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Added by mojack on 7 May 2014 06:33
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1996: Best Rap Albums

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People who added this item 86 Average listal rating (56 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
The Score - Fugees
So ends the Golden Age readers, over the last nine lists you've seen wonders and magic in abundant supply, you've seen an upstart genre explode into a billion acts and evolve at a frantic exciting pace. Acts that seem like myths these days, albums that moved mountains, a golden age. So put Wyclef's cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" on and settle on down for the last golden age review. Before all eyes moved onto the Puffy's and Master P's there was one last incredibly dope album released that was widely embraced by the general public. The incredible second album from the Fugees. The odd weakness of their debut is forgotten here, it's like a completely different group. The tracks have an understated sense of soul and almost voodoo like creepiness. Contrary to what so many people seem to say this is not at all in line with stuff like Digable Planets and Tribe, it's dark and often hardcore at least in an observational way. The singles mostly stand out from the shady rest of the album, but the whole package is excellent. Lauryn and Wyclef are both grade A emcees who have both gone tragically far astray since (Wyclef into non-rap, Lauryn into the same then apparently bi-polar disorder). The biggest stand out moments here come in the two covers that the two expertly sing. Lauryn's cover of "Killing Me Softly" is often cited as better then the original and is a real tour de force. And the singles like "Fu-Gee-La" and "Ready or Not" still get some airplay, but it's the rest of the album that certifies it as an all time classic, flawless, lovingly created. And the last product of the group as they split up after it's release. So don't shed no tear, everythings gonna be alright, the golden age may be over but dope hip-hop will never die, so don't you dare stop reading.

Rating: 5
Highlights: Fu-Gee-La, Killing Me Softly, The Score, The Mask
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All Eyez on Me - Tupac Shakur
Tupac was already positioned to rule the rap world after the massive success of his previous album and now he had been brought into a weakening Death Row Records to give their rapidly deteriorating power a massive boost. Suge Knight's business instincts had done him right one last time, Pac was so on fire with rage and ego he recorded a ridiculous amount of songs (still being released!) and packed a bunch of them on this, technically the first american double album of rap (if you don't count Esham's "Judgment Day").The album is full of singles, but most of the best songs weren't released as singles and you have to dig into this album to hear some of his best material. In my opinion, Pac reached his lyrical peak on the Makaveli album but he was pretty close of reaching it on this one as he shows he can rap just about anything. Me Against The World painted him as a martyr, his own Gethsemane, here he's ready for the world to crucify him and die for their oh so many sins, as a full out thug. Death Row sputters out it's last power here with Daz and Dre producing some bangers, Snoop shows up for a great collaboration. Pac stood above the world and demanded it do it's worst. And that's exactly what happen. Pac was killed in a still unsolved drive by in Las Vegas in September. And he brought the entire golden age with him to the grave.

Rating: 4.5
Highlights: 2 Of Amerika's Most Wanted, Only God Can Judge Me, California Love, I Ain't Mad At ya
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People who added this item 72 Average listal rating (47 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 0
Atliens - OUTKAST
With Goodie's Mob's first album the south changed it's game entirely toward a native sound and boom of creativity. Like any mortal, Outkast would logically have followed in suit and made some more of that new dope sound. But Outkast is Outkast and they instead only blazed more new ground! The album is bizarre in a way, mixing the down home soul of "Soul Food" with a jeep booming sci-fi atmosphere. What? Yeah I know, straneg. But it's dope as hell without question. It's an intensly moody album in the best way, giving the sense of a creamy darkness like early morning sky. The emceeing is the main leap though, Andre 3000 has started going out on his own into being on of rap's most singular personalties here (as evidenced by the turban on the cover). Because of this we get the start of Outkast's natural dichotomy between the spacey musings of Dre and the street hardness of Big Boi. From start to finish this is great and lovingly made. So few other rap acts put this level of effort into every corner of their releases. You just want to look over every rhyme, every inch of the production. If only the south could have followed Outkast on their wild journey into pushing the envelope on this route, but it too was heading for darker times of cliche and mindlessness. But even that would be gradual, while west and east fell hard, creating the end of the golden age, the south's golden years would continue on for a little while more, largely on the strength of Outkast itself.

Rating: 4.5
Highlights: Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac), ATLiens, Elevators, Mainstream
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People who added this item 27 Average listal rating (16 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
Illadelph Halflife - The Roots
This is The Roots most hardcore hip hop album, it's straight up beats and lyrics and no gimmicks surrounding it. The lite-jazz? Fucking gone. In it's place is a darker harder sound that seems to come straight out of pure street stress. more then a few of these tracks can stand toe to toe with hardcore stuff like what M.O.P. had. Even now it's hard to beleive songs like "Clones" are from The Roots, its' just so damn hard! I don't know how much of this is instrumentation and I don't care, it's great whatever made it. The beats are variously cold and sad, there's nearly no sunshine here at all, and that's to say nothing of the stark lyrical subject matter. I'm not sure what's got them so riled up but it can't be far from what De La was doing the same year. If anyone ever gives The Roots shit for being some kind of backpacker smooth beatnik shit, then play this for them. Maybe it's just me? But The Roots always seem more on point when angry.

Rating: 4.5
Highlights: It Just Don't Stop, What They Do, UNIverse at War, Clones
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People who added this item 35 Average listal rating (23 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 0
Ironman - Ghostface Killah
And at last we arrive at the last of the golden five Wu Solos, and the solo debut of Ghostface Killah. In a lot of ways this is the most modest of the solos, relying on no gimmicks or grand concepts. No one will call this cinematic like they do Liquid Swords or OB4CL, and it didn't push the same commercial hype as Tical. But instead what it offered was a wonderfully straight up hardcore punch from a guy who don't need no dumb gimmicks to be dope. What is it that makes Ghost the Wu Tang's finest? And one of NY's finest? There's no single thing that you can really put a finger on, he's just good at everything, he just fucking brings his best to it all. And he's one of the few emcees who can make any beat work through pure passion (see also:Tupac). The beats here are another example of a clear trend among many of Noir raps innovators to move away from Noir toward more gritty hardcore sounds. Unlike Premo though RZA really wrangles into a new signature sound from it, his hard chopped soul style. He makes alot of interesting raw beats here. Ghost isn't alone though as Raekwon and Cappadonna put in a lot of work. If Jiggy hadn't come along this is probably the kind of stuff NY would move toward, alas. Regardless of that Ghost would still run with it, and forge a grand career as one of the few Noir York champs to survive intact.

Rating: 4.5
Highlights: Fish, Daytona 500, Black Jesus, All That I Got Is You
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People who added this item 55 Average listal rating (37 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
I feel so bad for Nas, he can't even make a perfectly good album like this without people whining that it isn't Illmatic. People should be positive, y'know? Compare this to his next two releases. Suddenly seems damn good doesn't it. Nas ain't Nasty anymore he is the character "Nas Escobar" and this one is a mafioso gangster so this is mostly about being a mafioso. Basically this album has more in common with AZ's debut then Nas's own, he's moved over to Mafioso rap rather then street poetry as per Illmatic. Comparing to the Illmatic, the only thing to me that's really disappointing is the production. He hasn't lost any lyrical edge though and rhymes up a storm. The production is lacking somewhat, there are bright spots, but at the same time there's a number of middling blehs. Only one Premo beat next to a squad of Trackmasters ones? Man c'mon. This is a good album but it's just kind of uninspiring in the end. Illmatic was a once in a lifetime perfection, and this album reveals that Nas was mortal who wasn't really aware of what he did to make magic. It's taken him ten years to start finding exactly what he did again.

Rating: 4
Highlights: The Message, I Gave You Power, Affirmative Action, The Set Up
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People who added this item 23 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Stakes Is High - De La Soul
The empire of alt rap on the east coast of the late 80's/early 90's was in really poor shape after the noir/g funk period. No one gave it a damn anymore, many of the groups had broken up or fallen into shadow, from bit parts liek Black Sheep to titans like Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Sales were low, attention was low, and few new acts were coming out trying alt rap out. Something had to be done. So leave it to the kings of that classic era to make one last sermon on the mount to tell the young heads what to remember about the rap game. Appearing here are people soon to stand on top of a second generation of east coast alt rap, Mos Def, Common, J Dilla etc. Though Prince Paul is gone it's no big deal, the production is well done and strongly hints at the neo-soul sound soon to be the cornerstone of this next generation. And as before on Buhloone Mindstate, the De La boys are showing just what amazing emcees they are, both Pos and Dave drop inummerable brilliant lines, my fave being the stark punch of "Gun control mean using both hands in my land". Alt Rap, especially those on the east coast owe so much to De La Soul, it's not even funny. This is the final classic in their library and it's n important missing link that cannot be skipped over.

Rating: 4.5
Highlights: Supa Emcees, Big Brother Beat, Stakes Is High, Sunshine
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People who added this item 16 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
Hell on Earth - Mobb Deep
While Infamous is the most "classic" and better Mobb Deep album, Hell on Earth is actually the album that defines them the most. While Infamous had a harder edge this one goes for a creepier one, the music is slower and chillier. Not as many of the tracks bump and bang (well aside from Animal Instinct with that fat bass). There's a much more...gothic almost tone. There is simply no other album that is as grimy and dark as this, the production captures a perfect dark and evil atmosphere for Hav & P's deadly street tales. Lyrically it's pretty much on the same topics as The Infamous, if only slightly inferior performances from Hav & P but still pretty great, it just doesn't have the same amount of quotable. Hell on Earth is a great album, I think it's the perfect example of grimy NY hip hop and adding this on top of Infamous in their discography is what made them legends.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Animal Instinct, Can't Get Enough, G.O.D. Part 3, Still Shinin'
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People who added this item 12 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 9.1 IMDB Rating 0
Soul on Ice - Ras Kass
Out from under the weakening kingdom the west coast's other types of emcees and producers were starting to emerge from hiding and redefine what the coast was known by. Ras Kass is one such guy. There are very few albums that can match the performance of Ras Kass here, if he'd released more albums like this one he's probably be on everyone's top ten MC list. He's not only got an incredible flow, but his lyrical content is really top notch with many clever lines and intelligent content. A throw back to the sort of political rage seen with early Paris and a sort of production altogether in contrast to the G Funk and Bomb Squad inspired sound before it, instead it's understated and even a slight but creepy. Sadly, though he proved west coast raps vitality, he didn't end up inspiring much of anybody which is a damn shame.


Rating: 4
Highlights: On Earth As It Is, Anything Goes, Etc, Ordo Abcho (Order Out of Chaos)
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People who added this item 13 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 0
Muddy Waters - Redman
Redman's 3rd album Muddy Waters is definitely one of his best and one of the highlights of 1996 hip hop. It's his reunion with Erick Sermon on production, Redman did a good job without him on his previous album but the best results happens when these 2 are combined. This is really some pure hip hop, just beats and rhyming without any fancy tricks. Redman makes this album so great, his rapping is almost on another level with one straight ill line after the other and he's just so hilarious. I love this album because it has near infinite replay value, you certainly can't catch everything Redman is saying on the few first times and learning the lyrics is just very fun to do.


Rating: 4
Highlights: Case Closed, Creepin', Soopaman Luva 3, Rollin'
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If anything makes me wonder sadly at what could have been with Pac's life it's this album. It's his final one, released after his death but finished before-hand. A project Suge allowed him to do with complete creative control on all fronts, lyrics, production, and even cover art. The result is an odd final shot of sorts where Pac explodes on his enemies. Or at least it should have been, the moments where Pac does assualt his foes are the highest, as are his usual "stress" topics like he had on "Me Against the World". But there's some wasted space with dumb songs like "Me and My Girlfriend". The potential here is huge but it only lives part way up to it. How does it still score a "4"? Through Pac being Pac. His passion and rage are just undeniable forces of nature. The nature of his feud permeates the record the strongest, and he has hard words to say for Jay-Z, Nas, Mobb Deep, Chino XL, and of course Biggie. It has to be remembered though that Pac was (or at least tried not to) make it a coastal war. He had lots of love for the Wu and Boot Camp Clik for instance as well as apparently GangStarr. Pac is simply larger then life, even in death his status is nearly unchallenged. Who knows where his career would have gone, but is fascinating give-no-fuck LP's like this are any indication it would have been fascinating.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Bomb First, Hail Mary, Life Of an Outlaw, Krazy
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People who added this item 14 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 0
Bow Down - Westside Connection
Leave it to Ice Cube to make the most un-diplomatic single contribution to the west/east coast feud! This is pure war music. The story goes that after Pac died Cube felt the need to make a statement against the east, probably feeling as if the haters over there were gloating over the haters over here. So he rounded up WC and Mack 10 to make a supergroup of sorts whose purpose almost entirely was to continue the war of words Pac had started. They probably would have kept the flames going had Biggie not died a few months later and kind of ended the feud. In that way, ideologically I dislike this album, for being more divisive inter-genre hate, barbs are aimed specifically at Cypress Hill (they hit first to be fair), Common (which I still find silly) and of all goddamn people Q-Tip? (no no, that's like attacking a monk, leave him be). But the cold hard fact is that this is really good music regardless of content. This is pretty much the last time Cube would be truly worth listening to as he rips through the verses like his old self, and WC is always a pleasure, I didn't notice Mack much but oh well. The production is fantastic raw hard vaguely G Funk stuff which is what Cube SHOULD have been using on his fourth solo but oh well. It's a great listen but beware, if the feud bothered you it might be hard to go back to that energy that still smolders within.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Bow Down, Gangstas Make The World Go Round, All The Critics in New York, The Gangsta The Killa and the Dope Dealer
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
Like Hiero the Likwit Crew stayed small for the most part, aside form Tha Liks and founder King Tee they spent most of what should have been their golden years as only two album making acts. What a lot of people don't seem to know, largely because of his later affiliation with Aftermath Records and it's big names is that Xzibit was a member of the Likwit Crew himself, and his debut under their flag is a defining moment for both. X to the Z is emceeing up a storm here, and the production is amazingly good at points, creative and varied. What I really like about this LP though is that Xzibit is well aware that G Funk is going out, and the old gangsta ways of the west with them. He makes no concessions to those spheres at all. Xzibit is hardcore but not gangsta, and he's not spitting over funk but quirky and melancholic production. The result? He became perhaps the only new hardcore rap star in the west coast post-golden age (well aside from The Game). He deserves it too. This is a well made album on all accounts and it intelligently dared to be forward looking rather then desperately holding on to dying traditions. Though I'm not sure they would have mixed, I only wish there had been a few Madlib productions here, they came so close and never collaborated. He may come off as a generic hardcore rapper not worth your time these days but this album is different, it's a highly worthy, incredibly dope, look into what should have been a better career.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Eyes May Shine, Paparazzi, The Foundation, Bird's Eye View
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Firing Squad - M.O.P.
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People who added this item 54 Average listal rating (36 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
Jay Z has had one of raps longest and most consistently high profile careers, a long list of hit singles, and over about ten albums to his name. He rushed around NY throughout the early 90's before finally starting to claw his way up in the mid-90's. In 96' his debut finally hit just as the Golden Age started ending, a bad time to start a career but somehow he managed to explode from it. Largely this has to do with his debut simply being a great damn record. It's a pretty typical mafioso rap album in the same vein as "Do or Die" or "It Was Written". But Jay puts an even bigger emphasis on the glitz of it all. The production strongly reflects a sort of glamor aspect to NY crime that stands in stark contrast to either Noir rap or the M.O.P. style hardcore. In many ways it was this album along with Biggie's second that pushed NY into the lamentable Jiggy era, ending the renaissance. And while I feel this is accurate I just can't bring myself to get mad at Jay. Because this is just too good for that, if it got popular and inspired bad music then those idiots can't have really been paying attention. The lyrical focus is great, Jay can flow wonderfully right off the bat, and the production is mostly great. There's really nothing bad to say about the thing. What it all resulted in was Jay ascending in the post-golden age New York as the new face of the city.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Can't Knock the Hustle, Brooklyn's Finest, Dead Presidents II, Bring It On
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People who added this item 11 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Wrath of the Math - Jeru the Damaja
Jeru hooked up with DJ Premier for his first album "The Sun Rises in the East" and that formula was pretty much perfect so why not repeat a second time? That's exactly what happened for Jeru's sophomore album but you get even more Premier beats this time around! While to me it's nowhere near the quality of the first, this is quite an excellent dose of hardcore NY hip hop with DJ Premier's signature sound. Jeru is as on top of his game as ever he was, but something about his flow and these different beats just don't mesh for me like the darker noir style on his release. He loses some of his mystique and sounds more like a guy just teaching at you, which he doesn't have the voice to pull off (no KRS or Chuck here). While it's not quite a Sun Rises or a Gang Starr LP, the Wrath of the Math is one of the top east coast albums of 1996 and definitely a must have for any fan of DJ Premier.


Rating: 4
Highlights: Whatever, The Frustrated Nigga, Ya Playin' Yaself, Invasion


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People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (15 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 0
The Coming - Busta Rhymes
The Coming was the start of Busta Rhymes solo career and he would be much more successful at it then with his previous group Leaders of the New School. A new artist, reworked into a single solo entity exploding with odd off kilter energy. There's beats from Easy Mo Bee, Q-Tip, and Dilla even, and they all seem to have worked together to make the album sound cohesive, a dark woozy proto-Timbaland sound for the most part, which fits Busta perfectly. It's a nice flavor on the whole, a Busta Rhymes who was still weird and crazy rather then boring and too cool for school. There's a definite sense that this could have been better though, the beats aside from Woo Hah, are all nice but lacking in real oomph that would have pushed it farther. It's makes it's strength instead from the source of consistent mood, leaving the main show to Busta and his primal ass flow.Yeah I still miss the LOTNS Busta and his more careful flow, but this is nice too. It's nowhere near as good as it could have been but even so everything remains well...raw.


Rating: 4
Highlights: Everything Remains Raw, Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check, Flipmode Squad Meets Def Squad, Keep It Movin'
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People who added this item 2 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Beats Rhymes and Life [VINYL] - Tribe Called Quest,A Tribe Called Quest
It's easy to come down hard on this album after the bumpin' jazz party of their first three, I know I sure did. But it's an album that is really really enjoyable once you shake off the idea that A Tribe Called Quest made it. The difference between it and their first three is that they're adapting to the Neo-Soul sounds that went on to define the yet to emerge second wave of alt rap, making for a lower-key tranquil sound rather then the rambunctiousness of stuff like Scenario or Award Tour. Even the deliveries of Tip and Phife (and cousin Consequence) play along with this vibe. And while this can be frustrating eventually you can see it for what it is, a beautiful sonic landscape of chill beats. The production is handled by The Ummah, a group that includes Tip and Ali themselves but also a young J Dilla. Together the three of them really make major strides to redefining the sound of east coast alternative hip hop. There's no denying it's inferior to their classic albums, but bad? Oh no no no. I recommend people who have only just listened to their classics to wait awhile before getting around to it, that should alleviate the first winds of being let down for a more enjoyable experience.

Rating: 4
Highlights: Phony Rappers, 1nce Again, What Really Goes On, Stressed Out
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Ridin' Dirty - UGK
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Kollage - Bahamadia
Probably the least known member of the GangStarr Foundation (which is ridiculous next to Group Home), is Philadelphia rapper Bahamadia. A great example of an artist who we all could have used some more from but she just kind of slipped through the cracks.. sad. Bahamadia has the ultimate low-key delivery, seriously, find me someone who has a delivery as low key as her. It mostly works well especially on the standout tracks here, which are fantastic. It could have been a better album if she actually focused on making a cohesive joint rather than sticking those N.O. Joe joints to mess up the flow, but still this is an album worth getting for all the other songs which are dope.

Rating: 3.5
Highlights: Spontaneity, Rugged Ruff, Total Wreck, Da Jawn
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1996 was a year of endings for rap. It would be the last year Tupac was alive with Biggie following a few months into 97', last year of relevance for the major acts of the Jazz Rap, Noir Rap, and G Funk sub-genres, and the last year the endless winning streak of creative momentum that defined the golden age would be around. The final year of the golden age. The end of an era. But things went out with a bang, 96' is easily one of the best golden age years.

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Hip Hop Best Album Directory (21 lists)
list by mojack
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