top (twenty)five dead or alive.

so, straight bangin’ put out a call to list the greatest 25 hip hop records of all time. i’m pretty sure i’ve missed the cutoff point for submissions, but it’s a slow(er) workday and i put in some work at organizing my list.

as much as i respect kane, ll, fresh prince, bdp, etc… i only want to list albums that i own and have had the ability to bang over and over again through the years. now i recognize the greatness of momma said & criminal minded, but i never bought ’em, and because of that, neither holds the same place in my heart as my scratchless boogiemonsters disk. honeydips in gotham isn’t the same anthem as jimmy, but it certainly got more spins in my house.

the first cd(s) i ever bought was epmd’s business never personal and pete rock & cl smooth’s mecca & the soul brother. it doesn’t take a mcScholar to tell you which one of those two have stood the test of times. i had tapes before then, but most of those were dubs from friends & family. the best part about dubs was that you only had to get the tracks you liked. so when i started to look back at some of the “albums” that i thought i remembered, i was a bit off — basically, if somebody had two good albums, i would grab all the songs i liked and throw them together. in modern terms, itunes & playlists are causing this same problem.

UPDATED. work is still slow and i’ve been able to add commentary to the list.

25. boogiemonsters – riders of the storm
i dont remember any cursing on this album. so, i was able to play this around my lil’ bro when he wanted to sit in my room as i played video games. that means this album got a ton of spins. i originally picked it up because my friend dwayne talked about how loud the bass was. honeydips in gotham was prolly my favorite song on the disc.

24. jay-z – in my lifetime, vol 1
my frat brother asante kept tryna push reasonable doubt on me as some true lyrical shit. i couldn’t get past the jay-z, az shit, thought it was more ny rap bullshit and basically ignorned jay. until, jay kicked one specific line, “you can love me or hate me, eeda ore.” simple, repeatable, perfect. who you wit was the song that showed me the light.
“grip you right up under yo ass, put yo back on the wall/
kinda tipsy seeing triple, so ime fuckin’ you all”

23. killer mike – monster
“i’m an ungodly figure, when in the company of hard liquor/
texas niggas turned me on to water, i smoked the river”

that’s how the album (basically) starts off. that shit is hard as hell. killa kill told you that rap was dead back in ’03. i KEEP this in the car at all times. the bonus track hard nard also bangs over a pretty nice guitar sample. i grew up on run dmc — guitar samples will always hold a special place in my heart.

22. cypress hill – cypress hill
“duke, duke, duke, duke of…”
how i could just kill a man, hand on the pump, hole in the head, stoned is the way of the walk, latin lingo. if only i was a stoner. shouts to sen dogg, patron saint of the cosign. you and your crew could make cypress hill choruses for days about any topic, as long as somebody was willing to sen dogg you’re first line.
“i got a real hard test in chemistry (in chemistry!)”

21. souls of mischief – ’93 til infinity
this album contains one of my favorite verse of all time –
“adam is the man that got more…”

20. chino xl – here to save you all
“like oj gettin’ married again, i take another stab at it”
y’all remember those source ads? i still check for anything dude releases, including tivo’n any soap opera appearances.

19. freeway – philadelphia freeway
maybe it shouldn’t be this high. maybe it shouldn’t be here at all. but, fuck you, dude. this album, to me, embodies the roc-4-life movement. i still put this in and play the whole thing w/out any skips.

18. black star – black star
so, the saying goes, “if you scratch a cynic, you find a disappointed idealist,” and that, dear sirs, is why i hate Talib Kweli and Mos Def. as much as i hate current talib & mos individually is how much i loved this album. a lot of this list came down to picking the best album from an artist/group. i didn’t want doubles of anyone, on this one, it was either black star or black on both sides. brown skin lady beat out umi says to push it over the top.

17. alkoholiks – coast ii coast
pretty sure i stole this from my lb brian. hip-hop is basically beats & rhymes. this album delivered both. thinking back on it, it reminds me of partying in college before i started drinking. (ironic?) i can put this in the car and go through the entire hour and a half commute. bumpin’ in the ride is important. it was especially important when i didn’t have steering wheel controls (ballin’!) and a passenger that was ready to hit skip at any sign of wackness.

16. the reup gang – we got it 4 cheap vol 2.
it’s not an album! fuck you, dude. it’s better than HHNF, right? and it’s better than a ton of other official releases. hopefully, vol 3 will be as good. they took that fantastic tony yayo beat and put dave grohl & willie wonka references over it. because i heard wgi4c before i heard some of the tracks they sampled, some of the official releases are completely ruined.

15. black moon – enta da stage
was this the beginning of the backpack? how’d it get so bitch, then? “baggy black jeans, napsack & a beeper” still sounds like a fairly good look. replace beeper w/sidekick or any other hood technology. kicking the shit out of a gate for no apparent reason was a great look. this gets props for the entire duck down & BCC.

14. nas – illmatic
in true hate of new york, i refused to buy this album until maybe ’02. i was on a trip and somebody in the car played it and i realized i knew almost every track even though i never bought it. i had avoided this disc for years. i blamed my dislike of nas on i am & it was written but the fact is, it was just typical eNvY.

13. the beatnuts – street level
the intoxicated demons ep & reign of the tec was one of my favorite free disks ever. this album, to me, has been able to stand the test of time. 2,3 break is one of my favorite songs ever.

12. outkast – stankonia
aquemini & atliens were weed albums that used to pump at ridiculous volumes from some of my roommates in college. because the majority of the time i heard them, i was concentrating on gaining access to the nappy dugout, they had little to no impact on me. stankonia is something i drove around w/in my car for years until it was cracked by some some broad in cheap denim sittin’ her thickly muscled dumper onto the midpoint of my disk. fuck that girl.

11. the roots – do you want more
entry point & lifetime achievement selection. i bumped this in my dorm to give people an understanding of what hip-hop could be. lazy afternoon is better than lazy sunday. b’lee dat. this was my “i’m from fuckin’ philly” disk when my state college dorm was filled w/nas, & mobb deep.

10. wu-tang – enter the wu-tang
i first heard protect ya neck on wkdu. at the time i was writing for the daily news “fresh ink” section. i didn’t know the name of the group & couldn’t tell my editor who to get in touch with. i had the song taped from the radio but i knew i had heard something special and we needed to pursue it. sometime later, i saw an ad in the source and my secret was out. over the summer, i went on operation understanding and when i got back to school, people had found out about it. undeniable talent.

09. cannibal ox – the cold vein
end ii end burners is one of my favorite songs/videos ever. i’m pretty sure i saw it on rap city or the box and tried to find anything released by that group (company flow). i first heard can.ox rumblings on OKP, napster’d a bunch of singles, then fell in love w/the album. i was playin’ the “step to the next stencil” verse for the hoodiest of rats because i needed them to understand just how live these dudes were. el-p production is typically a love hate affair, vast & vordul made it easier for those that would never listen to el’s “angry white guy” voice.

08. nwa – straight outta compton
i wanted a black starter jacket and la kings cap. adjustable even. not the curl though. i was a couple years older than the other kids on the block and wouldn’t let them listen to this. i cursed before this, but i was much better at it after this. remember when people actually changed lyrics for the radio release instead of just backsratching?

07. mf doom – operation doomsday
i bought this off of a recommendation from res & wise. i shouldn’t have given both of them so much credit seeing as they were friends and prolly would like the same shit. familiar samples, unfamiliar rhyme patterns & subjects.

06. raekwon – only built 4 cuban linx
contains, quite possibly, the best verse ever – nas on verbal intercourse. and that’s like, my 4th favorite song on the album.

05. ice cube – amerikkka’s most wanted
cube had it all. he’s arguably top 5 dead or alive. not a scholar, but if he wrote as much of the nwa material as i’ve heard, then, yeah… plus, i can take my kids to his family friendly movies. way to go o’shay.

04. notorious big – ready to die
the first album i bought at a midnight sale. my friend from high school luis had the big mack cassette sampler w/dreams on it. i was amped as shit to get this album so i trecked down to beaver ave to get it at midnight. i was the first dude in my dorm w/this shit freshman year. i stopped by the zeta suite on my way back to pennypacker and hung out w/adolph while people played spades. i don’t think i got back to my dorm room until like, 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning. and, you know what i did, right? opened the door and turned that lil’ AIWA system all the way up.

03. a tribe called quest – the low end theory
outside of tip v. phife, the only other argument to be had is low end theory v. midnight marauders. to this end, i defer to the nostalgiac approach. although MM may have better overall songs (higher low points) the higher highs of LET…i’m bullshittin’. LET cuz i said so.

02. slick rick – the great adventures of slick rick
i know every song off this album. i’m pretty sure i still have the casette tape in my garage somewhere. i bought it off the ave for $5. doubt mom would have fronted me the cash for indian girl, treat her like a prostitute or lick the balls. the more i think about it, hip-hop probably did have a deeper effect on me than i want to admit.

01. public enemy – fear of a black planet
it came down to this and it takes a nation… but i think fight the power and 911 is a joke were the two songs that really pushed it over the top for me. a much better (and less tired) writer will show how these two songs expressed the duality of flav & chuck, the black man in america, the televised and non-televised struggle for equality and why eric & julia roberts can’t get along. but, that’s for another time.

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