” was a girl-chasing anthem, and a couple of the album’s skits offer a pretty on-point impressions of Louis Armstrong and some choice words from label head Russell Simmons. Plus–they introduced the term “gas face” into the American lexicon. How can you hate?-Big Money

61. The Roots Do You Want More?!?!?!?
(Geffen, 1995)

One of hip-hop’s shining examples of an LP sustaining momentum and cohesion while paying attention to individual tracks, Do You Want More is essential Roots – less experimental than later records, but a boulder’s-through more accomplished than their first. Listeners who find themselves in a perpetual search for the perfect soundtrack to a mellow 2am can rejoice knowing that eight dollars is all that separates you from the album you desire.-Drew

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