Best Hip Hop Albums of 1992

1.The Chronic – Dr Dre All of these top 5 albums were strong contenders for the number one spot, but at the end of the day, who am I kidding? This is the mutherfuckin Chronoic, some shit to lay back to and smoke a fat ass joint. This is that record to bump while your cruising, a record that transcended the genre of Hip Hop without sacrificing the purity of it’s expression, and it was a record that changed the way west coast Hip Hop sounded forever. These beats by Dre, were some of the finest Hip Hop productions of all time, and they sound nearly flawless. Dre, had a knack, not only for putting music together, but he had an exceptional pair of ears when it came down to the the technical side of the sound engineering. This record showed people how to mix Hip Hop albums, all of the parts sounded distinctive, balanced, and clear, the bass is fat, the synths are silky, and the overall sound strikes a perfect balance between being rough and gritty yet polished to a sheen.

This record also showed people how to do features properly, it broke several new artists into the scene, including, The Lady Of Rage, Daz, Kurrupt, RBX, Nate Dogg, and most importantly Snoop Doggy Dogg. He, of course, had already debuted onto the scene on Dr Dre’s song from the Deep Cover soundtrack, but this is the album that put Snoop on the map in a major way. It’s rare that an established solo artist can make an album that launches the career of 7 or 8 other solo recording artists, but The Chronic did just that. What’s even more impressive is that each of these artists, actually managed to add so much character and personality to the album. The album came out better than a solo effort from Dre because it was constantly exciting to see which each rapper would say next, or which rapper would drop the dopest verse. It was apparent that all of these MCs were talented, and that they gave their all to this project. In between the solo cuts and posse cuts the duets between Snoop and Dre were some of the biggest highlights of the album because their chemistry was undeniable, Dre’s straight ahead gruff delivery was complimented by Snoop’s laid back, smooth, and stylistic flow. this contrast ensured that hearing them trade verses back and fourth was always a treat.

Although it was controversial, this album managed to conceive of a new approach, and perhaps even an new purpose for Gangsta Rap. Aside from an occasional political sentiment on songs like “Little Ghetto Boy” this album largely throws politics and social commentary to the wayside. Unlike Compton’s Most Wanted’s album, “Music To Driveby” from the same year, “The Chronic” does not serve as a cautionary warning about the dark side of the gangster lifestyle. In fact, quite the opposite. This album really serves as a power fantasy.  It features songs about how girl’s sing “Let me ride” to Dr Dre as he cruises down the street in his 64 Impala. When Easy E cruised down the street in his six-foe a few years earlier, he simply made a song about neighborhood happenings, conversations with other people from around the way, and the gangster mentality of those people, but girls didn’t sing to him. Quite to the contrary, he was “Jockin the bitches”. That means he was on their jock, it almost comes off as self-depricating by comparison to the cruising Dr Dre does on The Chronic. On the N.W.A. album Efil4Zaggin, N.W.A. came off as deranged psychopaths, making songs about killing random pedestrians with sniper rifles, and murdering hookers on the track “One Less Bitch (I have to worry about)”, There’s a reason that album didn’t have the same kind of mainstream appeal as “The Chronic” did.  Of course, there were other rappers like Ice-T who cultivated a power fantasy through gangster rap before “The Chronic”. but Ice’T’s albums felt more like you were reading the Art of War rather than watching The Lifetyles of The Rich and Famous: Gangster Edition, that was “The Chronic”.  Ice-T’s records were about the mentality that is needed to be powerful, and the strategic means of achieving power, and they took a lot high level thought to fully appreciate. On the other hand, anyone can indulge in “The Chronic’s” fantasy because it requires no critical thought at all, it’s instantaneously catchy and graspable, and the grandiose feeling is almost contagious. To back up this point more, I want to mention the features yet again. The thing that takes this power fantasy style of gangster rap to another level on on “The Chronic” is it’s cast of supporting characters. They’re dope MCs, but one of the biggest roles they play on the album is bigging Dr Dre up into a larger than life character. They are constantly rapping about how dope Dre is, Nate Dogg starts off his smooth gangster crooning on “Deez Nutz” by singing “I heard you wanna fuck with Dreyaaaay, You picked the wrong muthafuckin dayaaaayyyy”, for that matter, everyone on The Chronic spends a significant portion of time dedicating their rhyming to co-signing and bragging about how bad ass Dr Dre is rather than just rapping about themselves. They paint a portrait of Death Row as gangster royalty and Dre as the king. I don’t think I have ever heard a group of rappers serve this role on any other album, and certainly not to the vast extent that is seen on “The Chronic”. That being said, I think this approach is a big part of this albums unique appeal.

I can definitely see why this album enraged many people, and I can see why Tipper Gore and Joseph Lieberman were burning copies of Snoop’s album”Doggy Style” in the streets. Glorifying this violence without capturing the dark side of the lifestyle may promote that kind of violence in turn, at least, that’s how the line of logic goes. That being said, there are some upsides to listening to “The Chronic”. As someone with a profuse amount of social anxiety, I can attest, that when I put The Chronic on… I just don’t give a fuck, and that’s a beautiful thing. Gangster rap taught me how to care less about what other people think, to find my own voice and do my thing regardless. As a counselor, I don’t recommend that people listen to “The Chronic” in session, but I tend to recommend that they stop giving a fuck about how others perceive them as much, and to do what ever they think is dope.

 

2.Showbiz & Ag – Showbiz & A.G. This is Hip Hop ass album for Hip Hop ass people. I think anyone can appreciate this one, but it’s overflowing with raw unadulterated shit. they had lots of dope B-Sides and classics from their Soul Clap EP that they simply couldn’t fit on this record . . I think being able to select their very best tracks from a fat stash really led this record to being a masterpiece through and through. The production is some of the best Ive ever heard. There was a period of time when I thought about putting Stunts, Blunts, and Hip Hop here instead, but in the end, the raw energy of these banger made me give this record the edge. It’s befuddling that this album wasn’t a lot bigger then it was. I mean, it’s filled with songs that would make perfect singles, but for what ever reason, this was the type of record you would only hear Hip Hop DJs spin, maybe you would see the video on Yo! MTV Raps, but it never transcended Hip Hop circles like A Tribe Called Quest did. It’s kind of a shame because, this record is damn near flawless, it features a great variety of vibes, tones, and topics. It has bombastic party jams like “Fat Pockets, “Bounce Ta This”,  and “Soul Clap”. It has subdued conscious songs like “40 Acres and my props” and the title track “Runaway Slave”,  it has  dark and grimy songs like “Hard To Kill” and the all time classic posse cut “Represent”, It has the heartfelt Eulogy track “Hold Ya Head”, and the laid back crate diggers anthem “Still Diggin”. The chemistry between the two MCs is great, and the back and fourth rhyming stops the album from stagnating like the low points of their second album “Goodfellas”.

The beats are just spectacular. They are kind of like the jazzy beats of A Tribe Called Quest but with a grittier street edge. They tend to have louder funkier drums, and an energetic driving pulse that isn’t as present in Tribe’s laid back beats.  Showbiz dug up a bunch of records that no other producer had sampled before, tapping into a profuse amount of material from Big Band Jazz groups. The way he employed these swinging horn licks,piano stabs, and wonky barry saxphone blasts created a unique sonic palette that sounded elegant yet rugged at the same time. Despite the Big Band samples, nothing about the execution of this album came off like a gimmick. Showbiz utilized a variety of compositional mechanics that are greatly underutilized in Hip Hop, making use of the full dynamic range on tracks such as “Runaway Slave” in which the horn samples were automated to gradually build up gradually to a climactic crescendo before the drums came in for the chorus. These are the kinds of things that make me love Hip Hop production, and music in general. If you want to hear an album that expands the palate of Hip Hop production yet remains totally uncompromised as a pure expression of gritty street Hip Hop, this is the album you need to hear.

3.Daily Operation [Explicit] – Gang Starr Gangstarr is widely renowned for their longevity and consistantly that they maintained throughout their fifteen years together as a group and this album is probably the most consistently dope of all of their projects. Their 1998 reunion album Moment Of Truth is probably the Crown Jewel of their Discography but this is definitely my second favorate album by Gang Starr. One innovation from DJ Premier on this album comes with how he added emphasis to the form and structure of the songs. Intro, Verse, chorus, verse, chorus format may seem like par for the coarse, but the loops that Premier chose to fluctuate between starkly contrasted with each other, yet sounded totally cohesive as part of the same song.  This is a big part of why I prefer this album more that “Hard To Earn” which often uses single loops with slight variations rather than totally different parts. Daily Operation is also the last album Premier did before he changed his production style into the choppy minimal boom bap style he used for Jeru The Damaja, Biggie,  Rakim, KRS-1, and future Gang Starr albums. Personally I like this style of looped up layered breaks a little better than the choppier style of production he did later, don’t get me wrong, both styles are great in their own right, but I feel like this is Premier’s Swan song to his less choppy style of beats, and it’s definitely something any Hip Hop fan should hear.

In terms of holding down an album from front to back, Guru is one of the best MCs for the task, and he handled this album in superb fashion. Guru tackles a differnt subject matter on every single song on this record, and his strength as a song writer really shows. He doesn’t focus on being poetic, clever, or hardcore, instead he is just articulate, eloquent, and real.  He sounds like he is sitting down and writing these songs to people he wants to get his feelings across to. Whether he’ addressing an ex girlfriend, a rowdy kid starting fights at his show, an MC who is biting his style, a criminal who needs to see the consequences to his actions,  an overly judgemental family member, or an up and coming rapper who is selling out to get some quick fame, Guru always sums of his thoughts with the fewest words possible, and it keeps the album moving and relatable throughout the entirety of it’s 18 songs. Guru may not be the guy who kills a guest spot like Method Man, or Bustah Rhymes, he may not be as flashy as Big Daddy Kane, or Grandmaster Caz, and he may not be as poetic as Nas or Rakim, but he is one of the best songwriters in Hip Hop. Whereas those MCs had to rely on their bombastic performance, technical prowess, or grandiose persona to be considered great, Guru simply wrote some of the most open and realistically honest songs in Hip Hop, and he never had a problem writing three verses about one topic. He knew how to develop an entire song around a single topic throughout the course of multiple verses, and they would almost always tie directly to whatever vocal phrase DJ Premier would scratch in for the chorus.  It’s almost like Guru would write the meant of the supporting paragraphs, and than Premier would come in and Scratch the Theses statement for the chorus. it was such a great formula, and I think this is one of the best examples of how a single MC can make a long album more appealing to listeners than a short album. There’s no filler, Guru just had a lot of things on his mind he wanted to talk about. That’s kind of how he has always been, and I think that’s why Gang Starr albums are always long as fuck. If you haven’t listened to Gang Starr, do yourself a favor and pick up one of their records up. I’d recommend this one or “Moment of Truth”. 

4. Stunts Blunts & Hip Hop – Diamond D These beats may not be as technically impressive as Pete Rock’s but they certainly have a striking quality about them.  Diamond D had a great ear for finding unique samples that other producers overlooked. The way he put them over the loud funky drum loops created a combination that you just cant’t help but nod your head to.  This album is also the first album to be entirely dedicated to portraying the lifestyle of a Hip Hop producer. Listening to it feels like you’re just hanging out with Diamond D for a few days while he tells you about what’s going on in his life, which consists namely of making beats, smoking weed, and hooking up with girls. Of course, this is why the record is called “Stuns, Blunts. and Hip Hop”.  Every track on this record is enjoyable, and they all have such catchy loops that I can’t help but want to listen to the whole record.  Although Diamond D doesn’t usually get much credit as an MC, he was really nice on the mic on this album, in fact, the laid back lyrics are constantly entertaining, and the punchlines made me laugh out loud countless times.  This isn’t generally deeply moving, but his passion and dedication to the craft of making beats is encapsulated in this record which makes it something special, that is actually moving in it’s own right. If you love Hip Hop music, give this album a shot and see what you think. I liked it the first listen, but I wasn’t wildly into it, but over time it grew on me and got better and better with each listen.    

5.Whut? Thee Album – Redman A lot of MCs tried to pull off a “Crazy”, “Zany” type of style, but many lacked the substance and the skills to back it up. A lot of those MCs wound up sounding too gimicky, one dimensional, and even untalented. None of this is true for Redman. It may seem like Redman is just rapping about crazy shit that has no meaning, but at the end of the day, he never strikes me as shallow. In fact, he comes off as a nutty class clown prankster that has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, and his personality is something I could always relate to on a deep level.  Compared to other MCs with wild unpredictable styles, Redman is great at holding down an album all to him self, his technical skills are impressive, his energy and hunger are unmatched, his content is strange and unpredictable, and he manages to be real and open with his personality without coming off melodramatic or pretentious in the slightest.  Redman has a way of switching from one deep thought, to a total non-sequiter, and following it up with a ridiculous punchline, it’s this constant bombardment of lyrical absurdity and his unpredictable strings of thoughts, put into technical rhyme schemes and rhythmic cadences that ensures Redman is entertaining to listen to, his rhymes always stimulating.  I think it’s plane to see that Redman was one of the biggest influences on Eminem, but, Eminem sounded like he deliberately constructed his rhymes to be technical and absurd, whereas Redman came off like this all happened haphazardly, like this is just how Redman thinks and acts all the time, like he couldn’t have rhymed different if he tried. For this reason, I prefer Redman, and I think he is one of the greatest MCs of all time.  In terms of lyrics, i’d say this is the absolute best Hip Hop performance of 1992. If you are a fan of great rapping, lyricism, and performances you absolutely need to hear this album.

In terms of the production, Erick Sermon handled half the beats and Redman made the other half himself.  The spectacular thing about this album is that Redman’s beats were just as good as the world renowned productions of Eric Sermon.  Redman started as a DJ, so he has musical talent all across the board.  There isn’t a weak song on this album, All the beats are made to bump at high velocity and they’re all high energy funk bombs that get me super fired up. Redman would have killed any beats, but the fact that these were all as energetic and bombastic as Redman himself, helped him take his vocals to the next level, and ensured that this album was a masterpiece all across the board.  This is essential listening for any Hip Hop fan, if you haven’t heard this record just go cop it, or at the very least check out “Time 4 Sum Action”, “Tonights The Night”, “Jam 4 U”, and “Watch Yo Nuggets”. You can’t go wrong with this album.

6.Mecca And The Soul Brother – Pete Rock & C.L Smooth In terms of all time greats, there are very few Hip Hop producers that are on Pete Rock’s level. He has a keen sense of rhythm and tonality and is one of the few producers of the early nineties that could loop up several different records for a beat simultaneously and keep them all in the same key. A lot of production from this time may have done that with two records, or, even more commonly, samples just played out of key, but still sounded dope. Something about hearing all of these elements layered on top of each other, yet sounding so harmonious, was just impressive, and it still is. Another innovation from Pete Rock was the technique he used to compose original basslines out of samples. He would run a low pass filter on the bass sample, ridding it of all hi and mid frequencies. He would than tune it to sixteen diffent pitches which he would assign to the pads on his sampler, and he would than adjust his sampler so that the sample would only play when his finger was on the button. Thus, the sampler itself became like a bass instrument. he would than play along to the beat, layering his own bassline. Pete Rock chopped up breaks in a unique way as well. He would go as far as to take the ghost notes and what drummers call drags, and chop them out before reprogramming them into new patterns. As a drummer, I can say the drags and the ghost notes are some of the most important parts of the grooves, Pete Rock excelled at taking advantage of them. He took advantage of dynamic range in a way that was truly unprecedented at the time, and is still under utilized in Hip Hop. He would have his samples and drums gradually get louder and softer. He would also have a lot of subtle layers to the beat that would be so faint, that they would be hard for the untrained ear to notice. The important thing, though, is that all these nuances and subtleties coalesed into some of the most expressive beats in Hip Hop. Public Enemy’s producers “The Bomb Squad” managed to layer many records on top of each other, and create bombastic anthems out of sheer sonic chaos and abrasiveness noise. In contrast, Pete Rock managed to utilize just as many layers of samples, and program them into rhythms that were just as intricate and complex as the Bomb Squad’s, yet produce beats that sound smooth, relaxing, beautiful, soulful, sensational, jazzy, and funky all at the same time. There are so many things Pete does exceptionally, I could go on and on, so I will move on to talk about C.L. Smooth

C.L. Smooth has one of the best voices in Hip Hop. It sounds charismatic and charming, yet sensitive and sensual. It lives up to his name, it’s butter soft, it’s fuckin smooth, it’s C.L. Smooth. He has a great flow with an expressive yet smooth delivery. His lyrics are sometimes great, and other times pretty good. To put it another way, he writes some really good songs, and he has moments in which his lyrics are quotable and add personality and character to the tracks. With the exception of his love songs, or songs about loved ones, which are fuckin impeccable, C.L. Smooth seems to mix in bars or verses that have meaning with bars and verses where just kind of rhymes words together, he says things like “The Tony Randall Left In Shambles”. as if it’s a complete thought that I’m supposed to find meaning in. It is possible that he knows exactly what that lyrics means, and I just don’t get the meaning of the reference, but man, he has a whole, whole lot of lyrics like this that just leave me befuddled. The silver lining is, his voice, and flow are so unimpeachable, and Pete Rock’s beats are so immersive, that you might not even notice this flaw. It certainly doesn’t take much away from this amazing album, but…it kind of stops me from putting him into the greatest of all time category of rappers like LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS, Guru, Kool Keith, ect. Despite this minor quibble, just check this album out, it’s a masterpiece.

7.Music To Driveby – Compton’s Most Wanted This album is a monster. It’s dark gangster rap with a truly haunting atmosphere. Compton’s Most Wanted really deserves more credit for their innovative style of production. This isn’t G-Funk, It’s not filled with George Clinton and Parliament samples. Rather than relying purely on Boom Bap patterns that were starting to become the status quo on the East Coast, these beats were composed of looped up funk breaks that were often tuned lower, slowed down, or layered upon one another, giving the drums a very distinctive tone that would later be adopted by Trip Hop producers. Unlike Trip Hop, these are still west coast gangster beats for the jeep, they have big 808s and drum machines layered over the top of them. The samples range from West Coast staples like Atomic Dog to suspenseful dark funk such as Isaac Hayes. It strikes an interesting balance between East Coast and West Coast styles, it’s music you can G-Ride to, but it always sounds eerie and foreboding, it’s title “Music To Driveby” perfectly sums up the vibe of this album, in a way that you wouldn’t imagine by simply looking at the cover. Note that even though groups like N.W.A. are considered Gangster Rappers, Ice Cube preached anti-gangster lyrics in many of his songs, and with the exception of the music Dre made with gang members at Death Row that Dre would become involved with,  N.W.A. weren’t rapping about being in a gang, unless they were urging against it. On the other hand, MC Eiht was actually in a gang. Songs like Death Wish are essentially death threats to DJ Quick, who was actually in an opposing gang. It’s very fortunate that they squashed that beef because there were people in both gangs that wanted to finish the beef off with a cold blooded murder. That’s why songs like “Hood Took Me Under” in which MC Eiht raps about doing a 25 to life sentence after murdering someone who was disrespecting his gang, or “Straight Up Menace” in which he raps about being murdered himself because he had to go out for someone in his neighborhood are so important. They capture actual gangster struggles, hardhips, and loss. They serve as a powerful warning about the dark side of this lifestyle. Definitely check this album out if you get the chance. 

8.Check Your Head – Beastie Boys Although Paul’s Boutique has been retrospectively heralded as a classic, it was a commercial flop that almost ended the Beastie Boy’s recording contract with the label. The label decided to give the Beastie Boys one more go, they essentially gave them a big sum of money to use for their recording budget and left them to their own devices. The Beastie Boys described this time as if the label just paid them and forget that they even existed. They thought it would be cheaper to build their own studio rather than pay for professional studio time, so they hired some construction workers and helped them build the studio that was used to record Check Your Head. Of course, it was complete with baskatball hoops and skate board ramps. Being that their budget was smaller, they didn’t think they could afford all of the sample clearances they had to pay for on Pauls Botique. They didn’t want to sacrifice the level of creativity and sonic densety they had achieved on Paul’s Boutique, so broke out their instruments ounce again, and spent a lot of time practicing and jamming out. They had an overall vision of mixing live instrumentation and samples together into an inventive Hip Hop cocktail…and they succeeded.  This album has punk rock, other rock, funk, funky jazz, psychadelic ballads, and yet manages to be predominantly filled with Hip Hop. This feat would not have been possible if the album’s track list hadn’t totaled out at a whopping 20 songs. The thing that’s even more remarkable about this, is that the album remained cohesive throughout it’s 20 tracks, all of various genres, but it still sounded unmistakably  like the Beastie Boys. Lastly, and perhaps most amazing of all, each member of the group became proficient in their instrument of choice, and managed to put together a brand of Hip Hop that has not sounded like any other before or after. The Hip Hop songs don’t sound jazzy like The Pharcyde or the Roots, they sound like pure Hip Hop, with gritty abbrasive noises, dope turntablism, and hard break beats. I find this type of live Hip Hop a lot more compelling than simply putting an MC over a jazz band and portraying it as live Hip Hop. Don’t get me wrong, The Roots would come into their own sound in 1996 but this album did something much more sonically adventurous than Illedelphhalflife,  and it came out five years before.   

9.Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde – The Pharcyde

10.Funk Your Head Up – Ultramagnetic MCs I’m sure i’ll get a lot of flack for ranking this album so high, but, I don’t understand why this album is so disappointing to people, or why it was critically panned. This album is pretty much everything you would expect from a follow up to “Critical Beatdown” with a few differences. The only legitimate complaints I have are the following. The biggest song Ultramagnetic had out at the time of this album’s release, the “Poppa Large Remix”, isn’t actually on this album, instead  only the original version of Poppa Large is present. Secondly, Ced G, isn’t quite as memorable as he was on Critical Beatdown, instead of being super hype and in your face, he adopted a more laid back style. His laid back style is still pretty damn good, but I can understand the disappointment. Lastly, the biggest issue with this album is that Ultra was under pressure from the label to make the album sound a certain way, consequently, the drums are a lot lower in the mix when compared to the drum levels on Critical Beatdown. Heavy Bronx style Hip Hop made by BDP, Ultramagnetic, and D.I.T.C. amongst others was known for having loud drums, comparatively this album was lacking in that department and missing one of Ultra’s Signature elements.  As a drummer, and a big fan of the loud drums on Critical Beatdown, I can understand why this disappointed fans, but, despite the lower volume, the drum patterns and programming were still top notch. All things considered, I don’t think the quality of the album was negatively impacted by these flaws to a significant extent, and despite these flaws there are a lot of reasons to love this album. The beats are layered to the brim with chopped up samples in Ultra’s signature fashion and Kool Keith takes the rhymes to a whole different level from the first album. He comes off witty, clever, and sarcastic, often times it seems like he is just toying with the listener and subverting the audiences expectations. Gone are the rhyme schemes and sci- fi themes of the last album, and in place, are brand new equally bizarre rhyme schemes and strangely surreal content. I’m so glad that they manged to be just as smart, creative, and weird as they were on Critical Beatdown, without retreading the same territory. If this album simply sounded like Critical Beatdown part two, I think it would have been more disappointing for me personally.  Kool Keith took everything he was known for and expanded it into new flows, cadences, rhyme schemes, and subject matter.  It is nice to see him take on some more social commentary on this record as opposed to just dissing MCs for 15 songs.  Regardless of the new ground that Keith covers he definitely peppers the album with Explicit and subliminal disses on other MCs. After all, it wouldn’t really feel like an Ultramagnetic album if he didn’t. If you haven’t heard Ultramagnetic MCs, I’d recommend checking out their seminal debut album “Critical Beatdown” first, It’s a Hip Hop staple.  if you are a fan of that album, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend “Funk Your Head Up”. It’s truly a great follow up that shows off Kool Keith at his best.      

11.Business Never Personal – EPMD Erick Sermon was one of the best producers of 1992, hands down. He did this album in addition to Redman’s debut, and the beats were definitely slammin. There is something that stands out about Sermon’s beats that is hard to put your finger on or replicate. The low end bass is always booming, The drums are always hard, and the grooves always get your head nodding. The way he cuts the samples, designs the sounds, and layers everything together always sounds really good, and really original. The high energy of these beats seems to bring out the best in the MCs and push them to the limit, which was especially true for Redman. EPMD released this album less than a year before the last one “Business Never Personal” and it’s amazing how different it sounds. It’s like E Double just had so many new ideas that he just had to drop another album. Despite it sounding fresh as compared to the one a year before, it’s still the same basic EPMD formula, funky ass beats and hard rhymes. The performance of Erick Sermon and Parish Smith is exactly how you would expect, I’d say by this album they had a lot of experience under their belts, and it shows. They come off as motivated MCs that know exactly what they are doing, they keep the rhymes simple but hard and energetic. The interaction and chemistry isn’t quite as prominent in this album, instead it feels like they just went in hard on the mic and called it a day.  This album does feature awesome guest spots from their extended crew “The Hit Squad” Which consisted of Redman, Das EFX, K-Solo and EMPD themselves. Unfortunately this record was the last album released by the group before both EPMD and the Hit Squad broke up. If you are looking to get an idea of where New York Hip Hop production was in 92, this is an important album to check out, it stood out on it’s own from the crate digging jazz infused direction groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth were taking Hip Hop, and it’s a definite classic. 

12.Return of the Funky Man [Vinyl] – Lord Finesse It’s not quite as charming and humerus as his first album “Funky Technician”, and the beats are not as awesome as the productions on his third album “The Awakening” but this record does contain 15 tracks of Lord Finesse spitting dope rhyme after dope rhyme on top of some super funky beats, and that’s something that I would never want to pass up. Finesse is a bit edgier on this album, he comes off more seasoned and mature which makes this album sound unique from his first. He is still a master of punchlines and his vocals really show off  his use of uniquely  humorous  similes.  This is the album that served as my introduction to Lord Finesse, and D.I.T.C. in general, so I may have a bias in favor of it, but I can honestly say it’s another great showcase for one of rap’s most underrated MCs. If you like great punchlines and humor, old school battle rhymes, and obscure funk breaks, you need to hear this album.  If you are a fan of D.I.T.C. or Finesse, pick it up ASAP, you won’t be disappointed. 

13.Sex and Violence– Boogie Down Productions A lot of people describe this album as a disappointment, but I honestly think it is one of the best BPD albums you can find. It’s not as ground breaking nor seminal as the all time classic “Criminal Minded”, it didn’t signify as much of a shift in content as the second album “By Any Means Necessary”, and it doesn’t have essential BDP songs like “Love’s Gonna Getcha”, “Blackman In Effect”, “You Must Learn”, or “Why Is That”. but… It’s just really solid. KRS-1 is Fierce throughout this entire album, and the shift of production to 92 style Boom Bap beats serves as a better musical backdrop for KRS to tear up.  KRS, as expected, covers many topics, including social issues, political problems, and how to succeed in the music business. Unlike his other albums, he ventures deep into religious territory with songs that serve as an enlightenment of Christianity, suggesting it is mechanism that is used to manipulate minorities that traces back to the days of slavery. Although, I can understand how Christianity was used to make slaves more complacent, I believe that the analogy was not entirely fair, as there are many minorities that use religion as a means to find their inner power, or a power outside of themselves, which they use to strive for equality. Regardless of if I totally agree with his message, I really have to commend KRS1 for having the gall to take Hip Hop where it had not yet been before…again. Besides a few tracks that are rough around the edges, the production is a lot better on this album than on “Edutainment”, some of these beats are real head nodders. It’s unfortunate that some of the weaker beats were produced by Prince Paul, Paul said in an interview that he gave KRS the rough drafts and was mad when the album came out because he never got to finish the beats! It’s a shame because, you can tell that the beats aren’t up to Prince Paul’s usual standards. The good thing is, there are only about two or three weaker songs, so this is a minor quibble.  If you like KRS as a battle Lyricist, there are plenty of dope tracks that showcase him ripping up the mic, I’d highly recommend this album to people who found BPD’s  preceding albums to be too preachy, because KRS takes a good amount of time to simply demonstrate his rap skills on this record. Another welcome edition to the album’s roster is Freddie The Fox, He drops by to tear up a few songs with his trademark energy and gruff delivery providing some diversity to rap styles. If you want to get into older BDP albums and have already heard criminal minded, I’d recommend that you check this album out. If you tend to thoroughly enjoy the production style of 1992 like I do, this may become one of your favorite albums by the legendary BPD. Don’t Sleep! 

14.Guerillas in Tha Mist – Da Lynch Mob Ice Cube’s group is really dope, they do a good job at bringing out the politically rebellious side of gangsta rap without sacrificing the gangsta attitude in the slightest. In fact, I’d say this is one of the hardest Gansta rap albums you are going to find, right up there with The Ghetto Boys in terms of sheer grit and agression. Very much like the Ghetto boys, this group has a very uncut sound to them. It’s like they just belt out how they feel without taking much time to deliberate. These guys have the political edge of Ice Cube, but they don’t come off as if they spent as much time putting the rhymes together, which actually helps to give them their own identity, rather then coming off as Ice Cube affiliates.  The main single “Guirllas In Tha Mist” is one of the best songs to come out this year. It just has that undeniable hype vibe, that makes you want to go buckwild and start a riot.  A lot of their political message can range from pro civil rights and criminal justice reform on the left, on down to pro first ammendment pro gun songs like “Freedom has an AK”. It’s some militant shit that I highly recommend to people who enjoy Gangster Rap, or politically conscious rap.    

15.Spice 1 – Spice 1 Spice 1 put down some hardcore Bay Area Gangster shit on this album, and the beats are classic Oakland style funk, with most tracks produced by Ant Banks. This record manages to maintain it’s momentum due to the consistently dope beats, and largely in part because of how Spice 1 changes up his flow throughout the album. He has a variety of cadences he brings out on this album that help provide variety in the vocals even though there is not much variety in the content. Spice 2 switches between spitting gunbars and telling hood stories.  He also  devotes an entire song to telling you, you better go to the damn store and break yourself so you can buy his album. I dig this concept,  it’s kind of funny, but it also comes off like he is just that fucking confident about about his bomb ass music and his bomb ass album. You don’t have to take his word for it though, I also think you should break yourself and go cop this bomb ass album at the record store!  

16. The Predator – Ice Cube Ice Cube still sticks to his classic formula of political gangster lyrics with a bite, this album is a bit different from his last two because he changed up his flow and cadence quite a bit. Although I like the lyrics a bit better on his last album, Cube is still visious on this album and it’s refreshing to hear him doing something a little different with his rhythm, voice, and rhyme schemes. The production on this album is pretty outstanding, it definitely sounds like he was trying to bring a fresh new sound out compared to his last records. It doesn’t hurt that he got a few beats from Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, of course, before Cube and Cypress Hill Beats.

17.House Of Pain – House Of Pain  It’s a shame that House of Pain is considered a one hit wonder by many because they have a lot of bangin jams. Everlast is certainly not of the greatest MCs of all times but he does his thing. He mostly raps about talking shit, drinking, hanging with this boys, and Irish pride. I find his lyrics to be mindless but enjoyable.  I’m glad he didn’t rap in a way that was pretentious or dramatic and decided instead, to make raps that were simple and crass. This style lent itself nicely to an album that features lyrics like “Put on your shit kickers and kick some shit.” This album never pretends to be anything other than it is and I really appreciate it for that. The biggest reason for checking this album out are the rugged yet groovy beats produced by DJ Muggs and DJ Lethal, who are two of the most underrated producers in Hip Hop.  They made a lot of great tracks with gritty drums, choppy washed out bass lines and of course, the signature squealing noises that were composed from everything from sped up samples of horns to the neighs of horses. It was definitely innovative and distinctive, so, if your into rude lyrics and blunted beats from Muggs, don’t sleep on this album.

18.Don’t Sweat the Technique – Eric B & Rakim

“Know The Ledge” might be the best song written by Eric B & Rakim, and it’s certainly one of the best songs of all time. “Don’t Sweat The Technique” is one of the slickest tracks they did, and more and more, Ive noticed that it’s becoming one of those songs like “Rappers Delight” or “It Takes Two” that are listened to by people that aren’t even fans of Hip Hop. It’s interesting that this song is begginning to occupy that cultural space, however, I suppose it’s fitting that Rakim, one of the greatest MCs of all time finally had a track that transcended the genre and sounds familiar to people all over the world who don’t really listen to this kind of music. It also, may be fitting that that it’s used to market sleek cars, clothes, and cell phones, it is after all, a very sleek jam. There are some other good songs on this album as well such as “Casualties of War” in which Rakim gets political and denounces senseless fighting and foreign conflict , most likely “Desert Storm” or “Pass The Hand Grenade” where he unleashes some lyrical fury. Other than that, the album only shows potential that wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.  Eric B was doing some pretty novel things with the Jazz samples. He really was taking the production to some different places, but, the beats weren’t really slamming. A word I would use to describe them is interesting. They really were worth checking out for a listener who has some curiosity and inquisitiveness, but they didn’t hit like they needed to.  I felt the same way about most of the rhymes. I can see why some found this album to be disappointing but I find it to be worth tracking down and listening to.  It does have two of the greatest Hip Hop songs of all time on it, and the rest of the album is worth checking out, even if it’s not something you’ll find yourself wanting to come back to.    

19. Live and Let Die [Explicit] – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo

Kool G Rap invented the mafioso style of rap and was one of the most seminal figures in shaping east coast gangsta rap music. I like him when he is on the gangster tip, but I personally preferred  his albums that featured a shmattering of hardcore gangster type lyrics as well as pure MC battle rhymes. On this album, G Rap is in Mafioso story telling mode for the duration, and he has some insane tales to share. Some of these songs like “Ill Street Blues” are utter masterpieces.  I love how he says things like “The boss tried to rape her so we tossed him off a sky scraper”. If you are into some cold blooded east coast Mafia rap, look no further, G Rap is one of the best at it.  If you are into G Rap more for his immaculate battle rhymes, than I’d check out his first two albums “Road To The Riches” or “Wanted Dead Or Alive” both of which, I am a much bigger fan of.  

20. Sleeping With the Enemy – Paris

21. Shorty The Pimp – Too Short It’s another Too Short album. Too Short has always been very consistent, maybe too consistent because nothing about this album stands out or separates it from his other records. This is more Oaktown Pimp music. Short Dog brings his trademark sense of humor and laid back style and manages to use them to great effect as we have come to expect. If you are in the mood for some Too Short, you won’t go wrong with this album.  I would probably recommend that you check out “Short Dog’s In The House” first, which is my personal favorite but the thing about Short fans is we all have different favorite albums from him, there is no real consensuses on which is the best. Probably because there all pretty dang good. 

22.F.U.-Don’t take it personal – Fu Shnickens What can I say? Fu-schnickens has a style may sound gimmicky, but it also serves as a showcase of their lyrical dexterity. Yes, Dexterity, I think is the best word because the lyrics themselves are not particularly poetic nor clever, but the way they deliver them is truly impressive.  These guys are the masters of this early 90s bugged out rapid fire tongue twisting delivery, but not merely because of how quick they rap, but because they make fast rap look slick, smooth, and stylish.  This record has a lot of jams on it that make it worth seeking out, namely “True Fu Shnick”,  “Ring The Alarm”, and “Whats Up Doc” Featuring Shaquile O’Neil on the M.I.C. 

23.Too Hard To Swallow – UGK Although I don’t think UGK began releasing their best material until their next album “Ridin Dirty” I strongly recommend that you check this album out if you’re into Houston Rap or are a fan of UGK.  It has a lot of potential, and it also contains the original version of “Pocket Full Of Stones” which is a boneheaded classic, despite the remix being the definitive version.  The rhymes are gritty and simpl, but have a lot of heart. The beats produced by Pimp C are definitely on point as well, although I think it took him one more album for him come into his own and find his voice as a producer. This is definitely a record that is worth your time, and it’s a good representation of the Dirty South rap from the early 90s. This record may have been overshadowed by their later efforts, but it also foreshadowed their immense success that was to come. 

24.School Of Hard Knocks – Hard Knocks

Who would have thought? Another underrated gem from Wild Pitch Records. These guys were apparently much better A&Rs than they were promoters as their label slept on classic after slept on classic.  I wouldn’t put this album on par with some of the other standout albums to come out of this label, but I would definitely suggest you listen to it if you are looking for some more Hip Hop with the 92 flavor.  It’s got some solid beats and rhymes throughout the album, and the group touches on different social issues and personal struggles they were going through. The variety helps to make the album more enjoyable to listen to and there are certainly some stand out beats and songs to be heard.   

25.Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury – The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

This album is actually enjoyable for totally different reasons now than it was when released.  It’s a strange pre-internet time capsule of left wing conspiracy theory put into Hip Hop form. Some of the issues he talks about such as the legal system placing a disproportionate burden on minorities are still relevant whereas other topics just sound humorous by todays standards. The technophobic songs about TVs rotting people’s brains and exposing them to information that is tightly controlled sounds ludicrous, namely because any information you want to dig up is just a few clicks away in most cases, of course, fake news has actually gotten more popular. That being said, there are some good political and social messages in this album and the production is pretty damn creative and eerie at times.  The disconcerting sonic elements never really  detract from the plodding grooves. If you want to look into a cutlrual/musical/sociopolitical time capsule with some interesting production and rhymes, check this album out.  

26. Dead Serious [Explicit] This album is dope, but a bit overrated. I really love “They Wan’t EFX”, that lead single captured Das EFX at the peak of their zany rhyming glory. I suppose my issue with Das EFX maybe that they tried to transition from sounding crazy and unpredictable to sounding bad ass, and their rhyme style didn’t exactly lend itself well to that. I like most of the Das albums, but I always felt like their rhyme style was a bit gimmicky, and I wanted more out of it. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I feel that Fu Shnickins actually succeeds at being more impressive with their own brand of tongue twisting rhyme styles.  I often find myself in awe at what they are able to deliver, whereas this album i tend to get tired of. None the less, it is a dope album with some solid production from PMD and company.

27. Deja Vu It’s 82 – The Crusaders For Real Hip Hop

Some of these songs are awesome jams, I can’t tell you how often I get the song “Funky Uptown” stuck in my head. It is a total banger and may be worth the price of admission alone. The whole album is really entertaining and has a great vibe to it. The only issue is that about half the songs fall pretty flat. I give this record a pass because it has heart, and it has some great moments. If you want some good funky ass songs with a good sense of humor to them, I really recommend this album. Some of the beats and rhymes are surprisingly dope. It’s not like these guys didn’t have some skills on the mic and the SP.

28.The Grandest of Them All [Explicit] – Grandmaster Caz

A lot of these albums that are ranked lower on this years list had so many great moments and so much potential, but just weren’t consistently dope all the way through.  If all the songs on this album were on par with “The Hitman” This would be one of the top 10 best, big, boisterous, and bombastic Hip Hop albums of 92. The rest of the album is pretty solid, and there are some stand out tracks like “Duck Sauce”, and “Ain’t Nuthin Changed” but even those tracks don’t hold up as well as other performances by Caz. If you are a fan of the Cold Crush, or you want to hear the only solo album by one of the most influential MC’s of all time, than pick this up. Whether or not you are familiar with Caz, make sure to check out his classic joint off this album “The Hitman.”

29. Blue Funk – Heavy D & The Boys

This album is not consistent all the way through but it has some classic production by Pete Rock and DJ Premier and Heavy D does his thing.  This also has the awesome posse cut “Buncha Niggas” Featuring a show stealing performance by a young Notorious B.I.G. as well as features from Bustah Rhymes and Guru. If you are craving some classic 92 beats by Pete and Preme, or you are simply a fan of Heavy D. Pick this album up for sure.

30.Tricks of the Shade – The Goats

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Categories: Essential Albums, Lists

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