DAR Hip Hop: 10 Greatest Years In Hip Hop History

By @TrueGodImmortal

Hip Hop has experienced some amazing years in the genre history. There have been some pretty lackluster years (2013, 2014, 2008, 2009, and most of the recent years of hip hop past), but for the most part, hip hop has had its share of great moments every year. Even here on the DAR site, we documented every year in hip hop from 1986 and onward, giving the readers a glimpse into a more intricate look to hip hop years. Now, with that said, which year is the best? Today, we will talk about the 10 best years in hip hop history and rank them. Let's get into it.

10. 2003

-While many people might not crown this year as one of the best, I beg to differ. There were some really noteworthy releases and great albums that arrived during this year, specifically the big time release from 50 Cent, with the mega selling album "Get Rich or Die Tryin", and the supposedly final Jay-Z album, "The Black Album". Outkast released a double album that shook the music world up, and we saw vital albums from Freeway, Ludacris, The Diplomats, as well as albums from Juelz Santana, State Property, G-Unit, T.I., and a top 3 album on the year for me personally with Little Brother's debut. While this wasn't the greatest year of them all, it is certainly in the conversation and a top 10 hip hop year.

Vital Releases
"50 Cent- Get Rich or Die Tryin"
"Jay-Z- The Black Album"
"Outkast- Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"
"T.I.- Trap Muzik "
"Little Brother- The Listening"

9. 1999

-When I look back on the year on this year, I sometimes have a hard time believing that it was so good, but there's a lot of classics and great album that happened in 1999. Aside from Jay-Z, DMX, and those huge releases, we got our first mainstream glimpses of Eminem, Mobb Deep came with a near classic, Cash Money took over for the 99, Nas had two albums, Q-Tip got amplified, Eve had her Ruff Ryders debut, and we got three classics from Mos Def, The Roots, and Dr. Dre, respectively. All in all, 1999 is a really good year and somehow slept on in hip hop.

Vital Releases 
"Mos Def- Black On Both Sides"
"Eminem- The Slim Shady LP"
"Hot Boys- Guerrilla Warfare"
"Dr. Dre- 2001"
"The Roots- Things Fall Apart"

8. 1993

-Another vital year for debuts, as we got two of the biggest and most important debut albums ever in the genre, as Snoop Dogg arrived with his hugely selling Doggystyle album and the Wu Tang Clan made their arrival. Tribe Called Quest released what is known to many as their best album ever, Midnight Marauders, and Black Moon brought us their brand of hardcore hip hop as well. 2Pac released his dope 2nd album, while Queen Latifah even dropped something special this year. Groups like Digable Planets, Cypress Hill, Geto Boys, Onyx, Naughty By Nature, and De La Soul all released important albums as well, showing there was definitely power in numbers. Legends like LL Cool J and KRS One also dropped projects this year as well. 1993 was another one for the record books.

Vital Releases 
"Snoop Dogg- Doggystyle 
"A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders"
"Wu-Tang Clan- Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers"
"2Pac- Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z."
"Black Moon- Enta Da Stage"

7. 2001

-This is one of those years thar you might not remember as bring the greatest, but to me, it was responsible for two of the greatest albums of all time in hip hop. Stillmatic and the Blueprint are easily two of the best albums from the 2000s, and possibly the two best, and if I did an all time greatest 100 hip hop albums list, both would be on there. For that alone, 2001 was amazing. However, there was definitely more. Ludacris, Wu-Tang, Cannibal Ox, Cormega, UGK, Mobb Deep, Jadakiss, Beanie Sigel, and so many more helped to round out a year that gave you what you wanted and then some.

Vital Releases
"Jay-Z- The Blueprint"
"Nas- Stillmatic" 
"Ludacris- Word of Mouf"
"Cannibal Ox- The Cold Vein"
"Ghostface Killah- Bulletproof Wallets"

6. 2000

-A year that I think sometimes gets slept on, the start of the new millennium had some amazing music to kick it off. There was a lot of commercial music of course, but the hip hop sounds were beginning to evolve and expand, and we heard that growth and creativity in two artists that mean a lot to the culture: Common and Outkast. Those are my two favorite albums on the year, but there were plenty of projects to enjoy from Ghostface and his classic Supreme Clientele, to the Eminem classic Marshall Mathers LP, or maybe you want some Brooklyn sound from M.O.P., or prefer to hear Jay-Z and company showcase the Dynasty. No matter what you liked to hear, 2000 had exactly what you needed musically and that makes it a top year in the genre.

Vital Releases 
"Outkast- Stankonia"
"Common- Like Water For Chocolate"
"Reflection Eternal- Train Of Thought"
"Eminem- The Marshall Mathers LP"
"Ghostface Killah- Supreme Clientele"

5. 1988

-Considered by most to be the origin of the golden era in hip hop, 1988 is a great year and a special one to me for multiple reasons. Musically, hip hop was hitting on all cylinders, and every release felt important. From Ice T to NWA to Run DMC to Big Daddy Kane to Slick Rick to Boogie Down Productions to Ultramagnetic MCs to Eric B. And Rakim to EPMD, that lineup of legends is enough to make anyone call 1988 a top 5 year in hip hop. There's an argument for it as the greatest year ever, but as hip hop evolved production wise and lyrically, I think that is the only thing that prevents it from being crowned with that honor. However, every release in 1988 still means something today. There's no way hip hop would be where it is without 1988 and for that, it will always be a top year in the genre. Always.

Vital Releases 
"NWA- Straight Outta Compton"
"Eric B and Rakim- Follow The Leader"
"Big Daddy Kane- Long Live The Kane"
"Public Enemy- It Takes A Nation of Millions..."
"Slick Rick- The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick" 

4. 1998

-This is one of those years that you felt a hip hop recovery coming. After the rough year that 1997 turned out to be, dealing with the effects of the deaths of Pac and Biggie, 1998 brought us two albums from the newest star in hip hop, the first of which was his debut. 1998 saw the debut of DMX, as well as the evolution of Outkast, the commercialization and success of Jay-Z, the arrival of Big Pun, the crowning of Lauryn Hill, the final Tribe Called Quest album (so we thought), another Goodie Mob album, a classic Gangstarr album, the biggest album in Juvenile's career, and most of all, the coming of Blackstar. Everything about 1998 was great in its own way, from the No Limit dominance to the growth of Cash Money to the more underground projects that began to catch the mainstream attention finally. This is a vital year to hip hop.

Vital Releases
"Outkast- Aquemini"
"DMX- It's Dark And Hell Is Hot"
"Jay-Z- Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life"
"Mos Def And Talib Kweli- Blackstar"
"Juvenile- 400 Degreez"

3. 1995

-There was once a time when I felt 1995 wasn't one of the best years. I was extremely wrong. This year is easily a top 5 year in hip hop and I considered making it no. 2 and knocking 1994 down just a bit, but it was just not possible. Still, there are so many classics from this year, like OB4CL, Me Against The World, The Infamous, Soul Food, Liquid Swords, Doe Or Die, LabCabinCalifornia, and many, many more. There's high profile releases from Big L, Group Home, E-40, Bone Thugs, Three 6, LL, ODB, Smif N Wessun, The Roots, and so many others. 1995 saw a lot of artists release their best album, and for that, it's always a top 5 year on my list, and top 3 here.

Vital Releases
"Raekwon- Only Built For Cuban Linx"
"GZA- Liquid Swords"
"AZ- Doe or Die"
"Mobb Deep- The Infamous"
"2Pac- Me Against The World"

2. 1994 

-You want to talk about a year that had some vital debuts? This is the year. Three of the greatest things to ever happen to hip hop debut this year, and gave us some of the best music we had ever heard. Biggie made his debut with the classic "Ready to Die", Outkast showed you that the south was hood, street, creative and eccentric all together with their funky debut, and the arrival of the man I considered the greatest rapper ever, Nas, came in the most Illmatic way possible. To make this year even better, that's not even close to everything that dropped and was vital for the culture. Redman would release a dope album, Scarface would put out arguably his best album, Common dropped a classic right before dropping the Sense out of his name, Method Man made his solo debut, Gangstarr came with it, Warren G got a big hit, and the albums just seemed to keep coming. This year is probably the most vital in terms of debut releases, and it helped shaped the culture for years to come.

Vital Releases
"The Notorious B.I.G.- Ready to Die"
"Nas- Illmatic"
"Scarface- The Diary"
"Common- Resurrection"
"Outkast- SouthernPlaylistiCadillacMuzik"

1. 1996

-This is the greatest year of hip hop hands down and to be fair, I don't think it's really even close. Determining no. 2 and 3 was a bit tougher, but no. 1 was a no brainer. It baffles me to see how lucky we were in the year 1996. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, NBA Draft Classes, a great year in sports overall, and the best year hip hop has ever seen and will see. 2Pac released two albums this year, both of which are regarded as classics in many hip hop circles, Outkast released their best album and my personal favorite album ever, and Nas released his best album, It Was Written (yes, I said it), which I consider the greatest hip hop album of all time. Ras Kass, Xzibit, The Fugees, Busta Rhymes, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Redman, UGK, Lil Kim, De La Soul, and a large number of others all released albums vital to the genre and culture. Of course, who could forget another classic album in Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, his debut project. All in all, 1996 wasn't just a special year, it was THE year in hip hop, and the absolute greatest we've experienced. Period.

Vital Releases
"Nas- It Was Written"
"Outkast- ATLiens"
"Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt"
"The Fugees- The Score"
"2Pac- All Eyez On Me"



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