Alright, these aren’t necessarily my favorite albums, and it definitely isn’t a definitive list, no one person can decide that, but the five albums that I hold in a brighter light than any others.

5. Illmatic- Nas

The kid from Queensbridge, NY came up out of nowhere, spitting rhymes like “Once they caught us off guard, Mac-10 was in the grass and I ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin.”  The only drawbacks I really found on this album were its brevity and its beat selection… though I’m sure most will disagree.  I found about half the beats simply boring.  When you think about the fact that the kid dropped out of school in 8th grade, the lyrics are even more mind blowing.

4. Reasonable Doubt- Jay Z

Look, love or hate Jay Z NOW, this album was and is AMAZING.  The sketches were well done, and the lyrics were fresh, Jay Z when it seemed like he cared a bit more.  His flows were absolutely ridiculous on the entire album, especially on Friend or Foe, a song which could possibly have the best flow I’ve ever heard.  He even had guest features from the likes of Mary J. Blige and Biggie on the record… his DEBUT.  That’s basically the equivilant of B.o.B featuring Eminem, Lupe, and T.I. on his premier.  The record is one of those immortals that HipHopAin’tCool mentioned earlier.  Even though it came out in 1996, it is STILL ahead of its time… except for the line about Jay having 2 matching VCRs.  Not really too impressive anymore, Hov.

3. The College Dropout- Kanye West

This album is simply amazing.  The sounds in this album are fresh, the production is without a doubt my favorite of any album ever.  From the opening song that has the chorus of “Drug dealin’ just to get by, stack your money till it gets sky high, we wasn’t supposed to make it past 25, jokes on you, we still alive, throw your hands up in the sky and say we don’t care what people say,” I was drawn in and wasn’t let back out until the album’s finish.  Kanye was at his hungriest, and it really showed.  The lyrics were on point, and it was just real.  Kanye put his heart and soul into this album.  The only bad part of this album for me was Common’s atrocious verse on “Get ‘Em High,” where he states: “Real rappers is hard to find… like the remote.”  Get outta here with that Common.  Haha.  However, while this is the 3rd best on the list, I would have to say that lyrically, it is the weakest.  The lyrics ARE great, don’t get me wrong, but the sound as a whole is what is the truly beautiful part of the record.

2. Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor Lupe Fiasco

Look, this guy would have changed the game with this album if people had let him.  Not only does he touch on sociopolitical topics [American Terrorist, He Say, She Say, various others], but he stays REAL this entire album, doing so with better lyricism and word play than anyone previously seen before.  Whether it is weaving the tale of the misfit kid who finds love in skateboarding and through skateboarding, or using the song as a metaphor for perseverance, the double meanings and figurative language are ridiculous.  The whole album can be played over and over again, start to finish, and each time you do, you’ll be rewarded with new meanings and insight, giving you a different perspective than before.

1. Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool- Lupe Fiasco

The bottom line is, Lupe Fiasco did all those things that I mentioned while singing the praises of his first album in his sophomore opus, The Cool.  The only thing about it is… he did all of them better.  Some people don’t like The Cool as much as F&L, but to me, the lyricism was as good, if not better, AND it showed growth in the musical palette.  He switched up his flow BIG TIME on the first song of the album, Go Go Gadget Flow, where he channels his city-mate, Twista.  Then, he continues the story of the Michael Young History with a chilling tale about the man who was deceived by the temptress, the streets.  He even has some rock-infused stuff on the album, like Hello-Goodbye.  The album is half concept, half not, but the story that Lupe weaves from his mixtapes to Food and Liquor to The Cool is really quite amazing, and if you haven’t followed it yet, you definitely need to catch up.

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