It’s difficult to gauge on any scale what makes an album a “best” album. What exactly makes something qualify to be the best? It’s hard to say, especially when it comes to New York hip hop, a rare breed of music whose sound has changed and revolutionized the genre since its conception. Something about the streets of the Big Apple and hip hop seems to infiltrate human’s cerebellums and produce euphoric feelings of pleasure. Oh baby, we like it raw.
But what are the best albums to come out of the New York scene? Like I said, these are no easy decisions. There have been so many key players on the scene, such as the RZA, Notorious B.I.G., Q-Tip, Chuck D, LL Cool J, and Jay-Z (dare I mention Puff Daddy?). All of them have made records that changed the genre and opened up people’s perceptions a bit more. Therefore, I went about making this list by asking a very specific question: Is each album still relevant by today’s standards? I mean, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing fits the criteria for being one of the finest NYC releases, but nobody in their right mind owns it in their immediate collection anymore (well, I do, but it’s on a dusty old cassette). The thing is, rap albums are cool one minute but then dismissed the next. While compiling this list, I picked not only the albums that revolutionized the sound of rap within New York City, but albums that the public still listens to regularly. Not only should the music influence still be heard in modern hip hop, but the music should be the type you can’t live without on your iPod.
New York, I love you, and you’ve brought me so much rap music that has continued to drive my folks nuts for years. I salute you for that, and hopefully, your streets will continue to produce fine artists, amazing rhymes, and continually creepier production (see: “C.R.E.A.M.”). And now we pay homage to the five Burroughs….and the music that they spawned and perfected over the past 30 years.