My top five favorite hip-hop albums of all time


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Omar Benitez, Senior Reporter

If you’re a returning reader, you may know that I recently created a similar list to this one in the past (See “Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of the 2010’s” on our website) which goes over what I thought were the best hip-hop albums of the past decade.

Now, this list consists of my favorite albums, albums that no matter how much time or how many listens later, I can still always go back and completely jam and vibe out.These are what I would call classic albums. Now, let’s get into it.

  1. “1999” – Joey Bada$$ (2012) 

The only repeat album from my last list and a testament to how much I truly love and enjoy this album. Joey bursts into the rap scene at age 17. His style was reminiscent of Nas, Wu-tang and many other New York legends that came before him. You could say this album gave very similar vibes to when Nas dropped “Illmatic” at age 19. Joey has three songs with his mentor and Pro Era founder, Capital Steez. The album is loaded and showcases a host of young talented rappers from the aforementioned Steez; from CJ Fly to Nyck Caution and many more talented Pro Era members. The album has production on songs like “Pennyroyal,” “World Domination” and “Snakes” from late legendary Hip-Hop producers MF DOOM and J Dilla respectively. The ‘90s New York vibes are crazy strong with this one and the jazz inspired beats and a raw New York flow make for some of the best hip-hop you can listen to today.

Favorite three songs: “Third Eye Sh*t,” “Snakes” and “Killuminati”

  1. “Man On the Moon: The End of Day” – Kid Cudi (2009) 

I will start off by saying I had a really hard time selecting a Cudi album because there’s so many that I like, but I ultimately decided on his debut album, “Man On the Moon.” The album showcased Cudi’s unique alternative hip-hop style to the world. Cudi was also one of the first rappers to rap about mental health and this album very much centers around the theme of loneliness and depression. We see this in songs like “Soundtrack 2 My life,” “Man On the Moon,” “Solo Dolo” and his smash hit “Day ‘n’ Nite.” Cudi is not afraid to rap about these topics and they are topics that will carry on to many of his future albums. In this album, we got to see Cudi really come into his own and embrace his differences and unique style from traditional rappers. The album is considered one of his best.

Favorite three songs: “Pursuit of happiness,” “Hyyerr” and “Sky Might Fall”

  1. “The Sun’s Tirade” – Isaiah Rashad (2016)

Described by Rashad as ‘an album you’d listen to when you’re having a bad day,’ I truly love this album, it’s definitely one of my most listened-to albums and one I can always enjoy. Rashad’s debut album came at a time when he was struggling with alcohol and substance use, issues that risked him almost getting dropped from his label and the album almost never coming out. Luckily, for us, the album did come, and it was amazing. The album was filled with deceptively upbeat flows and beats but if you look beyond that, you find some real substance in the lyrics. He greatly details his struggles with substance use and depression and how he was able to overcome them. The album is truly made for when you’re having a bad day and I know it definitely helped me get past many of them. He’s got full support from his TDE label mates like Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, SiR and SZA; it’s definitely an album I’d recommend to any and everyone.

Favorite three songs: “Rope//rosegold,” “4r Da Squaw” and “Tity and Dolla”

  1. “Section.80” – Kendrick Lamar (2011)

I could have put many Lamar albums on this list but I did that on the last list I made, so I’m going to limit myself to one. For this list, I decided to go with my favorite one, “Section.80.” This is some of the most raw and pure hip-hop albums out, there is nothing commercial or mainstream about this album; just pure hip-hop and Lamar rapping and showcasing his skills. Songs like “Rigamortis,” “Chapter 10” and “Blow my high,” really showcases his rapping ability and I love the chill, relaxed, just unbothered flow that he has throughout the entirety of the album. This was Lamar’s first official full-length project and he fully delivered. He covers serious topics like institutionalized racism, drugs and violence along with other struggles his generation faced while growing up in ‘90s in Compton. He does this all while flowing impeccably over many jazz inspired beats that make for an album that I will surely be listening to until old age.

Favorite three songs: “Kush & Corinthians,” “Poe Man’s Dreams” and “F*ck Your Ethnicity”

  1. Graduation” – Kanye West (2007)

At arguably the height of his career, Kanye West released the master-class album, “Graduation.” West completely shook up the hip-hop world when it was released. The sound of this album was unlike anything that was out at the time, with the market mostly being dominated by gangster rap for the past years. Some would say this album even marked the end of gangster rap after West soundly defeated fellow rapper, 50 Cent, in an album sales battle. Rightfully so, West completely changed the sound and mold of hip-hop at the time with samples from Daft Punk on hit “Stronger,” Michael Jackson on “Good Life” and Elton John on “Good Morning.” West left behind the soul samples he was known for on “The College Dropout” and “Late registration,” in favor of a much more electronic vibe filled with synthesizers. His production does not suffer for it at all, with West being listed as lead producer for every song. West comes to the top with this album because it’s filled with bangers, has a sound unlike anything else, and has been unmatched to this day. Features from legends like DJ Premier, Mos Def and Lil Wayne cement this as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.

Favorite three songs: “Good Life,” “I Wonder” and “Flashing Lights”