50 Best Hip-Hop Albums of All Time

This month marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. While the official birthday is August 11th, 2023, we’ll be commemorating five decades of this culture-defining movement with a month-long celebration. From unique artist interviews to insightful essays and more, we’ll explore the history of rap from a variety of angles. It all begins today with our list of the 50 Best Hip-Hop Albums of All Time.

Ever since DJ Kool Herc laid down the foundation of hip-hop with his innovative record breaks, countless albums have been released from all sorts of regional scenes and subgenres that have sprouted from the concrete. Breaking down 50 years of LPs by immediate impact and lasting influence, it’s easy to pick out instant classics like To Pimp a Butterfly and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, or groundbreaking releases from the likes of Missy Elliott, Wu-Tang Clan, and OutKast.

However, it’s all too easy to give in to the temptation of assigning multiple entries to the all-time great artists. By limiting each rapper or group to one slot each, we opened up this list to include a wider range of MCs who have undeniably seized their moments. From street rap royalty to oddball outcasts to straight up supervillains, there are hundreds of artists who have spoken to whole generations, shifting culture with their words and beats. We took care to recognize that wide variety to reflect how hip-hop has impacted the cultural landscape over the past five decades.

Even so, with only 50 spots, difficult cuts had to be made. But music is an art and its appreciation is subjective, so we stand behind the heated debates and tough choices that led us here. Check out the 50 best hip-hop albums of all time below.

— Eddie Fu
News Editor