It’s 2018, and let’s be real – most of us listen to music via the internet or apps. All you really need is your phone and a good pair of headphones to enjoy literally any song ever from the last century or so. However, although streaming platforms like TIDAL pride themselves on delivering Hi-Fi audio, most of the time, we’re listening to comparably crappy quality mp3s and the like.
While there’s nothing wrong with opening up YouTube and letting autoplay do it’s thing after you listen to “Gucci Gang” for the 900th time, there’s truly nothing quite like putting on a record. It’s easier than you think to wrangle an affordable turntable (check your parents’ basement for starters) and the results will make you feel more like a 90s hip-hop OG than a 2010s SoundCloud rapper.
We’ve gone through the trouble of rounding up 10 essential hip-hop albums from HHV – your friendly neighborhood German emporium providing vinyl, streetwear, sneakers, and more good stuff carefully composed since 2002. From J. Dilla to Lil’ Kim, to Missy Elliott and Public Enemy, get schooled below on the 10 records you should definitely own on vinyl.
Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)
Although he’s more likely to be spotted in the studio than behind the mic, Dr. Dre’s 1992 album The Chronic is an absolute classic. It was his first solo album after departing the iconic rap group N.W.A., went triple platinum in the U.S., and is known by many to be one of the best-produced hip-hop albums of all time.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – The Message (1982)
“The Message” is one of the most important rap songs of all time and one of the first to really break into the mainstream with lyrics providing social commentary instead of just party and bullshit. With lyrics like “It’s like a jungle sometimes / It makes me wonder how I keep from going under,” the track is just one of many brilliant jams on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s debut studio album which helped cement their status in the rap canon.
JAY-Z – The Blueprint (2001)
Although The Blueprint sees JAY-Z six albums into his burgeoning rap career, it’s HOV at his finest. With production from Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Bink, as well as Timbaland, Trackmasters, and Eminem (who’s got the only guest verse on the record) and classics like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Takeover,” what’s not to love?
J. Dilla – Donuts (2006)
Donuts features some of the most arresting hip-hop instrumentals of all time. Period. J. Dilla’s second studio album was conceived during an extended hospital stay and ended up being released 3 days before his death. Although the record’s back story definitely adds to the legend of J. Dilla and makes it an all the more intriguing listen, Dilla’s incredible sampling ability would have gone down in hip-hop history regardless.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
In case you haven’t listened to every single Kanye West album already, we’re letting you know that MBDTF deserves a spot on any top hip-hop albums list and definitely warrants many rotations on your record player. The instrumentals are a sublime blend of on-point sampling, classic hip-hop sounds, and maximalist, often experimental electronics, not to mention Kanye’s legendary bars. Let’s not forget this album also brought us our top Kanye song of all time – “Runaway.”
Lil’ Kim – Hard Core (1996)
Lil’ Kim was not at all the first great female rapper, but she certainly made it so the general public could no longer be dismissive MCs who happen to be female. Hard Core exemplifies all that Lil Kim did for rap music in the mid-90s and beyond – she made it raunchy in her own special way and refused to compromise her vision of what hip-hop could and should be.
Missy Elliott – Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
Where to begin with Missy “Misdemeanour” Elliott? We’ve already waxed poetic about why it’s still the best more than two decades after it was first released. Here’s the TL:DR of why you need this album – Timbaland on sole production duties, features from Ginuwine, Aaliyah, and Lil’ Kim, a Björk sample, and ummm, Missy Elliott being Missy Elliott.
Nas – Illmatic (1994)
Aside from appearing on Supreme T-shirts, Nas is – of course – a legendary rapper. Illmatic is a landmark record for East Coast hip-hop, with Nas spitting bars about inner city life in Queensbridge, New York, and beats courtesy of DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S. and Nas himself. The album has gone down in rap history as being incredibly influential in every sense of the world and helped bring New York back on the hip-hop map.
Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994)
Released the same year as Nas’ Illmatic, Biggie’s 1994 album (also his debut) made a huge splash. It was a commercial success and was similarly instrumental in making a major case for the East Coast at a time when West Coast rap was dominating radio airwaves. Cop this one to hear some classic vinyl crackle over “Juicy” and “Big Boppa” alone, stay for the other 15 iconic tracks.
Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Legend has it, Public Enemy set out make the hip-hop equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, known for its apt social commentary. While their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show went under the mainstream radar, It Takes a Nation… catapulted the crew to the top of the Billboard charts with raw lyrics delivered at a higher tempo than many of their contemporaries, coupled with insane production relying on found sounds and avant-garde noise as much as old-school funk.
For more of our music shopping recommendations, check out some Wu-Tang Clan x ‘Black Panther’ mash-up merch right here.
- Main & Feature Image: HHV