DAR Hip Hop: 6 Important Third Albums From The 90's

By @TrueGodImmortal

The 90's are still regarded as the best decade in hip hop and that's always going to be the case. However, what makes this decade so special in reality is the fact that their artists continually progressed and got better as time went along. We've discussed how some artists avoided the sophomore jinx and how some of their debuts were classic, but what about the elusive third album? Are there artists in hip hop who excelled on their third where they hadn't quite succeeded on their first two? Or at least delivered an album that was impactful more than their first two? Well, let's take a look at some of the most important third albums of the 90's.

*Outkast- Aquemini (1998)

-After a classic back to back run with their first two albums, Kast did the unthinkable and made an album more creative and more artistic than their previous work. The result? The amazing Aquemini, which in many ways is the flagship album of the group. Released in 1998, the album would position Outkast as legends and creative savants in the genre showcasing lyrical dexterity and lush production, a departure from the atmospheric bare bones sound of ATLiens. Tracks like "Rosa Parks", "Da Art Of Storytelling", "Return Of The G", and many more drove home the fact that this duo was something we had never seen before and most people would point to Aquemini as the best album from Big Boi and Andre.

*2Pac- Me Against The World (1995)

-Some might consider Thug Life his third project, but that was more of a compilation than an actual album. This would be his official third album and his third project, and his best by far. Recorded as Pac was preparing to go to jail, this album was full of paranoia, depression, anger, but most of all honesty, and it was refreshing to hear in a way. This was the evolution of Pac as he got ready for his next chapter, and the result was amazing. Backed by booming production, Pac gave us classics like "So Many Tears", "Death Around The Corner", "Lord Knows", "It Ain't Easy", "Dear Mama", and so much more. Me Against The World is a classic third album and the best Pac release by far. It had to be mentioned here.

*Jay-Z- Vol. 2.... Hard Knock Life (1998)

-While quality wise, this isn't as good as the first two albums from Jay, this is actually his most important release commercially. With almost 6 million records sold, Vol. 2 is his biggest album by far. With production from Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, DJ Premier, and more, Jay gave us a package of hits full of street tales and his usual bravado. While I actually find this to be one of my least favorite Jay albums in retrospect, it was a very important piece to his legacy. Some people who had only heard Jay previously on Life After Death or weren't too familiar became fans once they heard the sounds of "Money, Cash, Hoes", the title track,  "Nigga What, Nigga Who", and more. The album to make Jay commercially viable has to be mentioned here because it changed his career forever.

*Scarface- The Diary (1994)

-The man is a legend, but the fact remains, his best album is either The Diary or The Fix. Most people would say The Diary and that's fine, but what really makes this album so special to me is the focus on the artistry. Scarface was at his best here, lyrically showcasing what makes him who he is, while also bringing different dimensions of his art. With the high powered production of Mike Dean and N.O. Joe to set the tone sound wise, tracks like "I Seen A Man Die", "Hand Of The Dead Body", "Jesse James", and others feature Scarface at his best. This is still top two in his discography to me, possibly no. 1 and a vital piece to his legacy.

*Mobb Deep- Hell On Earth (1996)

-After an unsuccessful debut in Juvenile Hell, Mobb Deep returned with an amazing sophomore album in The Infamous, before giving the hip hop world even more trouble on their third release. Backed by the production of Havoc, both P and Hav spit some of their best raps backed by a solid supporting cast of Nas, Raekwon, Method Man, and more. Tracks like "Drop A Gem On Em", "Bloodsport", "Extortion", "Apostle's Warning", and "Give It Up Fast" all showcase exactly what makes Mobb Deep one of the best duos in hip hop ever. Prodigy is at his best here as well, and I'm of the belief that Prodigy during 1995-1999 was top 5 in the game lyrically. It's just that simple. RIP to P.

*A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders (1993)

-If there was an album that embodies what you want to accomplish on your third release, this is the one. After two successful albums, Tribe returned with their third and arguable best project, which stands as one of the seminal releases of the 90's by far. Both Q-Tip and Phife are in rare form here, lyrically showing the world what they have to offer and giving us gems to last a lifetime. The production is a mix between funk and jazzy soul, much like their first two classics, and tracks like "Award Tour", "Electric Relaxation", "8 Million Stories", "Oh My God" and others set the tone for what is a near flawless album and one of the best third albums ever, not just in the 90's.



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