Best Hip Hop Albums Of 1991

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 1991


1. The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

This is the record that changed the direction of East Coast Hip Hop, and it’s also the record that A Tribe Called Quest truly came into their own. On the first album, the lyrics had a nice vibe to them, but on this album both MCs got comfortable on the mic, and they sound seasoned. Q-Tip made sure that he lived up to his nickname the “Abstract Poetic” and Phife hit you off with the playful punchlines and relateable down to earth raps. It was a match made in heaven. They played off of each other so well that their verses came off as banter between friends.  Rather than trying to be technically impressive, they focused on making the best songs and most cohesive album. In classic Native Tongue tradition, The Tribe kept the listener enthralled with a vast variety of subject matter covering philosophical questions “whats a Lolly-Pop, without the good shit?” social issues such as date rape, problems in the music industry, and popular cultural trends,”Do you know the importance of a sky pager?”.  On top of all of this, they put Bustah Rhymes on the map with one of the most impressive features in Hip Hop history, with the song “Scenario”.

The production on this album took even more ideas from jazz than their first album. The beats were now stripped down even further, to draw your focus into the lyrics and MCing. Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Mohamed began to get their fingers dusty, sampling records by Jack McDuff, Minnie Riperton, and many other obscurities that sounded starkly different from the funk records and breakbeats that other producers were sampling at the time. This album helped to take New York Hip Hop away from the production style of densely layered sonic chaos championed by Public Enemy’s producer’s “The Bomb Squad”, and brought NY Hip Hop into a more laid back, minimal, and jazzy style of production.

2. We Can’T Be Stopped – Ghetto Boys

What really makes this album great is the way the Ghetto Boys get their point across.  They say how they feel, and it’s absolutely clear that they don’t give a fuck what people think about them. The contrast between the three of them ensures that the lyrics never get old. Willie D’s loud boisterous delivery provides comic relief, Bushwick Bill sound genuinely angry about political issues, yet aimlessly sadistic, and Scarface spends half of his time on this album as stone cold gangster, and the other half as a man who is depressed, suicidal, experiencing hallucinations, yet trying to find the will to stay alive for the sake of his family. All three of them are loud, pissed off, and as irreverent, offensive, and politically incorrect as anyone could possibly be, and that is precisely what makes this album such a God Damn Masterpiece.

The production is exactly what you would expect from the pre G-funk Gangster Rap in 1991, it’s just a lot of funk breaks with some 808s and drums, but it’s executed perfectly, and all the beats on this album are straight bangers.  From beginning to end, you just can’t ignore this album. It’s constantly in your face, even the cover, which depicts Bushwick Bill in the hospital after catching a bullet in his face during an altercation with his girlfriend. He was trying to persuade her to kill him, and as they tussled for the gun, he shot himself in the head. Of course, Willie D and Scarface are by his side. All things considered, there isn’t a Hip Hop album out there with more raw expression and genuine personal honesty than this album. It’s an essential for any Hip Hop fan.

3. Breaking Atoms – Main Source Large Professor is one of the most seminal Hip Hop producers of New York Hip Hop in the late 80s and 90s and this is the only record put out by his group Main Source before Large Pro went solo. The album features Large professor as the sole MC and main producer of the group. The other two members of the group were DJs Sir Scratch and K-Cut. It’s unfortunate that the group broke up after this album because having an MC with two DJs and a focus on turntablism made for such a unique idea for a rap group. Along with Tribe’s Production, the beats Large Pro made on this album helped paved the way for a more minimal style of boom bap, which emphasized using obscure samples that would soon become the status quo for New York Hip Hop Beats. It was a hugely influential album for East Coast Producers for years to come.

Some of the songs on this album like “He Got So Much Soul” and “Watch Rodger Do His Thing” can fall flat despite having a positive message and story to be told. Others such as “Looking At The Front Door”, “Peace Is Not The Word To Play”, “Just Hangin’ Out” and “A Friendly Game Of Baseball” are timeless classics. On “Looking at the front door” Large Pro discusses  toxic relationships, too many arguments, and coping with the feeling that he isn’t being treated right. It’s one of the best relationship songs in Hip Hop, and my god, the beat is a fucking masterpiece.  On “On Friendly Game of Baseball” Large Pro does a great job discussing the plight of Police Brutality, Racial Profiling, and his own personal frustration with it. On “Peace is not the word to play”, the DJs get some time to shine during the epic break at the end in which K-Kut and Sir Scratch proceed to trade off the task of annihilating the high BPM track with super dope mixing and cutting. The ending break of this song is truly one of the most musically climactic endings in all Hip Hop history.   Last but not least, the album features one of the most important posse cuts in Hip Hop history, “Live At The Barbecue” Which features the debut of Akinyele and much more importantly the debut of a young 17 year old Nas, who unquestionably steals the show. Altogether, this is an essential album for fans of Golden Age Hip Hop. I recommend you pick up the deluxe edition which features their awesome bonus single off of the “Whiteman Can’t Jump” sound track “Fakin’ The Funk”, the beat is bananas.

4. Death Certificate – Ice Cube

This is Ice Cube at his most fierce and substantive. It was like everything leading up to this album forced him to be at the absolute top of his game,  all the experience he had on his previous albums, the problems he was having with his record label refusing to pay, and the start of his beef with N.W.A., it all culminated in this masterpiece.

One thing that separated Cube from many other Gangster rappers of the era (Former group included) is that his writing was so poignant. He knew how to make his points sting, his set ups felt like a stab in the chest, his punchlines felt like was twisting the knife. He is like the Justice Scalia of rap. Whether you agree or disagree with him profoundly, his writing evokes an intense emotional response.

Every song is here for a reason. On “My Summer Vacation” he simultaneously warns youth about the dark side of gang life, crime, and it’s consequences, condemns the social injustices and inequalities that entice many people to live a life of crime, and simultaneously scares the shit out of rural America because, “Hey mom, Ice Cube is moving to Missouri”. It’s just brilliant on every level.

This album takes you into many different places, “Look Who’s Bunin'” takes describes Ice Cube’s humerus trip to the health clinic to cop some rubbers, as showcases the awkward conversations he has with people he knows who are there because they wound up catching the clap, “Alive On Arrival” is an emotionally gripping tale, told in first person about a Black man who was the victim of a shooting. Instead of being rushed into surgery when he gets to the hospital, the police interrogate him as if he is a gang member. The interrogation drags on and on despite Cube’s persistent reminders that he needs to be operated on before it’s too late, eventually, the song culminates with him dying in the waiting room needlessly, due in part to racial discrimination, and in part to the general incompetence and bad judgement of the police and hospital staff in regards to the way the situation was handled. On the single “Steady Mobbin” Cube kicks some fat ass Gangsta shit about cruising around the town, blasting his system, picking up girls, and playing Dominoes. It’s a banger. Lastly, the thoroughly long album ends with Ice Cube punching back at N.W.A. for dissing him after he left the group on the classic track “No Vaseline”.  Ice Cube establishes unquestionably, that he is the most talented lyricist out of his former group. The lyrics N.W.A. dropped on their album after Cube left, simply do not hold a candle to what Cube wrote after going solo, if there is any doubt about this, play N.W.A.’s diss track “Real Niggas” and Ice Cube’s Diss “No Vaseline” back to back and it should become abundantly clear to you.

While the Ghetto Boys were offensive in a way that I wholeheartedly enjoyed, there are some songs on this album that are hard for me to get behind.  Namely “Black Korea” in which Cube raps about burning stores owned by Korean’s to the ground because they are suspicious of Black People stealing their stuff, and “Horny Little Devil” in which Cube raps about how White Dudes and Black Woman don’t mix and if he sees them together he’ll “Swing swing swing, and chop chop chop” their white dicks off. Despite being offensive and disagreeable, it is admittedly so extreme, and over the top, that there is some humor to be had here. Furthermore, even though I can’t embrace these songs as I can some of his other works, I do believe they are well written, well, produced, and quite poignant. In general, there are many songs with less offensive themes that are peppered with this racist and sexist content, so this record is not for the faint of heart. If you can get past this, you will probably appreciate this record for the masterpiece that it is.

5.O.G. Original Gangster– Ice-T

This has got to be Ice T’s best album.  His records before this had many outstanding songs on them but the quality in terms of production and beats was inconsistent, varying from great to grating.  This record on the other hand has solid production throughout the entire album. The beats are generally high energy and help to keep the listener fired up, of course there are also some songs like “Pulse Of The Rhyme” that evoke a feeling of low key suspense and dark fantasy.

The variety of beats and subject matter really capture all the sides of Ice-T. Even though he doesn’t always rap about it, Ice-T was an orphan, who wound up moving out to L.A. He had to make his own way, and he made sure he wasn’t at odds with gang members around his way by rapping for them and telling stories about them in his rhymes as a young man. As much as it was an art for Ice it was also a means of self-preservation and survival. One time he was asked to get on the mic and perform, being that he was received better than many other MCs he started doing it more often. During this time before he took on rapping seriously, he was a hard criminal who had successfully pulled off numerous bank robberies without being caught. The same could not be said of many of his peers. After hearing from his friends who had wound up in jail and told Ice-T he didn’t want to be where they were at, Ice began looking for something else. It wasn’t until he realized he could truly make a business out of rapping that he decided to take it seriously as a career.

This sense of fierce independence, knowledge of the hustle, and an overall sense of anger regarding injustice, social issues, and particularly a sense of  disrespect and even sadism toward people that hated on him or gave him problems along the way are always captured in full force on an Ice-T album. This record is no exception, it features all of these aspects of his personality in spades.  I commend Ice-T for letting the listener into the darker side of his imagination, openly, genuinely, and unapologetically. Rather than focusing on constant poignancy and bite to his lyrics, Ice-T often opts to lure you into his world with dark vivid imagery, story telling, and his unique brand of Gangsta Rap philosophizing.

Fans of Ice-T may have noticed that he doesn’t rap about doing drugs or drinking, this is because Ice is the kind of person that likes to be sharp, aware, and in total control of himself at all times. I think one thing that makes Ice’s albums so interesting is how exacting and deliberate of an MC Ice-T is. It never feels like he just freestyles the lyrics or said the first thing that came to his mind, it feels like every lyric was chosen for a reason.  I believe that Ice-T also paid more attention to making his lyrics impressive. His choice of words as well as his use of literary devices such as similes and metaphors always seemed more nuanced and detailed than other gangsta rappers of the era. Ice-T used these things to paint a picture of who he was and to give the listener a true sense of his character, other times he merely used them to be more entertaining, clever, or humorous, and this led to an album that came off as very well crafted. It’s an essential for fans of Golden Age Hip Hop, and of Gangsta Rap in general.

6.Efil4Zaggin [Explicit] – N.W.A.

Without their most profound and skilled writer and MC, Ice Cube, N.W.A. feels like The Beatles without John Lennon.  The lyrical content on this album is generally absurd and ridiculous. Unlike a Paul McCartney joint, the lyrics on this record consist mostly of mindless, if not aimless violence. I don’t totally understand it, because N.W.A. managed to make one of their most powerful, hard hitting, and meaningful songs “100 Miles and Running” without Ice Cube’s help for their EP which shared the same name and came out shortly before this record. On this album however, they just kind of threw that all out the window.

Songs like “Approach To Danger” work in the same way that a cheesy horror movie or perhaps a psychological thriller work.  It’s not gory like a horror movie, but it comes off like a song about three psychopaths murdering people for absolutely no reason. It puts the listener on edge, especially because the beat creates one of the most tense atmospheres I have heard in a rap song. I see how this kind of violence in music could be part of the overall artistic vision, and they largely use it to great effect on this song to create extreme tension and suspense. The same cannot be said by many other tracks on this album, for instance, on songs like “One Less Bitch I Have To Worry About” Dr Dre honestly just raps about killing prostitutes without any justification. I can’t really condone these type of lyrics because there is not even any attempt on Dre’s part to execute them with any redeeming quality. It’s not a parody or a satire, and it doesn’t put make me feel tense, thrilled, nor scared,  just offended. It’s fucked up and misogynistic, and it serves no other purpose. I would describe these songs as the low points of the album.

It’s hard to put a finger on what the artistic vision of this album is, or what the album is trying to achieve. It should be noted that the prior album, Straight Outta Compton was socially and politically relevant and that’s what made it work.  The Dr Dre solo album “The Chronic” that came out about a year after this  made Dre look like a production virtuoso, and centered around the idea that he is complete a bad ass. It served almost as a power fantasy in many regards, people felt like badasses when they bump “The Chronic”, additionally, there is something to be said about the benefit of having the type of mentality often portrayed on “The Chronic”. Adopting a mentality of not taking bullshit, and not giving a fuck about petty things may be just what the “Dr” ordered. Instead of worrying about some bullshit, living a life in which you are enjoying funky beats, cruising the streets with the music blasting while you’re smoking some chronic is pretty damn appealing, and likewise, so is the album “The Chronic”. Those albums worked because the artistic vision was so clear.  This album however, is in a very strange place, and the content is a hot mess.

That being said, these beats are anything but a hot mess, they are absolutely groundbreaking. They are light years ahead of the production on “Straight Outta Compton”, and in fact, these beats serve as the first true foray into the sound of G-Funk. Songs like “Always into Sumthin” could have been on The Chronic. “Sumthin” it is a perfect fit both sonically and thematically, and it served as a taste of what was to come. If you have played out “The Chronic” and “Doggy Style” and haven’t heard this album, that song is a great place to start. It’s that gangsta shit, and it worked so well.  The reason this album is so great is because it served as the blue print of “The Chronic”. It had spectacular beats that sounded nothing like what was being produced on the east or west coast at the time. It’s biggest flaw is that rather than portraying themselves as badasses that you shouldn’t fuck with for the course of the album, they took these bizarre detours to talk about killing prostitutes, or just shooting people down without any motive that seemed out of place and unappealing to most people. Some of that would come back on “The Chronic” but it would be delivered by more suitable MCs. It was a great schtick for RBX because sounds like a fucking psychopath. When he talks about killing random people it’s convincing and unsettling, it works effectively as horror music, and brought out the dark side of “The Chronic”. To fully appreciate this record, you may just have to view it as a rough draft of The Chronic. Even if you don’t, you can still throw it on and get down to some of the best beats and production of 1991.

 

 

7.A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing [Explicit] – Black Sheep This record makes it clear right out of the gate that Black Sheep is not a Gansgsta Rap group. The first song on the album is a parody of the ultra violent rap of the day. As over the top machine gun shot sound effects ring out on the track, Dres satirically raps about getting out of bed and beating up his mom for breaking his egg yoke. He delibrerately chooses the most petty things to sound pissed off about, it makes gangster rap look pretty silly, and it’s one of the funniest intros I’ve ever heard. The reest of the album sees the group rapping about girls that looked better under the strobe lite compared to when they left the club, Similak, and how you want to give Black Sheep the finger, because they get paid to wake up at the crack of noon to make beats and rhymes.  Dres and Mr Long have a really smooth laid back style which goes nicely with the nasty ass crude rhymes they bust all over this album.  The drums on this album are some of the best of 1991, they hand picked some of the funkiest breaks, and chopped them up to make them even groovier. In general, there are a lot of dope obscure funk and jazz samples on this album, and it’s consistently good from beginning to end. Another reason any Hip Hop fan should pick this album up is because it has Black Sheep’s massive smash hit, “The Choice Is Yours”. Don’t sleep on this record, it’s an essential classic.  

8 .Mr. Hood – KMD   This record shares the same qualities that make 3 Feet High and Rising such a fun album to listen too. It’s filled to the brim with inside jokes, funny skits, and thoroughly quirky and innovative samples.  Unlike many other records that were influenced by 3 Feet High and Rising, this record is superbly executed, and it never sounds like a gimmick.  These MCs have very unique styles, and there is so much variety in the music that this album feels like an adventure from start to finish. It should be noted that Zev Luv X, the MC featured most prominently on this album later went on to become MF DOOM. It’s really great to hear what he sounded like when he was in high school. The group consists of Zev, Onyx “The Birthstone Kid, and DOOM’s brother Sub Rock.  The chemistry between Zev and his brother is really special and it makes this album awesome to listen to.  Sub Rock had passed away during the course of the group’s second album, so this is a rare opportunity to hear what he was like on wax. Rest In Peace  

9 .Is Dead – De La Soul Some people will likely be infuriated that this album isn’t placed higher. Honestly, I do think this album is a great follow up to 3 Feet High and Rising. This album is a lot darker than that album, these guys are kind of pissed off that everybody thought of them as hippies, and accused them of being soft. They went all out to let people know that they would fuck you up if you talked shit about them, and it was kind of dope. They also filled this album with a lot of super sarcastic, super dry humor, which makes it really unique. It’s definitely the type of thing Prince Paul does best, and we would see that humor return full force on his later album “Psychoanalysis”. This album covers a wide variety of settings, stories, and topics, and it’s all tied together with thematically cohesive skits. The samples and beats on this album range from pretty good to exceptionally outstanding but nothing outright bad or mediocre. This album even a plethora of bizarre comedic detours that made their first album so great, so you might be asking, why isn’t it higher? why don’t I think it’s as good as Three Feet High and Rising? Well, when they weren’t taking bizarre comedic detours, or talking about flying someone’s head for dissing their music, they sounded really lackadaisical and even bored. This in turn makes can make listening to the album in it’s entirety pretty boring , and it really held this record back from being as good as it could be. I know that the lackadaisical approach was likely deliberate, and even necessary to convey the sarcastic dry humor, but that still doesn’t make it very exciting to listen to. I also think, that Prince Paul took that lackadaisical sarcasm to the pinnacle with his album “Psychoanalyses” leaving this album in a strange middle ground. It’s not as exciting as 3 Feet High and Rising, it’s not as mature and deep as their later album “Stakes Is High”, and in my opinion, Prince Paul did the sarcasm better on his own album. This album is also inordinately long, and this style of album doesn’t lend itself well to listening to one song here and there. It was clearly designed to be listened to in it’s entirety, which can bore me to death sometimes.  That being said, there are so many great moments, really awesome beats, and really classic songs amidst the boring parts of the album that make it a classic, and an album that any fan of De La Soul, Native Tongues, or sarcasm should check out.   

10. To Whom It May Concern – Freestyle Fellowship This album marks the debut of some of the most creative and talented MCs in the game. Aceyalone, Mykah 9, Self Jupiter, and Peace. do things on the mic that other MCs don’t event think of let alone try to attempt. Their second album may be the definitive album by the Freestyle Fellowship but there are songs on this album that really foreshadow the sheer lyrical chaos and spontaneous flavor that would be brought in full force on their second album. This album, although not as extreme as “Innercity Griots” Still features plenty of weird, unpredictable, and stylistic rhymes. These guys have a lot of skills, creative ideas, jokes and soul. This album is permeated with all of that, it just feels a lot more laid back and chilled. It’s a nice record to relax to, and I’m glad that it never feels boring like many other laid back records of the era.  These guys joke around a lot, and they have a pension for rapping about weird stuff that is extremely entertaining to hear about. The way they rap with syncopated rhythms and zig zag over the beat in perfect unison is unlike anything I have heard another group do. It’s really nice to see a group from the west coast take west coast slang, beats, and the artform of rapping into new places that rappers had not ventured into before. This is an album I’d recommend this album to any adventurous listener who would like to hear something that’s a little different.    While Freestyle Fellowship was inventing new cadences and rhyme schemes on the West Coast, Organized Konfusion was doing it in New York with this un-apologetically challenging and artsy debut album.  Like Freestyle Fellowship, Organized Konfusion would not release their definitive record for a few more years, but this record definitely gave us a taste of how far they would push the envelope on their next album.  This record features a great lead single “Fudge Pudge” that featured the debut of one of the the all time greatest MCs, O.C. who sounds real nice on the track.  This album also marked the debut of MC Extraordinaire Pharoe Monche who’s performance paved the way for underground rappers who wouldn’t come out for another 10 years down the line.  This album is pretty solid throughout, but it’s songs like “Fudge Pudge” and especially “Releasing Hypnotically Gasses” which sounds like two Schizophrenic MCs are having a mental breakdown as they deliver some off the most paranoid yet technically impressive rhymes that someone could conceive of. It’s a song that is far ahead of it’s time, and yet it never sounded pretensions or gimmicky like the underground artists who came to prominence in the late 90s and early 2000s. The beats on this album are not as consistantly dope as those on their later albums, but they are all pretty solid. For someone who wants to hear MCs push the boundaries of rap, this album is absolutely essential listening. 

12. Mr. Scarface Is Back – Scarface This is easily the most hardcore album from Scarface. It features some great coldblooded gangster story telling over some raw ass beats. It’s great from beginning to end but it just doesn’t offer quite as much variety as the Ghetto Boy’s album “We Can’t Be Stopped”.  I feel like Scarface does a good job holding this record down on the solo tip because he gets a little more personal than Willie D and Bushwick Bill and he manages to give people an intimate look at his thought processes, criminal philosophy, and general mental health problems he was going through at the time.  At the end of the day, if you like the Ghetto Boys or hardcore gangster tales, you should definitely check this album out. 

13..Apocolypse ’91 – Public Enemy This album has some straight up bangers  on it, including “Night Train”, “Here Come The Drums”, and “Shut Em Down”. These are such high powered anthems that it’s hard not to consider this album a classic. Even though this album’s production has an aesthetic that stays true to the Public Enemy sound created by The Bomb Squad, it is definiely missing a lot of the sonic chaos that took the beats on their earlier albums over the top.  Rather than feeling like a train that is about to run off the tracks, this album beats are tighter and simpler. In some ways, this allowed the songs to hit harder and sound even heavier… but I really miss the heavily layered, noisy, unpredictable beats that were made by the Bomb Squad and I feel like this change marked the beginning of the end of the signature Public Enemy sound.  

 

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14.Sons of the P – Digital Underground Most people tend to prefer Digital Underground’s Debut album “Sex Packets”. Although that album is great, I actually prefer this one as the production is a lot more experimental.  Some of these bass synths are straight up out of control on this record. It sounds like Parliament in Hip Hop form. West Coast funk in a heavy dose.  This album may not have a hit song as widely known as the Humpty Dance, but It does have the hit single “Kiss You Back” which is a bonafied single in it’s own right. In terms of lyrics there are plenty of humorous rhymes and freaky tales to go around.  I’d say they got a slight bit edgier on this record with some of Humpty Hump’s songs such as “It’s A Good Thing Were Rapping” in which Hump raps about how he’d be a pimp if it wasn’t for his success in rap. Despite the subject matter, the whole record comes off fairly light heated.  In addition to the jokes and pimp game, there is some nice social commentary to be had as well. If you like west coast funk, P funk, or G Funk, you should definitely get this album. 

15. 2Pacalypse Now [Explicit] – 2Pac   This is 2Pac’s most overtly political album. It reminds me more of Paris, Ice Cube, or Chuck D than what I would expect from a 2Pac album. It is dope to hear him do an album in this direction although this record doesn’t jerk on my heart strings like his later singles and albums mange to do.  The way Pac can convey emotion through his voice and lyrics is still enough to give this album it’s own identity and make it special. I also appreciate how he is able to connect a more emotional side to the social commentary, even if he is just telling the Vice President to suck a dick. If you are a fan of political Hip Hop or of 2Pac I’d strongly reccomend this album. I would however, recommend that you hear records like “Me Against The World” “Thug Life” and “All Eyes On Me” first. 

16. Straight Checkn ‘Em – Compton’s Most Wanted MC Eiht is definitely one of the most unique Gangsta Rappers out there. Rather than trying to be technical, or writing lyrics with a poignant bite, or having a sense of humor, he just keeps things really really simple, and it’s just dope.  There is something about how straightforward he is that makes the lyrics hit.  One thing that makes his approach work so well is that the beats are so atmospheric.  The beats are dark in a very unusual way, a lot of the drums and funk samples are slowed down and tuned lower leaving the songs with a very unusual aesthetic that is often heard in what some people call “Trip Hop”.  The music on this album sucks you in the same way a good video game or movie soundtrack sucks you into the atmosphere of the places the stories are being told about. I think that this group really deserves more credit for pulling this off.  Despite the dark atmosphere, the vibe is still gangster and funky which serves as the perfect backdrop for MC Eiht to rap over.  It’s hard to put my finger on what it is about MC Eiht that makes him dope, I suppose he just has a knack for expressing his thoughts in a way that comes off naturally almost like he was just hanging out with the listener talking about what’s on his mind. I should also note that MC Eight focuses a lot more about the struggle of being loyal to his set, hood, or gang, having hood beefs, and other hardships along those lines. This makes him very different from a group Like N.W.A. who don’t rap much about actual gangsta shit.  If you are a fan of atmospheric beats, dark hip hop, or gangster rap in general, you should definitely track this record down.

17. Cypress Hill [Explicit] – Cypress Hill This record is by far the funkiest Cypress Hill album to be released. In other words it’s “The real one, yes the funky feel one”. B-Real and Sen Dog bring a blunted ass Chicano flavor to this album that is real dope. Some people don’t get it, but B-Real doesn’t have to be technical or clever, he uses a style, lyrics, and voice that was best for the songs and the overall vision of the group. It was supposed to be blunted, loced out Chicano gangsta shit, and that’s exactly what it was. Even though B-Real and Sen Dog do their thing on this album, the real star of the show in my opinion is DJ Muggs, who is one of the most underrated producers of the Golden Age. He started a lot of trends that he doesn’t get enough credit for and this album definitely showcased a lot of his unique techniques and ideas. one thing  about Mugg’s beats on this album is the way he would mix happier sounding funk and jazz samples with dark ones.  Case in point, Tribe Called Quest used the same sample on Grant Green sample on “Vibes And Stuff” that Muggs used on”Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk” but Muggs mixed that slick jazzy loop with some dark ass bassline off of another album that makes the beat sound way more bugged out and eerie. Muggs also did loops on “How I Could Just Kill A Man” that were deliberately off kilter and didn’t line up “Properly” on the beat, which led to some fresh parts of beats that sounded truly avant-garde. Even though this album featured some of the best production of the year, Muggs had a lot of new production tricks he wouldn’t even unleash on the world until the next year.  This may be the best Cypress Hill album, but the first three are all classics. If you are a fan of dope Hip Hop production, Chicano Rap, and blunted beats and rhymes, you should most definitely pick this album up.  

18. I Wish My Brother George Was Here – Del The Funkee homosapien Del is one of the only rappers who is close to being as weird and smart as Kool Keith, although, he isn’t quite as bizarre.  This album marks his debut on the scene, and it definitely sounds different from his later records. The production is drenched in P funk stylings features a signature west coast sound.  Del certainly stands out as a lyrical weirdo next to featured  cameos from his cousin Ice Cube. I’m glad he chose to go against the grain and represent the West Coast without going in a gangster direction, instead, opting for brainy criticisms and stories about mundane every day problems we can all relate too.  Del’s rhyme style expresses his sense of humor and personality to a tee. Although I like the edgier, more abrasive tone of his later albums, this album is a nice funky romp that you should definitely check out if you like Del, or weird MCs in general.

19. Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed – Nice & Smooth Greg Nice’s simple hype party rhymes coupled with Smooth B’s slick stylish flow is a match made in heaven.  The vocals stay so fresh throughout the album because of how each MC’s styles contrast with each others. Smooth B’s flow always make’s me feel like I’m smooth myself, Greg Nice just gets me super excited, and they both make me laugh. This record is a blast to listen, especially on the songs where the production is on point. Songs like “Hip Hop Junkies”,  ” Run It Down The Line”, and, “Sometmes I rhyme Slow Sometimes I Rhyme Quick” have slammin beats and the production on the whole album certainly fits the vibe.  Like many albums on this list, the one thing that holds this record back from being one an all time classic is that some of the beats aren’t up to par with the others. Some of the beats sound unpolished and outdated, and the album suffers because of it.   If Nice & Smooth could have gotten DJ Premier to do their entire album, I think we would have gotten to hear a Nice & Smooth album that was just as classic as the song D.W.Y.K. Being that we probably won’t get that we will just have to settle for some classic rhymes from some classic MCs over some questionable beats. At least there is some songs with great beats on this album, and the back and fourth between the two MCs is strong enough to make this album something that should be in any Hip Hop fan’s collection.  

20. Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed – GZA/Genius Contrary to what many think, the first full length LP to be released by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan came out in 1991, and it was by The GZA although he was going by the name The Genius at the time. This record also features some of the first proudction by Easy Mo Be, who went on to make huge hits for Notorious B.I.G. 2Pac, and Craig Mack among others.  Easy Mo Be’s production for this album is bangin, It’s too bad that he didn’t produce the whole record. A lot of the tracks that were handled by other producers are pretty wack, In particular the single “Come Do Me”. When picking up this record, i’d say it’s mostly for the tracks “Words From The Genius”, “The Genius Is Slammin”, and the RZA joint, “Pass The Bone”. Unfortunately, the song “Pass The Bone” is only on the re-released version of this album, so I strongly recommend you find that version if possible. GZA brings a fierce, simple, but intellectual style that is always an awe inspiring thing to behold. It’s cool to hear him on some of these songs because they chug along at pretty high BPMs, consequently making him approach the mic more like a Kane or Rakim, but make no mistake. His performance is something that is really showcases his distict style and on the strength of a few songs alone, I feel this album is really worth picking up. If you are a fan of fast paced New York Hip Hop like Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, or if you are simply a fan of Wu-Tang, you should definitely cop this album.  

 

21. The One – Chubb Rock Chubb Rock is a super dope MC.  His intelligence and sense of humor really stand out compared to other MCs of the time. His humor is greatly magnified by his knack for conveying sarcasm in his rhymes. His use of sarcasm as well as his willingness to use references to literature, history, philosophy ect. that many may be unfamiliar with, really shows that he respects the intelligence of his listeners and fan base. For me, that goes a long way, and after writing this, I’m beginning to think I should have ranked this album quite a bit higher on this list. I can say that a big part of why the album is ranked higher is that the production is a bit uneven. None of these beats are wack or lame, but there are quite a few that leave more to be desired.   This record has some of Chubb Rock’s biggest singles on this record,  most notably “Just The Two Of Us”, “Treat Him Right”, and “The Chubbster”. The awesome thing about this album is that many of the songs that weren’t singles were just as good as the hits. The only major critique I have of this album is that it would have been an all time classic if the production was more consistent. 

22. Naughty By Nature– Naughty By Nature Even though Naughty By Nature originally debuted under the name “The New Style” with their 1989 album “Independent Leaders”, this is the album that put Naughty By Nature on the map. Treach had a super slick flow and cadence that made the way he rode the beat sound super impressive and dope. Some people dont’ care for DJ Kay Gee’s production but I think he had a  signature sound that truly shines on this album. He incorporated the use of keyboards and synthesizers in a fashion that sounded true to East Coast Hip Hop in a time when most East Coast Hip Hop was moving in an increasingly sample based direction. I think that some of the production on their later albums got a bit corny, this album however comes off upbeat, rough, and funky. It’s hard to find accurate production credits for this record, but id wager to bet that New Jersey’s DJ Mark The 45 King helped out to produce some of the tracks on this record. This seems particularly true for songs that feature the 45 King’s signature sound as well as members of The Flavor Unit like “1,2,3”. In my opinion the consistency of these funky beats help to make this Naughty By Nature’s definitive album and I’d recommend it to any fan of Golden Age Hip Hop.   

23. Penicillin on Wax – Tim Dog Tim Dog is best known for his Compton Diss songs “Fuck Compton” and “Step To Me”, which are both the lead singles off this album. Many people dismissed Tim Dog because they viewed “Fuck Compton”  as a cheap promotional trick or a marketing gimmick to get Tim Dog a quick buzz, their concerns were not necessarily unfounded.  In terms of lyrics, skills and impact there is no contest, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Dr Dre, Easy E, MC Eight, King T and many other Compton MCs were all better rappers than Tim Dog. Despite this, it’s unfortunate that people were so quick write this album off because it is actually really good.  The production across this entire album is super dope. Ultramagnetic MC’s producers Ced G, Moe Love, and TR Love, made some of their all time best beats for this album. Even if you can’t get into the lyrics, the beats on songs like “Step To Me” feature some of the most bombasticly fast paced hard ass funk ever to be put on wax. When it comes time to appreciate these rhymes, you have to approach them the same way you appreate a campy movie. Despite biting Big Daddy Kane, Chuck D, and Kool Keith,  Tim Dog is trying his absolute hardest to be dope on the mic, and it just sounds over the top and absurd. It’s almost so bad it’s good. He tries so hard to rap loud, and sound pissed off that the lyrics are never boring nor mediocre, they are really bad and really in your face. This combination is really funny, and sometimes, I find that I forget that the lyrics are awefull and get into the passion and energy he brought to these hardcore beats.  If you like Ultramagnetic MCs, or you are a fan of campy over the top music, I definitely recommend this album to you.  

24.A Future Without A Past – Leaders Of The New School The super hype delivery of these MCs makes this album captivating. This album not only marks the debut of Bustah Rhymes but it features outstanding performances from Dingo D and Charlie Brown. The MCs are super tight and manage to do a great job backing each other up on the tracks.  The way they interact with each other on the beats, using a call and response approach really makes the group sound tight. The production is funky, it walks a path between using unique samples and original drum sounds and 808s off of drum machines.  The production on this record aged a lot better than some of the other beats from this year. The loops rarely ever sound corny or played out, and many of the loops are ridiculously fresh.  If you want to hear a hype album from the 90s and haven’t heard this, I highly suggest you pick it up.

25 . Life of a Kid in the Ghetto – Ed O.G. Ed O.G. did a great job telling poignant stories with a messages that resonate with people. The album stands out for featuring stories that cover sensitive topics with a presentation that was  low key. It’s refreshing to hear MCs be understated, sincere,  and meaningful without being melodramatic. The production took a similar approach as the beats are very laid back and jazzy. I generally like this style of production and rhymes but this album can suffer from a general lack of energy and feel boring because of the laid back tone. This album often sounds like it just needs a kick in the ass. If you can get passed the lack of energy, Ed O.G.’s smooth flow and story telling make this album well worth listening too. In fact, his rhymes and topics are thoroughly interesting and relatable throughout the entire record.  On top of this, stand out songs like “I Gotta Have It” and especially “Be A Father To Your Child” are essential listening for any Hip Hop fan 

26.Fruits Of Nature – UMCs These beats are creative, funky, jazzy, and dope. Although UMC’s were most well known for their hit single off the album “Blue Cheese”, I think there are a lot of songs on the album that are even better than their hit song.   This is the kind of record that I would call “Alternative Hip Hop”.  They were likely influenced by Native Tongue groups like De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers, making an album full of inside jokes and eccentric samples. This album is well put together and it is refreshing to hear some Hip Hop from 1991 that created such a different vibe from the Gangsta rap from that era. For some people, this record may lean a little too hard into easy breezy feel good music but I think the beats and rhymes are good throughout the whole record.  If you are looking for a chilled out lighthearted Hip Hop album I’d definitely recommend this.  

27. Terminator X & The Valley Of The Jeep Beets – Terminator X In some respects, this album has better production than the the Public Enemy album that came out the same year “Apocolypse 91, The Enemy Strikes Back”.  It doesn’t have any songs that compare to the anthemic bangers on that album, but it does have a plethora of beats sound much more raw, innovative, and chaotic than those on Apocolypse. I wish that Terminator X had given these beats to public enemy to fill in that album but, unfortunately that is not what happened. Rather than get some really great features and guest appearences on this album, the features are mostly pretty generic. These MCs do a fine job, and I enjoy what they do for the most part, but it certainly leaves more to be desired, especially when considering how dope many of these beats are. If you are a fan of funky ass, chaotic Hip Hop, you should definitely give this record a listen. Likewise, if you are a fan of Public Enemy, The Bomb Squad, or simply a Hip Hop beat head, I’d strongly recommend this album. Just don’t go into it expecting the huge rebellious anthems Public Enemy is known for.   

28. Pure Poverty – Poor Righteous Teachers The Poor Righteous Teachers are a positive conscious Hip Hop group that have some skills to boot. What really makes this album stand out is how they harmonize and do backing vocals for each other, they sound very tight. Furthermore their Jamaican chanting and sing-songy flows dance all over the beats on this album.  The production  is definitely better than the beats on their first album. They sound grittier, the drums hit harder, and there’s some more bass. The biggest problem with this album is that the production from one song to the next can be a mixed bag.  It’s never lame, but the bass tones and samples make some of these songs sound corny, whereas other songs use better samples and basslines. The other thing that can hold this album back a bit is that there is perhaps too many “Concious” lyrics. Even though I agree with most of these messages, it’s nice to hear MCs get personal, or spit some dope battle rhymes as opposed to constantly dropping knowledge like they do on this entire record. That being said, I’d recommend this to most fans of rap from the early 1990s, as well as fans of conscious Hip Hop groups like Brand Nubian and X-Clan.   

 

29.Hazardous – Godfather Don  Godfather Don had a dope concept for this album. The idea was that he didn’t need a group because he had so many different rap styles. He portrayed this as if it was a product of having multiple personalities. For the most part this record is dope, the only real critique I have for this record is that he could have exaggerated the differences between his numerous rap styles in order to make each one apparently distinct. Often times, his rap styles sound kind of the same, although there are a few instances where he manages to get the idea across well by drastically changing his cadence.  If you are a fan of Godfather Don’s beats on “The Four Horseman” or Cenobites i’d strongly recommend this album. The beats, produced by Don Himself are all pretty dope but they definitely sound a bit older than what he was doing with Ultramagnetic, and what he would go on to do on his solo albums in the late 90s.  The last thing to say about this album is that although it is dope, his second album Diabolique Is Godfather Don’s definitive underground masterpiece.

30. Droppin’ Funky Verses – Tony D Tony D has an energetic humerus old school style. The beats on this record ain’t too shabby either, they were all made on an SP1200 and they have that signature sound associated with that sampler.  Tony D  had also produced a lot of tracks for Poor Righteous Teachers first album and his experience shows. 

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Categories: Essential Albums, Lists

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