Hip-hop has released a lot of classic albums, but the best type of albums are the ones that are cohesive from beats to production. It’s hard to do that with 15 tracks and 15 different producers. Some of have done it, but they are few and far between. When one producer produces the whole album there is a special type of harmony, especially when there’s a dope producer and a dope emcee. Statik Selektah can bring the best out of Terminology, even though he’s still not that good of a rapper. 9th Wonder had moments where he made great albums with only his production. Check out the 15 albums that made this list.
Big Daddy Kane and his introduction to hip-hop, which was Long Live the Kane became a classic at the beginning of hip-hop’s golden age. Yes, it was due to the fact that Kane had slick rhymes with a wide range of topics, but the man behind the boards became known for this album. Yes, Marley Marl took a couple of James Brown samples and created classic beats that MC Kane can spit to. The harmony between the two created 10 tracks of pure gold. It’s kind of sad that Warner Bros. isn’t releasing albums like this anymore.
Common on the mic for Resurrection. No I.D. on the track, let the story begin. Resurrection is greatly noted as his best album. If Be was produced by just Kanye, it would probably make the list too. If the Chi-Town emcee didn’t burst onto the scene with this album, he at least proved to real hip-hop fans that he is one of the greatest. I Used to Love H.E.R. is one of the G.O.A.T. songs of all time. You can’t give all the credit to Common though. Long time colleague of Common produced the entire album. The new infusion of jazz and soul samples made Resurrection No I.D.’s best work also.
Eric B got first billing at the time because he was the veteran disk jockey that needed a young emcee. Rakim came into his picture and later became one of the greatest emcees of all time with the introduction of the smooth flow and internal rhyming scheme. Eric B was no slouch either though. He was a pioneer in creating sample heavy beats that became a blueprint for making beats in the golden era of hip-hop. The duo truly started the golden era back in 1987. This is why Rakim is such an acclaimed rapper, but it would have never happened without the beats of Eric B. Paid in Full was a dope album that both legends helped create.
Apollo Brown and OC got together this year to release Trophies. Finally, an album that doesn’t feature a solo debut. OC is actually the OG of the duo. I think I actually like Apollo’s beats more than I do OC’s rhymes. They both do a great job, but the beats are just that dope. It was an instant classic to me once, I put my headphones and hit play. I actually thought Apollo’s instrumental album, Clouds, was one of the best albums of last year, so I knew he wouldn’t disappoint when he linked up with the New York rapper.
Clipse released their best album in the duo’s sophomore effort, Hell Hath No Fury, in 2006. Not only did they have the raw cocaine flow, but they had the cohesiveness of one the best producing duos in The Neptunes. The beats of Pharrell and Chad made it easier for Pusha T and Malice (No Malice) to rip rhymes. The beats even made Slim Thug sound cool. When the album was released, it received numerous praises, and was highly regarded as one of the best albums of 2006. Let’s give some credit to the Virginia rappers, but the beats of The Neptunes brought the best out of the album.
Blu made is way into the hip-hop scene by releasing a classic album in 2007 with producing newcomer, Exile. Below the Heavens was my second favorite album that was released that year (behind Graduation, of course). Blu did his thing on every Exile beat given to him. Exile used his MPC to sync with the flow of the LA emcee in one of the most harmonious compositions made in hip-hop. To this day, Blu has kind of experimented with his music and failed by most standards, but Exile’s beats have continuously helped other emcees create classics in their own right. Sometimes I feel that Blu is nothing without Exile.
GZA released a no brainer classic wen he dropped Liquid Swords back in 1995. It was the second album from the Wu Tang member that was recorded in the basement of RZA in Staten Island. We can attribute the success of this album to the intricate rhymes about chess, philosophy, and street crime, but you really appreciate Liquid Swords when you hear the orchestration of the RZA. He really takes control of the production and sets a dark mood for the album throughout. Mixed in with the karate samples from Shogun Assassin and you have a classic album.
Raekwon gives us yet another solo debut that becomes a classic. What is up with rappers doing well on their first album and then tanking on the others. OB4CL played like a movie which starred Raekwon and co-starred Ghostface Killah. The two had other rappers that made guest features and for the most part did their thing. Nas marked the first feature who was non-Wu Tang related. Even though these rappers worked their magic on the album, the dude who stole the show was RZA and his beats. That Ice Cream beat is just classic, and he doesn’t stop from there.
Snoop Dogg helped Dr. Dre on his debut album, The Chronic. I guess Dr. Dre returned the favor by producing Snoop’s debut album Doggystyle. Snoop’s debut like many other emcee’s albums is considered a classic. To this day, Snoop has his unique mellow flow that caught the attention of ears in the 90s. He also was praised for his realism displayed in his lyrics. Then you have the legendary beatsmith in Dr. Dre, who mixed up is producing style to introduce g-funk to the mainstream. The beats on the album were never heard of unless you were listening to George Clinton. You never heard rap like this until Doggystyle.
The Wu-Tang Clan bursted on to the scene with their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. The album featured great lyrics from Wu-Tang legends GZA, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Raekwon, and the countless others. If you didn’t know that RZA produced the whole thing, you should slap yourself, twice. RZA took soul samples and martial art sound clips from Shaolin and Wu Tang to create some of the best, gritty beats of the golden era. The grittiness of the beats was due to the fact that the RZA used cheap equipment to make his beats. That just makes the production that much more dope.
Dr. Dre is the producer turned emcee and released his solo debut entitled The Chronic. I truly can’t do a list about albums getting produced by one producer and leave out the Compton beat smith and his classic album. The album is known for the beats anyway because Dre has never been the strongest rhymer. I’m actually pretty sure Snoop Dogg does a better job on The Chronic than Dre does. The beats on the other hand introduced the world to what we call G-Funk, a sub-genre of gangsta rap. The doctor took old school funk and made it his own. The Chronic is highly regarded as one of the best produced masterpieces in hip-hop.
Slum Village was on top of their game when they released Fantastic Vol. 2. This was when T3 and Baatin were rookie rhymers in the game, and J Dilla was introduced as Detroit’s newest beat smith. Just how 9th Wonder was to Little Brother, J Dilla was to Slum Village. After the death of Dilla, Slum Village was never the same. Without Dilla’s soul samples and hard hitting drums, Fantastic Vol. 2 wouldn’t be the classic that it is today. Even though SV isn’t doing well today, they will still be greatly known for this classic album. Rest in Peace Jay Dee.
Little Brother made their debut with this classic record entitled The Listening. If you don’t know who Little Brother is, they were one of the greatest trios in hip-hop history before egos got the best of them. Phonte and Big Pooh would rock all over the drums of 9th Wonder. We were introduced to all three of them at one time, but at that time, 9th become one of the greatest producers after one album. His sound was distinct, with his soul samples and unique snares. People found it hard to believe that he made his beats in Fruity Loops.
MadVillain is the team comprised of Madlib and MF DOOM. If you didn’t know, DOOM is the dude on the mic, while Madlib is the man on the boards. When they got together for this album, they cooked up a certified classic. It was strange for DOOM to link up with another producer because he is perfectly capable of making beats himself. I’m glad DOOM branched out because MadVillainy became his best album to the date. This collaboration eventually paved the way for other producer/emcee collaboration with DOOM, such as the DANGERDOOM album with DJ DangerMouse. That’s another story for another day.
Kanye West instantly became my favorite rapper when he released College Dropout. I knew him as a producer when he helped make The Blueprint a classic, but when it came to his own music all I had was Slow Jamz to go on. It wasn’t even Ye’s version, it was Twista‘s. Once Through the Wire came out, I knew I had to get the album. It was pretty much my most anticipated album of 2003, and for good reason. Not only did Kanye hold his own with the lyrics, he pioneered the new trend of high pitch beat sampling.