Without much deliberation, these albums come to mind quickly when thinking of only 10 must have albums for any respectable collection of hip hop music. Certainly it would not end here.
1. Wu-Tang Clan - 36 Chambers of Hip Hop
The Wu-Tang Clan emerged and certainly changed the scene with one of, if not the first, large crew of emcees. Plus, their vast styles and affinity for kung-fu made them a very unique group.
2. Nas - Illmatic
Classic on all fronts. At the time this album was very unique as it was one of, if not the first, to attain multiple producers all with highly respectable histories. Nas was also being toted as the next Rakim. This album was/is a very big deal in hip hop.
3. Eric B. & Rakim - Paid In Full
A very important piece to have as it's not only a great album but highly respected among numerous other artists/groups. Rakim was/is lyrically unbelievable and highly unique. At the time, Rakim's lyrics and style were unheard of until he emerged on the scene.
4. De La Soul - De La Soul Is Dead
I went with De La's 2nd album as they really nailed things on the head with this release. It was one of the few albums to receive 5 stars in the Source magazine and is classic because it seemed to flow perfectly. Tracks were bridged with skits and made this album highly unique. A definite must have.
5. A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
While Tribe's previous 2 albums are also must haves, I went with Midnight Marauders as it really seemed to embody the role that Tribe were on. I feel as though they had really nailed it on the head in terms of sound. An absolute classic that, in my opinion, everyone loves.
6.Gangstarr - Daily Operation
It was a coin toss between this and Hard To Earn. My favourite group of all time and one of the most respected producers in hip hop really developed their sound on this album. DJ Premier and the late Guru made up the group Gangstarr. Guru's monotone flow and DJ Premier's perfect production really started to develop a much copied sound on Daily Operation. Strong on all fronts: production, lyrics, flow and overall sound.
7. NWA - Straight Outta Compton
This album really made a mark in creating a strong west coast vibe/sound. A must have because of it's lyrical content in that it helped to define the west coast, California's Compton. The true gangsta album putting Compton on the map permanently in one swoop.
8. EPMD - Strictly Business
Perhaps this album is more to do with my personal upbringing, but classic none-the-less. EPMD were regarded as perhaps the first underground heavy hitters whom later introduced the world to the highly bit group Das Efx, Redman, K-Solo and Keith Murray. Also an all time favourite, EPMD are a must to the east coast head.
9. Outkast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
At the time Outkast emerged, my general impression of the south was the Florida south and the Miami Bass sound to which I wasn't keen on. However, Outkast's production by Organized Noise was distinctly dope while Big Boi & Dre (Andre 2000) complimented the beats perfectly.
10. Tupac - All Eyes On Me
While I was never a huge Tupac fan, I still highly respect him and the mark he left before passing in 1995/6. I went with All Eyez On Me as he had already done so much when he created this classic album after getting out of jail. Death Row had recently signed him and pushed a lot of money into the project. His lyrical content was very heavy and this is definitely a must have.
Other Highly Notable Albums (without a doubt):
Dr. Dre - Chonic
Dr. Dre - Chronic 2000
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Wu-Tang Clan - Forever
Redman - Whut Thee Album?!?!
Das Efx - Dead Serious
Geto Boys - We Can't Be Stopped
Boogie Down Production - Criminal Minded
Boogie Down Production - Sex & Violence
KRS-One - Return of the Boom Bap
Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane
Masta Ace - Disposable Arts
Beastie Boys - Licesed To Ill
Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle
Other Highly Notable Artists/Groups (without a doubt):
Run DMC, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G.
Courtesy of Dj Ducats from "The New Journey" playing "Straight Hip Hop, Still No Fluff!!"