Top 20

Top 20 Golden Age Hip-Hop Albums

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Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM
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  • Courtesy of the artist
  • The Pharcyde
Hip-hop's Golden Age marks what many believe to be the genre's zenith, when crackling funk, jazz, and soul samples mixed with banging boom-bap drums and lyrics that were really about something.

It was an era of rapid and remarkable innovation, both sonically and in terms of lyrics and delivery styles. Many debate what years constitute the Golden Age, but for our purposes it began in 1988 and ended in 1993.

Below, then, is our list of the 20 best Golden Age albums. They contributed to hip-hop's legitimacy as an art form, and without them contemporary hip-hop as we know it wouldn't exist at all. -Max Bell

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20. Big Daddy Kane
Long Live The Kane (1988)

Brooklyn's Big Daddy Kane had great buzz after his work with Juice Crew cohorts Marley Marl, MC Shan, and Roxanne Shante in the years leading up to his own debut, Long Live The Kane. Cool, confident, and incredibly gifted at flipping phrases, Kane cemented his spot as one of hip-hop's most commanding voices on the work. Long Live is a adroitly balances hard, fast rap with smooth, danceable grooves and culturally-aware lyrics. -Jake Paine

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19. Boogie Down Productions
By All Means Necessary (1988)

Boogie Down Productions hailed from the Bronx and for By All Means Necessary featured DJ D-Nice and sagely orator KRS-One, with group member DJ Scott La Rock having been shot and killed the year previously. The follow-up to their gangster-themed Criminally Minded, By All Means Necessary is the first outwardly political hip-hop album, and has been sampled and referenced by everyone from Diddy and Pharrell to Scarface and UGK to Sublime. -Sama'an Ashrawi

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18. Geto Boys

We Can't Be Stopped (1991)

Geto Boys put Houston rap on the map. We Can't Be Stopped is a furiously gangster and harrowingly heartfelt slice of the South. The political ("Fuck a War") and sociopolitical are tempered with gore and graphic violence ("Chuckie"), which was instrumental in spawning the sub-genre of horrorcore. "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," of course, remains perhaps the best song ever recorded about the plight and paranoia of ghetto life. Play it when Halloween falls on a weekend. -Max Bell

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