Label: Def Jam, Columbia, CBS

There are many powerful arguments why 1988 was hip-hop's greatest year ever, but none more convincing than Silck Rick's Def Jam debut. The story-telling genius he displayed on "Children's Story" and "Mona Lisa," and the poignant blend of rude-boy reality on "Hey Young World" and the pimp game of "Treat Em Like A Prostitute" put this album on the short list of all-time greatest rap classics. It's no accident that when he was looking to kick of Blueprint, Jay-Z channeled Rick's bombastic swagger from "The Ruler's Back"