13 Rap And Hip-Hop Albums You Should Own On Vinyl
Posted by House of Marley on Aug 4th 2022
It’s hard to imagine what hip-hop would sound like without turntables. Would “Rapper’s Delight” be as memorable without sampling Chic’s “Good Times?” Can you picture “Jam-Master Jay” by Run D.M.C. without scratching? We simply wouldn’t have Grandmaster Flash’s landmark "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," which was the first commercial recording produced entirely using turntables.
The earliest turntablists like Kool Herc and more modern names like Jazzy Jeff used vinyl to give hip-hop that sound. That’s why we should all embrace our inner Afrika Bambaataa and enjoy our favorite hip-hop records the way they were meant to be heard—on vinyl.
These are our top 13 rap and hip-hop albums you should own on vinyl. Before you head to the record store this weekend, check out these quintessential hip-hop records to add to your shopping list!
A Tribe Called Quest — Midnight Marauders
A Tribe Called Quest is the most lyrically proficient group of MCs in hip-hop history, featuring Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White and Phife Dawg.
1993 was a hotspot in the hip-hop timeline. MCs were forging a sound that defined 90s-era rap—a bouncy, soulful feel with a scrappy flow. A Tribe Called Quest stood at the forefront of the movement with their third studio LP, Midnight Marauders.
Recognized as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, Midnight Marauders features classic tracks from the East-coast trio, including the Tribe’s trademark jam, “Scenario.” Whether you’re a longtime fan of hip-hop—or new to the club—you can’t sleep on this one.
Dr. Dre — 2001
Dr. Dre is the ambassador of gangster rap. Following The Chronic Dre’s accomplishments with N.W.A, 2001 hit like a right hook. The album also features two of the strongest allies in the rap industry—Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
If you love West Coast rap that’s rough around the edges—or that smooth G-funk swing—2001 should be in your vinyl collection. Some of our favorite cuts include “Xxplosive,” “Forgot About Dre” and “Still D.R.E.”
Eminem — The Marshall Mathers LP
Eminem remains one of the greatest rappers in the game. In 2018, Kamikaze was a frank reminder that Eminem left his underdog title at the 8 Mile—but The Marshall Mathers LP showed the underdog at his best.
The Marshall Mathers LP carved a space for Eminem in the early 2000s rap scene. Filled with classics like “The Real Slim Shady,” this record deserves a spot in your rotation, whether you’re a rap aficionado or just feeling nostalgic.
GZA — Liquid Swords
GZA (a.k.a. The Genius) is a chess champion, Harvard professor and one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan. He’s known as a “lyrical assassin” who preaches Mathematics—a form of street knowledge—over the dirtiest beats ever heard in hip-hop.
Liquid Swords was produced in 1995 by RZA, the de facto leader of the Wu-Tang Clan. The record blends RZA’s bare-bones production style with GZA’s metaphorical wordplay. “I’m just swingin’ swords strictly based on keyboards / Unbalanced like elephants and ants like see-saws.”
In true Wu fashion, RZA’s beats are riddled with samples from vintage kung-fu films—an important source of spiritual inspiration that guides his inner dialogue to this day. If 36 Chambers is the genesis of the Wu universe, Liquid Swords is the blockbuster sequel.
J Dilla — Donuts
Gone but not forgotten, J Dilla rose from Detroit’s underground hip-hop scene in the 90s. Today, he’s the most beloved hip-hop producer in the world. Donuts is an all-instrumental album that blends boom-bap, soul, funk and an eclectic mix of samples—all “chopped” and arranged with J Dilla’s iconic Akai MPC3000 drum machine (displayed in the Smithsonian).
In 2003, J Dilla developed a rare blood disease that caused complications later in his career. Donuts was released in 2006, just 3 days before his untimely passing—a deep loss that shook the entire music industry.
Donuts is a coveted album among hip-hop lovers and rappers alike. Drop the needle and prepare yourself for a journey through sound.
Kendrick Lamar — good kid, m.A.A.d. City
The 2010s were full of landmark hip-hop albums, but few compare to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d City. In 2014, the album famously lost the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album to Macklemore, who himself said he thought Lamar should have won. Kendrick responded in a Billboard interview, “[The Grammy defeats] would have been upsetting to me if I’d known that was my best work, if I had nothing new to offer.”
Looking back, good kid, m.A.A.d. City spent 500 weeks on the Billboard Top 200, something only Eminem has done in hip-hop. Even a decade later, songs like “Money Trees” and “Swimming Pools” are still finding their way into personal playlists and DJ setlists alike.
Whether you’re throwing a party or chilling out at home, good kid, m.A.A.d City is worth a spin.
Lauryn Hill —The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the 1998 debut solo album of Lauryn Hill. Following the breakup of her former group, the Fugees, Hill got inspired to make a record of her own. Little did she know, her debut album would become a pivotal release for women in hip-hop.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a story that unfolds song by song. Produced in the legendary Tuff Gong recording studio in Kingston Jamaica, the album blends neo-soul, R&B, reggae and hip-hop. The record also features a strong cast of 90s music idols, including Carlos Santana, Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo.
Lauryn Hill’s comeback led to the creation of a staple hip-hop record. Even today, songs like “Doo Wop (That Thing)” bring back memories of 90s MTV (if you know, you know).
Madvillain — Madvillainy
MF DOOM (a.k.a. the super villain) led the underground rap scene with an iron mask—literally. In 2004, the metal-faced MC teamed up with producer Madlib to form Madvillain. Together, Madvillain produced what hip-hop heads call the best underground rap album of all time—Madvillainy.
Madvillainy fuses MF DOOM’s intricate (and seemingly random) lyrical style with Madlib’s distinctive beat production. Madlib created most of the instrumentals during a trip to Brazil in his hotel room using a Boss SP-303 sampler, a turntable and a tape deck. In addition to sampling world music, Madlib also pulled one-shots (singular audio samples) from video games like Street Fighter II.
If you want to stray away from mainstream rap, Madvillainy is the answer. Its unconventional style and otherworldly vibe are an experience, to say the least.
NAS — Illmatic
NAS (Nasir Jones) released Illmatic in 1994, rapping over dusty breakbeats produced by Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip, DJ Premier and L.E.S. In addition to its flawless beat production, Illmatic became the quintessential East Coast rap album—perfect from front to back.
When it comes to true New York hip-hop, there is no equal. NAS recorded Illmatic during the early 90s at Chung King Studios, D&D Recording, Battery Studios, and Unique Recording Studios. The finished product showed the world a glimpse of “The New York State of Mind” and set the standard for boom-bap—a unique style of hip-hop production.
NAS closes every verse with precision, touching on the lifestyle that molded his image. “The World is Yours,” “The Genius” and “Halftime are essential picks for hip-hop lovers.
The Notorious B.I.G. — Ready to Die
“Biggie versus Tupac” remains a hot topic among rap lovers, but we’ll save it for another day. Nevertheless, we can’t put together a list of ‘must-have’ hip-hop albums without mentioning Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G.
In the early 90s, Biggie Smalls owned the throne of Diddy’s East coast label, Def Jam. Ready to Die is the quintessential Biggie album, packed with party anthems, street-wise flow and his larger-than-life persona. A few of our favorite tracks include “Big Poppa,” “Hypnotize” and “Juicy.”
N.W.A. — Straight Outta Compton
Rewind to the summer of ‘89. N.W.A. was in Detroit, gearing up to play live for thousands of fans—and an entire police battalion that was ready to take them to jail for disrespecting law enforcement. Despite the threat, rapper Ice Cube led the crowd, making an important statement to the justice system: freedom of speech doesn’t stop at the stage.
Straight Outta Compton introduced the rebellious new rap group to America, featuring Arabian Prince, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella and MC Ren. Together, N.W.A. strengthened West Coast hip-hop culture and became an unstoppable force in mainstream music.
There’s no shortage of classics on this record. “Straight Outta Compton” delivers a heavy dose of West Coast flare, and “Express Yourself” keeps things fun and carefree.
Wu-Tang Clan — Enter the Wu-Tang
Staten Island (or Shaolin) is the birthplace of the Wu-Tang Clan—a brotherhood of nine MCs, each with their own personal style. Released in 1993 by Loud Records, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) put the Wu-Tang Clan in a position to change the entire rap industry.
Enter the Wu-Tang is a must-have in every hip-hop collection. Rugged and raw, the record features references to kung-fu, street life, and spirituality. Every MC brings something unique to the table, from Method Man’s grizzly flow to the late ODB’s goofy demeanor.
The Pharcyde — Labcabincalifornia
Released in 1995, Labcabincalifornia is the second album by The Pharcyde. The album's production was handled by The Pharcyde themselves and J Dilla (Jay Dee), with additional help from Diamond D and M-Walk.
The Pharcyde belongs to a larger collection of 90s hip-hop groups that defined the sound—and flow—of the era. In addition to “Runnin’” (which was exclusively produced by J Dilla), the group pulled together songs that feature an eclectic mix of boldof samples. For example, the chorus of “Bullshit” features a direct sample from “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley.
Like A Tribe Called Quest, Das EFX, GangStar and so many others, The Pharcyde is a classic group that belongs in every hip-hop lover’s collection.
Stir It Up
There’s no shortage of great rap and hip-hop records to add to your collection! When you’re ready to feel breakbeats shake your room, check out House of Marley turntables and Bluetooth speakers for an immersive experience.