What you’ve been waiting for…

Among the more popular business ideas of recent times has been James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds ( which also comes in book form). The one-line description is that so long as information is shared across a broad spectrum of people, large groups make better decisions than more isolated elites. Faith in wise crowds is the idea that drives Digg, Wikipedia, and all kinds of internet fads, from lasting innovation to indulgent whimsy. In some ways, Surowiecki’s idea is the perfect meta-philosophy for our contemporary era, a time that has seen best-seller lists dominated by mass-appeal scholarship that has fused business strategy with behavioral research and easily understood examples. What is the popularity of common-sense literature such as Freakonomics but an example of crowd wisdom? Rather than simply accepting information from monolithic sources, people are increasingly interested in a democracy of information and new mechanics for learning, all so that a greater “truth” can be known.

These innovative ideas fuel business and are, themselves, a business. It’s why Malcolm Gladwell can build a small fortune by showing up at at various places and sharing his thoughts with important people, or just regular people (don’t forget, wise crowds). Hip-hop, always on the cutting edge of technology and business, is just one more arena in which an appeal to crowd wisdom was wholly logical. Among people who consider themselves rap fans, you have an incredibly diverse and collectively erudite population.

Placing our faith in a crowd, the accounting firm Passion & Bangin’, LLC endeavored to discern which rap albums were regarded to be the 25 greatest of all time among the people whose taste truly matters: the people. After weeks of discussion and voting, ballots were cast and counted, and a result was determined…

We are pleased to present the Greatest 25 Hip-Hop Albums of All Time (until the next time someone does this). 101 people voted, and all ballots were counted equally. Voters were asked to rank the 25 albums which they felt were the greatest, and points were assigned to each album’s position on each ballot. Any album receiving a #1 ranking was given 25 points; any album receiving a #2 was given 24 points; and so forth. After all ballots were submitted, we tallied each nominated record’s cumulative score and then divided the total by the total number of voters. This was done to ensure that some wack-ass record by Lloyd Banks couldn’t appear ranked #1 on a single ballot and end up with an average score of 25.

Today, the top 25 is being made available, along with the master scoring spreadsheet. On Monday, further analysis, critique, and rumination will be posted. From our perspective, it appears as though this project was yet another affirmation that groups of people tend to make smart choices. What do y’all think?

Below, please find the top 25 and a link to the scoring sheet. Underneath each album, we have included excerpts from various submissions. Passion & Bangin’ would like to thank all participants.

Download the spreadsheet here!

25. Jay-Z Blueprint

“A lot of people will argue that Reasonable Doubt is Jay’s best. Reasonable Doubt was too derivative for my taste. But on The Blueprint Jay was at his most obnoxious, playful and Machiavellian i.e. his best. It’s the sound of a man consciously putting the genre on his back and bum rushing the mountain top.” – Angry Citizen

Download:
MP3: Jay-Z -“Takeover”

24. Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star“I remember coppin’ this, Aquemini, and Lenny Kravitz’s 5 on the same day. Needless to say, I was jammin’ for months. I miss those days.” – Boo Goo Doo Boom

Download:
MP3: Black Star-“Hater Players

23. Common-Resurrection



Common just overwhelms the listener with his wordplay. The production is understated and lets him shine.” – Wendell


Download:
MP3: Common-“I Used to Love H.E.R.”


22. Outkast-Atliens
“No album before or since has had such an initial impact on me. I literally remember walking to the record store the day this came out. I had plans to go out that night and wanted to get home so I could quickly listen before my ride got there. When my ride came, I told him I was staying home and I sat there and listened to this album straight thru, over and over, until sometime the next morning. Since then, I’ve only grown more fond of it. A complete package in terms of an overall feel, fantastic lyricism and stellar production that is unrivaled.” – Kwis

Download:
MP3: Outkast-“Atliens”

21. The Notorious B.I.G-Life After Death“…He would create what is widely regarded as hip-hop’s first blockbuster album.” – Fresh Cherries from Yakima

Download:
MP3: The Notorious B.I.G-“I Got a Story to Tell”


20. De La Soul-3 Feet High and Rising

“Changed the game. Period.” – Straight Bangin’

Download:
MP3: De La Soul-“Eye Know”


19. Run DMC-Raising Hell

“More lyrical and musical than most rock albums of the same era.” – Nerd Cake

Download:
MP3: Run DMC-“Peter Piper”

18. Fugees-The Score
“The samples and rhymes are so smooth and unabrasive, and the drum loops are strong, but not so hard-hitting that your ears start hurting after extended listening. The Score represents, to me, the perfect musical collection: interesting, challenging, and moving, but at the same time, poppy, catchy, and accessible.” – Jamie Radford

Download:
MP3: The Fugees-“The Score”

17. Snoop Doggy Dogg-Doggystyle
“The greatest party gangsta album ever. The best Dr. Dre beats ever.” – Zilla

Download:
MP3: Snoop Dogg-“Gin & Juice”


16. Boogie Down Productions-Criminal Minded
The Beatles have never sounded this good.” – Unkut

Download:
MP3: Boogie Down Productions-“The Bridge is Over”

15. Jay-Z -Reasonable Doubt

“Jay copied from the best to come up with this one. ” – Start Snitching

Download:
MP3: Jay-Z-“Friend or Foe”

14. Ghostface Killah-Supreme Clientele“Who knows what the fuck Ghost is saying but damn does that shit sound fly.” – Searching for my Swagger

Download:
MP3: Ghostface Killah-“One”


13. N.W.A.-Straight Outta’ Compton


“The effects of this record still leave me confused as to what the net effect of N.W.A. was on rap.” – SS


Download:
MP3: N.W.A.-“Fuck tha’ Police”

12. Genius/GZA-Liquid Swords


always the most intellectual member in the legendary wu, genius lives up to his moniker over this dark, brooding collection of rza’s coldest beats.” – Fresh Cherries from Yakima

Download:
MP3: Genius/GZA-“4th Chamber”


11. Outkast-Aquemini

“Besides the pop hits, the more artistic side of this album took a while to grow on me. But now I wonder what the fuck was wrong with me.” – Woodsonian Institute

Download:
MP3: Outkast ft. Raekwon-“Skew it on the Bar-B”


10. Mobb Deep-The Infamous

“Prodigy’s lyrical performance on this pushes it above and beyond. With their first two albums The Mobb helped usher in the street thug era as much as BIG and Jay did.” – The Assimilated Negro

Download:
MP3: Mobb Deep-“Shook Ones Pt. II”


9. Eric B & Rakim-Paid in Full“Party records. MC records. Fast rapping. Slow rapping. Perfect for the car, the stage, a mix show. Rakim never wastes one bar and the beats fit him like a glove while sampling the best parts of the best soul records ever (Barry White, Lynn Collins, James Brown, Kool and The Gang, Syl Johnson, etc.)” – Zilla

MP3: Eric B & Rakim-“I Know You Got Soul”

8. A Tribe Called Quest-Low End Theory

“…this record feels more like a whole than almost anything else I’ve ever heard. Every song is perfect, from the ridiculous stripped down and spare production to the massive talents shown by both MCs.” – Better Than Butt Sex

Download:
MP3: A Tribe Called Quest-“Scenario”


7. A Tribe Called Quest-Midnight Marauders “Looks like we’ve found the greatest hip-hop group of all time.” – Woodsonian

“This album deserves a coronation ceremony as the greatest hip hop album of all time.” – The Assimilated Negro

Download:
MP3: A Tribe Called Quest-“Award Tour”

6. Public Enemy-It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
“Easily one of the top five most important records in hip hop history, with a mid-album trifecta of monumental importance: ‘She Watch Channel Zero,’ ‘Night of the Living Baseheads,’ and the chilling ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.'” – Flood Watch Music

Download:
MP3: Public Enemy-“Rebel Without a Pause”


5. Dr . Dre-The Chronic“This album defines a generation.” – Dallas Penn

Download:
MP3: Dr. Dre-“Deez Nuuts”

4. Chef Raekwon-Only Built 4 Cuban Linx“The epitome of early 90’s east coast hip hop.” – SfmS

Download:
MP3: Chef Raekwon-“Verbal Intercourse”


3. The Notorious B.I.G.-Ready to Die

“So many choice cuts and Biggie rips through verses with such an amazingly captivating style: this album’s charms are impossible to resist.” – From Da Bricks

Download:
MP3: Notorious BIG-“Things Done Changed”


2. Wu-Tang Clan-
Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers

“A group of nerds from Staten Island mixed kung-fu, obscure mythology, gully talk and a cult religion to change rap forever.” – SS

“Hip-hop’s version of Sgt. Pepper.” – Passion of the Weiss

Download:
MP3: The Wu-Tang Clan-“Da Mystery of Chessboxin’

1. Nas-Illmatic

“Whenever some hippie music rag puts together a Top 100 albums of all time list it always includes Kind Of Blue at the expense of every other Jazz album ever released. When hip-hop reaches that level of recognition, Illmatic will be the album to make the list. And by the way, Nas won.” – Angry Citizen

“The Sun, Moon and stars along with the spirit of RAKIM ALLAH came together to form this rap music manifesto masterpiece.” – Dallas Penn

Download:
MP3: Nas-“New York State of Mind”