Top Hip Hop Albums of All Time

Tastes are different, and we will never all agree about certain things. Although the sales record of an album doesn’t always tell the whole story about the quality of an album it certainly tells a lot about people’s preferences.

According to these are the 10 Best Selling Hip Hop Albums of All Time:

Nelly - Country Grammar10. Album: Country Grammar

Year Released: 2000

Artist: Nelly

Copies Sold: 9.0 million

Far removed from major Hip-hop hot spots, Nelly with his group of like-minded friends from St. Louis – just like Outcast in Atlanta – developed a special musical expression far from the uniformed African-American music both from the West and the East coasts. His Country Grammar was rustic, funky, smooth and juicy; with something we might call the geographical determination, nice proud provincial drift. It broke many rules of rap industry. And many people liked that.

Licensed To Ill9. Album: Licensed to Ill

Year Released: 1986

Artist: Beastie Boys

Copies Sold: 9.0 million

The music which the Beastie Boys created on this album was an original blend of rap and rock. It made a huge impact on pop culture. Its major quality lies in the fact that it is one of the first albums of fusion. In addition to all good elements of hip hop, the Beastie Boys integrated very basic and sharp guitar riffs. It was a very bold album for its time and, although, it may seem outdated now, one can not dispute the fact that it inspired many artists. Check out the full album:

Big Willie Style8. Album: Big Willie Style

Year Released: 1997

Artist: Will Smith

Copies Sold: 9.5 million copies

Big Willie Style proved to be one of the biggest releases of pop-rap authors. Both lyrics and music on this album incline a lot in the direction of mainstream pop music, with catchy lines and emotional content. After all, Will Smith is a “nice guy” and he doesn’t really relate to the tougher crowd of the gangster hip hop world. Here is “Miami”, one of the tracks from the album:

2Pac Greatest Hits7. Album: Greatest Hits

Year Released: 1998

Artist: 2Pac

Sold in: 10 million copies

2 Pac is still one of the greatest and the most influential rap/hip hop musicians of all time. His songs permeated with deeper meaning. This album featured some of his best tracks. Fans all over the world immortalized their prophet. Now that he is gone, the result of violence, all we are left with is his music, movies and interviews. That is why everybody wanted to possess this album.

Hammer6. Album: Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em

Year Released: 1990

Artist: MC Hammer

Sold in: 10.05 million copies

The legendary single “U Can’t Touch This” from this album made MC Hammer a global star and it is due to this song that album was sold in so many copies. This would also help in popularization of rap music and hip hop culture. So, this album has multitude of qualities, not only what can be found in the songs themselves. Here is the iconic song that made his career:

eminem5. Album: The Eminem Show

Year Released: 2002

Artist: Eminem

Sold in: 10.1 million copies

Eminem here sounds powerful and confident, flow is strong as ever. Though this is not his best album, it was thanks to his previous work that it reached such high sales. That does not mean, of course, that it is not one of his best albums. What is interesting is that he produced most of the songs himself. On top of the creative work, the content showed more maturity than previous albums. With this album Eminem presented his Magnus Opus in the best light.

notorious_b.i.g4. Album: Life After Death

Year Released: 1997

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G

Sold in: 10.2 million copies

While recording his second album Life After Death, Biggie got involved in the beef between the East and West coasts. Latter he will get killed by an unknown attacker. He was only 24 years old. Notorious B.I.G. will be remembered by his slow and relaxed rapping as well as his excellent poetry.

marshall mathers lp3. Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

Year Released: 2000

Artist: Eminem

Sold in: 10.6 million copies

At the time of its release, The Marshall Mathers LP was the fastest-selling album in the history. Fans were furious. Lyrics were masterful but shocking, the production almost perfect. At the same time it set in motion numerous controversies for Eminem’s vulgar and uncompromising vocabulary. But that was his way to show his originality. This album helped a lot promoting in hip hop around the world.

Speakerboxxx2. Album: Speakerboxxx / The Love Below

Year Released: 2003

Artist: Outkast

Sold in: 11.4 million copies

Lucidity and New Age philosophy Andrea had its perfect antithesis in Big Boi. The highlight of the ‘conflict’ between their personalities was presented in this epochal double album “Speakerboxxx / The Love Below” where they recorded all tracks separately and showed the direction of their future careers. Check out the entire album, the only way to really appreciate its artistry.

all-eyez-on-me1. All Eyez on Me

Year Released: 1996

Artist: 2Pac

Sold in: 11.6 million copies

Tracks on this album did not become classical hits soon forgotten. Their quality is exceptional. Everything, from rapping, rhythm and production is perfect. Too sad such a talented musician and hip hop ambassador cannot do his thing anymore.

Hip Hop Producers

Large Professor aka Large Pro aka Extra P

largeprofessorLarge P is one of the founders of praised underground hip hop groups Main Source. From the very beginning, his production on their first album, Breaking Atoms, was recognized by both his peers and wider audience. It is considered as one of the most influential hip hop albums from the beginnings of 1990s. As an established producer, he made some beats for Eric and Rakim and was Nas’ acknowledged collaborator and mentor, not to mention the work done with Bormega, A Tribe Called Quest, Cormega, Common, AZ and Big Daddy Kane.

J Dilla aka Jey Dee

j-dilla-ripJames Dewitt Yancey, aka J Dilla, comes from the underground hip hop scene existing in the areas of Detroit and Michigan during 1990s. His career started with 1stDown, and continued with 5 Elementz, Slum Village. Whole community appraised his contribution on the album Fan-Tas-Tic he did with 5 Elementz. Before he started what should latter be proven to be his brilliant solo career, he also used to collaborate with such names as: Q-Tps, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and many more.

Tragically, J Dilla passed away in 2006 at the young age of 32, of a deadly blood disease called thrombotic thromboctopenic purpura.


Q-TipHe is on most top 50 lists of best producers as well as best MC’s of all times. He received the most credit for his part in the creation of first three albums of A Tribe Called Quest. He was inspiration for some of the best producers of our time, like J Dilla, Pharell Williams and Kanye West. He produced for Nas, Apache, Mobb Deep, Janet Jackson, Mariah Cary, and Whitney Huston, along with his co-production or collaboration on albums and tracks of Mary J. Blige, Asher, Rza, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Y and many, many more.

Eric Sermon

ericsermonEric Sermon is probably best known for his work in the creation of seven successful albums of EPMD. This duo made great impact on hip hop scene with their fresh new sound.But this is just part of his brilliant career as a producer for names such as Redman, K-Solo, Keith Murray, LL Cool J, J-Z, Method Man. Eminem, 50 Cent, Ludacris…. The list goes on and on and on.

Kanye West

kanye-westKanye West has done it all. He has experimented with so many different music styles, and has done it successfully. His work with Jay-Z on The Blueprint and singles with Janet Jackson, Ludacris and Alicia Keys influenced modern hip hop music in ways that are yet to be fully appreciated, although he doesn’t miss appreciation already. He is one of the most popular and the bestselling artists in the industry. His songs are always on top of lists all over the world. It would require much more space to name all groups and artists he worked with. Let’s name just few: Michael Jackson, Elton john, Daft Punk, Nas, and many more.

Marley Marl

marley-marlIt was Marley Marl who first sampled a breakbeat. First, he discovered how to sample a snare drum, then individual drum kicks, hats and snares. It changed the way beats are made in hip hop music, and other musical styles. He is celebrated as an innovator and key figure of hip hop’s Golden age. He collaborated with LL Cool J, TLC, Rakim, Da Yangstas, Lords Of The Underground, Fat Joe and many others.


Pete Rock

pete-rockPete Rock is probably the most productive producer of all times. Creative genius found an expression through him inspiring them enough to play with jazz elements, creating what’s known today as jazz rap. He worked with CL Sooth, Public Enemy, EPDM, Gang Starr, House of Pain, Jeru The Damaja, and Naughty By Nature. Many producers were inspired by his work, such as: Kanye West, 9th Wonder, and J Dilla.

DJ Premier aka Preem aka Premoana Primo

djpremierBoth a DJ and producer, DJ Premier was appraised by Rolling Stone as Hip Hop’s greatest producer of all time. Apart from producing all of Gang Starr’s songs, he produced for many hip hop stars, such as: Kanye West, Jay-Y, Fat Joe, Big Daddy Keane, AY, Apathy, Big L, The Notorious B.I.G., Rakim, M.O.P., Joey Bada$$, MosDef, not even close to the end of the list.


rzaBeing a leading producer for Wu-Tang Clan gives you enough credit to consider yourself one of the best producers in the world. And RZA did much, much more. He released solo albums, produced music for films, collaborated with hip hop legends as Kanye West and Jay-Y, and founded his own record label.


Dr. Dre

Dr-DreImagine someone whose career started as being the main producer for N.W.A., continued as a producer for The D.O.C., Eminem, and 50 Cent, inter played with mentoring and production for The Game, Snoop Dogg, Kendrik Lamar, and Xzibit, continued with solo albums and was eventually crowned with ownership of record companies. Yes, that is plural. What more is there to say. Best of all, Dr. Dre is not done yet.

Hip Hop DJs Past and Present, Part 2

The mid to late 80s were charged with new hopes for hip hop and rap. Performers were becoming more innovative and productive. Rap beat makers were emerging in two primary geographical areas. The East Coast (New York City) and the West Coast (Los Angeles).

While a revolutionary political wave ruled New York with DJs like Public Enemy, BDP, Big Daddy Kane, and Gang Starr, on the opposite side of USA, a new ‘plague’ for those puritanically oriented had started to develop in LA. It was what would become known as “gangsta rap”. Ice-T and N.W.A. started somewhat innocently with this way of expression, not paying much attention to choosing politically correct words in their songs. Instead they used harsh vocabulary, as was used in the street slang. N.W.A. songs were shocking, violent, and highly controversial.

NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes), which originally consisted of Ice Cube, Eazy – E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, and DJ Yella was the the real slap in the face of the American public. Their first album, “Straight Outta Compton” came out in 1989. The songs are blunt talk about drug dealers, prostitutes and guns, but not in the sense as it is something that should be regarded as negative.

Because of the song “Fuck Tha Police”, group members experienced certain problems with the FBI.

In 1990 the group fell apart. Ice Cube had recorded three excellent solo albums, but the most innovative and pioneering of the group was Dr. Dre. In 1992 he released his first solo album “The Chronic” which will started a new trend in hip hop, Dr. Dre himself coined “G – Funk”.

He discovered a new, soon to be super-star, Snoop Doggy Dogg, who was guest DJ on his album. Two years later the long-awaited Snoop’s debut album “Doggy style” was published.

Gangsta rap was officially dead. A new sensation had begun. As opposed to gangsta rap’s focus on violence and police suppression, G- Funk is not a celebration of vice, but expression of relaxation, of rolling summer tunes, women, booze and smoking dope – that was the essence of that music.

Nas, the young and very talented MC from the neighborhood called Queens Bridge, recorded his debut album “Illmatic” in 1994, which was soon considered a classics in the world of hip – hop.

Of course, one cannot talk about the New York hip hop scene in the mid ’90s, and not mention The Notorious BIG, also known as Biggie, who signed with Puff Daddy’s label Bad Boy and recorded his first album “Ready to Die”.

Biggie would later enter into conflict with his former buddy 2 Pac (Tupac Shakur) from LA. The conflict was a heated feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers. The result was dismal: Biggie was killed in 1996 by an unknown assailant, and 2Pac experienced the same fate a few months later (again, by an unknown assailant) while on a trip to LA.

In 1998 world met Marshall Mathers III, also known as Eminem. Some compare him with the greatest poets of literary history, while others despise him as a walking amoral evil. Some know him by lawsuits and others by his hit singles.

Hip Hop DJs Past and Present, Part 1

Great progress in Hip Hop music was made ​​when Grandmaster Flash recorded “The Message” in 1982, which signaled the beginning of conscious rap. Now it is considered one of the best Hip Hop song ever produced.

New elements of electro music were also fused with Hip Hop. Groups and DJs like Afrika Bambataa were producing songs like “Planet Rock”.

The golden age of Hip Hop started with the new school of Hip Hop in the 80s. Though ‘officially’ it would start later, in 1986, the rebirth of Hip Hop was to be felt from 1983-1984. At that time another very important group in the history of Hip Hop came on to the scene. That group was the iconic Run DMC. They essentially set the trend that would bring rap beats to wider audience, especially after their collaboration with the then well-known rock band Aerosmith with “Walk This Way”.

The first record company interested primarily in the production of rap albums appeared: Def Jam. Run DMC and LL Cool J were recording their music there. Another step further for the spread of hip hop was the first album of the all white rap group: The Beastie Boys with their classic “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”.

In the mid-80s a new scene was slowly being created on the west coast of the U.S., in Los Angeles. One of the first known rappers from LA was Too $hort, but the leading voice of LA in the late 80s was, of-course, legendary Ice-T, who was the only one able at that time capable to compete with rivals from the east coast .

What was maybe the most revolutionary step in the history of this musical genre occurred in 1988: the second album of Public Enemy, entitled “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. It was a radical album representing the struggle for racial equality, and they did it in the most effective way: with fierce musical backdrop full of energy, intelligence, and with a clear message. Critics immediately greeted them with hostility: magazines named them black racists, which should be prohibited by law for the benefit of society, and were often topics of political debates. Fortunately, all this backlash and “negative” publicity, turned out to be good for Public Enemy, because the group soon became famous worldwide. Although no radio or TV station was happy with broadcasting their songs, the album sold very well with mass audiences of all cultures.

A Brief History of Hip Hop

What is Hip Hop?

In a nutshell, Hip Hop is a culture, a way of expression, for many, even a way of life. It is manifested through four basic elements:

• MCing: MC = Master of Ceremony or Microphone Controller. This is a person who devises rhymes and ideas for songs and freestyles (freestyle = throwing rhymes straight out of one’s head). In all areas of Hip Hop, the most important thing is an original idea; rappers do not like those who steal or copy other people’s ideas. A true MC should be able to raise the atmosphere with their verbal skills at live parties and concerts.

• Turntablism (DJ-ing): In Hip Hop, the DJ is a person who controls turntables (DJ-mixers). He “turns” records back and forth, also called “scratching”, and combines musical backdrops from different tracks, blending them together and inserting different samples and effects. The DJ is usually paired with one or several MCs who are lifting up the atmosphere with their rhymes.

• Graffiti: It is the visual element of this culture. In the beginning, graffiti was regarded as vandalism. Today it is an appreciated form of street art. People who create graffiti are called writers. In graffiti, as well as other elements of Hip Hop, the most important thing is originality.

• B – Boying (break dancing): This is a street dance that often requires acrobatic skills. People who “break” are called B – Boys & Fly – Girls.

Some consider beat boxing to be the 5th element of Hip Hop; others would add political activism, Hip Hop fashion, Beat Making, forms of slang or other rudiments as important parts of Hip Hop.

How it all began?

No one knows exactly when Hip Hop culture really came to life, but it all happened in the mid-70s of the last century in the African-American neighborhoods of The Bronx, in New York City. Throughout the streets of this run down borough, young people spontaneously started the new movement that would later grow into a global culture.

In African-American dominated parts of New York, funk music had established a solid foothold in the urban scene. DJs at the time began to realize how certain aspects of songs affect the audience more than others. They came up with the idea to take two copies of the same record, put them on two separate turntables, and play iconic parts of the same song over and over. One turntable would play the song and the other they would control with their hands and “turn” or “scratch” the record. This would create sounds and beats within the music that were unique to the performance. The performance also involved an MC, a person who would now and then throw a party rhyme through the sound of music, to raise the atmosphere even more.

Some of the first DJs to make their music by sampling parts from older funky and disco songs were Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Kool Herc. Kool Herc & The Herculoids is considered to be the first rap group. DJ Kool Herc was at the turntables, while the microphone was left to group members Coke La Rock and Clark Kent. They played in clubs and quickly gained popularity. They are now considered not only the pioneers of rap, but of electronic music in general. Afrika Bambaataa had his B-Boy team, known as Zulu Nation, which would later turn into an artistic organization, gathering various DJs, rappers, dancers and graffiti artists. This organization was probably most deserving for promotion of Hip Hop in those early days.

Many DJs and MCs, among which were, just to name few: Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Chief Rocker Busy Bee, The Fantastic Romantic Grand Wizard Theodore, and Funky Four Plus One More had started to experiment with music and created a very famous RnB sound. By the end of the 70s, it was thought that rap music would not thrive and was destined to eventually disappear. But then rappers started releasing their albums, and what was once just street music started to gain a wider audience.

Some say that the first recorded rap song, one that has become a legendary hit, was “Rappers Delight” played by The Sugarhill Gang, in the summer of 1979. At the time of its release, Rap was produced primarily for break dancing. It was then a very fast electronic music with the quality of rhythm. Today, that style is called old school. Grandmaster Flash made a great step forward in 1982 with “The Message”, which contained a clear-message-critique of society. Then rappers realized that this music is perfect for the transmission of messages and rhymes which can play an important role in society. Rap music soon became popular all over the world. It became the sound that united generations and races, religions and languages, spreading hip hop culture worldwide.