Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

What is there left to say about Kanye West's sophomore effort? Late Registration has earned numerous accolades—from hit singles ("Gold Digger," "Diamonds") to a Grammy Award (Best Rap Album). This was the disc that carved out Kanye's place beyond the alternative “backpacker” audience, placing him firmly in hip-hop's mainstream.

Nobody could call him a producer who was trying to rap anymore. Late Registration established him as a real MC with better rhymes, stronger hooks, and a more focused yet grandiose vision than anybody else in his lane. Ye might not have been on the throne quite yet, but he was certainly on his way.