What's in a name? For rap albums, all too often the answer is: not much. LP titles sometimes seem like a total afterthought in the hip-hop world. We can't help but wonder if our favorite MCs frequently just throw together random words simply because they sound cool.
And what about the recent rash of part twos, threes and even fours—couldn't they think of something new? Or worse: all those inane, often unexplained acronyms. Even when rappers don't rely on these lazy fall backs, the names they come up with tend to be boring, generic or downright meaningless.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Some rappers actually take the time to give their projects names that perfectly represent the music within. Some album titles—and it's no coincidence that their contents tend to be higher quality musically as well—make you think, make you mad or make you laugh. But the best ones, above all, make you remember.
That made it just a little bit easier to sift through all the wackness to bring you The 50 Best Rap Album Titles Ever, presented here without further introduction.
Written by Alex Gale (@apexdujeous)
50. The Beatnuts, Milk Me (2004)
Milk Me isn't the best Beatnuts album—we're partial to 1994's Street Level and 2001's Take It or Squeeze It—but it certainly has the most memorable, laughable name. They came up with the title they heard some guy in a skin flick say it. Somewhere out there is a retired porn star who's owed some serious royalties.
49. Scarface, Balls and My Word (2003)
There are a million lines from Scarface's cinematic namesake that would make great album titles. "My little friend." "Say hello to the bad guy." "Don't get high on your own supply." But considering this Houston legend's penchant for boldly breaking barriers and speaking hard truths, we think he chose well for his eighth full-length. Granted, No Limit's Young Bleed did have the same title first, back in 1998, but they're both just lifting from Tony Montana, and there's no question which rapper has more claim to do so.
48. The Coup, Genocide & Juice (1994)
Label: Wild Pitch, EMI
Lots of rap album names go with the "X and Y" formula: Kanye's 808 and Heartbreaks, Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares, Lupe's Food and Liquor. But this is the best of them all. A witty play on Snoop's "Gin and Juice," the title of this conscious-rap benchmark simultaneously makes you laugh and think-about racism, alcoholism, and hip-hop's role in propagating both. It's a heavy load for just three words.
47. Top Dog, Slam Dunk'n Hoes (2007)
46. Blu & Exile, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (2011)
Label: Dirty Science, Fat Beats
Blu and Exile's latest collaboration, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, didn't have anywhere near the impact of their widely hailed 2007 LP Below the Heavens. But the album's name left much more of a mark-especially for Blu, one of the most esoteric, underappreciated rappers of the new millennium. Like Van Gogh or, closer to home, Big L and J. Dilla, will Blu have to wait till he's gone to receive the recognition his rhyme skills to deserve?
45. 2Pac, Me Against the World (1995)
In 1991, Pac filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Oakland PD, accusing cops of brutally beating him for jaywalking. In 1993, he shot an off-duty police officer in Atlanta in self-defense (he was indicted, but charges were eventually dropped). A year later, he survived being shot five times at Manhattan's Quad Studios. You can't blame him for feeling a bit paranoid, and the title and contents of his classic third album-released while he was serving a year sentence for sexual assault-sum up the sentiment just right.
44. Fugees, Blunted on Reality (1994)
At the height of Redman and Cypress Hill's weed-fueled glory days, the Fugees went defiantly sober with their debut LP. But judging from the group's later behavior-Wyclef thinking he's qualified to be president of Haiti and posing in a Speedo; Lauryn's, well, everything-they may have left their straight-edge days behind.
43. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet (1990)
Label: Def Jam, Columbia
Public Enemy had white America up in arms with their stellar third album. And the LP's title shows the group wasn't afraid to say they knew why: Good old-fashioned racism. Years later, the 2008, 2010, and 2012 elections-which saw corporate powers, right-wing media, and a shrinking white electorate freak out over one Barack Hussein Obama (see Bill O'Reilly's mourning of so-called "traditional America" and VP candidate Paul Ryan blaming "urban turnout" for his ticket's loss)-showed the album and its name are still just as poignant today.
42. Eric B. & Rakim, Don't Sweat the Technique (1992)
Eric B and Rakim's fourth and final album was originally intended to be titled Save the Children. Thank God, or the God MC rather, that they didn't go out like that. We're not sure what's wrong with sweating this iconic duo's technique-it is pretty damn impressive, after all-but when Rakim starts riding the booming acoustic bass line of the title track with ice-cold grace and gravitas, it's obvious you should listen to him.
41. Dr. Octagon, Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)
Label: Bulk Recordings
In case you were wondering what kind of doctor Kool Keith became when he took to the stethoscope for this twisted indie-rap classic, the title makes it clear. It's not easy becoming a gynecologist-you have to go to med school, a four-year residency program, and then pass the board exams—but Doc Oc is a dedicated, dedicated man when it comes to ladies and their nether regions.
40. Too Short, Born to Mack (1987)
Label: Dangerous, Jive, RCA
We can't think of a better way to describe Short Dog's entire career than the name of his first full-length and first major-label release. Short was already keenly aware of his specialty: first-person tales of pimpery, sex and street life. 30 years deep into his legendary career, he's still at it-although he did promise to tone down earlier this year after a ill-advised interview in which he gave underage boys some racy advice for seducing the opposite sex. We'll believe it when we see it.
39. 2 Live Crew, As Nasty as They Wanna Be (1989)
38. Showbiz & AG, Runaway Slave (1992)
37. Outkast, Stankonia (2000)
Label: LaFace, Arista
Outkast's fourth album, and their last real collaborative one, has an awesome double-layered title. It sounds like "stank on ya"-which musically, this album most definitely succeeds in putting. But it also conjures up a magical, mystical long-lost land of fonkiness, one where "Here Comes a Bride" is interpolated into a banging divorce anthem (on "Ms. Jackson"), "B.O.B" is an apocalyptic musical headtrip instead of a rapper who sings too much, and best of all, Andre and Big Boi are still making dope music together.
36. The Coup, Kill My Landlord (1993)
Label: Wild Pitch, EMI
Naming your album after one of Eddie Murphy's funniest, most subversive Saturday Night Live skits? Pure win. Even more importantly, the title fit in flawlessly with the album's unabashedly anti-capitalism, anti-establishment philosophy, exemplified by the title track, "Fo' Da Money" and "Not Yet Free."
35. MC Ren, Kizz My Black Azz (1992)
With the brash title to his 1992 solo debut, MC Ren proved he still had attitude even after N.W.A. broke up. We don't know if he was addressing his departed bandmates, white America, or folks who doubted he would succeed on his own with the title, but you have to admire any artist who names their album in a way that pretty much guarantees retailers and radio stations are going to shun it. Plus, we miss Z's randomly replacing S's on every other rap song and album title back in the day.
34. A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996)
Label: Jive, BMG
Tribe's fourth album may have disappointed musically, but it's title was a pitch-perfect definition of hip-hop. It almost makes up for the pretentious, novel-length title of their 1990 debut, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (which, despite the fact it's one of our favorites, we only remembered the full name of thanks to Google). Anyway, it's pretty easy to guess which album Michael Rapaport named his extremely dope Tribe doc after.
33. 2Pac, All Eyez on Me (1996)
Label: Death Row, Interscope
Few album titles have adressed their author's predicament as well as this double-album epic by Pac. Way before rappers going to jail became passé, he was fresh off an 11-month stay at Riker's after being bailed out by Suge Knight, head of rap's most notorious label, Death Row. Needless to say, the entire world was watching, and Pac seemed to thrive off the attention on the mic.
32. Luniz, Operation Stackola (1995)
Label: Noo Trybe, Virgin, EMI Records
Oakland duo Luniz made their money-making mission clear with their awesomely named debut LP. And if the hit single "I Got 5 on It," which sold over a million copies, is any indication, they were successful. Hopefully they started putting their newfound fives into stocks and bonds-or at least some bigger sacks.
31. Akinyele, Vagina Diner (1993)
30. Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't (2012)
Label: Maybach Music Group, Def Jam
After several album titles that didn't really match the increasingly epic grandiosity of his music, Ross finally nails it. God Forgives, I Don't sounds like a classic line from a classic Mob flick, and considering the dramatic crime-boss boasts and cinematic scores on songs like "Pirates," we're pretty sure that's exactly what he was going for.
29. Ghostface Killah, Bulletproof Wallets (2001)
Label: Epic, SME
The quintessential Ghostface album title. Yes, even more so than Supreme Clientele. In the real, non-Shaolin world, putting these two words together would be random and absurd. But for Tony Starks and his many followers, it makes total sense-much like blue-and-cream Wallys and golden-eagle forearm jewelry.
28. E-40, The Ball Street Journal 2008)
Label: Warner Bros., BME, Sick Wid It
Of course E-40, perhaps the world's most pun-tastic rapper, made this list. We don't know about you, but we'd much rather read 40 Water's titular publication than the Wall Street Journal. Stocks and bonds are cool and all, but what if you can't decide whether to invest in candy paint or pinky rings?
27. Trick Daddy, www.thug.com (1998)
Nann URL is messing with the title of Trick Daddy's second album, which was also the name of his official website back then, a smart move. Recognize: Years before you launched your little LOLcat Tumblr, Trick, an unlikely early adopter, was already landing online promotional coups.
26. Ice-T, Rhyme Pays (1987)
Label: Sire, Warner Bros.
Yes, Ice-T's debut album is an obvious play off the old adage "crime pays," but it works so well because for Ice, a former pimp and drug dealer, rhyme and crime were so closely linked. The lead single, "6 'N the Mornin'," is one of gangsta rap's defining documents; "Somebody Gotta Do It (Pimpin' Ain't Easy!!!)" dished on Ice's former profession; and "Squeeze The Trigger" is self-explanatory. No wonder it was the first hip-hop album to receive the Parental Advisory label.
25. Nas, Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)
Label: Def Jam
Much like the similarly named De La Soul album that preceded it, the title of Nas' eighth album is both an ingeniously provocative publicity stunt and a thought-provoking thesis. Southern rappers who felt slighted, including Young Jeezy and Ludacris, lashed out at Nas in response, which only added to the album's hooplah. And though Esco's conclusion was certainly premature-hip-hop is alive and well in 2012-the conversation the album helped spark arguably provided a much-needed course correction at the height of the ringtone era.
RELATED: The 100 Best Nas Songs
24. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
808s and Heartbreak is really just a very spot-on musical description of Kanye's fourth album, and the artistic evolutions that anchor it. Leaving behind the dusty sampled drums that characterized most of his earlier work, Kanye relied heavily on 808s and other drum-machine sounds here. And after three albums with barely a mention of love, post-breakup despair was the driving force on this one. But we know what you're thinking: Why didn't Auto-tune get a shout-out in the title too?
23. Diamond D, Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop (1992)
Label: Chemistry, Mercury, Polygram
Diamond D wins by listing life's three essentials for the title of his slept-on debut. Any desert-island stay just wouldn't be complete without the album's holy trinity. Sure, food and water are pretty important too, but they just don't sound as cool.
22. Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle (1993)
Label: Death Row, Interscope
Snoop's first album kind of had to be named this. His velvety gangsta charisma, laced with Dr. Dre's G-Funk production, was indeed a singular, all-his-own style. And when it bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200-the first time a debut album of any genre had ever done so-it was clear America agreed.
21. El-P, I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)
Label: Definitive Jux
Ever since Nas' "New York State of Mind," hip-hop has equated sleep with death, but the scary, stalkerish threat that identifies El-P's second solo LP turns it on its head. Well-named songs like "Up All Night," "Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)" and "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" extend the insane, insomniac vibe of the title with post-apocalyptic production and paranoid rhymes.
20. N.W.A., Efil4zaggin (1991)
Label: Ruthless, Priority
N.W.A.'s incredible second full-length was a middle finger to critics and censors everywhere. After the group was targeted by parents, the press and politicians for their music's explicit, violent content, the LP's name showed the Compton crew was doubling down, proudly waving the N-word at detractors. "It's plain to see, you can't change me, 'Cause I'm a be a n---a for life," they rapped on the title track's hook. N.W.A. gets extra props for slickly reversing the album name on the cover to pull a fast one on retailers and censors.
19. K-Dee, Ass, Cash or Gas: No One Rides for Free (1994)
18. Onyx, Bacdafucup (1993)
Label: Jam Master Jay Records
Years before Sticky Fingaz got his ass beat in the boxing ring by a white skater on MTV, he was ice-grilling and waving Uzis in the video for "Throw Ya Gunz." So the title of Onyx's 1993 debut, which took hip-hop's hyper-agressive gangster posturing to its logical, scream-rap extreme, was an appropriately agressive warning. And they get extra points for using creative spelling and word-merging to sneak a curse past censors.
17. Necro, I Need Drugs (2000)
The name of Necro's 2000 debut isn't really much of a shocker when compared to the title track's video. A disturbing riff on LL's "I Need Love," the clip features the Brooklyn rapper-producer performing the song while his uncle and a friend shoot smack and smoke crack. You'll offended and/or enthralled, and feel bad when you realize there's a certain sick humor to it. But above all you won't forget it, and the album's title has a similar effect.
16. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead (1991)
15. Outkast, ATLiens (1996)
Label: LaFace, Arista
The slick compound name of Outkast's sophomore tour de force captures the duality of the album perfectly. The duo often has their eyes on the stars with the spacey, meditative production and other-worldly hook chants and melodies. But their Southern slick talk-on "2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac," most notably-and that unmistakable Mason-Dixon bounce make it abundantly clear which city they rep down here on earth.
14. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (1988)
Label: Jive, RCA
You can't go wrong with straight-ahead simplicity. Jazzy Jeff was already a turntable icon when this album dropped in 1988, so maybe a then-unknown Will Smith just wanted to introduce himself. Mission accomplished: The album was certified triple platinum, helping him land the title role on the breakthrough sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air just two years later.
13. The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death (1997)
Label: Bad Boy
Life After Death isn't just the title to Biggie's mythic sophomore double album—it was an eerily prescient prediction: Yes, Biggie died just a couple weeks before it was released, but the title also foreshadowed his unfading timelessness. 15 years later, his music, his impact and his legacy indeed live on, as strong as ever.
12. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (1995)
Raekwon's debut album had the best nickname for any album ever (The Purple Tape, in case you're a knucklehead) but the regular title held it's own significance. The title's was best explained by the album's co-star, Ghostface Killah, when he said, "The chain we used to rock back in the days was Cuban links. Rae came up with the theory, like a Cuban link is one of the roughest chains to break. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...real niggas, strong niggas." Word.
11. Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded (1987)
KRS-One wasn't always the "Teacha." He and the late Scott La Rock, brandishing guns and ammo on the cover, let you know exactly where they were coming from with the title of their seminal 1987 introduction. Its the magna carta of East Coast gangsta rap. And with songs about guns ("My 9mm Goes Bang"), crack ("Remix for P Is Free") and hoodrats ("Super-Hoe"), BDP backs up the title's tough talk musically.
10. A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (1991)
Label: Jive, RCA
The perfect name for the album that perfected the art of woofer-busting. The kick drums knock aggressively throughout the LP, and every other song features a thunderous acoustic bass line. Rap hasn't sounded the same since.
9. DMX, It's Dark and Hell is Hot (1998)
Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam
We still can't say we totally get the melodramatic title to DMX's 1998 breakthrough. It's dark and hell is hot? Regardless, like much of the album, led by borderline-horrorcore songs like "Stop Being Greedy" and "Damien," it's scary and schizophrenic, but it somehow works, through the force of X's juggernaut personality alone.
8. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990)
Ice Cube knew exactly what he was doing with the title of his solo-debut masterpiece-equating the U.S. to the Ku Klux Klan isn't something you take lightly. Cube began to turn the gangsta-rap rage from his N.W.A. days outward to mainstream America, and he knew the pushback would be serious. He was right: A year later, the state of Oregon banned retailers from even showing the image of the self-proclaimed "nigga you love to hate."
7. Nas, Illmatic (1994)
This very well could be a case of an album's remarkable musical content retroactively making its name that much doper. We don't know exactly what Illmatic means-super fucking ill, we imagine-and we don't know why Nas reportedly chose to name his debut after an incarcerated friend, Illmatic Ice. But almost 20 years later, we know that Illmatic has become pretty much synonymous with the word "classic." Also: It just sounds really damn cool.
RELATED: Nas' 25 Favorite Albums
6. The GZA, Liquid Swords (1995)
Label: Geffen, MCA
Like Ghostface's Bulletproof Wallets, this title is so Wu it hurts. But unlike Ghost's, this one has a deeper meaning that we can understand: hard, but flexible; sharp like steel, but flows like water. And GZA's debut, understated and vicious at the same time, definitely lives up to the dichotomy.
5. The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die (1994)
Label: Bad Boy
The juxtaposition of this nihilistic title with the smiling, adorable baby on the cover is eerie, but it makes sense: Biggie's timeless debut covers the life-affirming highs and life-threatening lows of inner-city existence like few albums before or since. Big made you believe every word he committed to wax, including the bone-chilling threats on "Suicidal Thoughts"-which proved Ready to Die went deeper than the title.
4. Compton's Most Wanted, Music to Driveby (1992)
Label: Orpheus, Epic
An ingeniously gangsta title for the most gangsta album from one of rap's most gangsta groups. Unfortunately, considering it dropped in 1992, at the height of West Coast gang violence, we wouldn't be surprised if this SoCal cult classic fulfilled the violent promise its name on more than one occasion.
3. 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
Label: Aftermath, Shady, Interscope
The name of 50 Cent's classic debut is more than just an album title; it's his slogan, his mantra, his guide to living (and not living). It's "Give me liberty or give me death" for the hip-hop generation. And almost a decade later, it's obvious which path 50 chose: According to Forbes magazine, even after years of lackluster album and single sales, he's still ranked as hip-hop's fifth wealthiest magnate. Plus, the title's influence holds today, as evidenced by albums like Chief Keef's Finally Rich.
2. Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill (1986)
Label: Def Jam, Columbia
Sorry, James Bond. Being able to murder people legally is pretty sweet, but we're simple men with simple needs. Much like the Beasties around the time of their blockbuster 1986 debut, we'd much rather just do whippits, trash hotel rooms, hang with Run–D.M.C., and date Molly Ringwald at her hottest.
1. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Label: Def Jam, Columbia
The name of Public Enemy's incendiary sophomore album proves they knew just how revolutionary and powerful its contents were, and who they were up against. Songs like "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "Party for Your Right" were searing manifestos, and helped mobilize a whole generation against racism, Reaganomics, and oppression. The album’s amazing title made it seem as if it was explosive contraband, and in many ways it was. It made fans feel like they were the good ones, fighting the good fight. But it was wrong in some ways: All those millions never managed to muffle PE’s message.