A lot of electrons have been spent this year on commemorating rap albums that came out in 1994. That's for two reasons: 1994 was twenty years ago, and twenty is a nice round number.
Oh, and also, a ton of rap albums that came out that year were amazing. Here are our ten favorites.
Vivid writer Nas captured the sights and sounds from his Queensbridge project window on lllmatic, over the Columbia Records-funded production of the then absolute best producers in hip-hop. Plus, the label provided unprecedented promotional support for the work, despite its not having much chance of crossing over.
Put all that together, and you have one of the most influential releases in the genre's history.
Notorious B.I.G. Ready to Die
The only album arguably more influential than Illmatic in 1994 was Biggie's debut Ready to Die.
Having only been rapping for three years (!), his masterful arsenal of flows, unmistakable voice and outstanding lyrics were the perfect tools for Sean "Puffy" Combs to carry out his full cinematic vision. Albums don't really get better than this.
Common Sense Resurrection
Don't let the Gap commercials and supporting roles in forgettable movies fool you; at one point Common was a rapper who was paranoid about not being a success.
Rap journalist Andrew Noz has attributed the greatness of Resurrection -- Common's sophomore work -- to "a changing man being infinitely more interesting than a changed man." Common, back when he had Sense, expresses his vulnerability without exploiting it.
One of the great unsung hot streaks of '90s rap labels was that of New York imprint Wild Pitch, and you could make a case that its finest release was O.C.'s Word...Life.
A&Red by MC Serch -- who also handled Illmatic -- O.C. created a mountain of quotables on his debut single "Time'z Up." Meanwhile, the album has unflinching grittiness throughout.
Organized Konfusion Stress: The Extinction Agenda
Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po were perhaps the most evenly talented rap duo in history. Perfectly matched with contrasting styles that accentuated each other, their sophomore album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda, went high concept, with stellar imagery and complex lyrics.
Another great thing about 1994 is how many great remixes there were that year, such as this Large Professor take on the title track.
Continue to page two for more.
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