This feature was originally published in 2014.
The storytellers of the ’90s were, and will always be, some of the greatest to touch a microphone. Tupac, 3 Stacks, Lauryn, Jay, Biggie; visionaries who took an art form just over a decade removed from its infancy and gave it the attention it needed to develop into adulthood, where it now stands three decades later as the most-consumed genre of music in the U.S. And in the process, these men and women created classics. They’re records you know front to back, even if some of them outdate you. The Low End Theory. Life After Death. The Score. 36 Chambers. The Chronic. The list goes on and on. They’re works that set the tone for the future of hip-hop, secured their legacies, and made us realize beyond a reasonable doubt that the genre was already taking over the world just as quickly as it took over our music libraries.
All rap fans know these classics, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to 90s hip-hop. There was so much great music being made in so many different places and spaces that it’s far too easy for great things to get overlooked. At the time, your musical menu most likely depended on what part of the country you lived in. But with the benefit of hindsight, and the Internet, it’s now possible to survey the cream of the crop and make informed decisions about which records are good, better, and best.
With that in mind, we’ve ranked the Best Rap Albums of the 90s. The classics you’ve played every day since elementary school, to the records you forgot existed, and maybe an album or two you didn’t even know about—all compiled in one place. Hit the jump and take a journey through hip-hop’s most vibrant decade. We do this for our culture.