Entertainment Music 10 Hip-Hop Albums Everyone Should Own Share PINTEREST Email Print Al Pereira / Getty Images Music Rap & Hip Hop Top Picks Basics Rock Music Pop Music Alternative Music Classical Music Country Music Folk Music Rhythm & Blues World Music Punk Music Heavy Metal Jazz Latin Music Oldies Learn More By Henry Adaso Henry Adaso has written about hip-hop since 2005 and founded the award-winning blog The Rap Up. He has written for "Vibe," MTV, Rap Rehab, and more. our editorial process Henry Adaso Updated September 06, 2018 With hundreds of hip-hop albums released every year, a few are sure to fly past your radar. That said, there's a handful of essential hip-hop albums every music fan should own. No hip-hop library is complete without these albums. From Biggie's classic debut to Public Enemy's sophomore smash, here are 10 hip-hop albums every head should own. 10 of 10 Lauryn Hill - 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' Lauryn Hill's solo debut, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, offered the most memorable fusion of rap and R&B in hip-hop history. Hill's brilliant songwriting flourished from song to song, whether she was grappling with spirituality ("Final Hour," "Forgive Them, Father") or stroking sexuality without exploiting it ("Nothing Even Matters"). Like Lyte and Latifah before her, Lauryn changed the game on her own terms. Essential Tracks: "Lost Ones""Doo Wop (That Thing)""Everything Is Everything""Nothing Even Matters" 09 of 10 UGK - 'Ridin' Dirty' If you've ever wanted to know where your favorite southern rappers got their game from, if you've ever been curious about the coast-to-coast influence of Bun B and Pimp C, then Ridin' Dirty is for you. It's UGK's most commercially successful album to date (it moved over 800,000 units) and one of the best hip-hop albums ever recorded. It thoroughly captures the essence of the Texas duo through gems like the title track and "One Day" and "Murder." Top Tracks: "One Day""Murder""Ridin' Dirty" 08 of 10 2 Pac - 'Me Against The World' Courtesy of Amazon.com Me Against The World captures 2Pac in his prime: no excessive braggarts, no name-inscribed lyrical missiles aimed at New York rivals. The two sides of his personality compete on this album: occasionally vulnerable, occasionally cantankerous. (In fact, he pays homage to rap pioneers on "Old School.") This is simply Pac and his poignant, albeit defiant, multifaceted dispositions. And you wonder why he's still the most imitated rapper of all time. Top Tracks: "Dear Mama""Lord Knows""Me Against The World""So Many Tearz" 07 of 10 A Tribe Called Quest - 'Midnight Marauders' Courtesy of Amazon.com A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders led the jazz-rap hip-hop movement of the 1990s. No other album showcased this amalgamation of jazz, soul, and rap better than Tribe's third album, Midnight Marauders. It featured an array of Crisco-slick tunes like "Electric Relaxation" and "Award Tour." Produced largely by Large Professor and Q-Tip, Midnight Marauders is Tribe at its best. Essential Tracks "World Tour""Electric Relaxation""Sucka N---a" 06 of 10 Dr. Dre - 'The Chronic' Courtesy of Amazon.com Dre's funky bass lines and heavy synths, coupled with the lyrical showcase from the likes of Snoop and RBX, changed the sound of hip-hop and made The Chronic a household name in the genre. But most importantly, The Chronic was instrumental in the commercialization of gangsta rap by introducing the G-Funk style of hip-hop to the mainstream. Dr. Dre's groundbreaking solo debut also served as a podium for bourgeoning west coast rappers including Lady of Rage, Kurupt, Daz, and Snoop Dogg. From the abrasive Eazy-E dis, "Dre Day", to the headphone favorite, "Nuthin' But A G Thang", Dre's chemistry with Snoop was as captivating as it was refreshing. Essential Tracks "Stranded On Death Row""Nuthin' But A G Thang" 05 of 10 Wu-Tang - 'Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' Courtesy of Amazon.com This introductory Wu-Tang album became a career-defining platform for the rise of all 9 original clan members and their 1,073 affiliates. In fact, the 12-track-long album didn't provide enough ventilation for RZA, Ghostface, GZA, Raekwon, the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Masta Killah, Inspectah Deck, and U-God to stretch out their unique eccentricities. But it was just enough to set the bar high for the several rap crews that would later attempt to re-write the Wu recipe. Essential Tracks "C.R.E.A.M.""Protect Ya Neck""Can It Be All So Simple" 04 of 10 Jay-Z - 'Reasonable Doubt' Courtesy of Amazon.com Reasonable Doubt arrived in a year that churned out many heavyweight rap releases, including 2Pac's Me Against The World, Fugees' The Score, and Nas' It Was Written, to keep the list brief. Yet, Jay-Z's "unified steady flow," witty lyricism, and confident (if not cocky) delivery made him stand tall. Even when The Notorious B.I.G.'s cameo on "Brooklyn's Finest," threatened to steal the show, Hov held his own, going pound for pound with the late legend. Sprinkling slick and memorable one-liners here and there, Reasonable Doubt established Jigga as a charismatic MC. His best work so far? Absolutely! Essential Tracks "Dead Presidents II""Can't Knock The Hustle""Regrets""22 Two's" 03 of 10 Public Enemy - 'It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back' Courtesy of Amazon.com Lacing up-tempo tracks with social commentary, Chuck D, Professor Griff, Terminator X, Flavor Flav, and Bill Stephenney—collectively known as Public Enemy—helped introduce revolution-on-wax with their debut, Yo! Bum Rush The Show. But it wasn't until the explosive follow-up, It Takes A Nation of Millions...that hip-hop fans started to grasp the concept of a socially conscious, hardcore sound. Chuck challenged everything that challenged the upliftment of black people: police brutality, racial profiling, stereotypes, negligence, etc. A definitive hip-hop essential by one of the greatest groups of all time. Essential Tracks "Rebel Without A Pause""Don't Believe The Hype""Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos""Night of The Living Baseheads" 02 of 10 The Notorious B.I.G. - 'Ready To Die' Courtesy of Amazon.com With the help of Puff Daddy, Biggie helped concoct the formula for 90's rap albums by including club singles like "Big Poppa" and "One More Chance," on a street LP like Ready To Die. The shock-inducing, highly dramatic debut was successful due to Biggie's crisp, meticulously-structured flow and distinct delivery. Serious tales about the harsh realities of street life, suicidal thoughts, and nightmarish death threats, many of which B.I.G. claimed were drawn from real experiences, help make Ready To Die a mainstay of east coast rap. Eight million people would later agree. (Although Ready To Die has enjoyed a tremendous amount of sales since Biggie's demise on March 9, 1997, the album suffered a setback on March 19, 2006. Following a copyrights infringement lawsuit, a judge has ordered that sales of the album be halted, because the title track for Ready To Die sampled Ohio Players' "Singing in The Morning" without permission.) Essential Tracks "Juicy""Big Poppa""Ready To Die""Unbelievable" 01 of 10 Nas - 'Illmatic' Courtesy of Amazon.com Often heralded as the "hip-hop bible" by fans and critics alike, Illmatic is proof that you don't need a 22-song CD to create a masterpiece. Nas packed into 39 minutes more potent material than most rappers are able to produce in twice that amount of time. With A-list producers (DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock and Q-Tip) supplying the beats, then 19-year-old Nasir Jones dispensed endless chains of multi-syllabic rhymes throughout his debut LP, tossing vivid imageries and metaphors like confetti. Illmatic is the paragon of lyricism and stellar production. It's the greatest hip-hop album of all time and a must-own for every hip-hop head. Essential Tracks "Halftime""It Ain't Hard To Tell""The World Is Yours""New York State of Mind""Memory Lane"