15 Best Old-School Rap Albums

Although the rap genre of today is a completely different beast than that of yesteryear, these albums will always deserve your attention.

These days, rap is a serious business, and I just can't relate to the overly autotuned Kanye West's on the radio, excessive talk of 'bling', or hateful screeds posing with introspective lyrics. In other words, I would rather hear a funny skit or story with creative wordplay than how much Eminem hates his mom. The nostalgic side of me longs for the heyday of hip-hop, when the game was more focused on finding the perfect rhyme or ingenious putdown and not as focused on money and scantily clad girls in music videos. There was a time artful rhyming took precedence over image. To paraphrase Ice-T from the hip-hop documentary Rhyme and Reason, "A rap, if it's a good rap, doesn't just rhyme; it's clever," and it is this advice that factors into consideration when presenting these picks. Whether it's the multilayered meditations of De La Soul or the smooth flow of LL Cool J, playing these albums always brings a smile to my face. They remind me of a better time in rap€”and the music world in general. Of course, most, if not all, of these albums are from the '80s and early '90s (hence the need to qualify the title of this article with "Old-School"). So without further ado, here are 15 of the best rap albums from a bygone era (in no particular order):
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Michael Perone has written for The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper, The Island Ear (now titled Long Island Press), and The Long Island Voice, a short-lived spinoff of The Village Voice. He currently works as an Editor in Manhattan. And he still thinks Michael Keaton was the best Batman.