Seems that today’s rap album titles have lost their creativity, broken down to generic, simple, one word titles that fail to stir up any interest. However there have been many great titles over the years – here are our picks for the 50 best. This is NOT a best albums of all time list (although many are included).
50. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – “He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper” (Jive, 1988)
Back then, it was customary for the DJ’s name to be listed first (ala Eric B. & Rakim, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth), however this caused confusion for the MTV generation that was jocking “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. Will and Jeff figured they’d address the issue head on, and nobody was ever confused again…..
49. LL Cool J – “Bigger and Deffer” (Def Jam, 1987)
While Bad was always the title LL wanted to roll with, he obviously couldn’t embrace it in full because a certain megastar was about to release a follow-up album of his own called Bad only one month later in 1987. LL found a way around this by suggesting his LP was Bigger and Deffer than anything anyone else had to offer.
48. Jay-Z – “The Black Album” (Def Jam, 2003)
The opposite of The Beatles’ White Album, Jay’s all-black-everything LP symbolized his fade to black and short lived retirement.
47. Slum Village – “Fantastic Vol. Two” (Goodvibe, 1998)
It didn’t matter if you’d never heard part one, which at the time was only available on a dubbed cassette somewhere in Detroit. The title itself threw back to the 70′s, as did the soulful sounds of J. Dilla – the Vol. 2 just added to the mystique, in a way that Leonard Part 6 always hoped to accomplish.
46. Digable Planets – “Blowout Comb” (Pendulum, 1994)
Simply a much fresher way of saying “afro pick”, Digable’s title implied the music was as soulful as the afro itself… and it was.
45. Public Enemy – “Greatest Misses” (Def Jam, 1992)
This tongue-in-cheek play on the “greatest hits” album featured the P.E. logo with bullet-holes hitting everything but the target.
44. D.O.C. – “No One Can Do It Better” (Ruthless, 1989)
The sheer bravado of D.O.C.’s timeless debut takes the cake for boldest album title ever.
43. Ludacris – “Back For The First Time” (Def Jam, 2000)
There probably isn’t a more intriguing debut album title than this one, with Luda suggesting he’s already been there, done that….
42. The Roots – “Things Fall Apart” (Geffen, 1999)
Based on African writer Chinua Achebe’s novel of the same name, the title took on a similar concept to albums like Stakes Is High, that being the grim realities of urban neighborhoods and the state of hip-hop itself.
41. Dr. Octagon – “Dr. Octagon” (Bulk, 1996)
It was only later that the album was retitled Dr. Octagynocologist, unnecessarily. Of all of Kool Keith’s aliases, Dr. Octagon was his greatest, with a character that sounded like a cross between a Marvel super-villian and a horror movie serial killer.
40. Nas – “Hip-Hop Is Dead” (Def Jam, 2006)
People had been feeling this sentiment a good ten years before the album dropped, but Nas’ conceptual LP brought the idea to the forefront and executed it masterfully.
39. De La Soul – “Stakes Is High” (Tommy Boy, 1996)
Based on the song of the same name, De La was at the boiling point, fed up with the transformation hip-hop was making at the same time. The stakes were certainly high, ultimately leading to our previous entry.
38. Compton’s Most Wanted – “Music To DriveBy” (Profile, 1992)
This album title was a dark pun that had parents groups up in arms and CMW laughing all the way to the bank.
37. Big Daddy Kane – “Long Live The Kane” (Cold Chillin, 1988)
If there ever was rap royalty, Big Daddy Kane was it. This album title exemplified it, coupled with it’s cover art featuring Kane in a throne, surrounded by beautiful women.
36. Digital Underground – “Sex Packets” (Tommy Boy, 1989)
With the name Digital Underground, you already knew these cats were on some other shit. But before hearing the album’s definition of Sex Packets, there stood Shock G on the cover, looking at the camera, offering the listener an electric blue glimpse of what was inside.
35. Beastie Boys – “Paul’s Boutique” (Capitol, 1989)
Rolling Stone summed up this best in 2003: “Paul’s Boutique is also an extended goof on Abbey Road, which was Paul McCartney’s boutique – and like that record, it ambitiously stitches together song fragments in a way rarely seen before or since.”
34. Dr. Dre – “2001″ (Aftermath)
Originally set to be titled The Chronic 2000, Death Row tried to cock-block Dr. Dre by releasing their own weak-ass Chronic 2000 LP before Dre could finish his. Instead, Dre took it one year in to the future, allowing his album to be synonymous with Stanley Kubrick’s space odyssey – and you can’t get higher than that.
33. A Tribe Called Quest – “Beats, Rhymes, & Life” (Jive, 1996)
While this is probably Tribe’s weakest LP, it’s title sums up the lifestyle of the pre-bling era, die-hard hip-hop fan.
32. The Pharcyde – “Labcabincalifornia” (Delicious Vinyl, 1995)
Based upon the studio where the album was recorded along with then-rookie producer J. Dilla, this curious compound word made the place legendary. And they probably had an endless supply of weed.
31. Ice Cube – “Lethal Injection” (Priority, 1993)
Embracing the conceptual album title and coinciding artwork, this equally dark follow-up to Death Certificate increased Cube’s mystique. Too bad it would later be undone by Hollywood silliness.
30. Kanye West – “The College Dropout” (Roc-A-Fella, 2004)
Kanye’s album title resonated with an entire generation of dropouts that did just fine without completing an extra 4 to 12 years of higher education.
29. The Beatnuts – “Intoxicated Demons” (Relativity, 1993)
It’s bad enough that they are spawn of the devil, but they have to be drunk as well? A brilliant moniker for the then three man trio.
28. Souls of Mischief – “93 Til Infinity” (Jive, 1993)
Who knew that the single and album of the same name would have such long legs…. Truly this is an album that for many heads will carry on for infinity and beyond.
27. KRS-One – “Return Of The Boom Bap” (Jive, 1994)
With abrasive singles like “Black Cop” and “Sound of The Police” propelling it, KRS was perhaps at his best on his first solo album, which along with DJ Premier’s production, helped reinvigorate the sound of that old New York rap.
26. Ghostface Killah – “Supreme Clientele” (Sony, 2000)
Always rich with the vocabulary groceries, Supreme Clientele is a title only Ghost could have come up with, defining his crew as the classiest brand of rapper.
25. Dead Prez – “RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta” (Loud, 2004)
One of the most creative album titles of the 2000′s era, Dead Prez’s album title and coinciding artwork juxtaposed the colors red, black, and green as both gang colors and those of the African flag. The Revolutionary But Gangsta” duality defined the group’s members perfectly.
24. Eric B. & Rakim – “Let The Rhythm Hit Em” (4th & Broadway, 1990)
Like Don’t Sweat The Technique after it, Eric B. & Rakim’s rhyming album title coincided with the title of it’s first single, with words put together like only Rakim could.
23. Main Source – “Breaking Atoms” (Wild Pitch, 1991)
This could be looked at as the antithesis of Raising Hell, but rather than dealing in alchemy, The Large Professor was dropping science.
22. Mos Def – “Black On Both Sides” (Rawkus, 1999)
There probably isn’t a more accurate way to describe the personality of Mos Def than through this album title. Always outspoken, forever militant, this daring album title came with no apologies.
21. Run DMC – “Raising Hell” (Profile, 1986)
This is probably the most intimidating rap album title of the 1980′s, back when people were really afraid of kids killing themselves over Dungeons and Dragons. Raising Hell was Run DMC’s way of taking that heavy metal attitude and applying it to what they do.
20. Outkast – “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” (LaFace, 1994)
Outkast has always created their own terminology, even from the jump. This, and Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia are one of the few cases where a jumbled mess of words actually rolls of the tongue with ease, describing the group’s music perfectly. Truthfully, it’s a toss up between this and Aquemini.
19. Jay-Z – “The Life and Times of S. Carter” (Roc-A-Fella, 1999)
It’s almost a more mature, bourgeois take on The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, as Jay-Z’s natural cool is captured in just about every aspect of this album – from title to cover art to the music itself. Also, the use of the rapper’s real name in the title was bitten by Kirk Jones, Derek Murphy, and countless others.
18. The Roots – “Illadelph Halflife” (Geffen, 1996)
Another incredibly creative title with almost an alliterative sound in it’s pronunciation, the title refers to the area where the group is from, and the decay the it’s gone through over time. Both themes were covered extensively on this LP.
17. 50 Cent – “Get Rich Or Die Trying” (G-Unit/Shady/Aftermath, 2003)
50′s title summed up the reckless ambitions of the young hustler, personified by Curtis Jackson, whom used this album as a platform to do just that. Shame his other album titles weren’t nearly as innovative.
16. GZA/Genius – “Liquid Swords” (Geffen, 1995)
By this time, Wu-Tang fever was at an all time high, following a handful of consecutive, consistent releases from the Clan, each centered around a heavily influenced Kung Fu theme. The announcement of GZA’s debut – the “head” of the Clan at the time (later to be replaced by RZA) – made fans salivate with anticipation based on it’s title alone. You could expect two things from this album – lyrics that were sharp as swords, and delivery that flows like water.
15. Gang Starr – “Daily Operation” (Chrysalis, 1992)
Simple and to the point. The every day grind defined.
14. Diamond & The Psychotic Neurotics – “Stunts, Blunts, & Hip-Hop” (Mercury, 1992)
Diamond D’s classic debut’s title is a brilliant 90′s rethinking of Ian Dury’s “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N Roll”, (which in itself is based around the ancient expression of ‘Wine, Women, & Song’). Subsequently, DMC attempted to do the same with the forgettable Checks, Thugs, and Rock N Roll. Diamond’s title stuck, Darryl Mac’s didn’t.
13. Ice Cube – “Death Certificate” (Priority, 1991)
Back when Ice Cube was a threatening political-gangster rapper, he full embraced the idea of the conceptual album with title and accompanying cover art. Death Certificate was exemplified this at best, featuring Cube standing over a cold dead body with the toe-tag reading “Uncle Sam”.
12. Raekwon – “Only Built For Cuban Linx” (Loud, 1995)
Representing the strength of cuban link chains, here was an album with perhaps one of the most original titles ever, and certainly one that lived up to it’s name.
11. Showbiz and A.G. – “Runaway Slave” (Payday, 1992)
Back then, artists were not afraid to dis their record label, and Show and A’s title suggests that the artist is merely a slave of the corporate process. While the album is best known for it’s fun tracks like “Party Groove/Soul Clap” and “Bounce Ta This”, the title deeper represented the struggle of the inner-city youth, as demonstrated on tracks like “More Than One Way Out The Ghetto”, “Fat Pockets”, and “40 Acres and My Props”.
10. Boogie Down Productions – “Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop” (Jive, 1989)
Self-explanitory. A title so nice, Jay-Z borrowed it thrice.
9. Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Critical Beatdown” (Next Plateau, 1988)
The title Critical Beatdown exemplifies the type of “next shit” that the Ultramagnetic MC’s were on in 1988, in combination two simple words – one of them not in the dictionary. The group’s use of otherworldly vocabulary in their rhymes came out all over the album and this incredibly dope title was their way of simply saying that they were beating down the competition. A title so influential in fact, that XXL Magazine borrowed it for their record reviews section.
8. A Tribe Called Quest – “The Low End Theory” (Jive, 1991)
Referring to the album’s low end basslines, this album’s title defined it’s unique sound, creating an entire sub-genre of hip-hop music, eventually becoming the centerpiece of the Native Tongue movement. Q-Tip explains in Check The Technique “At the time there were some things happening in hip-hop, sonically, that I wanted to expand on, especially with the bottom. For example, I loved Public Enemy, but I felt that sometimes their mixes didn’t have enough dynamics to them. All their sounds were on the same floor: bass, drums, guitars. I wanted to stack things on different levels,” says Tip. “So I would always explain how dynamic I wanted things to be by telling Bob [Power]: ‘I want this to be more at the bottom, at the low end.”
7. Boogie Down Productions – “Criminal Minded” (B-Boy, 1987)
Another poignant album title that summed up the collective mind state of KRS-One and Scott LaRock at the time, ultimately leading to Scott’s untimely death and the reinvention of KRS-One as a teacher and edutainer.
6. Wu-Tang Clan – “Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers” (Loud, 1993)
Before you heard the music of the Wu-Tang Clan, there was a heavy mystique surrounding the group that had an Asian name, with an album cover featuring each member concealed like a masked assassin. The title dared the listener to Enter The 36 Chambers, and once they did, hip-hop would never be the same again.
5. Dr. Dre – “The Chronic” (Death Row, 1992)
The rap game has always been compared to the drug game, but no one was bold enough to package their album and simply call it “dope”, as in the case with Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. In an era where smoking weed became fashionable, Dre’s title summed up much of the album’s content both literally and figuratively, coining a term in the process.
4. Public Enemy – “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” (Def Jam, 1988)
While it’s certainly the longest title on this list, but because this is one of the most influential albums ever, it rolls right off the tongue. P.E. rallied the troops so successfully back then, capturing the minds of young America, with a title that came to life symbolically a year later in the video for “Fight The Power” from their next LP, and manifested in reality with 1995′s Million Man March on Washington, DC.
3. 2Pac – “All Eyez On Me” (Death Row, 1996)
There probably isn’t a more aptly titled album than this one, as 2Pac was undergoing his transformation from semi-conscious rap artist to controversial gangster rapper. The difference between Pac and today’s brand of thug rapper was that Pac was actually living the lifestyle he rhymed about. During a two year period between Me Against The World and All Eyez On Me, there was never a dull moment, as Pac was constantly embroiled in controversy. He got into a gun fight with cops and was charged with rape in 1993, shot in November 1994 at Quad recording studios, went to prison over a wrongful death suit in 1995 and had a number one album while inside, and signed to Death Row Records in 1995 after Suge posted his bail. Yeah, all eyes were certainly on Tupac Shakur.
2. Nas – “Illmatic” (Columbia, 1994)
While many rappers have tried to coin new terms over the years (like Rapp-Murr-Phobia, for instance), perhaps the only one that ever worked coincidentally belongs to one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. The title of album was a salute to an incarcerated friend of Nas, Illmatic Ice, however it took on a meaning of it’s own over the years, later described by Nas as “beyond ill” or “the science of everything ill”. From the album’s opening sketch, Nas used the word for the first time on wax, sounding as poetic and natural as his verses.
1. [TIE] Notorious B.I.G. – “Ready To Die” / “Life After Death” (Bad Boy 1995, 1997)
Number one is a tie, because of the prophetic nature of both titles, which both suggested Biggie’s untimely death was inevitable. Ready To Die gave a glimpse into the future, while the haunting Life After Death almost took on a literal sense, as it was released on March 25th, 1997, only sixteen days after he was killed. The posthumous Born Again tried to carry on the tradition started with these two albums, but has an empty feeling to it, as the title was not indicative of the content within.
Disagree? Did we miss something? Sound off in the comments section below.
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