#1 N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (1988)
N.W.A. is the most influential act of the last thirty years — bigger than Nirvana, Madonna or the Sex Pistols. Nothing has ever been the same since they came. I remember I was in L.A. when I was a kid, and I brought Straight Outta Compton back to New York. More people were coming over to my house to listen to N.W.A. than were going across the street to the crack house. I had the real shit. It was kind of like the British Invasion for black people.
#2 Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle (1993)
Doggystyle, to me, is better than Dr. Dre’s Chronic. It has held up way better because it’s a party album, and its lyrics are better. The Chronic is sonically incredible, but it’s hard to drive around singing songs about “Eazy-E can eat a big fat dick.” But I got a feeling I’ll be singing “Gin and Juice” when I’m ninety.
#3 2Pac – Rap Phenomenon II (2003) (bootleg/Unauthorized)
You’d have to go to Harlem or a swap meet to get this one. It’s done by DJ Green Lantern, DJ Vlad and Dirty Harry. They got tapes of Tupac’s vocals and put them over all the newest, baddest beats of the last four years. So you hear Tupac rapping over the “Hate Me Now” beat. It’s the best shit in the world. It’s ultimate fighting music. You will kill somebody listening to this shit.
#4 Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell (1986)
Raising Hell is the first great rap album ever. I like Run, but I love DMC. No one ever sounded like DMC; no one ever looks like DMC. He’s like a superhero. Raising Hell is probably Rick Rubin’s best record. “It’s Tricky” is a weird song because it’s so gangsta and pop at the same time. There’s a track on there, “Hit It Run”, which is just DMC with Run doing the human beatbox: “I leave all suckers in the dust/Those dumb motherfuckers can’t mess with us.” It was actually the first time I heard a guy curse on a record.
#5 The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (1992)
Only in rap do you get one-album-wonders. The Pharcyde are like the Boston of rap. I don’t know what happened afterward, but the first Pharcyde album is incredible. The rhyming is great, the vocals are great, the production is ridiculous. Everything is just way ahead of its time. It’s a shame everybody got overtaken by gangsterism. Everyone wants to be hard, so they don’t make records like this anymore. It happens to comedians, too. They want to be cool, but just being funny is cool.
#6 LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
The beauty of LL’s Mama Said Knock You Out is that it’s like the Secret deodorant: strong enough for a man, but made for a woman. It’s hard gangsta shit. But at the same time, I could put the CD on with my mother in the car and drive from New York to Philly. It’s also the first comeback in rap. It’s the real blueprint: if people think you’re done, this is how you come back. It’s one of my favorite albums ever. It’s LL at his best and Marley Marl at his best. It’s LL as Madonna, in the sense of Madonna saying, “Who’s the hot producer?
#7 EPMD – Unfinished Business (1989)
The second EPMD album is as good as two guys can get whose names aren’t Run and DMC. The production is insanity. Before Eminem made “Lose Yourself”, “Please Listen To My Demo” was the best record about wanting to become a rapper ever made.
#8 Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Don’t go anywhere without it. It’s one of those records that you buy every time you’re in a rental car. It’s also one of those records that you thought sucked the day you bought it. You were mad because it sounded nothing like Licensed To Ill. Then a month later, you’re like, “This is the best shit ever. High Plains Drifter is the best song ever made.”
#9 A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)
It’s really hard to top this album. They made other good records, but they never got to this level again. It is from beginning to end a masterpiece. Phife has got a weird midget-DMC energy. And as much as I love Q-Tip, nobody’s bigger than the group. He and Phife together are just incredible.
#10 De La Soul – Buhloone Mind State (1993)
The first two De La Soul albums are two of the greatest albums ever, but Buhloone Mindstate is so grown up. It helped shape me as a comedian. It’s the last album Prince Paul produced for them and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s a member of De La Soul. If you take Prince Paul out, none of the albums hold up. It’s also got that great line “Fuck being heard, Posdnuos is complicated.” That’s some gangsta shit, because he don’t give a fuck.
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