What’s the greatest year in hip-hop history? ’88, the year of Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, and Boogie Down Productions? ’96, when ATLiens, Ironman, All Eyez On Me, and Reasonable Doubt dropped? What about 1994?
Things were in a state of healthy flux in ’94. Death Row was in full effect with Dre and Snoop’s classic debuts at their back while East Coast kingpins of the late 80’s gave way to a web of new groups like EPMD, Brand Nubian and A Tribe Called Quest. Rap-A-Lot was tightening their grip on the Southern market while acts like Crucial Conflict and Daytona Family began popping up from the Midwest. The hip-hop crescent was fertile with the changing of the tides.
So fertile, in fact, that we could easily double this list and still enjoy every album on it. From Common to Gang Starr, Bone Thugs to UGK, Spice 1 to Biggie Smalls, these are the 50 best rap albums of 1994. —Max Weinstein