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Top 20 Golden Age Hip-Hop Albums

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Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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2. Beastie Boys
Paul's Boutique (1989)

Sure the Beastie Boys (MCA, from Brooklyn, and Mike D. & Ad-Rock, from Manhattan) have gotten lots of love from alternative radio over the years, but they are hip-hop to the core, and nowhere is that better demonstrated than on Paul's Boutique. Recorded in Los Angeles, the work is a brilliant mosaic of eclectic samples, pop culture references, and relentless, nimble lyricism. Stuffed with tales of lovable villains ("High Plains Drifter," "3-Minute Rule" , b-boy anthems ("Shake Your Rump," "Shadrach") and narratives fueled by psychedelics ("Car Thief"), it also contains frantic warnings against racism ("Egg Man," "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"), and a 12-minute hip-hop odyssey ("B-Boy Bouillabaisse"). You will never ever hear another album like this. -Sama'an Ashrawi

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1. A Tribe Called Quest
The Low End Theory (1991)

The Low End Theory is quite possibly the smoothest fusion of jazz and rap ever recorded. No margarine, no Parkay - the scenario is strictly butter, front to back. Traditionalist boom-bap is turned funky and poetical, as much Mingus, Miles, and James Brown as it is The Last Poets. Queens natives Q-Tip and Phife Dawg (backed by Ali Shaheed Muhammad, from Brooklyn) trade verses like jazz greats trading solos; their laid-back rhymes feel at once improvisational and carefully crafted. They dissect the record industry, offer smooth relationship raps, and deliver light and intelligent mic braggadocio without being solipsistic. The vibes have been often imitated since '91, but the result is never as effortless or effective. -Max Bell

See also: The 20 Greatest L.A. Hip-Hop Albums

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