DAR Hip Hop: 6 Classic 90's Hip Hop Albums From Brooklyn

By @TrueGodImmortal

Brooklyn is the most infamous borough in New York when It comes to hip hop IMO (it's a close tie between Brooklyn and Queens) and over the years, they've spawned some legendary MCs. Whether they were from Brownsville, Marcy, or Bed-Stuy, there are plenty of MCs from the borough who stand out and have been an important piece to the New York hip hop scene. In the prime of hip hop, the 1990s, there were so many vital voices and lyricists from Brooklyn in the genre, all of whom released albums that made a solid impact. Today, I wanted to take a brief look back at a few of those important albums to come from Brooklyn hip hop artists during the greatest decade of the genre. Let's take a look at 6 classic albums from the 90's by Brooklyn rappers.

*The Notorious B.I.G.- Ready To Die (1994)

-When we speak about Brooklyn, the one MC that comes up as a representative in the 90's is of course Biggie. The Bed-Stuy native was one of a kind, the master of flow, a lyrical giant, and a storytelling wizard. We would find no greater evidence of this in his career than his 1994 debut, the most complete release of his short but legendary run. Boasting production from legends like Easy Mo Bee, Lord Finesse, and DJ Premier, Ready To Die is almost like a manual on how to make a true hip hop classic. Biggie balances the sound with catchy hits like "Juicy" and "One More Chance" (both the original and remix are catchy), alongside aggressive tracks like "Machine Gun Funk" and "Gimme The Loot", with storytelling songs like "Me And My Bitch" and Warning", and of course, supreme lyrical displays like the Method Man featured "The What" and the R. Kelly sampling "Unbelievable". Biggie doesn't miss once on this album IMO, and Ready to Die stands as one of the most important albums ever in the genre, not just in the 90's or Brooklyn. It's essentially seen as the universal hip hop classic for Bad Boy Records and Brooklyn by all measures however.

*AZ- Doe or Die (1995)

-One of the most underrated MCs of all time, AZ is one of the better lyricists from his borough, right there with Biggie, Mos Def, and Jay-Z. His debut album showcases the mafioso style of rap which would dominate pieces of the East Coast hip hop wave during the mid 90's, and AZ excelled at this beyond expectation. Following up his epic verse on Nas' "Life's A Bitch" track, AZ teams up with Nas on his debut for the excellent "Mo' Money, Mo' Murder, Mo' Homicide", which is one of my favorite collaborations of all time. Along with the hit single "Sugar Hill", the booming "Rather Unique", and the excellent "Gimme Yours", AZ makes sure to stock this album with slick wordplay and multi-syllable raps that engage every listener. Doe Or Die is an underrated classic in many ways, and to be honest, you would be hard pressed to find many albums out of Brooklyn that could compete with this one. That list is very short.

*Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt (1996)

-Of course, the debut of Jay-Z is one of the best albums from Brooklyn in the 90's and quite possibly the best ever. After a tumultuous ride in the early stages of his career, Jay finally found his footing with this seminal release that put himself and the Roc-A-Fella brand on the map. Jay was in a different zone on this album, a zone which I don't think we've heard him in since this release 22 years ago. There are glimpses of paranoia, regret, honesty, and the spirit of a hustler shown throughout the album over a luxurious soundbed of mostly lush instrumentals from DJ Premier, Ski, and DJ Clark Kent among others. The features are minimal, as the album mostly revolves around the lyrics of Jay with a verses from Sauce Money, Jaz-O, and Foxy Brown serving as a backdrop to his own story. Whether Jay gives us a vivid track like "Can I Live", a smooth joint like "Feelin' It", a hit for the radio like "Ain't No Nigga", or even the classic "Dead Presidents", Jay manages to put slick and witty wordplay and poetics within his rhymes that make his tales and stories relatable to all. Reasonable Doubt is still the magnum opus from Jay and definitely one of the best albums to come out of Brooklyn period, maybe the best.

*Smif-N-Wessun- Dah Shinin (1995)

-The Boot Camp Clik has been a formidable movement in hip hop over the last few decades, coming of age in the 90's with some hardcore albums that captivated the true hip hop listener. This album is probably the most vital piece in the growth of the Boot Camp Clik and it would hit the audiences instantly. With hard hitting rhymes, banging production, and a boom bap style that Brooklyn loved, Smif-N-Wessun would debut putting the world on notice. Of course, Da Beatminerz provided the production for this album, and the production didn't disappoint at all. With tracks like "Home Sweet Home", "P.N.C.", "Wrekonize", and "Bucktown" among others, the group would let the world know Boot Camp Clik was here, and as we know now 23 years later, here to stay.

*M.O.P.- Firing Squad (1996)

-One of the most underrated duos in the history of hip hop, the Brownsville natives would deliver on their second album. It was tough choosing between their first three for this list because all three are solid albums, but I tipped the scales in favor of Firing Squad just off of the production alone. Handled mostly by DJ Premier with some assistance from M.O.P. themselves, Jaz-O, and a few others, the duo delivers an album that is the best example of their brand of music. Aggressive, high energy, straight to the point, and reckless lyricism all make up the style that made M.O.P. so prevalent and popular in the streets during the 90's and this album has all of that. Whether they rap alongside Kool G Rap on "Stick To Ya Gunz", speak reality on "Lifestyles of A Ghetto Child", or even tear shit up lyrically on the title track and "New Jack City", the Mash Out Posse doesn't disappoint one bit on this project. To The Death and First Family For Life are also good albums, but Firing Squad is their actual classic.  

*Mos Def- Black On Both Sides (1999)

-I recently wrote about this debut from Mos in an article about him, but I have to include this on the list as well. There are some albums that test the limits of traditional hip hop, and of all the albums listed here, this is the only one that does that. After a successful release of the Blackstar album with Talib Kweli, Mos Def decided to swing for the fences with his solo debut, and this album doesn't miss at all. It's a moment in time in a way, as we didn't hear Mos make music as good as this again, and there were powerful messages and lyricism throughout the project. Whether looking at the reality of the black experience no matter your status on "Mr. Nigga", the concept of the sale of bottled water on "New World Water", teachings and blessings on "Umi Says", telling a superb story like on "Ms. Fat Booty", or dropping knowledge on "Mathematics", Mos delivered on every track on this album and simply put, this is a true classic.



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