The genre of Hip-Hop has successfully taken the music industry by storm. Each year, music fans are introduced to a collection of work courtesy of the Hip-Hop artists who put their heart, sweat, and tears into their musical projects. Though many of these same albums go on to receive critical acclaim, there are the others that manage to out sell the bunch.
MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990)
MC Hammer was one of the biggest rap artists in the late 80’s and early 90’s. His original sense of fashion and style effortlessly trickled down to his original sound in music. Hammer was an innovator and “forefather” of the sub-genre Pop/Rap in the early 90’s and his album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em was the first rap album ever to receive Diamond status. To date, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em has sold more than 18 million copies.
Eminem – The Eminem Show (2002)
Hip-Hop’s problem child proved to bring a little more to the table besides homophobic lyrics and pop culture spoofs. Eminem is one of the artists in the industry who has learned to turn controversy into an avenue that serves to be lucrative – a point made quite clear with his fourth studio album The Eminem Show. Praised as one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2002, The Eminem Show is certified Diamond with over 19 million albums sold worldwide. The Eminem Show went on to earn Eminem a Grammy for Best Rap Album. This album was the first album released under the rappers imprint, Shady Records, and his first album to be produced mainly by him.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G. is hailed as one of Hip-Hop’s most prized possessions. At the height of his career, the Brooklyn MC was gunned down at the age of 24 leaving behind a legacy and a critically acclaimed album. Life After Death was the second and final album from the rapper and was certified Diamond by the RIAA in 2000 making it the second highest selling album. The album most notably made the largest jump to number 1 from number 176 in one week on the Billboard 200 album chart. Though the album was released in the wake of B.I.G.’s death, Life After Death marked a change in Hip-Hop signaling its crossover into mainstream. Most importantly, the album earned B.I.G. the title of greatest rapper of all time.
Will Smith – Big Willie Style (1997)
Before Will Smith was an Academy Award-nominated actor, he released his album Big Willie Style. The Pop/Rap album went 9 times Platinum by 2000 and gave way to chart-topping hits “Miami” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” which was co-written by rapper Nas who is credited by his real name Nasir Jones. Big Willie Style went on to earn Will Smith two Grammy Awards.
Tupac Shakur – All Eyez On Me (1996)
Tupac Shakur’s fourth and last studio album All Eyez On Me is recognized as one of Tupac’s greatest efforts and one of the best albums in the genre of Hip-Hop. Released in 1996, All Eyez On Me sold 566,000 copies in its first week. 7 months after the release of this album, Tupac Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas on September 13, 1997. According to the RIAA, All Eyez On Me is one of the highest selling albums of all time in Rap selling 5 million copies in the United States alone by April 2006 – just 2 months after its release. It was certified 9 times Platinum in June 1998.
Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below stood as an album that was much different from the albums in Hip-Hop’s past. Unlike others, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was a double album showcasing the duo’s diverse taste in music. While Speakerboxxx (which consisted of tracks mainly from Big Boi) represented the duo’s rap background, The Love Below (courtesy of Andre 3000) tapped into the group’s eclectic ear for jazz, funk, soul, and pop music. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below received widespread critical acclaim from music critics, earning them the Grammy Award for Album of The Year. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below sold 510,000 copies in its first week and overall sold 5.5 million copies. This was counted as 11 million copies because it was a double LP. It was certified Diamond by the RIAA making it the best selling rap album of all time.
These albums helped cement Hip-Hop in the realm of musical genres. Their diverse sounds and unique styles differed from the rest of the albums that were released the same year, and in turn helped pioneer and evolve a genre that started in the rough and lonely streets of New York City.