In the 1990s, hip-hop truly exploded. Regional scenes from around the country blew up in unprecedented ways, helping rap to become one of the most dominant musical genres in the world. Major corporations invested in labels that started on the street, while regional indies wielded enough power to drop game-changing records. It was an era of transformation that created an incredible variety of styles and sounds. Along the way, some of the greatest rap albums of all time were released: The Low End TheoryLife After Death36 ChambersThe Chronic.

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.