4. The Notorious B.I.G, Ready to Die
Label: Bad Boy
Release Date: 9/13/1994
Ready to Die is a really, really excellent album, but you already knew that. After repeated listens, Biggie's rhymes are just as tough, the production feels just as dope, and those songs are still must-haves on any rap playlist. What sets this album apart from others, though, is how it blends the dreams of the Brooklyn dwellers-both empowering and destructive-into a 17-track epic that's held together by this untouchable, but humane giant.
For almost 70 minutes, we're on a ride that takes us from the slums to the bedroom to the Benzes, and it's all powered by vivid storytelling prowess and straight wit. "Warning" is about as detailed as it gets, "One More Chance" is absurd, but loveable, and "Unbelievable" is just unfuckwithable.
What makes Ready to Die such a classic is that it doesn't divide nostalgic '90s hip-hop diehards and today's listeners. It still resonates. "Juicy" isn't just the autobiography of a hip-hop heavyweight gone too soon, it's the story of the comeup of hip-hop itself-both the music and those it affected.