Label: Def Jam Recordings, Columbia Records

It's easy to get lost in the political issues that surround this landmark work's history: Def Jam Records releases the first album made by white rappers and it becomes a worldwide smash, selling eight million copies—well more than twice what any previous rap album had sold—and bringing rap music to a much wider audience than it had previously reached. Race and America and cultural appropriation, etc. Heavy conversation.

But that shouldn't blind anyone to the enduring brilliance of Licensed to Ill. Every song on it, from inescapable frat-party classics like "Fight For Your Right" and "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" to less ubiquitous gems like "Posse in Effect" and "Slow and Low," works just the way it's supposed to. And it all still sounds terrific today. —Dave Bry