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9 Influential NY 90's Hip Hop Albums

Updated on January 9, 2016

Any true hip hop fan knows that New York City is considered home to the genre's cultural movement. While hip hop was born in the early 70's in the South Bronx, the rugged 80's and 90's streets of New York were a necessary evil to the development of many of hip hop's greatest. There's no doubt that these artists made their stamp on music history and their legacies will continue to live on long after they're gone.

It's Dark and Hell is Hot Album Cover
It's Dark and Hell is Hot Album Cover

9. It's Dark and Hell is Hot

DMX released his debut studio album on May 19, 1998. The album received compliments about its prominence in hardcore hip hop. The albums aggressiveness and overall strong-arm attitude continues to be a powerful influence in the hip hop community.

Debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200, the album exceeded 250,00 copies in its first week on the shelves.The albums third and most popular single, "Ruff Ryder's Anthem," ranks at #79 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop and still remains one of DMX's most widely recognized and respected songs.

Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) Album Cover
Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) Album Cover

8. Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)

Released through Loud Records on November 9, 1993, Wu-Tang Clan debut with an album that is prototypical to hardcore hip in the 90's. The album helped restore New York City's national presence in the hip hop world.

A monument in the era of hip hop known as the "East Coast Renaissance," the album paved the way for numerous east coast hip hop artists. Wu-Tang opened the flood gates for artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Mobb Deep, and Jay-Z.

C.R.E.A.M. Offical Video

Capital Punishment Album Cover
Capital Punishment Album Cover

7. Capital Punishment

Released on April 28, 1998, the Big Pun debuted his, one and only studio release, "Capital Punishment." Peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200, the album is considered a classic in respect of Pun's showcase of exceptional lyrical wordplay and technical ability. The album was the earliest Latin hip hop album to Platinum.

Before his death on February 7, 2000, Pun suffered from weight problems and health issues as a result. After battling through weight loss programs, Pun returned to his normal lifestyle, ultimately leading to a fatal heart attack and respiratory failure.

The Infamous Album Cover
The Infamous Album Cover

6. The Infamous

Hip hop duo, Mobb Deep released their second studio album on April 25, 1995 through Loud Records. The album includes guest appearances from Nas, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan), and Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest).

The album is consider to be Mobb Deeps transitional album, bringing them from a rather unknown status, to the gates of commercial success. The album debuted at #15 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA).

The album established four singles prior to it's release. Most popularly, "Shook Ones Pt.II" and "Survival of the Fittest."

"Survival of the Fittest" Official Video

Doe or Die Album Cover
Doe or Die Album Cover

5. Doe or Die

Arguably the most underrated rapper of all-time, AZ, released his debut album on October 10, 1995 through EMI Records. Peaking at #15 on the Billboard 200, the album received notable critical feedback and commercial success.

Considered one of the quintessential albums of rap sub genre, Mafioso; Doe or Die includes fictional stories about the lifestyle of organized crime. Stories illustrating a mobster's climb to the top of the underworld.

AllMusic, later renamed, All Media Network, gave the album 4.5 out of 5 stars and compared aspects of the album to attributes of Nas' debut, Illmatic.

Reasonable Doubt Album Cover
Reasonable Doubt Album Cover

4. Reasonable Doubt

On June 25, 1996, Jay-Z dropped his debut studio album through Roc-A-Fella and Priority Records. The album reached 23 on US Billboard 200.

The first single on the album, "Dead Presidents" was released on February 20, 1996. The song did not directly the album, but instead, a different version, "Dead Presidents II." Version II has the same instrumental and chorus, but with different rhymes in the verses.

Often considered Jay's "crowning achievement," Reasonable Doubt continues to be well respected by hip hop artists around the world.

"Feelin' It" Official Video

Life After Death Album Cover
Life After Death Album Cover

3. Life After Death

B.I.G.'s second and final studio album was released March 25, 1997. Only weeks after the rapper was gunned down in Los Angeles on March 9th. A sequel to his debut album, Ready to Die, Life After Death picks up right where B.I.G. left off with the closing track "Suicidal Thoughts."

In 1998 the album was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Solo Performance, Best Rap Performance by a Duo/Groupm and Best Rap Album. The album was and still is considered a landmark in hip hop.

Some critics suggest the sequel to be even more powerful and moving than B.I.G.'s debut release, Ready to Die.

Illmatic Album Cover
Illmatic Album Cover

2. Illmatic

On April 19, 1994, Nas released his debut studio album, Illmatic, through Columbia Records. While the album struggled to reach expected sales,it sold nearly 60,000 copies in its first week and continued on to be praised by critics for its quality production and Nas' lyricism.

While the album may have struggled during its time, over the years it has become one of the most recognized and critically acclaimed hip hop albums of all time.

When it comes to the worlds greatest rappers, Nas' name remains near the top of the list.

"It Aint Hard to Tell" Official Video

Ready to Die Album Cover
Ready to Die Album Cover

1. Ready to Die

It should come to no surprise that Brooklyn's best came in at the number one spot. Ready to Die was crucial to the revival of the east coast hip hop scene during a time when the industry was being heavily dominated by the commercial success of west coast hip hop.

The recording of the album was done during 1993 to 1994 at The Hit Factory and D&D Studios in New York City. It was released September 13, 1994, through Bad Boy Records; the label's very first release.

Following a year of commercial success, in 1995, the album was deemed certified double platinum by the RIAA and Biggie's success soon became the success of his childhood friends, and protege group, Junior M.A.F.I.A.

"Juicy" Official Video


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