3. Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Release Date: 5/2/1994
It's interesting to think about how left-field 36 Chambers must have sounded back in the day, especially for a record that seems so fundamentally hip-hop in retrospect. The Wu felt so far removed from the funky aesthetics of the West, the social consciousness of yheir East Coast contemporaries, or even the battle rap sensibilities of their competitors.
The slums of Shaolin didn't feel like just Staten Island, but this netherworld where only the rawest of rhymes survived, the sharpest of beats thrived, and where the grittiest reigned supreme. Listeners weren't repulsed by this, but rather thrilled. Wu Nation—the classic tracks, the ideology, and its ever-loyal fanbase—all begins here. With classics like "Protect Ya Neck" and life manifestos like "C.R.E.A.M," it's obvious that there was some gold to be found within the grime.