3. Mobb Deep, The Infamous (1995)
Label: Loud, RCA, BMG
Coming off their "Unsigned Hype" appearance in The Source, the duo once known as the Poetical Prophets signed a deal with 4th & Broadway and released Juvenile Hell in 1993, which was actually a pretty good record that was underappreciated at the time for a number of reasons.
After getting dropped, they went back to the lab and hit back hard the following year with a remixed version of the promo-only "Shook Ones" single. "Shook Ones, Pt. II" went on to become their signature song, a hardcore Queensbridge anthem second only to "The Bridge" itself that set the Mobb at the forefront of a new wave of hardcore New York rap.
The Infamous was a soundtrack for a new era of anti-social, hardcore hip-hop, driven by Havoc's accomplished sampling techniques, tight drum programming and bleak moods, and the heartless microphone techniques of Prodigy at his most ruthless. Outstanding assists from Q-Tip, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Nas made it clear that this was "the realness" personified, in terms of cutting edge street music for 1995.