DAR Hip Hop: 10 Classic 80's Hip Hop Albums

By @TrueGodImmortal

The 1980s stands as the formative decade of hip hop. From the beginning of the decade to the very end, there were so many special moments and such evolution that the genre was never the same once the decade ended. What started with names like Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash, Whodini, Kurtis Blow and more, would soon give way to improved lyricists and stronger flows from names like Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Rakim, and more. As the 80's came to a close, hip hop was in the best position it had been in thus far. With that being said, I wanted to take a look at the albums that I consider the best of that decade. What are the 10 best albums of the 80's in hip hop? Let's get into it.

*EPMD- Strictly Business (1988)

-I am personally not the biggest fan of EPMD and their music, but I can't ignore the impact and the success they experienced when they arrived in the game. Erick and Parish delivered an album that was full of lighthearted raps and fun music. That was a bit different from the vibe of hip hop through the late 80's, but it worked well. With heavily sampled production and lighter lyrics, EPMD really have the world an album that they might not have been ready for. The album features a plethora of classic samples and best of all, it doesn't have features, which allows the listener to identify with the two MCs over the short tracklist. Songs like "It's My Thing", "Jane", "You're A Customer", and of course the timeless classic "You Gots To Chill" helped to round out an album that was vital to this decade of hip hop.

*LL Cool J- Bigger And Deffer (1987)

-It was tough to decide on this choice as well, because a part of me feels like LL debuted with a classic with Radio, but his 2nd album is his best release of the decade and where we really began to see the evolution of LL. Backed by production from DJ Pooh and L.A. Posse, LL would drop some of his best songs on this album and surprisingly enough, some of his most catchy music. Of course, this album has the classic single "I'm Bad", but it also possesses what is probably his biggest hit and most known hit of all time, "I Need Love". Other tracks like "My Rhyme Ain't Done" and "The Do Wop" are also vital to the album, and honestly, there aren't any songs that I usually skip on this album, which is virtually impossible for any other LL Cool J project. Because of that, along with overall quality and sales as well, this album makes the list. It's the best album of the decade from perhaps the most underrated legend of the decade.

*De La Soul- 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)

-We just discussed these legends on the site and this album in particular was a huge part of that discussion and for good reason. The arrival and debut of De La Soul is one of the best albums in hip hop history, so naturally, we would have to include it on this list. The thing is, in addition to this being a pioneering album for the genre and making De La household names, this album helped people see that there was a place for those who didn't want to follow suit. It is considered by most an alternative hip hop album with jazz elements sprinkled throughout the production. Songs like the Native Tongues posse cut "Buddy", the legendary single "Me Myself And I", and the classic "The Magic Number" helped to round out an amazing album that brought more traditional skits into hip hop, and kept a level of cohesion throughout. Simply put, 3 Feet High And Rising is a classic and one of the greatest albums of the 80's without question.

*Slick Rick- The Adventures Of Slick Rick (1988)

-When we talk about storytelling in hip hop, there is one name that stands out over most and that name is Slick Rick. One of the greatest rappers to ever do it, Slick Rick debuted in 1988 and helped change the genre forever in a major way. No one had told stories quite like Slick Rick before in hip hop and with the release of his debut, he set himself apart from the pack. With production from Jam Master Jay and tracks like the iconic "Treat Her Like a Prostitute", "Hey Young World", "Lick The Balls", "Mona Lisa", and "Children's Story", Slick Rick delivered an album for the ages, and it's actually still a really enjoyable listen almost 30 years later, and is easily one of the greatest of the decade.

*Too Short- Born To Mack (1987)

-It took me a while to decide on this choice, as there are albums from names like Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and Kool G Rap that could be listed here, but as a personal choice, I had to put Too Short on the list. His music was a window into the reality of Oakland at the time, and it showcased the harsh conditions and the mindset of someone caught within it. This was a short but sweet album, and it's one that just sticks out to me during the decade because at the time, there was really nothing like it. In the 80's, we didn't have any other rapper from the West who really blazed trails for life in the Bay like Short. Backed by the production from T. Bohanon, Too Short dropped game on us with songs like "Partyime", "Mack Attack", "You Know What I Mean", and of course, the iconic "Freaky Tales", and though it is only 8 songs long, keeping it short (pun intended) helped make this album a flawless classic that doesn't get enough credit compared to the other albums on this list.

*NWA- Straight Outta Compton (1988)

-This was of course, an easy pick for the list. The West Coast pioneers for commercial gangsta rap debuted with one of the most iconic rap albums of all time and made a big name for themselves. With Eazy E as their frontman and leader, Ice Cube on the mic and writing lyrics with the pen, Dr. Dre on the boards, DJ Yella assisting on the boards, and MC Ren kicking high powered rhymes, NWA blasted through pop culture with this game changer. With booming production, abrasive lyricism, and aggression, NWA gave us an album that was unlike anything else released that decade. It was gangsta, but revolutionary. It was aware, but threatening at the same time. From tracks like "Gangsta Gangsta" to "Fuck The Police" to "Express Yourself", NWA delivered a classic album that changed the 80's forever and there's no way you make a list of the best hip hop albums in the 80's and not include Straight Outta Compton. It's impossible.

*Big Daddy Kane- Long Live The Kane (1988)

-When we look back on some of the greatest artists of the decade, the Brooklyn native Big Daddy Kane is easily one of the most important rappers to come along. When he released his debut album, many didn't know what to expect, but they were pleasantly surprised by the amazing lyricism, flow and style of Kane. With amazing production contributed by the legendary Marley Marl, Kane brought his charisma and wit to each track, crafting a number of gems in the process. Songs like the legendary "Set It Off", the epic "Ain't No Half Steppin", and a personal classic "I'll Take You There", helped complete an album that has no filler and is the best album in Kane's catalog. If there was one thing that the 80's gave us, it was classic hip hop debuts from all of their future legends and greats. This album fits that label, as it is quite possibly a top 10-15 hip hop debut of all time.

*Boogie Down Productions- Criminal Minded (1987)

-If anyone knows me, they know I have never been the biggest fan of KRS. Yeah, I know. He's a legend and one of the best to ever do it, but something about his work over the years just never connected with me. However, this album was something different. The debut from BDP is easily one of the most important albums to drop in the 80's and it showcased the rhyming prowess of KRS while also showing the production prowess of the late great Scott La Rock and Ced Gee as well. Criminal Minded was aggressive, it was raw, it was hardcore, but most of all, it was classic. With iconic songs like the anthem "South Bronx", the mega diss to Queens on "The Bridge Is Over", the abrasive "Super-Hoe", and my personal favorite, "9mm Goes Bang", BDP gave us one of those special albums and moments in time in hip hop that could never be forgotten. If you talk 80's Hip hop, no matter what, you have to mention BDP and you better mention Criminal Minded. It's as simple as that.

*Eric B. And Rakim- Paid In Full (1987)

-There are very few duos in hip hop history with more of an impact than Eric B. and Rakim. Together, this producer/rapper combo would help to usher in a new wave for hip hop, led mostly by the advanced lyricism that Rakim possessed. New York was the mecca of hip hop at the time and all the great music was coming from NY, but there was nothing quite like Rakim. Over booming yet somewhat smooth production, Rakim spit some of the greatest verses that the genre had ever heard up until that point, as tracks like "My Melody", "I Know You Got Soul", and "I Ain't No Joke" all feature some of the best hip hop verses from the decade and of Rakim's career. It was tough for me to not include Follow The Leader on this list, because it's a classic as well, but if I had to pick one album from Eric B. & Rakim, it would have to be Paid In Full. This album was a game changer in the genre and it still means so much to hip hop 30 years later.

*Public Enemy- It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)

-For many, Public Enemy holds a special place for the 80's based on their revolutionary position as artists for the genre. With Chuck D leading the charge, PE would release an album that many consider to be the greatest of the decade with good reason. With production assistance from Rick Rubin, Public Enemy would end up crafting an album that in many ways inspired an entire generation in hip hop. After their uneven debut, the group returned with a more political and revolution charged effort that captivated listeners from all over the world. With songs like "Bring The Noise", "Don't Believe The Hype", "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos", and "Rebel Without A Pause", PE gave the hip hop world an album we would never forget, which is why it has to be mentioned when talking the best albums of the 80's. It might be THE best, but there's no doubt that it is at least, one of the best. It Takes A Nation... is an album that perfectly sums up the type of decade that the 80's were for hip hop.



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