Volume 14 - The Top 20 Hip-Hop Albums Of All Time,
From A Beat-Fanatic's Perspective

May, 1995
It's Just A White Bar

        This month The Soulman is going to do something a little different. What you're about to peruse is a list of what, in my opinion, are the top twenty-plus hip-hop albums of all time...not from a lyricist's point of view, not from a trained musician's perspective, but from the ears of a beat junkie. This ain't about who had the nicest live guitars and keyboards on their album. It's not about who had the fliest rhymes (although most of these albums have incredible lyrical displays, as well). No, the artists who I've selected for this "All-Soulman Team" made the cut because they dug the deepest in the crates to come up with fascinating masterpieces of sampling wizardry. In short, they used the dopest and/or rarest shit with a creative approach, as opposed to taking the safe "I-wants-me-a-radio-hit-so-I-can-go-platinum" route and sampling well known joints from back in the days. As is always the case with these types of things, unfortunately, some great records will have to be left out just because there's not enough room to include everything (or because they simply slipped my mind). Whatever. This is just my opinion, and as a wise man once told me, opinions are like assholes: everybody has one. So, with no further ado, I proudly present to you (not necessarily in order) The Soulman's Official Top 20-Plus Hip-Hop Albums Of All Time, From A Beat Fanatic's Perspective.

1. MECCA & THE SOUL BROTHER, Pete Rock And C.L. Smooth         This is my favorite studio recorded hip-hop album ever, bar none. Every single track is beyond excellent - hell, even the interludes alone could have made a slammin' LP! Beat lovers are still enchanted by Pete's usage of rare gems by Freddie McCoy, George Semper, Simtec And Wylie...and the list goes on and on...

2. THREE FEET HIGH & RISING, De La Soul
        After this record, shit was never the same again. Up to this point it was all about James Brown's 30 Golden Hits and Ultimate Breaks & Beats. Suddenly we're hearing Steely Dan and Johnny Cash on rap records! This is probably the most important record ever from a beatman's point of view because it kicked the doors of creativity wide open.

3. PAUL'S BOUTIQUE, The Beastie Boys
        Real beat heads will know what I'm talking about. The rest of y’all will be like, "The Beastie Boys?? Come on, Phill!" Yo, don't sleep- this was one of the most musically adventurous albums ever pressed on vinyl. Mad beats that no one at the time had ever thought about using. Plus their magazine, Grand Royal, was one of the inspirations for my World Of Beats column, so the Beastie kids get dap regardless.

4. BLUNTS, STUNTS & HIP HOP, Diamond D
        Another of my personal favorites, Diamond is the man who made "diggin' in the crates" standard terminology for those of us who are into, well... diggin' in the crates. The whole album is 100% butter, but the way Diamond flipped Tower of Power's "Sparkling In The Sand" (a love ballad) to create "Sally's Got A One Track Mind" stands out.

5. CRAZY NOISE, Stezo
        This one time dancer for EPMD (back when there was an EPMD- I get misty eyed just thinking about it) dropped this raw LP back in 1990 and then just dropped out of sight, why I don't know. But the beats were fat, including the first appearances on record, as far as I know, of the Skull Snaps break and Sly Stone's "Rock Dirge".

6. MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS; LOW END THEORY; and PEOPLE'S INSTINCTIVE..., A Tribe Called Quest
        Yes, I'm listing all three Tribe albums as one entity because I just can't separate them. From Billy Brooks and Eugene McDaniels on the first album to Ronnie Foster and Minnie Riperton on the last, Ah and Tip never fail to dig up the smoothest shit ~ possible. No other group has turned out such a high level of quality work as consistently as Tribe has.

7. LET THE RHYTHM HIT 'EM, Eric B. And Rakim
        I knew that real hip-hop was in trouble when I heard people saying that this was a musically weak album. What? The 24 Karat Black shit? The Herbie Hancock shit (the same joint that Simple E hit with on "Play My Funk")? F--k everybody, that shit was the BUTTER! Easily one of the most fronted on records in history.

8. BREAKING ATOMS, Main Source
        Large Professor and "those two deejays" set it with "Looking At The Front Door" an amazingly well crafted track featuring the same Donald Byrd "Think Twice" sample that Tribe used for "Footprints" (proof that a true artist can flip an already used record and give it a whole new flavor). The album that followed was classic beat lover's shit, with touches of Lou Donaldson and Melvin Van Peebles among the many phat slices of music spread through out. Now I'm just waiting for Extra P's solo shit to come out. Anxiously.

9. THE BIZ NEVER SLEEPS and I NEED A HAIRCUT, Bizmarkie
        When I asked Beni B about what records to include on this list, all he said was "anything by Biz". That was good enough for me. The diabolical one unleashed shit by Yvonne Fair, Brethren and Allen Toussaint upon the world- too bad that Gilbert O'Sullivan clown had to go and mess things up.

10. MR. HOOD, KMD
        Subroc lives eternally through this unheralded work of art. Bugged out samples from children's and instructional records collided with an eclectic musical foundation (Shirley Ellis, The Hassles, Baby Cortez) to produce something exceptionally different. Now if I can just get my hands on that unreleased "Black Bastards" album...

11. THE BEATNUTS
        Yet another astonishing record that hasn't received the notice that it deserves. Clever reworkings of the "Smilin' Billy" and Monty Alexander pieces were among the many highlights. And no disrespect to M.C. Eiht, but The 'Nuts' use of Tyrone Davis' "In The Mood" wins. Sorry.

12. FEAR ITSELF, Casual; '93 TIL INFINITY, Souls Of Mischief; NO NEED FOR ALARM, Del
        I'm putting the Hiero’s heavy hitters all together to make sure that all three get a mention. Samples from Loading Zone, Black Heat and Blue Mitchell are testament that there's a lot more going on out west than just played out Parliament remakes.

13. HARD TO EARN; DAILY OPERATION; STEP INTO THE ARENA, Gang Starr
        Like A Tribe Called Quest, Primo and Guru have customarily cranked out top quality music every time out the box. People always equate Gang Starr with jazz, but the sources of their sounds are everything from Caesar Frazier to Charles Wright... hell, even some untouched George Clinton stuff!

14. FORCES OF NATURE, Jungle Brothers
        I said earlier that De La kicked the doors of creativity open, but their ex-Native Tongue buddies weakened it for them first with their debut, Straight Out The Jungle. The sophomore release expanded on the first album with more elaborate production and a deeper selection of samples, including the classic S.O.U.L. drumbeat.

15. A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING, Black Sheep
        Another extension of the Native Tongue sound, Black Sheep's debut was filled with obscurities like Mashmakan's "I Know I've Been Wrong" and "A.B.C." by Mouth And MacNeal.

16. IZM & BLUES, Hard 2 Obtain
        A late entry to the list, because I just picked up a copy of this album on vinyl (see, y'all publicity people better get on the ball and send The Soulman some wax 'cuz you never know what nice things he might have to say about a record!). Completely overlooked by the public, this album is strictly for us beat fiends. If you missed it when it came out, you should really try to check for it now- better late than never, right?

17. CRITICAL BEATDOWN, Ultra Magnetic M.C.'s
        If ever an album deserved to be labeled a classic, this is it. Years ahead of it's time Ultra's debut brought out a lot of beats that are common today but at the time weren’t being f--ked with, like the Joe Cocker and The Meters shit. Legendary.

18. RESURRECTION, Common Sense
        I hope it doesn't sound like I'm just tossing the word "classic" around carelessly, but Common's second LP fits the bill, as far as I'm concerned. Didn't know that Chitown could get down like that on the beats, but it's good that I can put a few non-New Yorkers on the list (just shows that there's flavor everywhere).

19. RUNAWAY SLAVE, Showbiz & A.G.
        Show was one of the first to set off the Jack Bruce sampling craze (a record that by now has been almost completely stripped bare by rap producers), but there's a lot of other buttersmooth material to be found on this album. Some real Bronx shit.

20 (TIE). BLACK SUNDAY and SELF-TITLED, Cypress Hill
        Why are people dissing Cypress? Black Sunday, the follow up to their first album was not an example of a sellout by any stretch of the imagination. People just let the heavy metal imagery of the "Insane In The Membrane" and "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That" videos sway their opinion, that's all. The music got darker and slower, but still total hip-hop flavor- don't be fooled by those who don't really know Another example that the west ain't just the same old funk loops and high pitched synthesizers, D.J. Muggs pulled jewels from his crates like "Is It Because I'm Black", "Come On In", "And That's Saying A Lot", "Deep Gully"... definitely not some ol' pop shit, so please give that kind of talk a rest.

20 (TIE). ENTA DA STAGE, Black Moon
        Couldn't submit this list without including The Beatminerz because (1) they shit is phat (2) no doubt, they dig up some of the rarest minerals known to man and (3) when the Black Moon album came out, all of my peoples said that the Beatminerz production reminded them of my style, so we must be brothers of the same mind. Don't front, you know they gotcha’ open...

        Well that's it. Apologies to anyone who feels that I dissed them by not putting their record on this list, but that's life. Anyway, drop me a line and let me know who should've made it and who shouldn't have. The address, as always, is: THE SOULMAN, BOX 12323, PHILA PA. 19119. Peace.

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